Advice to Affiliates: Engage Members in Large Bar Associations by Reaching Out and Touching Base

Volume 37, Number 3


Marcella C. Ducca is an Assistant Editor of The Affiliate and an Associate in the Atlanta, Georgia, office of Greenburg Traurig, LLP.

Many large affiliates are faced with the challenge of reaching out and “touching base” with thousands of members. For some suggestions on how to connect with members in large bar associations, The Affiliate reached out to Giugi Carminati, a past Director of the Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA), one of our nation’s largest bar associations.

Focus on Structure

The TYLA currently has over 24,000 members. All licensed Texas lawyers 36 years old or younger or in their first five years of practice (regardless of age) are automatically members of the TYLA. The TYLA acts as the public service arm of the State Bar of Texas and is funded by the State Bar and various not-for-profit entities.

One of the best attributes of the TYLA, and a significant reason why it is able to engage a vast number of members, is its structure. The TYLA is governed by a working board of over 40 members from all over the State of Texas. The board comprises an Executive Committee, Directors, and Liaisons. The Executive Committee consists of the Officers of the TYLA: President, President-elect, Chair, Chair-Elect, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Immediate Past President. Also on the TYLA Board are 33 Directors who represent 21 districts around Texas and serve as liaisons to the local affiliates in their districts. Directors further serve as chairs or co-chairs of the TYLA committees. Liaisons on the TYLA Board include a Texas Supreme Court Justice, ABA YLD District Representatives, a law student, a law school dean, and a member of the Access to Justice Commission.

Members of the TYLA who want to become more involved with the association’s work often start in committees. The TYLA committees are organized around a specific public service or member service purpose. The TYLA has several public service committees: Law Focused Education, Community Education/Consumer Affairs, Low-Income Texas, and Family Law/ Children’s Rights/Seniors. There are also numerous member service committees: Member Services & Outreach, Diversity, Local Affiliates, Online Member Services, Technology, Marketing/PR, Law Student Outreach, National Trial Competition, and State Moot Court.

There are several active programs and projects within each committee. For example, the TYLA Law Focused Education Committee’s curriculum projects include “Vote America,” They Had a Dream Too, “Supreme Team,” “Junior Judges,” “Crossing the Line,” and “We the Jury.” Although each of these projects merits an entire article, as an example of the TYLA’s projects, They Had a Dream Too educates students about the role that young people played in the civil rights movement and reminds students that they too can make a difference.


Find a Way to Connect

For the TYLA to function smoothly, members of its Board need to connect. Four times a year, the TYLA Board meets to discuss the status of projects, hash out details, and build rapport among leaders. Much of the Board’s work is accomplished over the telephone and by email.

In terms of connecting with its membership, the TYLA hosts a user-friendly website that publishes information to both bar members and the general public about current news, events, and projects. The TYLA further communicates with its members through various forms of electronic media and monthly eNews updates. The TYLA also reaches out to its members through its various local affiliates, which work to promote networking and idea sharing.

The TYLA also hosts a Bar Leaders Conference every year, bringing young lawyers in various leadership positions from across the state together to exchange ideas on projects, promote networking, and foster leadership. In addition, the TYLA holds various “road shows” throughout Texas that are designed to assist small- to medium-sized bar associations within the state with their leadership and CLE programs.

Keep on Track

Because the TYLA has so many committees that undertake so many different projects, tracking a project’s progress is important. Reports are requested every three months on the status of all projects and budgets. (Every committee has a budget, as does each project.) Because the TYLA has the good fortune of having so many willing member volunteers, it can build in a certain level of redundancy on committees. If someone drops the ball, another person can pick it up.

Highlight Results

Each year, the TYLA publishes an Annual Report, which provides pertinent information and a summary of the organization’s projects, as well as a summary of key conferences and grants distributed. The Annual Report also gives a preview of special projects and each group’s focus for the upcoming bar year.

Many of these ideas and principles can be applied to bar associations of any size. Take a page from the TYLA’s success and find new ways to reach out and touch base with
your members!



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