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March/April 2024

Views from the Chair

Jeffery Scott Dennis


  • SEER has an obligation to more consistently examine and measure what the Section is doing and how it achieves strategic goals.
  • Places emphasis on the significance of the SEER membership value and discusses steps the Section can take to heighten its impact and track its progress. 
Views from the Chair
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Busy lawyers and professionals often fall prey to putting the important task of articulating the “why” of our work, and the strategies we’ll pursue to achieve that why, at the bottom of our to-do list. Taking a step back to examine these higher-level objectives and strategic goals takes time and requires us to change our frame of mind from the immediate next task to the broader vision. If we don’t take this step back, though, we can often find ourselves far off track from our ultimate goals and objectives for our work.

Last year, our Section adopted an updated Mission Statement, Vision Statement, and Strategic Plan. The 2022–2023 Strategic Planning Committee, led by Sean Dixon and Christine LeBel, are to be commended for committing time and energy to going beyond just checking the box in our Bylaws that requires us to revisit our Strategic Plan every three years. Instead, they took a comprehensive approach to articulating our mission as an organization, our vision for what we want to deliver, and a set of strategic goals to guide how we get there. The Council unanimously adopted this plan. You can view the updated plan our website, but it’s worth repeating here:

Mission Statement

The Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources (SEER) fosters the success of a diverse community of environmental, energy, and resources lawyers, advisors, and decision-makers.

Vision Statement

Provide, through events, publications, conversations and connections, a premier forum for the exchange of ideas and information.

Strategic Plan

  1. Attract and retain members of all experience levels.
  2. Drive and sustain diversity across our membership and the practice.
  3. Provide opportunities for the next generation of Section leaders.
  4. Support members’ opportunities for personal and professional growth.
  5. Sustain excellent programs and publications.
  6. Collaborate with local, national, and global partners.
  7. Ensure the Section’s fiscal sustainability.
  8. Providing thought leadership on critical environmental, energy, and resources law issues.

This year, our leadership is turning to another, sometimes overlooked, aspect of mission and vision setting and strategic planning: measuring our progress. At the Winter Council Meeting, SEER’s Executive Committee and Council carved out a significant amount of time to begin this conversation. This year’s Strategic Planning Committee Co-Chairs, Richard Ericsson and Ian Smith, led a focused discussion of the metrics by which we should measure our progress in achieving the eight goals outlined in our Strategic Plan.

In some cases, the metrics seem deceptively simple. When it comes to attracting and retaining members of all experience levels, we can readily look at how many members we have, how long they have been in practice (or whether they are law students), and how our total number of members has changed over time. Similarly, when it comes to sustaining our programs and publications, we can look at attendance at our conferences, the number of books we sell or articles we produce, and the revenues or website hits we get from these activities.

These numbers in isolation may not tell the whole story, however, about where we have been and where we are going. For example, the data may not tell us how active and engaged our members are or give us information about the quality of our programs and publications and the likelihood they will be attended or used year after year. These more qualitative data points, we know, are critical to ensuring our long-term success and stability.

Moreover, for other strategic goals, measuring success may not boil down to numbers alone. We can list the number of leadership opportunities we make available to foster future Section leaders, but does that help us measure and understand whether those leadership opportunities are meaningful, attracting and retaining members, and helping them build leadership skills and make connections? The same could be said for our important diversity objectives. Tracking the number of diverse members and leaders we have in SEER are helpful data points, but they don’t tell the whole story about whether we are a truly diverse and inclusive organization where everyone belongs.

Above all, we must be able to measure the value that the activities we engage in to serve our eight strategic goals provide to members and prospective members. We cannot grow our membership, expand our voice and reach, and ultimately provide service to our profession and the public if we aren’t offering valuable products and services that environment, energy, and resources professionals want and need. The metrics we choose to track to gauge SEER’s progress in meeting our strategic goals should inform us about the activities that provide value and should be kept and the activities that provide no value and should be scrapped (and, hopefully, what activities we should be pursuing and aren’t). 

Effective organizations devote at least 50 percent of their time in board-level conversations to strategic planning. I’m committed to making sure our Section does just that. In a time of significant change not only in the environment, energy, and resources fields in which we work, but also in the business of law and the landscape for voluntary associations, we have an obligation to more consistently examine and measure what we are doing and how it achieves our strategic goals.

We don’t want to have this conversation alone. I, and our entire Executive Committee and Council, want to hear from you. What metrics should we adopt to measure our progress in achieving our eight strategic goals? What activities are providing value to you, and which ones are not? Reach out to me if you have input. Together, we can thoughtfully consider how we measure our progress and strengthen our Section for the future.