On September 19, 1940, at the fifth annual meeting of the State Bar of Michigan, approximately 50 attorneys less than 36 years of age met to explore the formation of a "Junior Bar Section" of the State Bar. In November of that year, the Board of Commissioners officially authorized the creation of the Junior Bar Section, approved the submitted by-laws and, in December, named its first officers and council. Despite the name change to Young Lawyers Section in 1960, this section of the State Bar is the oldest and largest (the name was changed to the Young Lawyers Section in 1960 to remove the connotation of "junior" in legal skills and experience—Alan Waterstone of Detroit is credited with sponsoring the name change).
Each member of the State bar who is under 36 years of age or who has been licensed to practice for less than 5 years is automatically a member of the YLS. Any member may withdraw from membership if desired. YLS membership makes up approximately 43% of the Michigan Bar.
Originally, the YLS was divided into regional divisions. Each region had a chair, appointed by the YLS chair, who directed the activities of the region, appointed chairs for various statewide committees, and reported to the Council at business meetings on progress within the region. In addition to the regional chairs, the Section chair appointed council members as state chairs to coordinate specific activities within the state.
Today, the regions no longer exist. The YLS is now governed by a 23-member Executive Council. Officers, including a chair, chair-elect, vice-chair, and secretary-treasurer, are elected by the Council. The Council is elected by the YLS membership from 3 districts. District 1 includes Wayne and Macomb County; District 2 comprises Oakland County; and District 3 covers the remainder of the State of Michigan (Macomb County was transferred from District 2 to District 1 effective 1998-1999 bar year).
In 1967, the YLS was authorized by the State Bar Board of Commissioners to participate in State Bar meetings on a limited scale. In 1970, a representative of the YLS was invited to regularly attend the meetings of the Board of Commissioners. These achievements reflected a recognition by the State Bar that the YLS comprised a significant percentage of the total membership of the State Bar, and that the YLS had consistently compiled a record of distinguished achievements.
The YLS sponsors and carries on activities of interest and value to young lawyers in Michigan. It coordinates activities of various local young lawyer groups in Michigan; it also works with the State Bar of Michigan and the American Bar Association.
Service to Young Lawyers and the Bar
Throughout its history, the YLS has sponsored or co-sponsored seminars and programs throughout the state on various areas of the law to bridge the gap between law school and law practice. In the Section's first full year of existence, it was awarded the American Bar Association's Junior Bar Conference Award of Merit for excellence among Junior Bar sections throughout the country. In each of the succeeding two years (1943 and 1944), the Junior Bar Section received the Award of Merit for excellence in war programs dealing with problems caused by the war for young attorneys and their families.
At some point between 1959 and 1962, the American Bar Association Award of Merit was renamed as the Award of Achievement. Shortly thereafter, following the lead of the Michigan section, the Junior Bar Conference of the American Bar Association was renamed the Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association.
One of the crowning achievements of the Young Lawyers Section was the foundation of the Institute of Continuing Legal Education. In 1960, George Roumell, as chair of the Young Lawyers Section, approached Detroit College of Law Professor E. Donald Shapiro about founding a continuing legal education institute. Ann Arbor was chosen as the location for the Institute and the Honorable Charles Joiner, then a U of M professor in charge of the Trial Advocacy Program, threw all of his talents and energy behind the Institute. Professor Shapiro became the Institute's first Director and the Institute became an immediate success as well as a nationwide model. All 50 states now have some form of continuing legal education.
Every year, the YLS sponsors an admissions trip to the United States Supreme Court. In 1962 (believed to be the first year), round trip airfare cost around $54. Airfare with 3 nights lodging cost a total of around $88.42.
The YLS has a rich history of offering distinguished speakers for presentations at YLS functions. In 1958, Roman Gribbs, later mayor of Detroit, spoke on governmental practice. In 1959, William T. Gossett, then vice-president and general counsel to Ford Motor Company, spoke on "The Social Responsibilities of the Corporation Lawyer." In 1960, Raymond "Perry Mason" Burr spoke at a YLS luncheon. Other recognizable names over the years include Paul Trigg, John Hathaway, Dr. Emilio Menendez, Harold S. Sawyer, Gerald R. Ford, Ralph Nader, Julian Bond, and Eugene A. Moore.
The YLS has also had a variety of outstanding "graduates" of the Section. In 1958, Executive Council members included Wallace D. Riley and Dorothy R. Comstock, who were later wed. In 1971, Dennis Archer served as the Region I co-chair of the YLS.
The Michigan YLS had a Law Day program prior to the national acceptance of Law Day activities. The Michigan YLS even created the Liberty Bell Award, which is given to a non-lawyer in the community who is viewed as having most furthered the ideals of the Constitution. The Liberty Bell Award was started by William P. Daniel of Flint in 1962.
Recently, the Young Lawyers Section has sponsored and participated in the following programs to bridge the gap between law school and law practice:
- Alternative Career Seminar, a program that focused on nontraditional careers for lawyers;
- Videotaped Practice Interviews in Law School, a program that offered critiques of interviews and resumes of law students in each of the Michigan law schools;
- Videotaped Practice Interviews at the Opening Doors Conference, a program that offered critiques of practice interviews of female and minority attorneys;
- Co-Sponsor of Federal Bar Training Seminars, a program that introduces new lawyers to Federal Bar practices and procedures;
- Financial Planning for Young Lawyers, a program focused on assisting young attorneys with managing their financial futures.
Service to the Public
The YLS has a storied history of service to the public. In 1961, the YLS formed a special Committee on Assigned Counsel for Indigents and Compensation for Assigned Counsel. In 1966, the YLS addressed specialization within the Bar. In 1968, the YLS formed a committee to investigate the delay in providing Bar Exam results in Michigan. In 1969, the YLS dealt with the legality of the United States presence in Vietnam and the issue of teacher strikes. In 1971, the YLS formed a committee and volunteer program to assist POW-MIA's and their families. In 1970 and 1971, the YLS established new drug education programs to deal with the drug problems in Michigan's high schools. In 1972, an Inmates Assistance Program was formed. In 1973, a Parole Aid Program was instituted and an Environmental Law Sourcebook was published. Also in 1973, the YLS organized a Disaster Relief Committee, and the YLS worked with the Monroe Bar Association to establish a system of volunteer attorneys to provide legal advice to needy persons affected by shoreline flooding in the Monroe area (similar help was provided to flood victims in 18 counties, to victims of a severe ice storm which affected 29 counties, and to victims of a tornado which struck Oakland County in subsequent years). Sometime around 1972-1975, the YLS had a Committee on Prison Reform and Rehabilitation (which eventually led to the formation of Prison Legal Services of Michigan, Inc.). In 1976, the YLS reviewed the issues of lawyer advertising and the unauthorized practice of law, and a program was formed to offer legal assistance to Vietnamese refugees. In 1977, a Women's Rights Committee was created. In 1978, the Section formed a Committee on the Mentally Disabled. In 1979, the YLS formed the 60 Plus Legal Aid Clinic (which won the ABA/YLD's National Award of Achievement as the most outstanding single project of service to the public). In 1980, the YLS formed the Prepaid Legal Fees Committee. In 1982, the Section instituted a pilot Neighborhood Justice Center in an effort to reduce judicial backlog by providing mediation services.
The YLS continues today to provide public interest programs. Child Advocacy Programs, High School Speaker Programs, Model Judiciary Programs, Runaway and Abducted Youth Programs, Domestic Abuse Programs, Neighborhood Justice Programs, Hospice Programs, and Holiday Dinner Programs are just a few of the programs offered by the YLS in the past and/or present. The YLS has also authored a variety of published manuals designed to assist laypersons in areas of particular interest.
The YLS sponsors public service programs for the following reasons:
- Public service enhances the reputation of the Bar
- The Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association focus on public service, and cooperating with the American Bar Association, including its Young Lawyers Division, is an objective of the YLS under the bylaws
- Public service is the "right thing to do"
The YLS provides an organized means for young lawyers to serve the Bar and society. To remain relevant to membership, the YLS must address challenges and problems that young lawyers face. One such problem is the large numbers of unemployed and under-employed young lawyers; another is the poor training that many young lawyers receive. The YLS welcomes suggestions for programs and projects that address these and other problems.