Getting to Know Your Bar - Today and in the Future
By Robert E. Harrington
As I thought about a topic for the column for this month, I began to consider who we are as a Bar. While we are more than a handful of statistics, I think numbers do tell an interesting tale about our identity.
As of November 30, 2012, our Bar has 4,658 members. Since June 2011, we have had a net growth of 350 members. What that number doesn't reveal is how many members joined the Bar and how many members left. So, let's take a closer look because those numbers may surprise you. Last fiscal year, we added 445 members to our roster and lost 262 members. Almost halfway through our current fiscal year, we have added 249 members and lost 94. These numbers indicate a great deal of movement. The growth can be readily explained. The growth of Charlotte School of Law has increased the number of new lawyers entering our Bar. In addition, Charlotte continues to be a growing, thriving city. Many lawyers view Mecklenburg County as a good alternative to their current location and move here looking for a brighter future.
So what about those who are no longer members? Some of their reasons are clear. Twenty-nine members became inactive and, unfortunately, six members passed away and seven members were disbarred or suspended. In addition, 220 members moved out of our district or out of North Carolina. We can guess but don't know the "why" behind the reasons for members leaving the district or the state.
Overall, we have more men than women in our Bar - 2,975 to 1,671 (64 percent male to 36 percent female). While different pressures may affect groups of lawyers' career patterns, last year, more men left the Bar than women - 155 men compared to 107 women - but, proportionately, those departures were fairly even. While we don't have specific statistics on the race and age of our membership, we believe that roughly 10 percent of our Bar is comprised of minority lawyers. Thirty-three percent are considered "young" lawyers - 36 years of age or younger. Among young lawyers, women currently outnumber men.
No matter how you slice and dice it, our Bar is changing. We have a growing number of minority members and women. The number of senior lawyers is getting smaller while the number of young lawyers is growing - which by the way reduces our average age. The trends suggest that we will continue to have large numbers of members moving in and out of the district.
The growth of our Bar and members coming and going may make one nostalgic for the days when we could meet almost everyone in our Bar over a cup of coffee at the Law Building.
While those days are gone, we still have many ways to get to know each other and there is much value in that effort. Get to know your fellow Bar members by participating in your local Bar programs, volunteer activities, CLEs and events. More than 200 lawyers and their guests attended the Bar's holiday party last month. We mingled, laughed, traded some work information in a cordial environment and collected two cars full of Cheerios, diapers and other consumables for the children of the Larry King Clubhouse. It's not a cup of coffee at the Law Building, but it is a new tradition that begins to define us in a positive way. We can also simply take the time to get to know the lawyers we interact with each day.
One of my hopes is that we don't define ourselves by mere numbers, but by what we do for each other within our profession and for our community; that we will begin to know each other not only by what we learn over a cup of coffee, but by who we are as a member of the Mecklenburg County Bar. In this season of joy and thanksgiving, and as we begin the next 100 years of the Mecklenburg County Bar, I am grateful for our Bar and our Bar members, and I encourage all of us to reflect on the many contributions that we can and do make as a Bar.
Here's to a prosperous and joyous 2013 and our future together.