Big Ideas ALA President’s Letter

You Responded; We Listened

I am writing this column early on the morning of November 6, 2018 — Election Day in the United States, a day when millions will cast ballots for candidates and issues that will have significant impacts on the direction of the country. 

Oliver Yandle, JD, CAE

It’s also a day when journalists will be parsing reams of polling data to provide a deeper understanding of who voted and why. Those insights help us better understand what’s important to voters and play a critical role in shaping policy.

ALA has done its own polling recently, and the results of the biannual Member Needs Assessment Survey are in! We received a total of 1,084 responses for the United States and international surveys combined. Thanks to all of you who took the time to share your thoughts with us.

Some interesting highlights identified include:

  • 87 percent of respondents say that employers find ALA provides value to their legal organizations with nearly 60 percent reporting ALA provides “good” or “excellent” value.
  • 60 percent of respondents indicate their employer receives greater than $400 — roughly the cost of dues — in equivalent value through their membership.
  • We saw a big bump in our “net promoter score,” from 53 in 2016 to 70 in 2018. The score measures member loyalty. It is measured by asking respondents how likely they are to recommend ALA to a friend or colleague. A score of more than 50 is considered “excellent” and above 70 is “world class.”
  • The top three answers in descending order to the question, “Being a member of ALA...” were:
  1. Provides multifaceted networking opportunities.
  2. Provides me with the professional association to represent my vocation in the legal management industry.
  3. Provides relevant and useful educational opportunities.

We also asked several open-ended questions regarding the challenges you face in your roles, the skills you need to be successful, and the types of educational opportunities you’d like to see more of from ALA. Not surprisingly, one of the most frequently mentioned challenges was time management, along with people and change management, process improvement, profitability, technology and understanding trends in the legal industry. To get help in meeting these challenges, our members rely heavily on the ALA network, an invaluable community of experts.

Among the skills respondents wanted help with were leadership development, financial analysis, future planning, strategy, human resources and operations. Among the areas noted where ALA can provide more education and content were roundtables to find solutions to problems, deeper dives on complex issues, handling emerging issues, the future of law firms, performance improvement, strategy and process improvement.

These new education experiences are all about unique content and providing it at a lower price point and shorter event duration.

ALA will use the results of the survey in a variety of ways. The Board, committees and staff will use the information in shaping the strategic direction of the organization, improving the value of our programs and services, and enhancing the member experience. As you know, Goal One of our strategic plan is to “Define Our Identity” and this research will be critical in establishing and delivering on our brand promise.

In fact, we are already putting these results to use. We are excited to announce two all new in-person event experiences. These new education experiences are all about unique content and providing it at a lower price point and shorter event duration.

C4: The Legal Industry Conference is one-of-a-kind. It is all about the legal management industry and using design thinking to connect, collaborate and create change to meet the challenges facing the legal industry. The content is focused on finance, technology and marketing, as well as solutions for the industry, law firms and law departments. The program will last one-and-a-half days, and design thinking will be employed throughout. Going forward, this annual design lab will bring together representatives from all sectors of the legal industry — clients, lawyers, legal management professionals, legal technologists, business development and marketing experts, and others to collaboratively develop solutions to legal industry challenges. The program will be highly interactive and will focus on specific industry challenges. Cross-functional teams will be established to develop prototypes to address specific challenges in the business of law. Topics may include cybersecurity, diversity and inclusion, business development, operational efficiency, and succession planning. C4 is scheduled for launch in September 2019.

The second program is a leadership-focused conference that is all about YOU and YOUR professional growth. A deep dive into critical personal leadership skills vital to an attendee’s career such as establishing a boardroom presence, handling conflict, difficult conversations and more. This conference is also a day-and-a-half and will focus on one (or two) high-level leadership/management skills essential for success in today’s legal market. The content will be led by well-recognized subject matter experts — consultants, graduate school professors, authors, etc. Sessions will combine prelab exercises, lecture, group discussion and collaboration, case studies, post-lab exercises and other adult learning concepts. The leadership conference is planned for October 2019.

Look for more details about these two exciting new offerings in the weeks ahead. We look forward to seeing all of you there!