November 2015 Bar Bulletin
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Risk/Reward Is a Good Thing at KCBA

 

 

Love and marriage. Death and taxes. Franks and beans. Our vocabulary is filled with words that are often found paired together. Some are happy pairings, others not so much. (Some might even cause cancer, but I'm in denial about recent news reports of the effects of hot dogs - I love a good Vienna beef hot dog!)

Risk and reward could go either way. But for the most part at KCBA, they're a happy pairing, since our risks are better described as pilot programs and our rewards are a vibrant and collegial local legal profession. Let me illustrate with three examples of "risk" that already have led to or could in the future lead to rewards.

First, KCBA has entered into a pilot membership project with the Federal Bar Association of the Western District of Washington. With many common leaders in the FBA and KCBA, we learned that maintaining membership records and conference registrations was an increasing challenge for FBA volunteer attorneys who wanted to focus on substantive learning and networking opportunities. At KCBA on the other hand, we have dedicated professional staff members who utilize accounting software, databases and online e-commerce every day to organize data on thousands of KCBA attorneys.

Through the leadership of FBA officer David Keenan and KCBA Member Services Senior Manager Christine Dreps, we're pilot testing, as of this past June, a partnership where for a modest service fee KCBA processes FBA member dues payments and conference registrations. If successful, this effort could lead to administrative efficiencies and more focus on programming for FBA, and a new visibility for KCBA among attorneys focused on a federal-level practice.

A second example is another pilot project that KCBA has begun with the Latina/o Bar Association of Washington. Like the FBA, LBAW is an all-volunteer effort, in this case bringing our region's Latino lawyers and judges together in a highly regarded minority bar association that conducts judicial candidate evaluations, mentors Latino law students, including scholarship awards, and provides significant advocacy on behalf of the Latino community across the state. LBAW is also known for its legal clinics with partner agencies such as El Centro de la Raza and law firms such as Schroeter Goldmark & Bender.

Likewise, KCBA is well respected in its management of more than 30 pro bono legal clinics each month in King County, where we schedule over 750 volunteers in service to almost 8,000 residents annually. Could there be a way to provide better services to the community served by LBAW clinics through a partnership with KCBA pro bono programs?

After discussions between LBAW President Chach Duarte White, KCBA Neighborhood Legal Clinics Chair Michael Diaz and Community Services Manager Adelaine Shay, I'm pleased to report that as of September we've entered into a pilot agreement where KCBA will handle volunteer scheduling and insurance needs as LBAW brings dozens of energized volunteer lawyers freed from administrative work so they can focus even more on client services. If successful, we will be able to serve more pro bono clients together through administrative efficiencies than we ever could have served separately.

A final example of risk and reward is only at the beginning stages of discussion, but worth sharing with you. The issue has to do with a tiered membership dues structure for KCBA. Currently all KCBA members pay the same flat-rate dues. An attorney with just two years of experience, perhaps just building his or her practice, pays the same dues as an attorney with 20 years of experience who is much more accomplished in his or her career. Are we losing some potential members who find full dues to be cost prohibitive?

I can report that while many local bar associations nationwide have a single dues structure like KCBA's, many other metropolitan bar associations - as well as the American Bar Association - utilize a tiered system. Is that something that could benefit KCBA members, especially young lawyers?

Would such a change result in a short-term financial loss for KCBA, but be reversed in future years by a larger membership that results in more dues revenue that we can put into member services and public service programs? Are there data available to corroborate any assumptions we make about considering a switch? How do we measure success? KCBA's Membership Committee, chaired by Paul Crisalli, will be carefully studying this idea in the months ahead. I definitely want to see more analysis before I weigh in further on this idea.

These three examples should give you a good vantage point from which to understand how KCBA evaluates risk and seeks rewards. Hopefully, we are careful enough while still being innovative in approaching challenges and opportunities. After all, if it weren't for innovation, could the relish on my hot dog really be that glow-in-the-dark shade of green?

Andrew Prazuch is KCBA's executive director. He can be reached by email (andrewp@kcba.org) or phone (206-267-7061).

 


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