What’s a Section? Ask Lorrie Benson 2/24/15 02/23/15 10:27:15 PM
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What’s a Section? Ask Lorrie Benson
By Dennis Friend
The Daily Record
Maybe you’re a lawyer hoping to connect with your peers. Maybe you want to share information. Maybe you want to talk to other lawyers involved in your area of expertise.
Maybe Lorrie Benson can help.
Benson holds the position of Section Facilitator for the Nebraska State Bar Association. It’s a new position, one she assumed October 1, and one she described as “a fast, fun introduction to the Nebraska State Bar Association,” or NSBA.
What’s a section facilitator? Essentially, it’s someone who helps members of the bar association connect with other members. The NSBA provides access to resources for those interested in everything from Agricultural Law to Workers’ Compensation Law. These areas, or sections, involve lawyers who practice or have an interest in specific legal areas.
“In an organization with thousands of members, often the best way you can get involved is through smaller groups,” Benson pointed out. “It helps people be more connected. They can share professional interests.”
Benson was has been a member of the NSBA for 20 years, describing herself as a former “country lawyer and elected county attorney” who had a practice in Iowa. Her careers also have included print and broadcast media reporting. She was with the University of Nebraska when she learned about the position which became her new job.
“I was looking for something different and I thought, ‘it sounds like fun’,” she said.
Benson, in her current position, can help steer NSBA members to any of 26 sections, or to several more that are in various stages of development, including sections meant to address health, appellate and American Indian law.
There have even been requests for a section for construction law, she said.
There are “affinity groups,” including sections designed for women, Hispanics, younger and older attorneys.
The various specialized sections all exist for a reason, Benson said.
For instance, “How do you wind down a practice if you are considering retirement, or if you’re a young lawyer leaving the law? There are ethical considerations,” Benson said. Practice manuals intended to address the issue are in the works, but “it’s not an easy task.”
Other sections may focus on the legislative process involving state laws, although “We try not to get into public policy, and to focus more on the procedures and administration of law,” Benson said.
All sections are intended as a forum for the exchange of ideas and many offer meetings, education and newsletters. All hope to improve a participant’s professional knowledge and skills and to “foster excellence and professionalism in the practice” and “almost all focus on a section of the law.”
Through these sections, NSBA members may “connect with peers, share information, help shape continuing education and practice tools like standard forms and practice manuals,” Benson said. The interests and activities in the various sections “keep attorneys engaged with the NSBA.”
She added that the sections contribute to four major areas for the attorney membership. Continuing legal education, publications, involvement with legislation and “building networks and outreach.”
Better yet, Benson said, when NSBA members are involved in both building educational programs and shaping state legal processes, “It helps give Nebraska better statutes and adds to our section-member value. It’s important.”
• Agricultural law
• Alternative dispute resolution – which looks at alternatives for dispute resolution and the circumstances in which they are likely to work, in a manner consistent with both recognized concepts of due process and the efficient administration of justice
• Bank attorneys – to address practical and legal issues arising in financial and commercial laws and regulations
• Bankruptcy law
• Business law
• Corporate counsel – for in-house counsel and attorneys in private practice engaged in the corporate practice of law
• Elder law – for lawyers involved in elder law and fields affecting older clients
• Family law – including areas of legal separation, dissolution of marriage, juvenile law and adoption
• General practice
• Government practice
• Hispanic lawyers – a section hoping to “foster and maintain the honor, dignity and integrity of the legal profession; promote the professional development of Hispanic lawyers and law students in Nebraska; promote the representation of Hispanic lawyers in leadership positions within the Nebraska State Bar Association; promote the representation of Hispanic lawyers in the judiciary, within the guidelines appropriate to the NSBA”
• Immigration law – to study and make recommendations in the area of immigration law and includes lawyers “concerned with the practice of all aspects of immigration law.” The section also tries to provide continuing legal education, social interaction and discussion through scheduled lunches with speakers and other educational meetings
• Intellectual property – to study and make recommendations regarding patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets, since “Nebraska continues to experience an increase in the number of technology-bases businesses that have established, enhanced or maintained a presence in the state. For these businesses, intellectual property rights (e.g., patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets) typically constitute a major competitive asset”
• Juvenile law – which will monitor, study and evaluate laws, rules and procedures that relate to the rights of juveniles in both civil and criminal systems
• Labor relations and employment law – for the discussion and development of substantive and procedural laws relating to labor relations and employment law
• Law practice management
• Military law
• Natural resources and environment law
• Public interest law – for lawyers “who practice or have an interest in using public interest law to create a more just society”
• Real estate, probate and trust law
• Securities law
• Senior lawyers – for lawyers 55 years old and older, senior practicing attorneys and retired and semi-retired lawyers
• Taxation – for lawyers who practice or have an interest in tax law. The section, in conjunction with representatives of the Nebraska Society of Certified Public Accountants, the University of Nebraska College of Law and the University of Nebraska College of Business Administration, plans and assists in planning an annual liaison meeting involving attorneys, accountants and Internal Revenue Service personnel in Nebraska offices
• Women and the law – promoting the study of the legal system and its existing and contemplated effect on women in the fields of family law, estate planning, welfare law, creditor-debtor law, employment law and criminal and corrections law. The section is intended “to enhance professional skills and confidence and increase general awareness and understanding in substantive areas as they affect women”
• Workers’ Compensation – keeping members apprised of court rules changes, proposed legislation and significant decisions involving Workers’ Compensation
• Young lawyers – “to integrate young and new lawyers into the practice of law, encourage them to participate in the activities of the Nebraska Sate Bar Association and the American Bar Association, and to provide educational and social opportunities.”
For information, contact NSBA Section Facilitator Lorrie Benson, (402) 475-7091 ext. 126; toll free (800) 927-0117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.