The Role of Our Non-Profit

by Jennifer L. Dailey

Whenever people ask what I do for a living, I generally tell them that I work for a non-profit.  “Oh?” they say with interest, “What non-profit?”

“A membership organization for attorneys,” I reply.  The inevitable pause is followed by the query as to why a group of attorneys needs its own non-profit organization.  Depending on my audience and my relative level of engagement in the conversation, I generally elaborate on any of a number of aspects of working at the Utah Association for Justice:  legal education, legislative advocacy, office management, marketing and public relations, etc.  As in any non-profit organization, we all wear many hats.  Some are fun all of the time, others are fun some of the time.  Others . . . , well, we all have to push a drink cart from time to time, I suppose.  Regardless of the task, though, the reason that I love my work at the UAJ requires a much longer conversation.

I have long desired a career in non-profits, and it is for that reason that I aggressively pursued employment with the UAJ in 2010 and also completed my MBA.  There is a wonderful formula, I think, in the combination of traditional business efficiency, non-profit motivation, and the legal community.  I believe that the UAJ works to accomplish very lofty, worthwhile tasks, and it is with pleasure and pride that I feel fortunate enough to be a part of it.  Membership benefits are generally viewed as access to the expertise of peers via the ListServ, but the overarching existence of the association encompasses so much more.  This lends to the fact that explaining my job to people is rather complicated.  “Where do I start?” I think to myself.  How do I explain it effectively and efficiently while still communicating the importance and scope of what we do?

We act as the gatekeepers to ensure that bad laws restricting people’s rights are challenged.  You labor intensively to insist that wrong doers are held accountable in a fair, equitable manner.  And UAJ attorneys insist daily that members of our community are not marginalized by a society that tends to favor those with power and money.

How’s that for concise?  While this explanation hits on some of the highlights, it by no means describes the whole picture.  Nor does it even begin to elaborate on how challenging these goals can be to achieve, or address the complexity of the barriers that exist in efforts to achieve justice and accountability.  Bridging the gap between talking points about the UAJ and an in-depth conversation about our mission generally requires discussion about the more sensitive topics that don’t generally come up in small talk; things like personal values, morals, and politics.  Regardless, I often feel compelled to take advantage of opportunities to push the boundaries of cocktail-party-conversation-propriety in the interest of offering an opinion and perspective that people aren’t generally exposed to.

Professionally, when I work with members of our community, UAJ goals are my goals, UAJ opinions are my opinions, and UAJ viewpoints are my viewpoints.  Luckily for me, the goals, opinions and viewpoints of the UAJ happen to fall closely in line with my own.  So when, as the Executive Director for the Utah Association for Justice, I speak passionately to people about patient rights, consumer protection, access to courts, and more, I can do so from the heart and with conviction.  As I begin my tenure in my new position as Executive Director, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to lead this complex and nuanced organization as we all work together to pursue justice and accountability in our community.  I will continue to work on explaining my job with clarity and with the conviction that I sincerely feel.

Maybe in my next life I will make things simpler and just become a lawyer.

Reprinted with permission from The Utah Trial Journal, Vol. 35, No. 3 (Summer, 2012)

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