How Bar Association Membership Can Help Law Students Ignite Their Professional Passion

By: Daniel K. Wiig | In-House Counsel to Municipal Credit Union

Recently, a well-known and long-standing media personality came up in conversation with a friend.  “Why is she still working?” asked the friend, who further noted the personality’s long tenure in broadcasting and likely wealth accumulation.  “She doesn’t need to work anymore,” concluded the comment.

“Well, I don’t think she really is working,” responded me.

That does seem to be the golden egg for our professional lives: to find that which engages the inner passion, so the manner in which one earns a living is not listless and consumed with an ever-pining for the weekend, but rather filed with the joy and enthusiasm of a child entering an amusement park.

Finding that joy seems to evade the majority of professionals.  In order to avoid falling into this pool, law students should make it a mission to find what stirs the soul early in their law school career so to pave the path for a rewarding and fulfilling career.  To be sure, for some, finding this is achieved by simply pursuing what comes naturally without much forethought.  Enjoying a good debate or arguing for a cause may organically lead to a career as litigator.  Those who relish in managing projects may be drawn to a career as a corporate lawyer.  But how do you drill deeper?  In what areas should you litigate?  Personal Injury?  Employment matters?  And what projects should you put together?  The next great technology merger or luxury golf course?

There are many options available for students willing to fan the flames to ignite their professional passion.  To be sure, upper-level elective courses, internships, externships, clinics, and part time jobs all can aide students in this pursuit.  But an invaluable asset in a student’s arsenal to help navigate the legal profession and find that fervor is membership in a bar association.

Joining a committee can help students become engaged in the issues currently affecting a particular practice area.  In so doing, a student can ascertain if they wish to spend the life of a career concerned with said subject matter.  Moreover, joining a committee often serves as the catalyst for forming career-long professional relationships, even friendships, with fellow committee members.  Consequently, these new-found friends and acquaintances can provide an insider’s view on the realities of practicing within a given area.

Programming is also useful.  Of particular interest here are the myriad of programs designed to expose students and attorneys to specific practice areas and those that address discrete issues within certain areas Here, students can hear from leaders in a given field, and ascertain whether they wish to spend the next 40 plus years dealing with these and similar issues germane to the subject area.

Finally, networking programs should not be discounted.  While usually associated with socializing, networking events can be the catalyst for those with common bonds, such as membership in a bar association, to form professional alliances.  And, as with the relationships formed through committee engagement, such alliances can blossom into one of mentor-mentee, with the student gaining valuable insight into a practice area.

Bar Associations provide numerous opportunities for law students, not only during the embryonic stages of their careers, but throughout its entire trajectory.  Students should take advantage of all that membership has to offer to help forge a meaningful and satisfactory career in the law.


Daniel K. Wiig is In-House Counsel to Municipal Credit Union, where he is involved in the day-to-day management of the legal affairs of the $2 billion + financial institution.  Dan is also an Adjunct Law Professor at St. John’s University School of Law.  He presently serves as a Director of the NYCLA Foundation.

Reprinted with permission from the New York County Lawyers Association Law Blog.

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