Sara G. Neill
BAMSL President, 2019-20
Shareholder, Capes Sokol
Originally published in the February 2020 issue of the St. Louis Lawyer magazine. View in the archives.
A couple of weeks ago, Capes Sokol moved to its new offices on the west side of downtown Clayton. Our lease had been on the verge of expiring and we were so short on space that our lawyers were going to have to start sharing offices. Personally, I had about 40 bankers' boxes of documents surrounding my desk. My office looked just like Milton's (from "Office Space") when he was moved to "Storage B."
For those of you who have been involved in a law firm move, you understand how insane it is. In the months leading up to the move, we tried to shred paper we did not need, and close old files and move them to our offsite storage facility, but even with those efforts, there were still massive amounts of paper everywhere.
Moving day was stressful and filled with logistical challenges. Fortunately for me, I had a good excuse to get away from the chaos because it was scheduled for the same weekend as BAMSL's strategic planning retreat.
BAMSL's strategic plan had not been updated in several years. A few months ago, members of our leadership reviewed it to determine whether it needed a "refresh" or a revamping. Ultimately, we decided a "refresh" was not going to be sufficient. We retained Jamie Hall of Legal Back Office to facilitate the strategic planning process and assist us in developing an updated three-year strategic plan.
A group of approximately 15 BAMSL leaders—including current and future executive committee members, members-at-large, a representative of the YLD, and several members of BAMSL's staff—gathered on a Saturday in a conference room at the Four Seasons Hotel. The lawyers in attendance included representatives from large- and mid-sized firms, small firms, solo practitioners, judges and in-house counsel. We wanted to ensure we had a diverse group to represent most segments of our membership.
During the breaks, for some reason there were people in bath robes with glasses of champagne hanging out in the hallway. We did not seek their input.
The updated strategic plan is not final, but is well underway. We have identified several areas to focus our energy over the next three years and are now in the process of developing action items. Our focus areas include, in no particular order:
1. Membership Growth/Retention/Engagement
Our membership is strong. We recognize it is important to grow, but it is more important to retain our current members by continuing to provide value. We understand that value may be completely different depending on who you ask. For some members, providing financial support to a legal organization that has such a strong voice for the St. Louis legal profession is enough. Other members value the free CLEs. Some members value access to judges, in-house counsel and public officials. Some members value networking events and parties. Some members value the trips to Jefferson City to meet with our elected officials. Some value the quarterly managing partner roundtable. Some value the real estate forms. Some members value our publications. It is important that BAMSL continue to have diverse leaders and a diverse membership committee to ensure it is providing value to all members. This will lead to membership retention, more engagement and growth.
2. Community impact and service
We want to continue to focus on making a positive impact in our community and on service projects. Our members value volunteer opportunities such as Motion for Kids, St. Louis Attorneys Against Hunger and pro bono projects.
Strong and diverse leadership in BAMSL continue to be critical to the organization. Our sections and committees have wonderful leaders and we want to ensure we are giving them the tools they need to effectively lead their sections and committees. The sections and committees are crucial to member engagement. As I have written about before, it is in the substantive law committees and sections that our members have regular opportunities to meet and build relationships with lawyers with similar interests and areas of practice; develop networks for referrals, education, support and collaboration; have opportunities to promote their practices through speaking and writing opportunities; can work with other lawyers to provide comments on proposed laws that may impact their practices, or perhaps write an amicus brief. Many of our sections and committees are very active and have many engaged members. We want to continue to focus on this area.
4. Communications strategy
Communications to our leadership and membership continue to improve. Our Communications Committee is extremely committed to the organization and has implemented several successful initiatives over the last several years. We want to continue to work on this area and develop strategies for more effective communication, social media, marketing and media relations.
Now that we have identified some of our focus areas, we are working through action items and specific goals. If you have ideas, we would absolutely love to hear them.
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