The Bar in Brief > Three Cheers for Volunteers

COLUMN > A Note From the WSBA Executive Director


It was my mom who instilled in me the importance of volunteerism to strengthen and build community. Although her full-time job was running a household and raising three kids, she was always involved in our community. What that looked like to my two brothers and me, at the time, was that she was ALWAYS on the phone and we were NOT allowed to interrupt. Instead, we would stand at her office door making silent but urgent faces to no avail. She is still passionate about building community and will tell anyone willing to listen (and maybe some that aren’t so willing) that we need universal child care so that parents can meaningfully contribute their talents toward community leadership. Perhaps our urgent faces were impactful after all.

Her words and actions inspired my own volunteerism and ultimately led to a career in public service as an immigration attorney for Catholic Community Services and later as the executive director for LAW Advocates, a volunteer lawyer program in Whatcom County. And her example still drives me today. Finding a way to meaningfully give back to your community—whether professional, local, or passion-based—is deeply fulfilling, and it’s one way I feel most connected to what matters in life. But for many, including myself, finding time to volunteer has become more difficult since the onset of the pandemic. According to a comprehensive AmeriCorps/U.S. Census survey, the rate of more formal volunteerism (through an organization) dropped 7 percentage points from 2019 to 2021.11,-Formal%20volunteering%20involves&text=An%20estimated%2023.2%20percent%20of,economic%20value%20of%20%24122.9%20billion. The results of this every-two-year survey are not expected to improve when analyzed in 2023.

The state Bar is experiencing both sides of this volunteerism tug-of-war. Volunteers are the backbone of our work, and they, by and large, express satisfaction from their ability to shape and guide the profession through their work with the WSBA. Simultaneously, engaging new volunteers and filling our many volunteer roles has become a heavier lift in recent years.

In response, we are attempting to make it as easy as possible for members to learn about the many, many ways to volunteer, encompassing different time commitments, skills, and interests. This issue of Bar News is one way we are doing that. We are also seeking to hear from all members about why they do or do not volunteer with the state Bar. In April, our ongoing member engagement survey22 will focus specifically on this issue. If you are invited to participate (our professional survey company chooses the sample randomly), please do! The resulting data will be used to make important resource and program decisions.

I also want to echo a sentiment shared recently by several justices and WSBA leaders during our annual Board of Governors meeting with the Washington Supreme Court in March: There are so many ways for you to volunteer and serve your profession and community. It may be that your limited time and in-demand skills are most needed right now with your kid’s football team, with your county bar, at your homeowners’ association, or with your church. However you choose to give back, I offer my sincerest gratitude.

But do please keep the WSBA in your volunteering periphery. These magazine pages are filled with stories of just a few of our volunteers and how they are making a difference for all of us in the legal profession. To add to that information, I offer my own “Late Night with Terra Top 10 List”—Why a WSBA Volunteer Gig Might Be for You:

10. Get to know the amazing, magical folks who work the front desk at the WSBA (there is free candy, too).

9.   Memorize the entire Ingallina’s Box Lunch menu.

8.   Learn everything you ever wanted to know—and a bunch a stuff you didn’t want to know—about the inner workings of rulemaking.

7.   Get really familiar with acronyms—POLB? BOBE? STAR? DART? No, these are not sci-fi character names; these are WSBA jargon!

6.   Acquire some great additions to your résumé.

5.   Grow your professional network.

4.   Nurture skills and talents you don’t get to use every day.

3.   Challenge your way of thinking and broaden your perspective.

2.   Make lifelong friends, mentors, and sponsors.

1.   Help bring about a profession and legal system that instills public confidence.

My own personal philosophy about contributing to community—whether through time or treasure—is this: give what you can give joyfully; accept what others give graciously. Wherever you choose to give, go forth in joy.

About the author

Terra Nevitt is the WSBA Executive Director and she can be reached at 206-727-8282 or: