Here at KCBA, we get to celebrate two “New Year’s Days” — the first day of the calendar year and the first day of our membership/fiscal year, which begins July 1. And while the annual July date lacks the revelry and football games of January 1, it is a big day for KCBA.
First up is the transition between outgoing and incoming presidents for our Association and Foundation. KCBA’s Kim Tran and KCBF’s Don Scaramastra both served with distinction in their leadership roles. I spent a lot of time working in partnership with these presidents, and I get to see up close their dedication, commitment and passion for the Association’s and Foundation’s missions. They both put in long hours of volunteer time meeting with peers, reviewing plans, and inspiring the legal profession (bar and bench) to work together and advance the justice system. Please be sure to thank them for their service.
Next, the new fiscal year offers a helpful exercise for some self-assessment on how we did with last year’s goals. Most important to everything we do, the number of KCBA members saw a slight increase over recent years, and now stands at 5,560. Our membership has been a relatively stable percentage of eligible King County attorneys for the last eight years, holding at roughly 40 percent. While some of you may remember better participation, my study of other professional, voluntary, local membership associations tells me that our numbers are on a par with others.
Many factors have been at play over the past 30 years to reset this 40-percent level as the norm. Principally, in the pre-Internet days lawyers had few alternative local sources of information about the practice of law (e.g., local rules, court calendars, in-person CLEs) than they do today. We face competition that didn’t exist 30 years ago. That said, I think membership stability at 40 percent, with the overall number of eligible attorneys also being constant, is a good indicator.
We also made strides in several other special focus areas. These included more social events after section CLE meetings; an installment payment plan for dues; the launch of pro bono support for attorneys working with unaccompanied immigrant children; the publication of our quadrennial Superior Court survey; special leadership training for our board and committee chairs in communication best practices; and a revamp of sponsorship solicitation for the annual Breakfast With Champions fundraiser.
Where did we fall short? Technology shortfalls prevented the expansion of our online CLE catalog, despite having amazing content from our section meetings throughout the year. A planned survey of our 1,300 pro bono volunteers wasn’t conducted on the timeline we had hoped (though it should launch this summer). A reboot of our approach to larger individual charitable gifts known as our “Giving Circle” program was not completed. Expanded advertising for the Bar Bulletin did not materialize as planned. And most importantly, a long overdue revamp of our website (and related communications) has languished.
All of these shortcomings, as you might guess, were largely caused by additional, unanticipated projects that needed our attention during the last year. But the frustration of bar volunteer leaders and staff over our inability to complete everything is still sincerely felt.
So, what’s ahead in the coming year? Mainly, we have moved those key shortfalls I just listed right back to the top of our FY2017 workplan so we can try again.
New ideas include a pilot test for some premium membership options (e.g., could we add “free” access to CLEs if a member paid a higher dues rate?). We have invested in new technology for recording in-house CLEs, but want to explore the feasibility of recording offsite CLEs, too. KCBA will explore adding some more specialized legal components to a few existing Neighborhood Legal Clinics.
Our fundraising team will test the question of whether automatic, installment credit card giving over a fixed period can result in larger gifts. We will develop a business plan for expanding our highly regarded Washington Lawyers Practice Manual into an online edition. A new Juvenile Justice Reform Task Force will be convened to look at ways the bar and bench can advance improvements to the legal system.
We will test a new initiative to assist diverse future attorneys at either the LSAT or bar review stages of their careers. And most importantly, we will recommit to our 2015 communications audit, which lays out goals for significantly improving the messaging, branding and marketing of all we do.
So, as the orchestra finishes playing “Auld Lang Syne” and we all become energized and inspired by all the possibilities and hopes for a new “year” at KCBA, I hope you join me in a toast to our recent accomplishments and future successes. Happy New Year!
Andrew Prazuch is KCBA’s executive director. He can be reached by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (206-267-7061).
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