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Vol. 39, No.3

Follow the money, and work across departments: To attract large firms, bars get smart

by Robert J. Derocher

Part of the new way of doing business with large law firms is understanding where spending decisions come from on issues such as bar association membership, sponsorship, and program underwriting.

“You have to really pay attention to the people who are paying the bills—the managers,” says Jane Leslie Dalton, a past Philadelphia Bar Association chancellor, who is also of counsel at the large firm Duane Morris in Philadelphia.

And many of those firm managers and administrators are not writing blank checks, Dalton and others say.

“We’ve had to work more with administrators at law firms about the benefits of bar membership in the last few years,” says Karen Korr, communications director at the San Diego County (Calif.) Bar Association.

Working to bolster big-firm participation—both in dollars and individual member involvement—also requires more coordination among membership, marketing, and programming staff members at metro bar associations.

For example, a program launched two years ago at the Monroe County (N.Y.) Bar Association to provide two CLE credits to members for early membership renewal required “a lot of work between departments,” says the bar’s membership and communications manager, Liz Novak.