Elevate ALA Award Recipients
The Chicago Chapter made an unprecedented effort to support its members in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The usual calendar was thrown out in favor of virtual education and networking sessions that addressed the new challenges legal management professionals were facing. There were more than 30 educational opportunities, with the schedule frequency determined by member needs and by necessary accommodations for new work-from-home arrangements. The education budget was higher than usual, but it paid off in member engagement: four out of every five members attended at least one educational session since April 1, 2020. The chapter also opened its renowned Certified Legal Manager (CLM)® Study Group to all ALA members.
The professional development calendar was augmented by new networking virtual opportunities, including an Under 5 shared interest group where newer members could meet potential mentors. Members and business partners alike commented positively about how the chapter maintained a sense of connection and communication throughout 2020. And much of this outreach was made possible by elevating the chapter’s social media presence and email campaigns.
The Gateway Chapter chose to use the “new normal” of 2020 to reinvent how it reached members and business partners. The most notable of these 35 efforts was October’s Virtual Connection, whose eight superhero-themed sessions allowed business partners to share their expertise in fun ways and make connections. The chapter also hosted a dozen different educational sessions — four of which included presentations from business partners.
On the networking front, the chapter organized weekly COVID-19 Chats and managed to bring a wide variety of activities to the virtual space, including happy hours, a wine and cheese tasting, a Halloween costume contest and holiday cookie decorating. The Gateway Chapter also renewed its bonds with other organizations to maintain ALA’s visibility in the legal space, hosting events with a broad appeal alongside the local bar, the Legal Marketing Association and the International Legal Technology Association. Likewise, the chapter’s Membership Team made moves to raise the profile of legal management among local college students. They developed lasting relationships with area schools and invited interested students to attend chapter meetings.
Mile High Chapter
For 2020, the Mile High Chapter’s Strategic Relations Committee set a goal: The chapter would expand ALA’s footprint in Colorado by aligning more closely with like-minded organizations in the state’s legal industry. The chapter retained its leadership role in presenting the Legal Industry Group social event alongside leaders from the International Legal Technology Association, the Rocky Mountain Paralegal Association, Women in eDiscovery and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations. The event netted over 100 attendees — enhancing ALA’s prominence, widening the recruitment pool and offering business partner opportunities. Mile High also cohosted a Zoom chat with seven organizations, boosting their potential audience to 2,500.
New strategic relationships include the chapter’s position on the Colorado Career and Technical Education Advisory Committee, which allows them to assist providers of legal studies programs to elevate student competency and curriculum within their legal studies programs. Mile High also spent more time in 2020 working with community colleges to teach paralegal students about the career pathways available to them and the skills they would need to climb the ladder. Additionally, the chapter joined the Center for Legal Inclusiveness, which provides training and consultations to chapter leadership. Chapter members — and therefore their own workplaces — get access to the center’s educational resources, speakers and events, including an annual retreat. Membership in this organization necessitates a $500 annual investment; the Mile High Chapter feels the expense is justified by the benefits. The chapter is now a member of an organization growing in prominence and authority, and its own members gain more content about diversity, inclusion, equity and accessibility.
In the span of a year, the Chicago Chapter offered over 55 educational and networking sessions, providing its members with invaluable information and the opportunity to enhance connections with peers and business partners. These efforts are well-rounded, utilize a variety of formats, and — with the exception of the biannual educational conference offered by the chapter — are all included in the price of chapter dues.
The chapter is home to an outstanding Certified Legal Manager (CLM)® study group that offers two full study programs each year at no charge to its members, and also provides a stipend for all chapter members who pass the CLM exam.
This chapter not only focuses strongly on educating its members and providing ample opportunities to network, but also on increasing its visibility within the legal community by inviting other affiliated legal groups such as the Legal Marketing Association, the International Facility Management Association and the International Legal Technology Association to participate in its activities.
Western and Central New York Chapter
The Western and Central New York Chapter held its first annual chapter conference in 2019. This event was attended by 70% of the chapter's members as well as by many nonmembers, business partners and managing partners. It concluded with a robust networking gathering.
Despite meetings held regularly in Rochester, the geographical area covered by this chapter presents an ongoing engagement challenge. To address this challenge, the chapter began hosting group videoconferencing in nearby Buffalo and Syracuse. Lunch is provided as part of each meeting at all locations. This enhanced learning experience provides the interactive and networking components all members crave. The chapter offers its members scholarship opportunities to attend ALA events and sends two board members to the Chapter Leadership Institute each year.
The key to success is strategic planning and an enthusiastic and energetic board. In late 2017, the chapter invested in a facilitated planning session to reevaluate its values, mission and goals. Implementation in 2018 focused on member engagement and growth, professional development, networking and visibility — and clearly it has paid off. They have since opened subsections to all members, not just those specializing in a particular area; implemented the distribution of summary notes to all members; taken a new approach to business partner engagement; and began a new member mentor program.
The chapter is highly focused on its members' professional development needs. It provides a high level of education that is structured to ensure members can adequately prepare to take the Certified Legal Manager (CLM)® exam, and also ensures members have access to all the credits they need for recertification within a three-year window. They even offer a biannual CLM workshop to cover the core competency areas. Additionally, the chapter's Strategic Relations Committee participates in legal association round tables within the Houston Bar Association and recently sent representatives to the University of Houston Law Center's "Alternative Legal Career" Fair. Local educational events were also published in the Houston Bar Association monthly newsletter. And all at no cost to the chapter.
The dynamic of the legal community in Mexico is, as you might imagine, different from what we are accustomed to here in the United States. The goal of the chapter’s board was to position the chapter as a highly reputable arm of a strong international association. They aim to provide local content to the community, content with a common theme among Mexican and international firms, to their target audience — partners and owners in charge of the administration of firms.
By way of example, in May of last year, the chapter executed a forum consisting of three panels. The first involved the owners of the five most recognized and awarded firms in Mexico. This panel was focused on transforming the business model of the Mexican law firm and what might be necessary to remain competitive in an evolving market. The second panel included four senior general counsels and one Chief Financial Officer and focused on what companies are expecting from law firms. The third panel included deans from the top five universities in Mexico. They were asked to consider how to bridge the gap between the theory taught in universities and the "real world" their students would experience in law firms.
Northern Virginia Chapter
Education was a focal point for the Northern Virginia Chapter. They began this endeavor by preparing a well-crafted lineup of speakers for their educational luncheons. In July, the chapter created the Friday Fast Five newsletter, which is member-customized to help meet their educational needs. Members can submit topic ideas to the content committee, and each newsletter is produced to give them articles targeted to assisting them with their day-to-day firm challenges.
In the spring, the chapter created "Membership Ambassadors," who not only welcome new members, but invite ALA independent members and non-ALA administrators to join them. Finally, business partners can submit articles to the Friday Fast Five, which provides their members with educational opportunities that may also spur business relationships.
Puget Sound Chapter
PSALA’s theme this year is about how to get — and keep — a seat at the table. They promoted three key values — leadership, education and connections — to help every member remain a key contributor at work, no matter the stage in their career. They have leveraged relationships with their amazing business partners to produce free educational opportunities, offering professional and financial value to their members.
The chapter has also participated in a revolutionary new program called Spark, which matches individual members each month for one-on-one meetings. All participants say it is incredibly rewarding to meet new friends and build a deeper relationship with old acquaintances. Spark has helped break down silos and been one of their most successful networking initiatives.
Greater Los Angeles Chapter
This chapter spans more than 150 miles, which can sometimes make attendance at popular meetings a challenge. Understanding the value and importance of face-to-face networking opportunities, the chapter's leadership changed the meetings to occur in various regional "hubs" around the area. All hubs are connected by technology services such as WebEx, videoconferencing or conference calling. The chapter also recognized that they had members who wanted to take the Certified Legal Manager (CLM)® exam but couldn’t always attend ALA events to get the necessary credits. They have made a concerted effort to apply not only for recertification credits for chapter course offerings but also application credits.
The chapter's education committee is charged with ensuring all five education areas specified by ALA’s Knowledge, Skills and Abilities list are covered. Additionally, the committee recently developed a continuing legal education session as a means of raising the awareness of ALA in the legal community. Chapter members were encouraged to attend as well, to help bolster the chapter and its membership in the eyes of the attorneys and with smaller firms that may have potential new members. The chapter is committed to funding scholarships and encouraging members to take full advantage of the many opportunities offered by the chapter and the Association.
The chapter's leadership realized that they needed to elevate the level of education they offer. So the board responded by restructuring the educational program. Leadership also focused on increasing member and business partner engagement. Surveys showed that members value networking as much as they do education, so the chapter held several events focused solely on networking and relationship building. They added a "Game On" challenge to all members in March 2016. This web-based tool for member engagement awarded points to members for various activities, such as registering for and attending meetings, reading and commenting on articles, connecting with other members, and referring new members or business partners. Leaderboards were announced at each chapter meeting, and cash prizes were awarded at the holiday luncheon for the members with the most points.