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May 02, 2024 From the Chair

Task Force of Strategic Visioning

Tina Luongo

Welcome to Spring!! Much has been going on since my last column. The last edition of the magazine was chock full of interesting articles, and I hope you find this edition equally engaging! In keeping with my focus on membership, I want to take this time to share the progress of our strategic planning process taken on by the Task Force of Strategic Visioning.

When I last wrote, we were about to roll out our full membership survey. Our objective was to ensure that as we move through this process, we hear from our members. A big and crucial step! Well, we did it! Guided by our amazing consultant, Lindsey Hoffman; our dedicated Task Force members; and staff, we launched the survey in early December 2023. Here are a few critical takeaways:

The survey confirmed that CJS’s membership is extremely diverse in practice setting, legal practice area, topical interests, age and career stage, and geography.

  • We have Criminal Justice Section members from every state in the United States!
  • We’re proud to reach 9,000 law students every year, to introduce them to criminal justice career paths and concepts.
  • Among our professional members, approximately 35 percent work in white-collar firms or as corporate in-house counsel; another 35 percent work in other private defense, including hundreds of solo practitioners around the country; 5 percent of members are federal or state judges; 5 percent are academic faculty; 5 percent are public defenders; and 10 percent are prosecutors or work for other government entities. The remaining 5 percent of members represent the military, other nonprofits, or are retired.

Fifty-three percent of members gave CJS the highest possible overall rating. We are proud of your vote of satisfaction and confidence, and … .

And you appreciate the individual benefits: Every CJS member benefit received the highest ratings from at least 75 percent of members.

We learned about the several reasons you belong to CJS. …

  • Partners from large private firms and corporate in-house counsel members are here to network with other criminal justice professionals, especially at our in-person meetings and institutes.
  • Public defenders, prosecutors, judges, and academics, more than any other group, are here to contribute to policy reform above other reasons.
  • Members from nearly every practice setting—from white-collar firms to academia—also belong to CJS for its professional education content.
  • Law students are here for professional education content and to network with criminal justice professionals.

You also expressed a desire for new and expanded benefits.

  • Law students and undergraduates are most interested in mentorship opportunities.
  • Our professional members are most interested in more criminal justice news & updates.
  • And everyone wants more practical skills training and more local and regional networking opportunities.

We heard all your requests loud and clear and are busy figuring out how to make it happen. This spring we are reviving our successful forensic conference and adding technology science to the mix! This conference is slated to bring the nation’s leading experts in these areas to San Diego for a day-and-a-half conference.

We learned there are some benefits we don’t promote enough.

  • Have you perused our list of books? We have published over 60 titles, including our annual State of Criminal Justice collection and ABA Criminal Justice Standards, in a wide array of practice areas including the functions of the defense and prosecutor, juvenile justice, and mental health. They are essential references for your corporate, organizational, or personal library.
  • The CLE video library on the ABA website has a host of content created by our section members and experts in our field.

We also gathered a ton of information about your topical areas of interest. We were interested to learn which topics capture many people’s attention.

  • Over 50 percent of respondents expressed interest in alternatives to incarceration (69 percent of respondents),
  • Sentencing topics (62 percent),
  • Restorative justice topics (52 percent),
  • Racial justice (55 percent),
  • Rule of law and constitutional issues (62 percent), and
  • Ethics (56 percent).

But the long tail of niche interests is also fascinating, and we are committed to giving all topics a platform!

We hear you:

  • Five members who asked for more on “elder abuse” and
  • Five people who want more on “artificial intelligence and forensic science.” (We delivered that one at our Spring conference!)

Finally, many members are looking for more ways to become engaged in our section. You wrote in some great, actionable ideas about how we can make it easier to plug into the CJS action. We are now working on improving all our member outreach and engagement opportunities and are taking your advice as we develop future programming and offerings. The Strategic Visioning Task Force is incorporating all your feedback into our strategic plan for the next few years, and I look forward to sharing our conclusions later in 2024. More to come!


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Tina Luongo

The Legal Aid Society of New York City

Tina Luongo is the Chief Attorney of the Criminal Defense Practice of The Legal Aid Society of New York City and Chair of the Criminal Justice Section for 2023–24.