Lawyers Journal

Report of the Bar Services Department

This report analyzes the progress of programs and projects undertaken by the Bar Services Department since its inception last summer.

Bar Leadership Institute

To date, the largest and most important project the Bar Services Department has implemented is the Bar Leadership Institute. It was well received by affiliated bar leaders and served as the springboard for the department. Twenty of the 28 affiliated bar groups were represented at the event and all of the MBA officers were invited. In addition, the MBA President selected four member volunteers to attend.

Assessment: This project is definitely worth repeating. If the goal of "strengthening the legal community" is to go forward, this project is an important means to that end. It reflects well on the MBA to offer leadership education to this particular group, and gives bar leaders an important opportunity to meet and network with one another.

Bar Services Web Page

The Web page is intended to highlight events happening within the MBA relating to Bar Services. It has some static information, such as the description and objective of the department, as well as a listing of all of the affiliated bars, requests for calendar events, and a link to the Community Service Award form. It is updated as needed to include current events, etc.

Assessment: The Web page was initially intended to be a much more dynamic page, updated frequently with current events and information about the affiliated bars. However, it seems to be most used as an MBA communications tool - affiliated bar leaders are directed there for a variety of information. With the exception of general event information, the groups do not readily provide news about their own groups for posting.

Bar Services listserv

A Bar Leader listserv was developed in conjunction with Bar Leadership Institute. It allows the MBA to communicate directly with bar leaders as well as provides a means for the leaders to exchange ideas and information.

Assessment: This tool is a valuable way for the MBA to communicate with affiliated bars. It is slowly but surely catching on among the bar leaders, and questions and comments are beginning to circulate unsolicited.

Bar Services page in Lawyers Journal
A section of Lawyers Journal was specifically dedicated to reporting about Bar Services events and initiatives as well as to highlight projects of the affiliated bars.

Assessment: As with the web page, the affiliated bar groups often submit calendar events but little else. Although the newsletter is still a great way of promoting Bar Services events and news, there is not enough information from outside bars to justify allotting a full page of the newsletter. After several issues, the MBA Communications Department began to disperse submitted information throughout Lawyers Journal rather than dedicating space.

Developing relationships with affiliated bars

One of the charges of this department is to cultivate the MBA's relationships with affiliated groups. To that end, the bar services liaison is establishing herself as the bar leaders' primary point of contact at the MBA as well as meeting with the groups on an individual basis and attending their events when appropriate.

Assessment: Although relationship building is a work in progress, it is proving successful. More and more, bar leaders are contacting the bar services liaison with information, comments, questions and concerns. To date, the bar services liaison has met with five groups individually and has plans to meet with two more in March and each month thereafter. She regularly attends HOD meetings in order to provide more "face time" with affiliated bar leaders and has represented the MBA at several affiliated bar events. In addition, the liaison collaborates regularly with Pat Plasse in the MBA's Springfield office in order to help strengthen the MBA presence in Western Mass.

Community Service Awards

The Community Service Awards project was in place prior to the formation of the Bar Services Department and continues to be an important outreach to the affiliated bars. Affiliated bars submit award nominees to the MBA for review, and the EMB decides if the candidates are worthy of the award. Typically, an MBA officer presents the awards at an affiliated bar event.

Assessment: Although this outreach has been in place for a while, it is important to establish a connection between it and the department. Through the development of a nomination form and established contact person, that connection is beginning to take place.

Support affiliated bar events

Affiliated bars often send event invitations and solicitations of support to the MBA. Typically, the MBA accepts invitations and sponsorship requests in addition to sending representatives.

Assessment: Obviously, the affiliated bars will always view the MBA's financial support in a positive way. It shows we support their projects and missions and want them to succeed. It is very definitely a relationship strengthener and should be continued as often as is reasonable and possible.

Develop services and respond to requests from affiliated bars

One of the goals of this department is to establish a variety of services and make them available to the affiliated bars. In addition to our own list of services, the MBA needs to respond to specific requests from the affiliated bars.

Assessment: This is an area that still needs attention. We are working on a brochure outlining our services. To date, many of our requests have been for assistance in the technology area. In this area, we are still talking through the right balance between sharing our creative work product and supporting the other bars.

Summary and going forward

The MBA Bar Services Department is beginning to establish itself within the bar community. Through the above initiatives and actions, the MBA has proven its dedication to building a network among the affiliated bars while minimizing the "competitive" and negative perceptions among the groups. As a result, all of the groups benefit and the MBA will establish itself as a respected leader among the associations.

However, there is still work to be done. Going forward, the department needs to continue developing outreach programs and networking opportunities for bar leaders. In addition, each of the affiliated bars has something unique to offer and there are many ways for the MBA to collaborate and reap a variety of benefits. For example, pending the approval of AALAM, the MBA would like to hold a "nuts and bolts" type of program in Chinatown as a follow-up to the Chinese media's interest at Annual Conference. Finally, although the department is still young and evolving, in the near future it will be important to decide upon a carefully considered direction for Bar Services, and continue developing the department toward that end.

©2014 Massachusetts Bar Association