What’s in it for the members?

President’s Message  By Mark Martini 

During a recent American Bar Association conference, I was told that being president of the bar association is “not all about me.”

 That seemed like a no-brainer – unless a would-be president is a glutton for punishment, sacrificing in the neighborhood of 2,000 hours over two to three years. On a side note, I would like to thank my partners at Robb Leonard Mulvihill for being understanding. Luckily in a follow-up session, the focus was better explained to provide that every action one takes as president draws the question from your audience of “WIIFM?” or “what’s in it for me?” 

 I appreciate the sentiment, but I prefer the focus to be on “WIIFTM?” or “what’s in it for the members?” The bar association is comprised of members working for the benefit and betterment of the overall organization. There is so much to offer everyone from countless Continuing Legal Education programs to sports clubs, social events, networking, substantive law sections and public service opportunities.

 But what is in it for you? Each of you has your own needs and likes, which draw you to the bar association. We want to make sure that we can continue to provide the programs, services and social activities that keep you active and involved.   

 One of the struggles facing bar associations across the country is declining membership caused by a variety of reasons, ranging from decreased law school enrollment to a presumption that millennials are not “joiners.” Because of this, the ACBA has embarked on exploring how we can remain relevant in this ever-changing world and profession.

 Under the tutelage of Bob Ridge, an Emerging Issues Committee has undertaken to explore what are the issues that new and old members care about now and moving forward. Under the leadership of Lori McMaster, our Membership Committee had been working tirelessly to keep our association relevant to the 2015 lawyer and, in fact, has helped increase membership by over 3 percent. Meanwhile, many other bar associations are seeing a decline. Even with this gain, however, we as a bar association must realize that it is not 1980 anymore. Our world, our profession and our members don’t function the same way.

 How do we as a bar association morph to serve our members in this new world order? I wish I had the answer. Bar associations across the country are struggling with the exact same dilemma. We need to hear from you. What are your wants and needs from the bar association? How can we serve you better? What has outlived its usefulness and what programs can we offer to better serve you, the members – the building blocks of the association and very reason we exist?

In the next month or so, we are hoping to distribute a survey to you electronically through the Sidebar. I urge you to complete the short survey. We need to know “WIIFTM?” and the survey results are critical to us being able to do that. We need you to help us, so we can help you.