by Laura Benitez Geisler
Like many children, my daughter Erika went through a “why?” phase, when her natural curiosity led to relentless interrogations all starting with “why?” (followed up with a dozen more questions “why” before starting a new line of interrogation). While I appreciated my toddler’s inquisitive nature, satisfying her insatiable curiosity was sometimes a challenge. There were times when I simply did not have the patience or energy for her “why” questions, especially when I did not know the answer. But I quickly realized that there were many questions I could not answer because I never contemplated “why.” It was an embarrassing self-revelation to discover how much I assumed “just because” without considering why or questioning my assumptions. So while there were times during Erika’s “why” phase that exhausted my patience and intellect, it prompted me to assume less and question more and I came to appreciate the varied perspective and deeper understanding that comes from asking why.
More recently (Erika is in college now), I was again reminded of the value and importance of asking why. Early last year I was discussing with a friend the time commitment that is required of the DBA President (it is significant). I was caught off guard when she asked me why I wanted to be DBA President. I was not surprised by the question itself given the context of our conversation, but I was uncomfortably surprised that I had not thought about “why” in a while. I have been active in the bar my entire legal career. It started in 1997 when I participated in the inaugural DAYL Leadership Class. I was President of DWLA in 2003 and DAYL in 2007. Immediately after my year as DAYL President ended, I started my first elected term as a DBA director and have been on the leadership track since 2015 when I served as Chair of the board.
I have always enjoyed being active in the bar, but if I am honest there was probably a point along the way when I went on auto-pilot and I continued down this path without asking myself why. Auto-pilot may be an easy way to navigate, but it is still important to check the flight path and make sure you are heading in the right direction. As it turns out, being asked why I wanted to serve as DBA President last year was the best preparation for this year because it caused me to really think about my “why” and in doing so I gained a renewed sense of purpose, focus, energy, and excitement about this year.
My Reason Why, Is You.
The collective “you” have taught me to be a better lawyer and person. In doing so, you have inspired me to give back to the profession and community and have provided me with opportunities to do so. I could probably come up with a list of hundreds of reasons why, but here are just a few:
- When I was a law student at SMU, your support of the Dallas Bar Foundation provided me with a stipend to clerk at the Texas Supreme Court. It demonstrated to me and other minority law students your commitment to diversity within the Dallas Bar.
- When I was a baby lawyer, you made me feel welcome when you introduced yourself at the Belo. I did not know anyone in the room and felt like an outsider. You made me feel like I belonged which made me want to return and be a part of this community.
- You mentored me. You were generous with your time when I sought your advice. You gave me unsolicited advice when you saw I needed guidance but did not know to ask.
- You have helped me develop my practice with business referrals and have taken good care of the clients I send to you.
- You enabled me to serve my clients better by educating me with your well prepared CLE presentations. I know that I could call or email you with follow up questions and you would graciously take the time to respond.
- Your generous donation of time and money to pro bono serves as a constant reminder that lawyers have a unique responsibility to ensure access to justice for all. Your good deeds inspire me to do more.
- Even though you are very busy, I know I can count on you to volunteer your time on projects that serve the profession and community.
- You recognize and value the DBA staff and show them the same respect and courtesy you do to your best client.
- Even though we may differ in gender, ethnicity, age, political affiliation, and practice area, we share a commitment to the profession and civility. My respect for you has helped me uncover and overcome biases I did not know I had because I got to know you as a person and not a stereotype.
- Because you stood on the shoulders of those who came before you, you helped me up to stand on yours, and now we stand side by side to boost to those coming behind us.
- You have become my friends and are my DBA family.
You are my “why.” Because of you I want to serve as the 110th DBA President, to give back to the people and community that has given me so much, and to ensure that future generations of lawyers will have reasons “why” they want to be part of this community.
What is Your “Why”?
With over 11,400 members, 30 sections, and 30 committees, providing hundreds of hours of CLE, service opportunities and special projects, there are probably just as many different reasons why you might be a member. Whatever your reason, it has brought us together and connects us as a community in a special way. I hope you will take time to think of your DBA “why” and share it with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise to do my best to give back to you what you have given to me.