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May 01, 2022 Vol. 47, No. 5

2021 Benchmarks Survey spotlight: A quick overview of administration questions and responses

Each year, the Benchmarks report, produced by the ABA Division for Bar Services, offers a wealth of information about bars—from bars themselves, via a nationwide survey. The topics vary from one year to the next; the most recent publication, released in December 2021, is 2021 State and Local Bar Benchmarks: Membership, Administration and Finance.

In this issue, we highlight some key Benchmarks findings in the area of administration. In the previous two issues of Bar Leader, we covered finance and membership.

Bars move into new, rented space

Future Benchmarks reports may show more of the impact of COVID-19 and remote work on how bars manage their headquarters space—but it’s possible that one finding indicates the beginning of this process. While relatively small percentages of state bars (12 percent of mandatory state bars and 10 percent of voluntary state bars) reported that the bar offices had relocated in the past five years, 67 percent of the mandatory state bars and 100 percent of the voluntary state bars that moved indicated that the new bar space was rented, not owned by the bar. Local bars were more mobile, with 28 percent indicating a move in the past five years; 68 percent of the local bars that moved reported that their new space was rented, not owned by the bar.

Annual performance reviews for the ED/CEO

The idea of conducting an annual performance review for the executive director or chief executive officer seems to be gaining traction: 81 percent of mandatory state bars, 80 percent of voluntary state bars, and 70 percent of local bars said they followed this practice. All three categories showed increases over previous years: up from 71 percent in 2018 for mandatory state bars, 56 percent in 2018 for voluntary state bars, and 57 percent in 2020 for local bars.

Outsourcing some staff functions

Perhaps, again, spurred by the pandemic and by remote work, many bars seem to be receptive to the idea of outsourcing some staff functions. Outsourcing in the past two years was reported by:

  • 31 percent of mandatory state bars;
  • 50 percent of voluntary state bars; and
  • 28 percent of local bars.

Among mandatory state bars, those most likely to have outsourced some staff functions were in the 20,000 to 49,999-member size category (43 percent). Among voluntary state bars, the largest size category, over 20,000 members, also had the highest percentage reporting that they had outsourced some staff functions (67 percent). Similarly, the highest percentage of local bars reporting outsourcing (43 percent) was in the largest size category, over 8,500 members.

When asked which staff functions had been outsourced, typical responses included information technology, communications (including writing and graphic design), accounting, and lobbying. One bar said it had started using temporary workers to process membership dues, and another said it had outsourced its meetings director position.

Want more detail?

The above was only a snapshot; in the full Benchmarks publication, you’ll find several more administration-related questions and much more detail, including breakdowns by bar size and how specific bars answered each question. To be fully informed, make sure to order your copy of Benchmarks.

As always, the ABA Division for Bar Services appreciates those bars that completed the Benchmarks survey. Good decisions are driven by good data, and your participation helps make this survey the best it can be. Thank you!

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