How do you manage a 23,000 lawyer section of the American Bar Association that focuses on rapidly evolving areas of law that affect many lawyers and most U.S. citizens? To address this challenge, the ABA Section of Real Property, Trust and Estate Law recently adopted a strategic plan designed to increase membership, to enhance accountability and transparency in the use of Section resources, to expand the means of providing value to Section members and others through electronic CLE and outreach, and to sharpen its focus as a leading section of the ABA.
For a year and a half, a subcommittee of the Section’s Planning Committee worked on a new strategic plan to replace the plan adopted in 2004. The purpose of the new strategic plan was to implement the Section’s Mission Statement and to position the Section to be a leading voice in the areas of law it serves. After extensive dialogue, a draft plan was developed and circulated to all Section leaders, whose valuable input was incorporated. On August 6, 2011, the Section’s strategic plan was adopted by the Section Council at the ABA Annual Meeting in Toronto.
The final approved strategic plan was presented to the Section’s leaders at the Fall Leadership Meeting in early November 2011. The plan will be published in the eReport, the Section’s electronic newsletter.
The mission of the ABA Section of Real Property, Trust and Estate Law is to improve the law, to enhance the skills of lawyers, and to address the needs of the profession and the public in the areas of practice served by the Section. To carry out the three components of its mission, the Section adopted the following strategic goals to be implemented over the next three to five years.
The first component of the Section’s Mission Statement is to improve the law for the benefit of lawyers and the public in the areas of law served by the Section. The Section’s goals for implementing this component are to increase the Section’s influence both within and outside the ABA; to provide expertise and guidance to decision makers in those areas of law; to provide expertise in responding to the public’s concerns regarding the law; and to provide information and guidance to the public, governmental agencies, and other ABA constituencies to help shape the law.
To facilitate the second mission component—enhancing the skills and knowledge of lawyers in the areas of the law served by the Section—the Section adopted two goals. First, the Section will provide valuable educational opportunities and resource materials to the Section’s members, nonmember lawyers, and other professionals. Second, the Section will provide guidance and leadership in defining appropriate regulation and standards of conduct.
The Section adopted five goals to carry out the third component of its Mission Statement, which relates to addressing the needs and representing the interests of the lawyers in the areas of law served by the Section. Those goals are to attract, maintain, and grow a committed, broad-based membership to bring diverse views to the law; to provide activities, programs, and communications to the Section’s members to enhance their experience with and encourage their commitment to the Section; to provide members of the Section with opportunities to participate at varying levels of engagement; to provide enriching networking opportunities; and to maintain and improve the Section’s financial position.
The Section’s committees, task forces, and other groups will undertake projects to achieve the goals contained in the strategic plan. The plan identifies specific strategies for these groups to consider to achieve each stated goal. These strategies are illustrative rather than exclusive or prescriptive and are intended to offer ideas for projects and activities that are aligned with the Section’s goals. To submit proposals for Section projects, new benchmarking forms have been designed to provide a meaningful framework for both members and leadership to evaluate how the project will further the Section’s goals and, on completion, how well the project accomplished this objective.
The Planning Committee, as part of its annual review, will evaluate whether completed projects successfully advanced the Section’s strategic goals. The Committee also will review proposed projects for the coming year. As part of these project reviews, the Planning Committee will provide analysis designed to help committees to plan more effectively, to stay focused on strategic goals, and to coordinate with each other to achieve shared objectives. The Planning Committee also is tasked with reviewing annually the strategic plan to add, subtract, or revise the goals and strategies and with making recommendations to the Executive Committee regarding any changes.
The strategic plan is a living document, which can change and grow as the Section proceeds over the next few years to continue to carry out its mission. Although it is important for the leaders of the Section’s committees, task forces, and groups to understand the strategic plan and to integrate it into their annual planning, each member of the Section should be aware of the plan and should feel free to suggest ways in which the Section can achieve its strategic goals. We know that the strategic plan will help our Section grow and improve in many ways, thanks to the time and efforts of our Section members.