Big Ideas ALA President’s Letter

The Power of a Plan

Every now and then, when I stop to take a breath and look to see what is next on my to-do list, it dawns on me how much I have going on in my life.
April L. Campbell, JD

In addition to serving as ALA’s President and working at my full-time job at my new firm, I am raising my 10-year-old son as a single parent — making sure I volunteer at my son’s school, participate in local chapter events and just have fun. Most people who know me assume that I have a casual attitude about almost everything, and I am told that I rarely show any signs of stress. Do I get stressed out sometimes? Absolutely, and what gives me away is when something goes off the rails, I get quiet. I take a minute or two to gather my thoughts, and most of the time I realize I have several mini backup plans rolling around in my head. I am always a little surprised that they are swirling around in there, because I do not remember spending a lot of time creating them.


Over the years, I have trained my brain. Leave it to one of my son’s favorite shows, “Brain Games,” to tip me off about how this happened. The episode was about habits and how they are created. If you do something repeatedly, your brain and mind will continue to support and encourage the habit through neuroplasticity. The more you practice or rehearse something, the stronger your neural connections become. (This is also the scientific term that explains why we are all addicted to looking at our phones when our hands are idle, even though we just confirmed there aren’t any new emails in the inbox.)

I know you are all a lot like me. We do so much planning in our daily roles that we do not even realize we are doing it sometimes. “If I do this, then I will do this, or I could do this,” runs on a continual loop in my brain. I have created this loop because it is what has been essential for me to survive in this career. Contingency planning is a mindset, and it becomes a naturally occurring one when you do it often enough. Just because you are planning does not make you a worrier. It is possible to be a positive person yet constantly plan an alternative in case things do not work out. It reminds me of that favorite interview question of some people I know, “Do you think you are lucky?” You create your own luck when you are ready for anything.


Is the rest of your management team in contingency planning mode? If not, you certainly want to circulate this issue of Legal Management throughout your office. It features an article by Affinity Consulting’s Debbie Foster and GLJ Benefit Consultants’ Corry Johnson on the topic of succession and contingency planning. This is a great article about doing those mental exercises for the benefit of your legal organization. Do you know the difference between a succession plan and a contingency plan? After you read their article, you will — and you will also be ready to start thinking about all the “what ifs” and the positive outcomes that may follow.

The planning does not stop there. We should also have a contingency plan for ourselves. What is it that we need to know next to keep ourselves relevant in our roles? Are we collaborating with the right people? Have we looked outside our immediate environments? I am working on creating a new habit for myself and our Association — foresight. Sit tight until next time for thoughts on that topic!