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ALPS In Brief -Episode 81: Tam Nash, ABA YLD President - Inspiring First Gen Lawyers to Summit New Heights

17 min read

ALPS In Brief -Episode 81: Tam Nash, ABA YLD President - Inspiring First Gen Lawyers to Summit New Heights

 

In this episode of ALPS In Brief, our Bar Partnerships Strategist Rio Peterson sits down with Tamara Nash, Director of Experiential Learning and lecturer at the University of South Dakota School of Law and Chair of the ABA's Young Lawyer Division. They dive into her upcoming initiatives for the year ahead and discuss the inspiration behind her focus on empowering and motivating new and aspiring lawyers. Lastly Tamara, a first-generation lawyer herself, shares her plans to reach more young lawyers by organizing the ABA's inaugural first-generation summit in April 2024.

Rio Peterson: 

Hello everybody and welcome to episode 81 of the In Brief podcast. I'm your host today Rio Peterson, coming to you live from Chicago. And as we all know, I am the bar partnership strategist here at ALPS and one of your new hosts for the podcast. So today I am sitting down with the fantastic and fabulous Tamara Nash. Hello. 

Tamara Nash: 

Hi. 

Rio Peterson: 

How are you? 

Tamara Nash: 

I'm great. How are you today? 

Rio Peterson: 

Good, I'm fantastic. Better that I get to sit here and chat with you. So we are both attending BLI, the Bar Leader Institute conference here in Chicago. And so we thought this would be a great time to sit down and talk about a lot of, well, all of, or as many as we can, the exciting things that Tam is doing because you do all the things. So yeah, happy to have you. Thanks for joining me. 

Tamara Nash: 

Thanks for having me. I'm so excited to be here. 

Rio Peterson: 

Fantastic. All right, so let's get started. I would love to hear a little bit more about you. I mean, obviously I know a little bit about you, but our listeners don't. So why don't you tell me a little bit about who you are, what you do, and yeah, we'll go from there. 

Tamara Nash: 

Yeah, I would love to. So those kind of questions always strike a chord of panic. Who are you? It's like, "Well, let me encapsulate my life in this one sentence." I always like to start that with I'm a proud first-generation attorney, born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, and then transplant to South Dakota, a proud South Dakota young lawyer, but I can only say that for one more year and then I'll be aging out. So I'll go kicking and screaming to veteran attorney status. 

Rio Peterson: 

Yes. 

Tamara Nash: 

O I guess a quasi veteran attorney status, but... 

Rio Peterson: 

Young veteran attorney. 

Tamara Nash: 

Young veteran attorney. Yes, I like that. We'll bring that term into use. I am the oldest sibling of three. I'm very close with my siblings. I have a brand new nephew and I have a niece. I'm quite obsessed with them. I bring them up any chance that I can get. I was a prosecutor for about eight years and then recently made a transition into academia. I currently have the joy of serving as the director of experiential learning and a lecturer at the University of South Dakota Knudson School of Law. And I am kind of a serial joiner. I really like bar service, so I do quite a bit in the South Dakota State Bar as well as the American Bar Association and the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division and just try to squeeze in time to read and bake when I'm not doing all of those things. 

Rio Peterson: 

I do all of the things when I'm not doing all of them. 

Tamara Nash: 

Basically, yeah. 

Rio Peterson: 

Yeah. And so I think it's incredible that you do all those things. It really just shows that you're so passionate about what you do. And so something I would really love to hear is a little bit about your origin story because I know you mentioned that you're a first-generation lawyer, so that's a really, I think, exciting thing when somebody in your family takes that next step. So I'd love to know more about what inspired you to become a lawyer. 

Tamara Nash: 

Yeah. So I love telling this story. It's something I'm super proud about and something that has always followed me. It's always like a little seed or flower I carry with me everywhere. So I think I come from a family of helpers, a family of people who always want to improve the world, make the world better and have done that in kind of their own little way. But no one in my family ever really went to professional school, ever did anything like this. I mean, my grandfather had a third grade education and started his own business. So I mean, so amazing feat from that, a Black man from Mississippi. 

Rio Peterson: 

Yeah. 

Tamara Nash: 

So extraordinary journey and path that he lived. But my kind of story was inspired by an amazing teacher. My sixth grade teacher let us create a mini society. So we had our own money, we had our own name, we had our own businesses, and one of our classmates had a hot dog stand, which beside the point of how weird and creepy that is, that sixth-graders were selling hot dogs to other sixth-graders, we had a mini society day where some of us were selling... I had a supply store with my friends, they had their hot dog stand, but apparently my friend's classmates thought he wasn't pulling his end of the labor. And so they fired him. 

And my teacher said, "Well, you can do something about that." So our class had a wrongful termination lawsuit and some of us were jury members, some of us served as attorneys. I was his attorney. One of us was a judge. And it just changed something inside of me. It was the coolest thing I've ever done. And my teacher was like, "You seemed to really enjoy that." And so he brought in three Black women to talk to me about what it meant to be a lawyer and what they did every day. And I sat with them in the school cafeteria during the school day and just learned about it. And it planted the seed inside of me of what I could do and what my life could be. 

And I kind of had ups and downs through school. I didn't do very well the whole time. But when I got to college, that dream came to fruition. I took the LSAT, the law school admissions test and was like, "I can do this, and went to law school. And so I went to University of South Dakota Knudson School of Law and the dream of following in the footsteps of helpers and my family kind of came to life. So it all started with a hot dog stand. 

Rio Peterson: 

Did you win? Did you win the case? 

Tamara Nash: 

We did. We did. Yes. But really we were all winners. We were all winners. 

Rio Peterson: 

That's really incredible. It's really a testament to the power that education and certain adults in your life can have to influence and inspire the direction you go. And do you still keep in touch with that teacher? 

Tamara Nash: 

I do. So his name is Mr. Summit. We keep in contact periodically on Facebook. And I very much believe that my journey and my life has been influenced and my trajectory has been changed by people who have intervened and got involved and influenced me in these monumental ways. And he's just one of the several examples of people who've changed my life. And so yeah, I'm so appreciative of him for something that he probably thought was no big deal, but literally changed the course of my life. 

Rio Peterson: 

Yeah, absolutely. And I love too that he thought to bring three women that you could relate to and connect with as a woman of color and show you," Hey, this is what you can do." 

Tamara Nash: 

Absolutely. 

Rio Peterson: 

That's amazing. 

Tamara Nash: 

Yeah. 

Rio Peterson: 

Yeah. 

Tamara Nash: 

It's so powerful. I mean, you have to see it to believe it, and that's what he did. And it just planted the seed that took years to blossom, but when it did, it came with a vengeance. So it's really cool 

Rio Peterson: 

Oh, I love that. That's fantastic. That's a great origin story. 

Tamara Nash: 

Thanks. 

Rio Peterson: 

Was there anyone during your journey through law school and as a young lawyer who also inspired you in that way or pushed you forward? 

Tamara Nash: 

Yeah. So I mean, sincerely mean it when I say I've had amazing mentors who've been pivotal in my life. As a young lawyer, I've had a few mentors who have just been wonderful, who've taught me how to be a young lawyer, how to navigate the profession, how to have empathy, how to have compassion, how to be a professional. 

I had one mentor in particular, I remember it's the summer between second year and third year, everyone's interviewing for jobs. And I remember walking out of that interview and I thought to myself, "Whatever I got to do to work for this person, I'll do it." Just you connect with a person and you just know this is who I am supposed to learn from. And fate aligned that I got that internship and it was with the US Attorney's Office in South Dakota. 

Rio Peterson: 

Oh, wow. 

Tamara Nash: 

And it changed life. And I'm still mentee with that person, and I still call on them when I want to know what to do in life or what decisions to make. And the coolest thing about it is that person ended up becoming a judge and then I ended up becoming their clerk by happenstance. We both kind of got the same job the next year. And so our lives kind of tracked for a couple paces after that. 

And so that person has been such a pivotal mentor and role model and encourager and champion in my life. And I think that's one thing that makes the South Dakota Bar so amazing is that it's such a close-knit community that I don't know a single young lawyer who hasn't been impacted by an amazing mentor, someone who's been a champion to them, cheered them on, encouraged them, provided opportunities. And I am so fortunate to be not at all from South Dakota, but benefiting from an amazing bar and amazing mentors. 

Rio Peterson: 

Yeah, absolutely. And really the role of mentorship is so important, especially when you're new at something. I mean, whether you're coming into the profession as a young person or even maybe a bit later in life, it can be a very daunting and intimidating thing to be surrounded by all these very intelligent people who know what's going on. So it's really fantastic to know that it is understood that that is such an important thing for people to have that support when they're trying to figure out who they are and where they're going to end up in this profession. 

Tamara Nash: 

Absolutely. And especially as a first-generation attorney where you don't have a parent who came before you who can tell you, "This is what you do when you go golfing," or, "This is how you interact at this fancy lunch." And for someone to just sit you down and tell you these unspoken rules or just to encourage you and remind you, you are here for a reason. 

Rio Peterson: 

You belong here. 

Tamara Nash: 

You belong. Exactly. 

Rio Peterson: 

Yeah. 

Tamara Nash: 

And then just the power of someone saying your name in rooms you're not in, and to help you seek opportunities and achieve and push yourself, it is so powerful and it means so much. So it's really exciting. 

Rio Peterson: 

Yeah. And I think there's kind of a theme that I keep hearing when I get to speak to incredible legal professionals. It's that a lot of the legal community is of the opinion that success is not a zero-sum game. There's enough opportunity for everyone, there's enough success, and if we just work together and bring each other up, we're all going to do well. And... 

Tamara Nash: 

Absolutely. 

Rio Peterson: 

... the world I think in general will do well from that. 

Tamara Nash: 

Oh, yes. Absolutely. 

Rio Peterson: 

Yeah. 

Tamara Nash: 

Yeah, our whole profession succeeds. One of the cool things is there's a session here at BLI, the Bar Leadership Institute, leadership is a team sport. We all succeed when one of us succeeds. We don't take away from any of us or any one of us. And I believe sincerely that when we dig in and work together to do our joint mission, whether that's serving justice, whether that's a strategic plan, whatever the goal is, we all come out enriched for whatever that is. And that's how my mentors taught me. 

Rio Peterson: 

Yes, yes. And so in your role as a teacher and a lecturer, is mentorship something that you speak about with your students and encourage? 

Tamara Nash: 

It is. Mentorship is such an amorphous topic to teach, though. It's so hard to say, "Mentor, find one." 

Rio Peterson: 

[inaudible 00:12:38] right now with somebody. 

Tamara Nash: 

Yeah, exactly. But I do, and I try to bring in folks to come in and guest lecture and different guest speakers and bring in my mentors to demonstrate how important it is. And I talk and try to be open and vulnerable about how I've benefited from mentorship and why it matters and how to find mentors and how to engage with your mentor and how to give back to your mentors because it's not a one-way street either. It's not someone you just call up like, "Hey, Bob, need a job, what you got for me," kind of thing." 

So yeah, we talk about it. And I think it's one of those things that as you grow in the profession, you understand what it means, kind of like I understood the opportunity that my sixth grade teacher gave me much more as I got older. And so I think it's one of those pieces as well. But I think the students really enjoy meeting professionals, understanding what they do and understanding how those connections can continue to be cultivated as they grow in their three years as law students and then much more beyond as lawyers. 

Rio Peterson: 

Right. Yeah, absolutely. That's fantastic. So you teach, but you were also a prosecutor for eight years? 

Tamara Nash: 

Yeah, about eight years. 

Rio Peterson: 

Was that in South Dakota? 

Tamara Nash: 

Yes. Yeah. 

Rio Peterson: 

Okay. How did you like it? 

Tamara Nash: 

I loved it. It was very challenging, very stressful, but I loved it. I loved my office and the mission and just the pursuit of justice, it mattered, and it was a very meaningful job to have. 

Rio Peterson: 

Right. Got it. And so then after your time as a prosecutor, you've now segued into, you work with the South Dakota Bar, you do work with the ABA ,and you teach. What are some of the things that you do with the South Dakota Bar? 

Tamara Nash: 

Yeah, so I have been fortunate enough that as soon as I was licensed, I had folks say, "Come to bar service. Welcome. Welcome." And so I've been involved in the South Dakota State Bar and the American Bar Association pretty much since the time I've had a license. And so with the South Dakota State Bar, I've been on the Young Lawyers Board of Directors. I've been fortunate enough to serve as our South Dakota Young Lawyer Section President. And with the South Dakota State Bar, I am our young lawyer delegate to the ABA House of Delegates. I serve on a few different committees within our state bar, with our law school committee. I also this year serve as chair of our diversity, equity, and inclusion committee. And it's just been really cool to be a part of a state bar and to serve and lead in a state bar that has given me so much and really has been the reason I have a career. So it's been really rewarding. I enjoy it. 

Rio Peterson: 

Yeah. And they recognize, they're like, "This woman gets things done. We need her to join the [inaudible 00:15:32]." Yeah, we know obviously ALPS works with the South Dakota Bar, and they're a fantastic group of people. So yeah, it's wonderful to hear too the impact that a bar and participating in your bar can have as well. And, oh, excuse me. Yeah, just the positive impact that can have in helping to push your career forward as well. 

Tamara Nash: 

Absolutely. 

Rio Peterson: 

And helping you to connect with people. And I think also focusing on your passion. It sounds like you're very passionate about supporting young lawyers and helping them navigate the world, the legal profession, and becoming lawyers. I know... I mean, I think it's clear based on your work as well with the ABA, because you are the chair of the Young Lawyer Division this year for the ABA as well, right? 

Tamara Nash: 

I am. 

Rio Peterson: 

Yeah. How did that come about? 

Tamara Nash: 

Oh, that's a windy, twisty turn of fate, truly a fate. And it's been such a remarkable just journey of kind of finding a home in the ABA. I attended my first ABA conference back in 2016 as a member of the board of directors for South Dakota, our young lawyer section. And I say this in all sincerity, although it sounds like a Hallmark card, knew I had found my home and found my people in my first meeting. And so instantly signed up for everything I could and tried to join all the things. And then someone was like, "All right, we'll need to narrow it down. So tell us one thing you want to do." And so I applied to become a scholar, which is a leadership development program at the Young Lawyers Division does each year. 16 young lawyers are selected to participate. And that we kind of lovingly and appropriately call a springboard into leadership. 

Rio Peterson: 

Great. 

Tamara Nash: 

And so that was kind of the first opportunity or segue into the Young Lawyers Division that I did. And after that held different positions as a director and committee leader and on different teams and on different boards. And everything that I did, I just kind of fell in love with the division more and lovingly call the division home, where I've made amazing, amazing friends that have kind of helped guide me through hard life stuff that we all live challenges, career changes, encouraged me as I'm negotiating new jobs, celebrating fun wins in life, and it's just kind of become this professional home that means so very much to me. And so I decided in 2019 to run a campaign, a year-long campaign to be secretary of the division and the successful candidate for that ascends to chair. And so that was four years ago... 

Rio Peterson: 

Got it. 

Tamara Nash: 

... which leads us to today... 

Rio Peterson: 

Got it. 

Tamara Nash: 

... serving as chair. 

Rio Peterson: 

Well, I would buy that Hallmark card. Yeah, I love that you found that community. You just instantly were like, "Yes, this is where I need to be." And it really shows through all the work that you've done. And I know a project that you have coming up is a summit for first-generation lawyers, which we're very, very excited about. Do you want to tell us a bit about that? 

Tamara Nash: 

Yeah. So I'm so very proud, very excited to be a part of the first-generation summit that we're able to put on. So kind of context of stepping back, we as the Young Lawyers Division have a first-generation initiative. Something that we are incredibly proud of is creating community for first-generation law students and young lawyers. It was a gap that we had that we didn't have a place where we could say, "Hey, this is who I am and this is something I'm proud of, and here are resources to support me." And that is a gap that we filled last year, last bar year. 

Rio Peterson: 

Yes. 

Tamara Nash: 

And a part of that is creating space where we can come together and be proud of who we are, to bring mentors into the space, to provide resources. And so on April 26th of this year, 2024, we'll be meeting in Houston, Texas to have a summit and really just celebrate that shared identity that I think we've all, a lot of first-generation, I should say, have gone through this transition of it used to be something that you felt, I wouldn't say embarrassed, but maybe felt like it used to be a barrier or a challenge. And now it's a badge of honor. To be a first-generation is synonymous with grit and tenacity and to be someone who perseveres. 

And we'll come together and celebrate that identity and that label. And we'll have high-schoolers there, we'll have college students there, law students, members of the judiciary and young lawyers, and just kind of celebrate that shared identity, build community and have some programming, have some networking breakfast, networking lunch, and really just celebrate who we are and that first-gen status. And we have some amazing partners, one of which is ALPS. We have the AccessLex Institute. And we have some of the Texas Bar Associations that have been fantastic partners, and South Texas College of Law has been a wonderful partner. And so we're just really excited to say, "We're here and we're proud of who we are and how can we help." 

Rio Peterson: 

Yes. And I really love that you've included high school students in that as well. And I mean, giving them an opportunity to see the law as something that is viable and it is something they should be considering and that is open to them. And I know you've done work in the past with I think it's Project Destination, right? 

Tamara Nash: 

Yes. Yeah. 

Rio Peterson: 

Yeah. So I love that because I think it's, especially for someone who doesn't come from a family of lawyers, even thinking about being a lawyer is maybe something they wouldn't be considering without someone being like, "Oh, actually you should." 

Tamara Nash: 

Yeah, 100% 

Rio Peterson: 

"You can do this. This could be you." 

Tamara Nash: 

Yeah. Yeah. I think it's the profound ability to see yourself in someone who looks like you, to say, "I did it. You can do it." And to plant that seed that we know that sometimes can take years to blossom. I'm the example of that, that someone took the time to plant a seed in me, and it took years for me to even think back on that. But once I did, and once life happened and the universe aligned, that seed blossomed. And it's just to take the time to pour into someone, pour life into someone, invest in them and believe in them, and for them to remember to believe in themselves as well. 

Rio Peterson: 

Yeah, absolutely. And I think seizing the opportunity to create visibility around, I mean, particularly women of color and showing other young girls of color like, "Hey, this is something that you can do." I mean, I think about media and stuff, it's not often that you see that representation. 

Tamara Nash: 

Absolutely. 

Rio Peterson: 

So connecting with that is so important, even if you don't realize it in the moment. Looking back, just like you said with, as you've gotten older, understanding the opportunity that was presented when you met the those women lawyers. Yeah. It's amazing growing the gardens of tomorrow today. 

Tamara Nash: 

Yes, exactly. It's so cool. And I always think even if students never become a lawyer, the impact that you can have is profound. And the ripple effect of the generations you impact afterwards are amazing. And there's a quote that I love of, "You plant seeds today so that generations can live in the shade tomorrow." Something like that, the quote, not precisely. But it's so cool that someone years from now can live the benefit because you put on a 40-minute panel. 

Rio Peterson: 

Yes. 

Tamara Nash: 

And so it's really so cool and so truly just moving to know that you can change the course of someone's life. And I say that in a way of not like I'm important, but in a way that I've lived it. It has changed my life. And so I know the impact that it can have. 

Rio Peterson: 

Yeah, absolutely. And I love that generational element as well. I mean, maybe if a high-schooler comes to the summit and they don't become a lawyer, but maybe their kid does and maybe their kid becomes president because of it and changes the world. You never know. 

Tamara Nash: 

Exactly. 

Rio Peterson: 

You never know. 

Tamara Nash: 

Or someone becomes a court reporter or they go into law enforcement and then the next generation does something. It can just be so cool. 

Rio Peterson: 

Yeah, absolutely. Well, that's very, very exciting. And so that's on April 26th. 

Tamara Nash: 

April 26th. 

Rio Peterson: 

At the Houston? 

Tamara Nash: 

South Texas College of Law in Houston. 

Rio Peterson: 

South Texas. Yes, in Houston. Okay. Fantastic. And we'll talk in a minute about how people can get connected with that. 

Tamara Nash: 

Sounds good. 

Rio Peterson: 

So something I want to ask because I think this is really a theme and overarching theme about what we've been talking about is just inspiring youth and creating and opening those opportunities. So what is some advice that you would give your younger self? I know this is a question you like to ask. Well, I'm asking you, Tam. 

Tamara Nash: 

All right. A piece of advice I would give my younger self is to stay rooted in your passion and your dreams and to trust the process and trust the journey. I think we get very convinced that success looks one way and that the path has to be one way. And we get so rigid and so distracted by other people's definition of success that sometimes we lose sight of our own passion, our own dream, and our own wants for our life. And so I would just remind my younger self that it will work out just as it should and that you can define success for yourself. 

Rio Peterson: 

Oh, I love that. I feel like that's going to be the title of this episode. I imagine your family's really proud of you, hey. 

Tamara Nash: 

I hope they are. 

Rio Peterson: 

Yeah. Yeah. Well, that's great. I love that. I love that advice. And it is so true. I mean, we definitely get wrapped up in this idea that it has to be a certain thing. But that's the great thing about success in this life is that you really get to decide for yourself what is important and how that looks and where you want to take it. And that's a really powerful thing to know. 

Tamara Nash: 

Yeah. 

Rio Peterson: 

Yeah. And I mean, obviously it takes time to learn that, but once you do. 

Tamara Nash: 

It's liberating. 

Rio Peterson: 

Yes, it absolutely is. It's like, "Oh, I don't have to fit in this box. That's really awesome." 

Tamara Nash: 

Yeah. 

Rio Peterson: 

Yeah. Oh, I love that. That's great advice. So tell us how can people find out about the summit? 

Tamara Nash: 

Yes. So easiest way to find out about the summit is reach out to me directly. You can email me at tamarapnash1@gamil, tamarapnash1@gmail.com. And I would love, love, love to get you connected to get you there and to get you all the information you might need. 

Rio Peterson: 

Perfect. And we will make sure to put that in the show notes so that it's easy to find and everyone can connect with you. And yeah, we're really looking forward to the summit and I think it's going to be a fantastic success. 

Tamara Nash: 

Thank you. We're excited and we are appreciative of your partnership. 

Rio Peterson: 

Yeah, absolutely. Anytime. We love young lawyers. Yeah, so thank you so much for chatting with me today. This was fantastic. I really enjoyed our conversation. 

Tamara Nash: 

Me too. Thanks for having me. 

Rio Peterson: 

Yeah, absolutely. Anytime. You come back anytime. 

Tamara Nash: 

All right, be careful. 

Rio Peterson: 

This is just going to be our new show. And then they did a spinoff and it was great. 

Tamara Nash: 

And It kept going. 

Rio Peterson: 

Right. Well, thank you everybody for tuning in. We'll talk to you next time. Have a wonderful day. 

ALPS In Brief Podcast Intro/Outro Music: Walk In The Park by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Artist: http://audionautix.com/

 

Rio is the Bar and Affinity Partnership Strategist at ALPS. In her role she works to build flourishing relationships with legal associations across the United States, and works passionately to educate lawyers on the importance of using technology and data to build better practices and drive the legal industry forward. She is a regular speaker at bar events across the country delivering compelling CLE and other educational content that engages her audience with the information being presented. Rio lives on Vancouver Island in Canada.

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