Big Ideas ALA President’s Letter

Here We Go

Last month, I was honored to become this Association’s 50th President. The magnitude of this has not been lost on me, and I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on where this Association has been, while dreaming about what it has yet to become. After I took the gavel at the Association Luncheon, I shared both my ALA journey as well as my vision for our future.

Amanda R. Koplos, CLM, CPA

My journey with ALA began many years ago, as a wide-eyed attendee at my first Annual Conference in San Francisco back in 2005. I remember sitting in the audience during the Association Luncheon, watching the president address the crowd, and thinking to myself, “Well, that will never be me.” Mostly, because I never imagined I would still be working for lawyers after all these years.

Fast forward almost 20 years and our Association stands at a pivotal moment in its history. When I joined the Board of Directors at the close of 2020, we faced challenges that mirrored those confronting the world at large. With determination, we charted a strategic course spanning from 2021 to 2023, fueled by ambitious goals and a steadfast commitment to success.

Now, as I embark on my presidential term, ALA finds itself in a position of strength and vitality. With an Executive Director boasting decades of experience in steering professional associations, supported by a Headquarters Executive Management Team comprised of top-tier talent across all departments, our organization is poised for greatness. We have revitalized our Strategic Direction and allocated resources to execute its tactics with precision and purpose. As we roll out a new volunteer structure aligned with our strategic objectives, our current and incoming volunteer leaders stand ready, eager and energized to propel our Association boldly into the future.

Every year, your Association leaders gather at an event called the Association Leadership Institute (ALI) where we plan for our year ahead. As President-Elect, I was responsible for planning this year’s event. I had a theme (because ALA LOVES a theme) that was titled, “Oh, The Places We’ll Go,” inspired by Dr. Seuss. I opened that meeting talking about all ALA has been through in the past few years and what we have overcome. I energized our leaders by focusing on what comes next for ALA and reiterated that the sky is the limit because the foundation is solid. 

I ended that meeting with three simple words: Here We Go. 

Yet, as amazing as that weekend was with a flash mob, costumes, decorations and presentations presented in rhyme (ALA REALLY loves a theme), we could not and we cannot ignore the elephant in the room — decreased member engagement across some facets of our organization. In a world shaped by digital connections and shifting priorities, members’ needs have evolved, particularly the younger generations who are joining now. The landscape of engagement is changing, and it is essential that we adapt accordingly. 

Our membership now includes Zoomers, and Generation Alpha is following closely behind. They each approach engagement with professional associations differently than previous generations. They are digital natives, fluent in the language of technology and social media. For them, networking may take place on Discord chats or through virtual meetings rather than traditional face-to-face interactions. As professionals, they prioritize efficiency and convenience, seeking out virtual channels for learning and networking opportunities. 

“[Here We Go.] These three simple words encapsulate the spirit of our journey ahead. They remind us that we are ready and willing to take on whatever challenges come our way.”

So, what can we do to increase and enhance member engagement in this rapidly changing environment? First and foremost, we must meet our members where they are. This means embracing digital platforms, leveraging social media channels and offering events and resources that cater to their preferences and needs. By providing flexible and accessible options for engagement, we can ensure that all members feel included and valued within our Association. Our Association has historically been very good at making members feel included and valued. ALA is where I go to be lifted up and encouraged, so I feel confident when I say, “Here We Go.”

We must continue to cultivate a sense of community and belonging among our members — both online and offline. This includes supporting mentorship programs like the one overseen by our newly created Member Ambassador Committee, facilitating peer-to-peer networking opportunities, and creating spaces for open dialogue and collaboration. By building strong relationships and meaningful connections within our Association, we can enhance member satisfaction and loyalty, ultimately driving greater engagement and participation.  

Recently ALA’s Board of Directors adopted a new vision for the Association: Creating Excellence. Driving Innovation. Empowering Leaders in Law. These are not mere words but guiding principles that will shape our actions and initiatives in the coming years. We must strive to make our organization more accessible while upholding our stellar reputation within the legal community. 

But the Board and headquarters staff cannot achieve this vision alone. Each and every one of you plays a crucial role in the success of our Association. I challenge you to ask yourselves: “What can I do to push ALA forward? How can I increase engagement both within myself and among those around me?”

It’s time to rally together, to bring others into the fold and to pioneer a new adventure. ALA still needs piano bars, themed parties and friends that become family. But we also need to innovate our approach to fostering connections, create new and unique educational opportunities, and lean into emerging technologies. We have the strategic direction, a dedicated team of volunteer leaders alongside our professional leadership at HQ, and we have allocated resources to do just that. 

So, Here We Go. 

These three simple words encapsulate the spirit of our journey ahead. They remind us that we are ready and willing to take on whatever challenges come our way. Together, we can overcome obstacles, seize opportunities and make a lasting impact on the legal profession. ALA was founded in 1971. Our bylaws were written on a typewriter, and today this article was edited by AI. Some of our members weren’t alive when 9/11 happened. Google and smartphones are both closing in on 30 years old. (Yes, I know this is supposed to be lifting us up. I’ll go back to the positivity.)

So, my friends, let us embrace the journey that lies ahead with courage, determination, and a steadfast commitment to our shared mission and vision. Together, we are the next generation of ALA — one which will continue to be marked by excellence, innovation and unwavering leadership in law. 

Thus, the Adventure Begins. Here. We. Go.