Big Ideas ALA Executive Director’s Letter

Making an Impact in a Whirlwind of Change

As the year winds down, I am trying to reflect back and actually remember what happened in 2021. Forget every day feeling like “Blursday” — this entire year went by in a flash, and I can barely differentiate between 2020 and 2021. 

April L. Campbell, JD

I find myself using the start of the pandemic as a reference point: This Halloween was the second one during COVID-19 times, so it must be 2021. Despite the whirlwind of change and adaptation, I feel it’s still important to acknowledge the progress we have all made over the last two years.

Last month in Austin at our Association Lunch, I gave an update on everything we’ve accomplished in the last year. I’m so proud of these efforts, so I wanted to share them again so everyone who didn’t attend our 2021 Annual Conference & Expo (or watch the livestream) could get a glimpse of what ALA HQ has been working on.

After the pandemic lockdowns began, ALA launched virtual Hangouts and Roundtables that allow members to discuss their immediate needs with others. As acute pandemic needs faded, this gave way to more general topic discussions, plus additional roundtables for small and large firm administrators. We also created a coronavirus response page that remains updated with real-time resources as needed. 

We also have the ALA Education Hub app, which serves as a marketplace for education open to all ALA members. It includes educational offerings from chapters and headquarters, as well as ALA podcasts and audio versions of many Legal Management articles. ALA held eight virtual conferences, hosted town halls and published LM Extras — bonus and timely content shared between issues of Legal Management

But there’s more! We launched Organizational Pricing, which hundreds of firms now participate in, and we opened the virtual doors of the ALA Logo Shop. We also joined a new collaboration with The Successful Firm Project to provide additional opportunities for our members and their firm management to learn together as we create solutions for some of the biggest issues firms are facing. To show how much we appreciate the volunteers who help power ALA, we started Volunteer Appreciation Week as a way of showing our gratitude. And more recently, we kicked off our Membership Ambassador program as a service to welcome our newer members. 

All of this was in the background of ALA turning 50 this year! We created opportunities for our community to celebrate, including through our 50 Years, 50 Stories video testimonials, an interactive timeline on our website and a special historic yearbook edition of Legal Management print. This celebration culminated at the in-person Annual Conference in Texas last month.

And now for the numbers: For the first time in many years, our member numbers are increasing! We are on track to end 2021 with more members than we had at the end of the previous year. It’s very likely this is due to the new Organizational Pricing model, which gives you more members to connect with as resources and collaborators. 

“This leaves us in a really exciting place as we head into 2022. One thing we have coming is a revamped Online Community featuring an entirely new interface.” 

We are also doing well with our finances. Although many associations found themselves with financial losses at the end of 2020, we did not, mostly due to excellent management of the COVID-related cancellation of our 2020 Annual Conference & Expo, stellar insurance coverage and our ability to revise and manage the budget for the year. We ended 2020 with a surplus of over $92,000 and maintained our reserves untouched at almost $2.6 million.   

This leaves us in a really exciting place as we head into 2022. One thing we have coming is a revamped Online Community featuring an entirely new interface — but a familiar one, as it’s similar to LinkedIn and Facebook. It will have more robust features, including instant video chat capabilities, and we hope it will help our members to engage with one another better.

Know that all products, services and improvements we are focused on are in alignment with ALA’s strategic direction, which emphasizes Member Value; Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility; Education and Professional Development; and Influence. I look forward to keeping you posted on our progress on all the additional items we have up our sleeves to bring the most value to your member experience. 

Your ALA staff has been working hard for you, and I am proud of the effort they are putting in to make ALA the Association you want and need.