Attorney at Law Magazine Dallas Publisher PJ Hines sat down with the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers President Nicole Muñoz Huschka to discuss the organization.
AALM: What is the association’s main focus in the coming year?
NMH: For 2023, I wanted to focus on bringing our organization back out from the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic was hard on DAYL because our organization thrived on live, in-person events, programing and initiatives. All of that came to a sudden halt March 2020, and we transitioned to virtual programing for the next two years.
In 2021, we only had a few in-person events, but they were sold out and well attended, signaling that our members were ready to get out from behind their computer screens. We started returning to consistent in-person events shortly into 2022, but there were still some COVID-19 limitations.
This year, however, we have returned stronger than ever with zero limitations and continuous successful in-person events. I couldn’t be prouder of our committee co-chairs and directors who made this happen!
AALM: How would you encourage a young lawyer to become involved in their legal community?
NMH: I would encourage them to get involved as early as possible. There are so many benefits—both from a business development and personal perspective—of bar involvement. The practice of law is already challenging enough. Having a place to meet, socialize, and connect with peers and mentors who speak your same language is invaluable.
The DAYL is built to welcome new members who want to begin involvement, and the easiest way to get involved is by becoming a member and joining a committee which interests you. We have approximately 20 committees, which range from social, to community service-based, to business development-focused. We also have an annual Leadership Class program, which is open to all members and designed to provide young lawyers with leadership skills and experience. This is a great program for someone who is in the beginning or middle stage of involvement and wants to take the next step toward upward mobility opportunities.
AALM: Tell us about some of your exciting events.
NMH: Our Lawyers Promoting Diversity Committee hosted the Dinner & Dialogue event on July 20 at the Arts District Mansion. Since 2005, DAYL’s Dinner and Dialogue has provided a forum where Dallas’s legal community can discuss the topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession. This year’s topic was on Allyship, which means active support for the rights of a minority or marginalized group without being a member in it.
On September 9, the Freedom Run Committee will host the annual DAYL Freedom Run 5k event at the Ronald Kirk Pedestrian Bridge Trinity Groves. All proceeds from the Freedom Run go to the Assist the Officer Foundation.
On November 4, we have the annual DAYL Bolton Ball at the Arts District Mansion, and all proceeds benefit the DAYL Foundation, which gives grants to local charities and nonprofits. I am so proud of how this event has flourished since the first ball in 2014, and how it continues to honor the legacy of Alex Bolton.
AALM: What kind of changes are in store for the association over the next few years?
NMH: We recently made a big change to the criteria for Regular Membership in DAYL. At last year’s DAYL Long Range Retreat, our co-chairs came together and agreed the practice of law has changed since many of our supervising attorneys and general counsel were young lawyers. Cases go to trial less, transactional opportunities have changed, and partnership track is now an average of 10 years rather than seven. We also recognize that many young lawyers are veterans and former public servants. Given these factors, effective January 1, 2023, the DAYL voted to change the definition of what is a “young lawyer” for Regular Membership in the DAYL by removing the age requirement (formerly 36 years old) and extending the years of practice requirement.
Now, anyone licensed in the United States for 12 years or less and living in Texas may become a Regular Member of the DAYL, which allows them to run for DAYL office, hold officer and director positions, and vote in our elections. We’ve already received an overwhelmingly positive response from members!
AALM: Are there any changes that the association wants to see in the legal community?
NMH: Yes, specifically with attorney wellness. Recently, the Dallas legal community lost four lawyers to suicide. We all know that lawyers struggle with mental health. We all remember receiving pamphlets at law school orientation discussing how lawyers are high risk for developing depression, alcohol abuse, and substance abuse. It’s no mystery why. The legal profession is incredibly demanding and challenging, and those pressures increase as our field encourages immediate email responses, midnight filings, mass document production through e-discovery applications, and billing 60-hour weeks.
DAYL creates programing designed at helping our members strike a work-life balance, but we recognize the lawyers who need help are not usually the ones attending these programs. Our Wellness Committee is working to create new programing and initiatives that will make an impact and empower members to recognize when our colleagues need help and how to effectively help them. One thing we are planning to do is reach out to corporate counsel groups, because we know a major way to change law firm culture starts with clients making it a priority for their outside counsel. Ultimately, we’re committed to changing the legal community so that it’s a better place for lawyers to thrive.
AALM: What is the main mission of your association?
NMH: The DAYL mission is twofold. The first is to improve the quality of life for all young lawyers through a variety of initiatives designed to educate, support, challenge and entertain our members. The second is to serve the Dallas community through public service projects. These projects take many forms, and include helping children, elderly, veterans, first-responders, animals, schools, homeless neighbors, law students, and much more.
I’m proud that our organization serves as a conduit to allow our members to pursue initiatives that they are passionate about, which enriches themselves and our community.
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