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Legal Industry Association Announces 2017 Awards Recipients

  • Apr 10


CHICAGO, ILLINOIS — The Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) is pleased to announce the members recognized as winners in its 2017 Awards Program, presented at ALA’s Annual Conference & Expo in Denver on Wednesday, April 5.

NEW: Elevate ALA Award

The Elevate ALA Award recognizes up to three chapters whose efforts in professional development, networking and visibility demonstrate advancement in the areas of educational content, member-to-member and member-to-business partner relationships, and ALA’s prominence in the legal community. 

The first recipient was the 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, video conferencing or conference calling. The chapter also recognized that they had members who wanted to take the Certified Legal Manager (CLM)SM 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 next recipient was the Mobile Chapter. 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 third recipient was the Atlanta Chapter. 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.

Outstanding Association Volunteer Award

Each year the Board of Directors identifies members who have made significant contributions to the association. This year’s first Outstanding Association Volunteer award went to William Mech of Cunningham Meyer & Vedrine, PC, in Warrenville, Illinois. Mech has served as president for two ALA chapters and has since served on the Business Partner Relations Committee, as At-Large Director on the Board. He is currently a member of the Professional Development Advisory Committee and Chair of the newly formed Standards Review Committee. His most recent and notable contribution to ALA, however, is the work and energy he has put into the development of the Uniform Process Based Management System (UPBMS).

The second Outstanding Association Volunteer Award went to Lisa Dasher, CLM, CPA, CGMA. Dasher’s service includes holding positions on the Regional Nominating Committee; on three Annual Conference committees, including serving as Chair; and as Regional Representative. She is currently a member of the Professional Development Advisory committee and an instructor for ALA’s eLearning Financial Management courses.

Founders Award

Several years ago, the ALA Board of Directors created an award to recognize individuals for their exceptional contributions to the legal management profession — the Founders Award. This recognition, named in honor of ALA’s Founders Mary Ann Altman, Bradford W. Hildebrandt and Robert I. Weil, was last awarded in 2010.

"This year, Don Akins posthumously received the award for his passion for the association and the profession it serves ― a passion that lived on well beyond his retirement. He was a beloved mentor to many of my predecessors, and one who was very in tune with the pace of change affecting the legal industry. He knew that responding to that change was always going to be part of legal management professional jobs and the role of ALA," said ALA Past President Laura J. Broomell, CLM. "Akins joined ALA on day one and worked tirelessly for our members, the profession and the association. He passed away in June of last year, and his wife, Barbara, came to ALA’s conference along with his daughters, and to accept the award on his behalf."

Presidents’ Award of Excellence

The Presidents’ Award of Excellence is a performance guideline used to encourage chapters to take effective and collaborative action in support of ALA’s mission to promote and enhance the competence of legal management professionals; improve the quality of management in law firms and other legal service organizations; and represent professional legal management and managers to the legal community and to the community at large. This recognition was specifically designed to honor our Past Presidents. ALA recognized 57 chapters who have achieved this honor by their work throughout the past year. They and their chapter leaders deserve a tremendous amount of credit and respect.

Quest Award

The Quest Award recognizes a new member of ALA for his or her conviction, dedication and relentless pursuit of personal and professional excellence. There were more than 500 eligible candidates this year, eight of whom were nominated by their chapters for this recognition.

This year’s Quest Award winner was Sonji Le Blanc of DLA Piper in Phoenix, Arizona. Le Blanc immersed herself in ALA from day one. She attended the 2016 Chapter Leadership Institute, last year’s Regional Legal Management Conference in Phoenix, and attended this year’s Annual Conference & Expo. Her chapter describes her as engaging, genuine and, above all, dedicated to her fellow members. After a lunch with a board member, she readily agreed to serve on the chapter’s Board of Directors and Co-Chair the chapter’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee. When the position of Vice President opened unexpectedly, she stepped into the role without hesitation.

Le Blanc also used her expertise to provide the chapter with support in the social media arena. According to her fellow chapter members, she really gets what it means to be involved at all levels, not just those projects that bring you the most exposure or accolades. She works just as hard behind the scenes as she does anywhere else — all while starting a new position at a global firm and relocating her family from Los Angeles to Phoenix.

IDEA Awards

ALA’s IDEA Awards program, now in its fourth year, seeks to recognize initiatives that model innovation, development, engagement and advancement in the legal community. Awards are presented to ALA chapters, committees, regions, individuals, firms or organizations (including business partners) that create unique and innovative programs, services and events. This year’s recipients include: 

  • Chuhak & Tecson, PC, leveraged its talented women attorneys to attract clients from women business owners, decision makers, buyers and strategic partners — a market into which the firm had not yet specifically tapped. The Women Helping Women after-hours networking group offers professional women the opportunity to build their businesses while participating in charitable services at the same time. While enjoying wine and hors d’oeuvres, each Mix-and-Mingle highlights a different nonprofit agency serving women or women and their children.
  • The New Jersey Chapter of ALA recognized its good fortune in having a large membership and solid business partners. It decided to extend an opportunity for “adoption” to a smaller chapter with fewer resources at hand, and chose the Central Pennsylvania Chapter for its first “Adopt a Chapter” program. The adoption is intended to improve educational opportunities, give members from both chapters the opportunity to meet their regional peers, and to introduce potential business partners.
  • With less than 10 percent of chapter members under the age of 35, the Philadelphia Chapter was faced with growing concerns about succession and membership demographics in the future. So its Board decided to start a social media campaign to reach out to the millennial generation. The chapter joined Twitter and created a YouTube channel to showcase its members’ relationships and expertise, as well as profile the chapter in an engaging way. Their tip series, in particular, highlights the knowledge of chapter members across a variety of functional areas.

Complete details regarding ALA’s IDEA Awards program can be found at

ALA’s 2017 Annual Conference & Expo provides access to knowledge, connections and market-ready solutions that transform change into opportunities. Whether new to the legal management industry or a seasoned professional, each attendee has the opportunity to learn from thought leaders and solve problems with their peers.

About the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA)
ALA is focused on the delivery of cutting-edge management and leadership products and services to the global legal community. ALA has nearly 8,300 members representing 30 different countries with 95 chapters. The Association identifies and provides solutions to the most critical strategic and operational challenges its members and customers face today, and prepares them for the opportunities and challenges of tomorrow. For more information on ALA, visit

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