Finding Volunteers for Your Affiliate: Dallas’ Formula for Success
By Melissa Dewey Brumback
Melissa Dewey Brumback is an associate editor of The Affiliate and practices with the Raleigh, North Carolina, firm of Ragsdale Liggett PLLC.
Recruiting volunteers is necessary for every young lawyer organization. Unfortunately, it is not the easiest thing to do. Young lawyers are busy learning their practices, billing hours, building their client bases, earning their reputations, and starting families. So, it is often a tough sell to ask them to volunteer their free time, which is short to begin with. One ABA YLD affiliate has found a formula for success: the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers (DAYL) has created a recruiting fair.
According to Cherie Harris, Executive Director of the DAYL, the idea for a recruiting fair started two or three years ago. The DAYL is a large organization that offers young lawyers four categories of committees to get involved, according to their interests, including committees for Service to Children, Service to the Community, Service to the Bar—Professional, and Service to the Bar—Personal.
Traditionally, the DAYL held midyear meetings with the chairs of each of its twenty-eight committees to network and report on committee activities, which include over 150 service projects each year. Harris suggested, and the DAYL adopted, the idea of making the meetings open to the entire bar association as a marketing tool to attract new members.
The DAYL Fair “is a great marketing tool to members, to get excitement [for the committees] building among new lawyers,” Harris says. For the Fair, which was held this year on June 5, each committee planned for and staffed one table. The tables displayed photographs, videos, and publications. The committees even competed for the honor of the “Best Display,” entitling the winning committee to additional funding from the DAYL for the year.
All DAYL members (and even age-appropriate nonmembers) are invited to attend on a drop-in basis. Drinks and hors d’oeuvres are served, compliments of local vendor sponsors. A DJ spins some tunes, and the young lawyers are free to mingle with committee representatives, look at the displays, and ask questions.
Each year, the Fair attracts approximately 150 attendees on top of the 75 to 100 committee representatives, which makes for good networking and socializing. Some young lawyers join the DAYL and/or sign up for a committee on the spot. Others take the information away with them and end up joining a committee later on. Still others may not join a committee but will come to the various committee events planned later in the year after first hearing about them at the Fair.
Holland Sullivan, a lawyer working as a broker at Merrill Lynch in Dallas, is a prime example of the success of the DAYL Fair. Sullivan was active in the Dallas Bar but was not a member of the Young Lawyers. He was encouraged to attend the DAYL Fair and did so in the summer of 2006. “I was overwhelmed and amazed. . . . There is a committee for every passion,” Sullivan says. Two months later, as a result of attending the Fair, Sullivan learned about and participated in the DAYL Leadership Class. He helped co-chair the class project, which involved beautification projects at five local public schools. Sullivan also signed up for several other committees and now enjoys helping the community while networking with his former law school classmates. In 2007, Sullivan ran for the Board of Directors of the DAYL, where he is currently serving his second term. At the end of the year, Sullivan plans to run for an officer position within the organization.
Sullivan now has become a vocal proponent of the DAYL and recruits new members to the events himself.
“[Attending the Fair] was easily the best decision I’ve made since law school,” Sullivan declares.
Tips for a Successful Recruiting Fair
Interested in planning your own recruiting fair? According to Cherie Harris, DAYL Executive Director, the DAYL Fair owes its success to:
- Advance Notice to the Committees—This is key to allowing the committees enough time to make up impressive displays. Because the DAYL operates on a calendar-year system, committees are given several months to host some programs, take some good photographs, and create displays.
- Attention-Getting Displays—Because all DAYL’s committees are represented at the Fair, each is motivated to create eye-catching displays to call attention to its project. In essence, the committees “compete” for new volunteer members.
- Open Invitations—The event is open not only to DAYL members, but also to all new attorneys and even law students, to encourage early participation with the young lawyer organization. The entire Dallas bar is invited through e-mail, and law school contacts are advised to publicize the event to law students.
- Publicity—The event is advertised at least two months in advance in the DAYL monthly newsletter. Dallas’ “big” bar also e-mails its membership, the DAYL ensures that fliers are available at major bar events before the Fair, and the DAYL relies on board and committee contacts to get the word out at their firms.