Bigger than law school: Getting involved with the American Bar Association

The people who know me know I enjoy discussing the many trips I’m lucky enough to have taken while in law school thanks to the American Bar Association. Las Vegas, Toronto, and Puerto Rico immediately spring to mind as memorable destinations.

Such trips, and others, have been to fulfill my duties as an officer with the Law Student Division of the American Bar Association. Just as the KU Student Bar Association is the voice of law students at KU, the ABA Law Student Division is the voice of all law students. For the past two years, I have served as a member of the division’s Board of Governors—first as the editor of Student Lawyer, the division’s magazine, and currently as the secretary-treasurer.

My experience with the ABA began during my 1L year at fall orientation, where everyone was introduced to the organizations KU Law students could join. That spring I applied for and was appointed to the student editor position, where my background as a journalist served me well.

And it was an amazing experience. From my first meeting as a member of the board—which was at the Aria Hotel and Casino in splendid Las Vegas—I realized KU Law was one piece of a larger law school environment, and the challenges faced by KU Law students are the same challenges faced by law students throughout the country.

In addition to reporting on division actions, I interviewed exceptional law students, assisted in distributing division funds back to schools through funding programs, and collaborated to create a resolution that streamlined the structure of the division. And when my term as student editor ended—in breathtaking Puerto Rico, of all places—I decided there was more work for me to do.

Therefore, I ran and was elected as the secretary-treasurer, which is one of eight officer positions in the division. As the title would suggest, my primary duties are to keep division records and manage its funding programs.

I am fortunate to have been allowed to serve as part of the division’s leadership team for two years. But the most important thing I have taken from working with the ABA is there is always room for someone who wants to get involved. There is an ABA group for everyone. And getting involved is the key.

The ABA is bigger than law school. It’s bigger than any one state, jurisdiction, or practice area. The ABA encompasses every aspect of the legal profession. Because I chose to get involved, I have cultivated friendships, developed a nationwide network of contacts, traversed the country, endeavored to improve the law school experience for all law students, and spent two years having an almost indescribable amount of fun.

It has been an honor to serve in each of these positions. When my term officially ends at the ABA Annual Meeting in August, it will be a bittersweet moment. The Law Student Division has taught me about the profession and how vast it truly is. But it is the friendships, networking and teamwork that will make me a better lawyer. The entire experience has been at times surprising and always remarkable.

— Matt Gorney is a third-year KU Law student.

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