Bar Associations

Work-life balance is no longer a top concern of state and local bar members, surveys show

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State and local bar members aren’t focused on tangible association benefits such as product discounts and social occasions, according to surveys conducted by the ABA’s Division for Bar Services.

More important, the respondents said, were networking opportunities and association efforts to boost the image of the legal profession. Meanwhile, work-life balance has become less of a concern since the economic downturn, the surveys have found.

The ABA Division for Bar Services has surveyed the membership of state and local bars since 2005 to get member feedback for the associations. The division also surveys the bars about membership growth and retention, dues and activities. The findings are discussed in an ABA press release and in this report (PDF).

Among the findings:

• In virtually every survey, members of state and local bars say fostering a positive image for the legal profession is one of the top three bar functions. Since 2009, members have frequently rated keeping members informed about legal issues and changes in the law as another top-three bar function.

• Top member concerns have changed since 2005 to 2009, when work-life balance was frequently cited as one of the top three concerns. Beginning in 2009, providing good client service with limited resources became a prominent concern. Keeping current with changes in the law also emerged as a top concern in later years.

• Retaining newer and younger members is a challenge for state and local bars. The perception of bar association culture as being “cliquey” or “an old boys network” is a common thread in surveys.

• Bar associations saw explosive growth in members, staff size and expenditures in the 1980s. Growth continued in the 1990s at a slower rate and gradually leveled off since the economic downturn.

• State and local bars are increasingly offering incentives such as free or reduced CLE, regular member luncheons, and journal or newsletter subscriptions in their basic dues packages.

• The average top dues level was $264 for all voluntary state bars in 2013.

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