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Vol. 45, No. 4

What’s the big idea? 11 questions to spark generative discussion at board meetings

You may have heard that, especially in a time of rapid change, it’s important to dedicate some time at meetings for generative discussion. Rather than being about immediate problem-solving and a list of action items, this type of conversation encourages board members to take a longer view than usual, move toward a deeper understanding of the landscape in which the bar operates, and consider some bigger ideas.

To get the ball rolling, here are 11 (top 10, plus a bonus) sets of generative questions suggested by staff members in the ABA Division for Bar Services who work closely with bars across the country, assisting with strategic planning, governance and leadership matters.

Add one or more of these questions to your next board meeting, and see where the discussion goes from there:

  1. How is a new lawyer’s career arc going to look similar to and different from yours? How does that affect how our bar serves them?
  2. How is consumer behavior changing? What does it mean that consumers are embracing opportunities to circumvent the justice system entirely? How does the profession need to behave differently? How does our bar need to behave differently?
  3. What are the implications of our increasingly regional, national and global profession? What does it mean for our bar?
  4. What does the decline in trust and confidence in institutions mean for the justice system? What does it mean for legacy organizations like bars?
  5. What does it mean to really engage the community?
  6. If our budget were slashed in half, what are the programs and services we think are absolutely essential?
  7. What strengths do we have (reputation, resources) that we haven’t fully exploited?
  8. Whose responsibility is diversity, equity and inclusion in our bar—in theory? Whose responsibility is it, in practice? 
  9. What are the realities that deter the best and brightest from seeking a legal career? What do we need to do to address those realities?
  10. How are legal tech developments, including AI, likely to affect different kinds of firms/employers (e.g., large firms, solos/smalls, in-house)? How can our bar help members grapple with those developments?
  11. One more, for good measure: What is our current appetite for collaboration with other bars? With community organizations? With businesses? What would more or deeper collaboration allow us to do?