Get on (a) board!

Help others and yourself by volunteering. Not to minimize the many altruistic benefits of volunteering, but this activity may also benefit your legal career. Not only is it a great way to network, but you may also be able to hone your legal skills.

There are so many wonderful organizations for which you may volunteer. Your legal skills and abilities can be utilized by both nonprofits that provide legal services and non-legally oriented organizations, particularly if you become a board member.

Nonprofit organizations usually have an executive director who handles the daily operation. The board of directors is the governing body of the organization and works with the executive director to ensure the goals and mission of the organization are met. Nearly every board has an attorney (or wants one) as a member. Besides your interest in the organization’s mission, your analytical, logical and communicating skills are highly welcomed and desired. Additionally, most employers welcome and encourage volunteerism and may even assist you in your endeavors.

If you are interested in becoming a board member, look to those organizations for which you already volunteer. Contact the executive director and discuss your desire to get more involved, possibly by joining the board. If you are not currently volunteering, please do so first to ensure the group’s goals reflect your own.

Before joining a board, you need to do your homework. One great place to start is with NonProfitConnect. NonProfitConnect is a Kansas City organization which assists nonprofit agencies and those interested in working with/for the nonprofit sector. If you are interested in becoming a board member, I recommend you attend the training seminar, Boards of Tomorrow (full disclosure: I used to be a member of NCP and attended the training seminar when I became a board member of a nonprofit). There are similar organizations throughout the nation, so take advantage of the resources available to you.

By joining a board, you get to become part of something better than yourself; you’re making your name (and your employer’s name) known with people outside your normal sphere of contact, and you may utilize your legal skills at the same time. A win-win situation for everyone involved!

Karen Hester, Director of Career Services