As a commercial litigation attorney and a member of the Hartford County and Connecticut Bar Associations, Benjamin Jensen spends a great deal of time with lawyers.

Maybe too much time.

So a few years ago he became involved with a new organization called HYPE, short for Hartford Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs. In January, he became chairman of the group that offers members social networking opportunities and the chance to become involved in the community.

“One aspect of HYPE that particularly appealed to me was that it was not simply a lawyer’s group,” said Jensen. While he likes bar association events, there’s “a tendency for everyone to talk shop. If you put a group of lawyers in a room, it’s a matter of time before you start hearing war stories about depositions that went awry, billable hours woes, or rumors about a bump in associate salaries.”

In contrast, HYPE volunteers come from a wide range of backgrounds, including insurance, engineering, finance, non-profits and real estate. “I’ve met some great people through HYPE that I don’t think I otherwise ever would have encountered. I genuinely value the separation it provides from the legal world,” said Jensen, a 28-year-old Hartford resident.

Jensen is an associate in the commercial litigation department at Thelen Reid, an international firm with about 40 lawyers in Hartford. Originally from Chicago, he went to Indiana University and law school at UConn.

Jensen, who has lived in Hartford for about six years, was introduced to HYPE by a friend, insurance broker Scott Davis, who was the initial chairman of the group. Jensen wanted an outlet to get involved in Hartford, particularly the downtown area.

“After going to the first couple of meetings and meeting the people that were the driving forces behind the initiative, I decided that HYPE’s mission resonated with a lot of the things I wanted to see happen in Hartford,” Jensen said.

HYPE was created by the Metro Hartford Alliance to address the issues local businesses are facing with attracting and retaining young professionals. “There is a concern that, even though there are major companies in the area offering great jobs, that quality of life concerns lead people to leave the area,” Jensen said.

The idea behindHYPE, he said, is to “help young people, and young is loosely defined,” become engaged in the community.

“We frequently hear complaints from people that there is nothing to do in theHartford area andthat it’s hard to meet people.We want to address those concerns byexposing people to things going on in the area and creating a low-pressure environment conducive to meeting similarly situated people.”

For social opportunities,HYPE hosts a monthly event called Get HYPEd at downtown bars/restaurants. And then there are CEO Luncheons, at which group members get to chat with leaders of local companies.

Several HYPE members volunteered for a United Way program in which they serve as budget coaches for low-incomepeople. The group also hosted a toy drive for the holidays that benefited Camp AmeriKids, a non-profit camp for children directly or indirectly affected by HIV/AIDS.

Jensen said that for him personally, “this is primarily about Hartford and challenging the negative perception prevalent among so many people in the region. I’ve met too many smart, hard-working people committed to the success of this city to believe that significantimprovements aren’t on the horizon.”