Vol. 40, No. 4

In case you missed it: A Twitter recap of Midyear 2016

by Marilyn Cavicchia

You know those hallway discussions that take place at meetings—the impromptu chats that are sometimes more “real” than anything that was brought up during Q&A? In recent years, Twitter has become the ultimate electronic hallway.

At the 2016 Midyear Meeting of the National Conference of Bar Presidents, National Association of Bar Executives, and National Conference of Bar Foundations, for example, attendees made heavy use of the hashtags #NABEmidyr16 and #NCBP.

A quick scroll through some of those tweets is a great way to get a glimpse of what happened at the meeting and what attendees thought some of the best takeaways were.

We could not include every tweet or every program. To get the full gist—and all the great photos of sailboats, palm trees, and camaraderie—please check out those hashtags. Also, be sure to consult the handouts, which are listed and linked below, to understand the full scope of each program being tweeted about.

It appears that the NCBF meeting didn’t have its own hashtag, but that doesn’t mean its programming was any less interesting than for the other groups; in fact, information on building an effective board, engaging the next generation of leaders, and the power of storytelling may be relevant even if you’re not “on the foundation side.” You can access all the NCBF handouts here.

This article is unusual in that each link will lead you not to a website, but to the Twitter feed of the person or organization in question. If you are new to Twitter, now you have some new ideas for whom to follow—and please be sure to follow Bar Leader, too.  

Membership tips

Several attendees picked up new insights for how to recruit, retain, and engage their members—and how to collect dues. For example, the tweeter for NABE itself shared an impressive figure from presenter Lowell Brown, Communications Division director at the State Bar of Texas: The bar saw an 800 percent increase in electronic dues payment last year, which led to a savings of $45,000. As noted by the ABA Division for Bar Services, Brown also shared a tip that might apply both to dues payment and to volunteering: “People will say yes faster if they’re motivated, aware and involved.”

The Maine State Bar Association’s efforts to retain members and to encourage event attendance, as explained by Member Services Director Heather Seavey, got a lot of notice. The bar calls all 3,300 members during the renewal process, uses involvement to drive retention, makes sure its benefits are kept current with what members want, and has encouraged annual meeting attendance through a campaign that taps into members’ FOMO (fear of missing out). Those tweeting about these ideas included Sayre Happich Ribera, assistant director of communications and public relations at the Bar Association of San Francisco; the Division for Bar Services; and NABE.

Ribera also noted that the San Diego County Bar Association communicates the value of membership according to what is important to the individual member. The Division for Bar Services observed that it’s important not to put up unnecessary barriers to dues renewal: “If they don’t have to login to [the] website, don’t make them.”

And it’s not just bar executives and staff who were sparked by Midyear Meeting programs to think about membership. Robin Lynn Haynes, president-elect of the Washington State Bar Association, said that “after a great first time at NCBP,” she was thinking about what lawyers in her state want in their leadership and in their member benefits.

Handouts:

Websites and content strategy

A number of tweeters took home great insights from a NABE “talk” on effective web design, presented by Mikel Bruce, CEO of TinyFrog Technologies. As a sign of just how much things have changed in the last few years, the Division for Bar Services tweeted Bruce’s advice to design for how the site will be viewed on a mobile device first, and then how it will be viewed on a computer—not the other way around.

It’s also important to establish your “value proposition” right away, Ribera tweeted—something that the Division for Bar Services addressed at more length: “When someone lands on your website, they need to immediately know why you’re good at what you do.”

But, the Division for Bar Services noted, don’t assume that someone who visits your site and sees your value proposition is ready to buy or join that very minute: “Many users are in research mode.”

Both the Division for Bar Services and Sarah Coole, director of communications at the State Bar of Georgia, picked up on Bruce’s belief that having too many moving graphics and slideshows amounts to “visual bullying.” Coole also shared Bruce’s statistic that eight out of 10 websites have navigation issues. “They are overly complicated,” she tweeted. “Simplify your navigation, folks.”

How do you get great content for your website, blog, or other communication vehicles? Many tweeters found great takeaways in a program on how to use content from conferences and events—of which bar associations typically have many. But make sure to use this abundant material in a new and different way, and one that suits your format. Paraphrasing Ribera, who spoke during this session, David Bohm, assistant executive director of the North Carolina Bar Association, cautioned, “Don’t just regurgitate or repurpose.”

Pulling double duty as a speaker and a tweeter, Ribera shared a tip from fellow presenter and content marketing expert Monica Bussolati: You can create a great blog post by recapping all the audience questions at an event, along with the speakers’ answers.

Want to extend those blog posts even further? Consider paying writers to write articles that are variations on them, Ribera tweeted, paraphrasing Bussolati. This doesn’t have to be expensive, noted Tim Eigo, editor of Arizona Attorney Magazine at the State Bar of Arizona. Eigo tweeted a photo of a slide on which Bussolati listed several places to find affordable writing services, including Zerys.com and Fiverr.com.

Handouts:

Connecting technology, access to justice

One hot topic at NCBP Midyear was the ongoing discussion of unmet legal needs, technology, and what role lawyers and bar associations should play.

The New York State Bar Association called attention to a question raised by a past president of the New Jersey State Bar Association: “How can we help lawyers build practices serving modest means and clients with unmet legal needs?”

NYSBA also noted that its own president, David Miranda, called on the organized bar to do a better job of using technology to match lawyers with clients—and not to “outsource” this to other legal services vendors. Another attendee, Monte Frank, president-elect of the Connecticut Bar Association, asked how bar associations can help members navigate the new legal marketplace that includes those new vendors. (Elizabeth Derrico, associate executive director of strategic member engagement at NYSBA, tweeted this “great question.”)

Julie Armstrong, executive director of the Indianapolis Bar Association, noted that thriving in this new environment will take a change in mindset, one that may be helped by technology. “Access to justice isn’t just about lowering costs,” she tweeted. “It’s also about being available when a person needs a lawyer.”

All NCBP handouts, especially those for “Workshop 2B—Leveraging Technology to Address Unmet Legal Needs” and “Saturday Morning Plenary—Access to Legal Services: Creating Solutions, One Step at a Time.”