Leadership Begins by Showing Up

American Bar Association Student Lawyer Magazine

Vol. 39 No. 8

By Tiffany V. Colbert

Imagine that you’re a freshly minted lawyer charged with defending an individual who may have committed the worst crime imaginable and you, much like the rest of society, think that person is guilty before you’ve even met. If you defend the person, you’re most likely going to be shunned by your peers and looked at with disdain by your community. However, you can’t escape the firm belief that the constitution is there to protect all citizens—whether that person is guilty or innocent. What do you do?

If you are 28 year-old Frederick Aiken, it is 1865, and your client is Mary Surratt, you take the case. You take the unpopular position, stand firm in your beliefs, and act in such a way to remind others of theirs. You become a leader.

Leadership doesn’t always come in such dramatic packaging, it can be something as simple as taking the initiative to talk to elementary school children about civics, volunteering your time to provide income tax assistance to others, or speaking out about mental health issues that affect members of the legal community. However, when it comes to any form of leadership, it all starts with one common denominator. Leadership begins by showing up.

As a law student member of the ABA, you have taken the initiative to become a part of the largest volunteer professional association in the world. This unique membership opens multitudes of opportunities for leadership development and provides resources for leaders on the law school campus. The doorway to these opportunities is available online at

Utilize that doorway to discover ways to become a leader at the local, regional, and national level. Become an ABA Representative and share the rewards that come with membership, including discounts, access to legal professionals in your field of interest, mentoring opportunities, networking opportunities, and resources such as Student Lawyer magazine.

Are you a leader with a vision but just need funding? The Law Student Division offers ABA-approved law schools financial support to establish first-time programs and activities that focus on diversity, ethics, professionalism, and public service. Earn recognition for those and other leadership efforts by applying for an individual, organizational, and law school award from the Law Student Division.

Expand your horizons and become a national leader. Elevate your SBA leadership role from your campus to the nation by running for Vice-Chair of SBA. Take part in shaping the policies that govern law students, lawyers, judges, and influence the greater legal community as a Division Delegate. Is there a catch? Yes, you have to complete your application (deadline is June 1) and show up! These positions are elected every year at the ABA Annual Meeting and this year’s meeting will be held in Toronto, so get that passport ready!

Frederick Aiken’s unique opportunity to be a leader came about because he showed up. Why not take advantage of your unique opportunity as an ABA/LSD member and show up, too?


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