Whether it’s a bar association website, a monthly lawyer magazine or a blog, they are all publishing — and today, digital publishing running on software.

There are fifty state bar associations and, I assume, about fifty or seventy metro/county bar associations with websites and other digital publishing. Maybe more.

Strange thing is that as I look around the net and talk to bar professionals, I find that the bars are mostly operating on different publishing platforms. The core software, for example, WordPress, may be the same, but custom development, custom design, custom hosting architecture and custom support rules the day..

Why wouldn’t bar associations use the same website software for their digital publishing? Better yet, a SaaS based solution so that the bar staff or people/companies on behalf of the bar could run the design, set up and changes, as often as they wanted and to the extent they wanted.

Designs and lay out would be different, but the core software, development, hosting architecture and regular upgrades and feature enhancements would be the same across the board. Better, faster and cheaper would be the outcome.

When do bar associations receive regularly upgrades and feature enhancements at no cost now? They wait years until a new site or publication is done — most often with budget problems. The result is an insecure and underperforming platform for years on end.

In addition to cost savings, readers get a better experience. Last year I saw that many state bars were publishing their monthly magazine on a “pdf-like’ interface which gave instructions on how to use the interface for reading when you opened it up. That’s embarrassing and has to make lawyers wonder about their bar’s tech aptitude..

I’ve been told that using a common publishing solution is totally doable. The problem is committee politics and member requirements for specific items.

Nice. Committee members, mostly lawyers, who are unskilled in web development, software and usability making uniformed decisions.

As far we need to have this and we need to have this because we saw it some place, that’s absolutely crazy. Makes as much sense as asking for a custom designed car as you don’t like the ones that are available. Or a custom designed and custom developed practice management platform because the major players don’t provide every single feature you want.

Invariably, the dedicated bar association staff and lawyers feel resource constrained when it comes to web publishing development and site maintenance. They don’t get what they want to start with as they are spending for custom work that’s not needed. Necessary upgrades and feature enhancements do not get made.

More than one savvy bar professional have shared with me that the publishing software is only part of the web development challenge – and maybe the smaller part of it. Association membership, e-commerce and other software platforms play a big part — and drive custom work.

Maybe I am dumb, but the publishing software and other software could be integrated without developing custom solutions. It’s getting data going back and forth – not trivial, but something that need not require custom platform development.

It can be tough to all come together on something, but I’m just talking web publishing, with the focus on presenting information, articles and other content.

What do you think?

  • Karen B Korr

    I think you raise some very good points, Kevin. In short, I think a lot of bar associations run on very small staffs, which means we or may not have the tech expertise in-house to find the best systems for us universally. I also think that there are some unique contributing factors that only bar associations experience – like limitations with what we can do on our website based on our webhosts and AMS providers. The other issue I see is that bar staff is subject to the direction and guidance provided by their volunteer leadership – which in our case, changes annually. So while the blog might be a priority for a subset of leadership, an app or digital publishing of our magazine may be a priority for next year’s leaders, which means that often times things happen and get upgraded in a bit of a piecemeal fashion.