Helping new lawyers succeed the OCBA way


Help! I need somebody,
Help! Not just anybody,
Help! You know I need someone,

When I was younger, so much younger than today,
never needed anybody’s help in any way.
But now these days are gone, I’m not so self-assured,
Now I find I’ve changed my mind and opened up the doors.

Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ‘round,
Help me get my feet back on the ground,
Won’t you please, please help me?

And now my life has changed in oh so many ways,
My independence seems to vanish in the haze.
But every now and then I feel so insecure,
I know that I just need you like I’ve never done before.
—“Help!,” John Lennon, Released July 23, 1965
In 1964 and 1965, I attended Alice M. Birney Junior High School in Southfield. Like the majority of my fellow classmates, I was obsessed with The Beatles and everything connected with them. I truly had an insatiable appetite for everything the Beatles did because they were unquestionably the coolest and most hip rock and roll band on the planet.

The frenzy surrounding The Beatles in the mid-1960s was known as Beatlemania. As Beatlemania gained strength throughout 1964, there were many naysayers who assumed it was simply a passing fad. By the end of 1964, it was clear The Beatles were considerably more than a one-act pop music group – they were in fact a cultural phenomenon. Their songs were changing music, their hair and clothes were transforming style, and their engagingly rebellious personalities were winning over teens like me in a way not seen since the rise of rock and roll music in the mid-1950s.

My main exposure to The Beatles during 1964 and 1965 came through the records they released at a prodigious pace, which I heard constantly on the local radio stations. Occasionally there would be an article on The Beatles in the newspaper or in magazines like Life and Look. Unfortunately for me, back then there were not nearly as many media outlets as there are today to allow rock and roll fans to connect with their favorite group.

Although movies are important today as a means of allowing fans to connect with their favorite celebrities, this medium was much more important and influential during the 1960s because of the limited communication mediums. No rock and roll group in the mid-1960s was important enough to warrant getting its own movie with the exception of one group: The Beatles. In July 1964, The Beatles released their first movie, “A Hard
Day’s Night.” Their widely acclaimed performance made them household names throughout the United States by the late summer of 1964.

Throughout all of 1964 and 1965, Beatlemania swept like a hurricane through England and Europe, then to the Americas, and ultimately to the Pacific region. By 1965 Beatlemania was no longer a cultural aberration; it was a new, fervent normal. After the huge success of “A Hard Day’s Night,” it was inevitable The Beatles would spring from this success into a second movie.

The second movie, “Help,” was released in August 1965. The plotline revolves around an Indian cult whose sacrificial ring ends up stuck on Ringo Starr’s finger. (Ringo’s group identity stemmed from the fact he wore numerous rings on his hands. It was only logical he would end up having the sacrificial ring stuck on one of his fingers.) Thus began a cross-country chase as members of the sect pursue The Beatles to retrieve the ring or else kill the person wearing it.

As in “A Hard Day’s Night,” the group spends most of its time on the run, but the adoring teens who relentlessly pursued The Beatles in that movie are replaced with a slapstick sect whose God-fearing members considered The Beatles as expendable as the next sacrificial victim. Fortunately for Ringo, just before the sect is about to bring him to an early demise, he and the group receive “help” to remove the ring from Ringo’s finger and they go on to perform another day.

If The Beatles and Ringo had come to Oakland County in 1965 with the problem of not being able to get the sacrificial ring off Ringo’s finger, members of the OCBA of course would have quickly and efficiently figured out a way to resolve this problem. For more than 80 years, the OCBA has been providing its members and citizens of Oakland County with “help” in resolving their problems. Over the past five years, a new group of individuals have emerged who need “help” from the OCBA. This new group is recent law school graduates, affectionately referred to as “legal millennials.”

Over the past five years, both nationally and in Michigan, there has been a deluge of law school graduates, which has pushed down starting wages, increased competition for the few positions available, and left many new lawyers buried in private student loan debt with not enough income to repay same. According to the American Bar Association, the average debt taken on by a law school graduate was $84,000.00 if the student attended a public law school and $122,158.00 if the student attended a private law school. Unfortunately, many of the recent law graduates have additional student debt from undergraduate student loans that also need to be paid along with their law school loans.

The larger issue with taking on so much debt for a law degree is the majority of this student debt was borrowed through private student loans, which offer far fewer loan forgiveness options and repayment plans. With the rising number of students getting law degrees, this trend has increased competition for jobs and lowered salaries. By 2013, only 51 percent of law school graduates were employed in law firms. This has pushed many graduates into lower-paying jobs in the public sector or even in totally different career fields. However, even if the law school graduate isn’t earning the salary he/she expected, the student loan debt still needs to be repaid.

While the economic realities of being a new lawyer are daunting, the silver lining is that new lawyers can invest a relatively small sum of money in joining the OCBA and receive a huge return on their investment. The OCBA allows brand-new lawyers to become members of the association free of charge for their first year of practice. This gives the new lawyer a unique opportunity to network with other successful lawyers who are members of the bar association and to learn from these experienced lawyers in terms of how to navigate through the difficult times of being a new lawyer.

A second value provided to new lawyers by the OCBA is the Mentor Program. This program matches an established lawyer with a new lawyer. The Mentor Program assists the new lawyer by providing him/her with someone to whom they can pose questions about every aspect of the practice of law. Mentors are pleased to accompany new lawyers to events and introduce them to other successful attorneys. Mentors also help new lawyers get involved in the plethora of quality programs and opportunities the OCBA provides. New lawyers can sign up to request a mentor at their swearing-in ceremony or at any time within their first few years of practice.

A third outstanding value provided to new lawyers by the OCBA is the Pro Bono Mentor Match program. This program matches a new lawyer with a pro bono case and a mentor to help the new lawyer handle this case. The Pro Bono Mentor Match program provides assistance for unemployed or under-employed new lawyers to get the case experience they so desperately need to assist them in getting better-paying jobs in the future. Pro Bono Mentor Match program cases include family law, expungements, landlord/tenant law, foreclosure actions, debt collection and immigration matters. This program has been so successful and valuable for new lawyers that it won the Nexis Lexis Community and Educational Award in 2011 and the Kimberly Cahill Pro Bono Award in bar leadership from the State Bar of Michigan in 2012.

A fourth area where the OCBA provides a great value to new lawyers is in professional development. The OCBA puts on an OCB-ABCs seminar series for new lawyers to help them advance their career objectives. To help the new lawyers become better at their chosen field, the OCBA also provides hot topic and practical pointer seminars to review court rule and legal changes at a very competitive cost. The OCBA provides multiple Introduction to Practice seminars for lawyers new to circuit, probate, family and district court practice.

Another fantastic program only the OCBA provides to its new lawyer members is the Inns of Court program. Inns of Court runs from September through May of each bar year and selects interesting and timely legal topics for review and study. Participants in the Inns of Court program are divided into seven teams, each headed by a judge and two master attorneys who have at least 15 years experience each. Participation in the Inns of Court program is an incredibly meaningful experience for the new lawyer that helps them grow both professionally and ethically.

Lastly, the OCBA is the only voluntary bar association in Michigan that has presented a student loan seminar. This seminar was presented in June 2015 and will be repeated again in October 2015. The seminar has two unique aspects: It is designed to help new lawyers address their own student loan debt, as well as develop a paying practice allowing the new lawyer to counsel clients on student debt. The current chair of the New Lawyers Committee, Victoria King, noted the seminar “was very informative and helpful for new lawyers with significant student loan debt and provided the participants with a possible source of revenue for counseling clients similarly situated.”

New lawyers have limited resources and need to invest their money wisely. One of the best investments a new lawyer can make in this highly competitive legal environment is to join the Oakland County Bar Association and take advantage of the valuable programs discussed above. Anyone who reads this column needs to educate the new lawyers they know about the super programs the OCBA has available for them, and encourage them to become a member of this great bar association.

Everyone at some stage in their life needs “help,” including The Beatles. For new lawyers, the OCBA provides unique “help” to this group at a time when things look especially bleak. To all new lawyers in the tri-county area, I strongly urge you to join the Oakland County Bar Association and take advantage of the valuable programs only the OCBA can provide to you.
David Carl Anderson, of Law Office of David C. Anderson PC, is the 83rd president of the Oakland County Bar Association. Share thoughts about the OCBA or anything else with Anderson at 248-649-5502 or