Posted Dec 02, 2009 05:09 am CST
Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.” In this season of giving, it is appropriate to reflect on the many ways the ABA gives to its members, and how its members give back to the profession and to the public. This year we are working to ensure that the benefits of ABA membership are provided to as many lawyers as possible.
The ABA is the world’s largest voluntary professional association. With nearly 400,000 members, we provide an extraordinary forum where lawyers can develop skills, enhance professional networks, exchange ideas, develop solutions on professional and legal system issues, promote the rule of law and ensure public access to justice.
One of the greatest things about the ABA’s extensive national presence is the community it creates. Throughout my many years as an active member, I have learned that involvement in the ABA can produce not only valuable professional development and networking opportunities but also rewarding friendships. Glance at the ABA’s event calendar and you will see CLE programs, section meetings, receptions and other events, all offering the chance to meet lawyers from across the nation to exchange ideas, learn new approaches to practicing, share resources and referrals, and, yes, make friends.
The ABA provides benefits for members in all segments of our profession—from solo, small, medium, large and global practices to public interest, government, the military and the judiciary, to law students and academia. We have resources tailored for lawyers from various backgrounds and stages in life, with services for young lawyers, senior lawyers, women lawyers, lawyers of color, LGBT lawyers and lawyers with disabilities.
ABA benefits keep members informed and enrich their careers. Regardless of your legal interests, you are certain to find a newsletter, magazine or journal to keep you up to date on topics you and your clients care about. In addition to the ABA Journal, the association publishes more than 80 periodicals and hundreds of books on all areas of law. ABA sections and other entities offer a wide variety of CLE programs, many of which can be downloaded at the ABA Web Store (ababooks.org).
The ABA is also conscious of the issues lawyers are facing and responds accordingly. Our Economic Recovery Resources portal contains information from throughout the bar on how lawyers can meet the challenges of the economic crisis (abanet.org/economicrecovery) and its job board helps them locate new positions. In addition, the ABA’s Governmental Affairs Office advocates before Congress and other agencies on policies adopted by our House of Delegates. Policymakers are receptive to our advocacy on issues involving an independent bar and judiciary, access to justice, rule of law and other core values of the legal profession.
Aside from professional resources, all ABA members can enjoy the Member Advantage program (abanet.org/advantage), which provides discounts on insurance, hotels, car rentals, and many other products and services.
Just as the ABA gives to members, it also enables members to give back to the legal profession and our communities. Thousands of leadership positions, committee assignments, pro bono opportunities and public service projects are facilitated throughout the ABA.
Despite our large size, extensive reach and multitude of benefits, our membership amounts to only 30 percent of the U.S. legal profession. One of my priorities is to increase membership to at least 50 percent of the profession. As many lawyers as possible should be part of our collective advocacy and enjoy all we have to offer.
To complement our existing membership efforts, last year I created task forces for each segment of the profession. Each task force was charged with analyzing the relevance and recommending the value we must add to make membership indispensable. In addition to value, many of the segments identified price as an impediment to greater market penetration. Accordingly, we are examining our dues structure to determine how to maintain the revenue we need to conduct our activities while reducing the cost of membership.
As Sandra Day O’Connor said, “We accomplish nothing in this world alone.” With the ABA, lawyers nationwide work together to strengthen the profession and improve our service to clients and the public. I encourage you to take advantage of the association’s benefits, to introduce them to your friends and colleagues, and to let me know of ways in which the ABA can add relevant and effective resources for members. Only when all segments of our profession are well-represented will the ABA truly carry out our mission to be the national representative of the legal profession.
I hope this holiday season each member will give the gift of ABA membership to at least one other lawyer. Thank you for your support. May each of you enjoy a happy and healthy holiday season and new year.