As ABA representative at Saint Louis University (SLU) School of Law, Clifton Martin was pleasantly surprised by something he learned about in Chicago this past August at the association’s Annual Meeting: a program that offers ABA membership, at a reduced rate, for entire law school classes—or entire law schools.
Currently a 2L, Martin has long known the benefits of being an ABA member. “I signed up for the ABA before the first day of law school,” he recalls. “Involvement in the ABA seemed to be amazingly practical to me. I knew that I wanted to be connected with people who work in the field and practice areas I was interested in—and the ABA provides that on a very large scale.”
Martin wanted all his fellow law students at SLU to gain the same benefits that he had, and he wanted the membership to be automatic for them and paid for by the school. Students typically sift through a lot of information about groups to consider joining—and paying for—on their own, he notes.
After he came back from Chicago, Martin began planning his approach to convince law school administration to pay for law student ABA membership for the student body. First, he assembled a three-person team: himself, plus the president and vice president of the student bar association.
The pitch to Dean Tom Keefe included a supportive resolution unanimously approved by the SBA Assembly and a petition that was signed by about one-third of the student body.
It helped, Martin says, that a lot of students already had some inkling of what the ABA had to offer: Many individuals have used the association’s online continuing legal education programs as a way to get a “snapshot” of unfamiliar practice areas, and many student groups know about the Law Student Division grants that are available to help put on new events that fall within certain parameters.
In September, the group made its pitch to Dean Tom Keefe and secured his approval at the end of a meeting that lasted about 90 minutes. Keefe’s biggest concern, Martin recalls, was that the general student body would need to be made aware of all the ABA benefits that were available to them.
Toward that end, Martin has spoken to some student groups directly, and the SBA gets the word out to individual students through information tables at events. “And I’m always talking about it anyway!” he adds.
To get the most out of ABA membership, Martin encourages students to join their choice of 35 ABA specialty practice areas—21 which are free to law students. “The practice-specific e-mails and newsletters and magazines that these groups send out offer a different perspective—a non-law school perspective—that can be very important,” Martin notes, adding that the ABA lawyer members he has met at events have always been very open to talking with law students and helping them make valuable connections.
Because Martin took the lead in approaching the dean about ABA membership for the whole school, he has been the one getting lots of feedback from students.
“I have gotten so many random e-mails and Facebook messages from students really expressing appreciation,” he says. “I like that I’ve been able to be a part of something that has been so positively received by the student body.”
School Group Enrollment Program
Encourage your school’s administration to enroll your entire student body in the ABA through the School Membership Program and get rewarded. By participating in the program, a law school pays just $17 per student if it enrolls the entire student body, or $20 per student if it enrolls an entire class (i.e., all 1Ls or all 2Ls)—a savings of as much as 30 percent off the regular $25 dues amount. If your school joins the program as a result of your efforts and enrolls the entire student body, you will be rewarded with $500 in Visa gift cards. If your school enrolls an entire class, you’ll receive $250 in Visa gift cards. For more information about group enrollment, e-mail Raychelle Tasher, Vice Chair of the Law Student Division, or Kevin Henderson, ABA Director of Membership.
As an ABA law student member, consider joining any of the 35 specialty practice groups—21 of which are free to law students—and receive practice-specific updates, publications, and e-mails. Visit www.ambar.org/studentbenefits for more information.