President's Message, Spring 2017

Bar Foundations hold the Key to adding Value & Relevance to Association Memberships

Profound changes are happening in the practice of law. The number of trials is diminishing as mediation becomes more popular. As attorneys and law firms become more focused on national and international practices, bar associations are experiencing a turning point in their struggle to continue to give value and stay relevant to their member attorneys. They are always looking for ways to maintain and grow membership and provide new and better services and sources of revenue.

Being a member of the National Conference of Bar Foundations for over ten years, I have witnessed enormous growth among our bar foundations. There are more educational, pro bono and community programs, fundraisers and projects than ever before. All of these programs need volunteer attorneys!

Bar foundations are perfectly poised to bring that added value to membership and engagement in the bar and can provide opportunities to association members to help them contribute in some meaningful way to our communities. This is the very work that is being done today through our foundations! Not everyone will want to serve in the same way. Variety is important and there is no shortage of ways to help.

Here are some examples that provide value to bar members:

  • Boards and Committee Service. Members who serve on your boards or chair and serve on committees providing a public service, like backpacks for children, supplies to the military, or outreach in the community, enjoy the comradery that occurs when working together by choice.
  • Educational Opportunities. There are a number of educational opportunities for those attorneys who secretly wanted to be school teachers and love to share their knowledge.
  • Pro Bono Legal Services. Members can help those less fortunate resolve anything from basic legal issues to more serious issues like asylum cases which can be the difference between life in this country or death. The stories shared by our volunteers can be gut-wrenching, sad, heartwarming, and victorious and sometimes just a simple resolution that means so much to someone who needs a little guidance.
  • Fundraisers and Friendraisers. There are the walks and runs for justice and golf and bocce tournaments and galas and attorney rock band competitions, to name a few.
  • Donors. These are the attorney members, people and organizations that provide the gifts that make all of these programs exist. Giving a gift is a great opportunity to support a cause that members are passionate about, especially if they don't have the time to volunteer in person.

Bar foundations and associations need to combine efforts to build meaningful relationships with our attorney volunteers and donors, who are also for the most part, our bar association members. Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Begin developing opportunities that can help us reach common goals, address long-standing issues or that may result in an immediate call to action.
  • Both association and foundation boards can begin taking steps to become more involved and aware of each other's agenda:

    • Have at least one liaison sit on both boards.
    • Form an Ad Hoc committee of a few members of each board to facilitate joint projects.
    • Ask Bar presidents who are concluding their terms to get involved with the foundation.

"Synergy" literally means increased effectiveness that results when two or more people or businesses work together. It could not be more appropriate in describing how bar associations and foundations are coming together for the greater good. Both organizations can benefit from each other and our members will be able to give back to the community in distinct ways that are right for them and produce value and relevance for our organizations.

Lorrie K. Albert, Esq
President, NCBF