It was 2003, and attorney Marc Staenberg was focused on becoming president of the Beverly Hills Bar Association—not running it as its executive director. But when the bar’s then-controller was charged with embezzling $800,000 from the association, the BHBA Board of Directors asked President-Elect Staenberg to use his business and legal skills to instead become Interim Executive Director Staenberg.
“The Beverly Hills Bar did not miss a beat: We increased membership, we righted the ship, and 18 months later, we had recouped the stolen money,” Staenberg recalls. “It was not in my plans to stay when I first came on board.
“I wanted to be president-elect and then president. But I found that I was doing something in my profession and enjoying it, and that it was appreciated—and that’s a great feeling.”
Some 14 years later, Staenberg, now chief executive officer of the bar, is still enjoying the job, even if it took a little while to “learn all the moving parts” of bar management that most bar members—even board members and officers—don’t really know.
While the path from association member to executive is still a bit unusual in the bar and association world, it’s not unheard of. And while some who have made the jump say that past membership experience can provide some distinct advantages, it is not without some challenges that others caution against—particularly in today’s evolving association management atmosphere.