Need Help? The Affiliate Assistance Team Makes House Calls
By Rachel E. Kopp
Rachel E. Kopp is an assistant editor of The Affiliate and practices with the firm of Spector, Roseman & Kodroff, P.C. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania .
If your affiliate is struggling in any area, help is at your disposal in the form of the ABA YLD Affiliate Assistance Team (AAT). Surprisingly, according to Ryan Reed of Bowling Green, Kentucky, who serves as the ABA YLD affiliates director, not enough affiliates are taking advantage of this unique and extremely valuable service.
When several board members of the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis Young Lawyers Division (BAMSL YLD) recently moved up to the “Big Board,” Seth Albin of St. Louis, Missouri, who serves as the chair of
BAMSL YLD, realized that his affiliate had not updated its strategic plan for several years. He submitted a site visit request form, and the AAT dispatched Reed to meet with the BAMSL YLD board members at their beginning-of-the-year retreat. “Bringing in an outsider really helped [BMASL YLD] members gel together as a team to work under his [Reed’s] leadership instead of forcing board members to develop projects at the suggestion of one of BAMSL’s own internal members,” said Albin. “It made members think more out of the box.” In addition, having a representative from the ABA YLD at the retreat also “lent credibility to the event. Members who may not have come otherwise came out to hear what Ryan had to say.”
To best prepare for a site visit, Albin suggested that affiliate leaders speak with the AAT ahead of time to discuss the affiliate’s plan and what affiliate members hope to achieve from the visit. Although Albin had a specific goal in mind for Reed’s site visit to his affiliate, speaking with Reed in advance helped Albin narrow his goals for the BAMSL YLD’s retreat, so that “they could get the ball rolling on a few fronts.” Reed came in and ran with the theme of the day. At the end of the site visit, Reed left the BAMSL YLD with a proposal for long-range planning as well as two projects that members could implement immediately and that continue to help the BAMSL YLD throughout the year. “Had Ryan not been there,” admitted Albin, “I’m not sure that we would have gotten to that point.”
Whether your affiliate is successful or struggling, an AAT site visit is a “resource out there from the ABA YLD that affiliates should take advantage of,” explained Albin. The AAT consists of seven members (and a host of other resources) with a vast wealth of knowledge and experience. Each member has served in and led state and local young lawyer organizations. Listening to people with experience in what other bars are doing can help affiliates realize that they are not alone in tackling certain issues. In Reed’s opinion, affiliates can really benefit from “inviting in fresh eyes to address challenges that maybe seem like an obstacle to the local affiliate, but that have been experienced by other affiliates and that the AAT members are trained to address.” Albin agreed and noted, “A lot of times you think that your affiliate’s problems are your own, but most affiliates face the same issues,” such as membership retention/recruitment, service requirements, staying relevant, and maintaining a budget. “Having AAT members come out and tell your affiliate what you are doing well is almost as good as them telling you what you are not doing so well.”
Taking advantage of the AAT’s site visits is also beneficial for affiliates who may not have all of the resources that they need or want. The BAMSL YLD, like many young lawyer affiliates, has a limited budget, so for Albin it was “nice to have someone who knew what he was doing, who has been around [the YLD] a while and who has experience with what other bars are doing” come talk to his members about strategic planning “without having to hire someone or do it myself.”
By using AAT members with expertise on a big picture level to provide training to affiliate leaders during site visits, it can only help strengthen the ABA YLD as a whole. “To the YLD on a division level, it helps cultivate our role as the preeminent provider of leadership training to affiliates,” said Reed. Unfortunately, according to Albin, “people don’t know about this service provided by the Affiliate Assistance Team. That has to be one of the only reasons why [affiliates] don’t take advantage of it.” Hopefully, this article will help spread the word.