Community: a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
I’ve thought a lot about community during these last two very difficult and isolating years. As I’ve worked from home, restricted my travel, severely limited my attendance at public gatherings and communal events, and tightened my in-person circle of friends and family, I have really felt a deep sense of loss. I, like so many of us, have tried hard to replace those moments with phone calls, Zoom meetings, emails, and even handwritten notes. But none of that is a substitute for the feeling of community, the sense of human connection we all get from an in-person greeting, a handshake, a hug, a pat on the back.
During my time at NACA, the idea of community has been central to all our work. We have always tried—although not always successfully—to make NACA an inclusive community of attorneys with a shared commitment to work for consumer justice. Every day, our staff and our board ask ourselves how we can better build our organization and strengthen the bonds between us. How do we make attorneys new to our community feel welcome? How do we help both new and established consumer attorneys achieve greater personal and financial success? How do we better build connections among consumer attorneys, both geographically and by subject matter? How do we build a sustainable and expansive community of attorneys who want a career in law that both reflects their values and allows them and their families to thrive?
Of course, our ability to continue to strengthen the NACA community has been hindered by these last two pandemic years. Nonetheless, hopefully you have (virtually) noticed all of our efforts to do just that. Among other things, we have launched our Mentor Match Program; greatly expanded our online webinar, trainings, and resource libraries; aggressively increased our amicus assistance program; amplified our presence in law schools; created new leadership opportunities for members; and introduced a new project to identify and encourage consumer attorneys to become state and federal judges.
I’m very proud of all the work we’ve done to maintain and strengthen our organization, although nothing fully replaces the community building opportunities created by gathering in person. This year, after two false starts caused by the pandemic, we very much hope that you will join us at our first in-person Spring Training in Phoenix, AZ, May 11–14. It is our belief that NACA’s Spring Training will be different than any consumer advocacy conference you’ve attended before. We will, of course, be providing the engaged and practical peer-to-peer learning you’ve come to expect from NACA, but we will also be actively working to providing you with numerous opportunities to strengthen your connections and your bonds with fellow consumer attorneys.
I cannot wait for May and NACA’s Spring Training. I look forward to greeting you, to sharing conversations (be they silly, personal, or serious), and to simply be among my/our community again.
Ira Rheingold, NACA Executive Director