Guest blog writer Joseph Muha is a 2015 graduate of WMU-Cooley Law School and 2016 Master of Laws (LL.M.) graduate in Intellectual Property Law. Muha also holds an MBA in Business Administration and is Corporate Counsel/Director of Compliance at Discount Drug Mart in Northeast Ohio.
When I was asked to contribute a story for the WMU-Law School blog, as a recent graduate and fairly new attorney, I confess that I had no idea about what I would write, or quite honestly when I would find the time. Between work and family, where would I squeeze it in?
Then there was the other stuff of life; an event with the leadership of our company meeting with the folks that run a large sports arena, a brunch to catch up on a friend's skyrocketing career and to share my news, the work on a potential lawsuit involving a 14th Amendment issue with a friend made at an Association of Corporate Counsel meeting, then a Corporate Counsel panel discussion at a local law school, plus a 2nd Amendment Legislative Action meeting in May.
Then it dawned on me - that is exactly what I would discuss here: the importance of relationships and associations.
Networking, involvement, relationships, associations – call it what you will, but it is the stuff from which success flows. No less than Alexis de Tocqueville in his Democracy in America remarked on how a free people in this once new nation had the freedom of association. He was taken aback with how, “Americans of all ages, all conditions, all minds constantly unite. Not only do they have commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but they also have a thousand other kinds: religious, moral, grave, futile, very general and very particular, immense and very small; Americans use associations to give fêtes, to found seminaries, to build inns, to raise churches, to distribute books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they create hospitals, prisons, schools. Finally, if it is a question of bringing to light a truth or developing a sentiment with the support of a great example, they associate. Everywhere that, at the head of a new undertaking, you see the government in France and a great lord in England, count on it that you will perceive an association in the United States.” It is these very associations that make our communities better. It is these very associations that make us better as people and as lawyers.
We can choose to be involved in causes and forge relationships. If your passion lies in protecting the Constitution, working with other corporate counsel, or serving on a board of a non-profit helping them navigate difficult waters with your skills as an attorney, the opportunities are out there. Get involved. Most folks do not know what you know; many organizations could use your knowledge, skills, and ethics. On top of that, you might have the opportunity to form some new friendships, become a part of your community, and make a positive difference. In the few months in which we moved to Northeast Ohio, we have made some progress in those areas. Because of networking, my family and I have put down some roots. The benefits work both ways. We get to meet and interact with some great folks and the organizations to which we belong benefit from our involvement. As a corporate counsel, I am not seeking new clients, but if I was with a firm or a solo practitioner, I would also be involved in as much as I could. There is so much need and folks do not know where to turn. You can help them and their organizations in so many ways.
On the panel, when we were discussing what a corporate counsel does and how we each got to where we are today, a common thread emerged. We all made the choice to say “yes” to opportunities and figured out how to do it later. That means having the relationship in place to get the opportunity presented to you. It also means that someone in our network believed that each of us was the right person to tackle the challenge they were trying to solve or help someone in their own network solve that riddle. Once you have said “yes” to that challenge it should also mean having a network upon which you can rely to help you figure it out. None of us is as smart as all of us. I know that WMU-Cooley prepared its graduates well for the challenges they will face as an attorney. Further, the relationship you have with the school did not end at graduation. I know I have called and e-mailed former professors and a dean more than once. They are there to help you. They want you to succeed. By the same token, they have reached out to me to see if I can assist a current student. The road is a two-way street and that makes it worthwhile for everyone.
We are doing that here in Northeast Ohio and you can do it where you live. I’d like to believe this makes the area better and makes us better too. And while we can cheer for the Cavs and Indians, they will not convert us to Browns fans as we cheer for the Steelers. It is a Pittsburgh thing; 'luv ya' black and gold.
The bottom line is that none of these opportunities, from the job I have, to the community involvement I enjoy, and even the opportunity to go to law school, would have happened for me without my network, and being involved. Take advantage of the opportunities with which you are presented. Strike up a conversation with the person sitting along side of you at the next meeting you attend. Who knows where it will lead?
"You become like the five people you spend the most time with. Choose carefully." - Jim Rohn