By Kevin O'Keefe

Failing Technology a Reason For Some Bar Association Declines

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The New York Law Journal’s Susan DeSantis reports that it’s survival of the fittest as membership declines in bar associations.

In New York, State Bar President, Hank Greenberg of Greenberg Traurig believes failing technology is the primary reason for his state’s steep membership declines.

From DeSantis:

Membership has been declining since 2012, and Greenberg thinks it’s because the state bar is relying on a website infrastructure that was built in 1998 and outdated since 2008. The failure to evolve digitally reached a tipping point in 2012, he said, dooming the state bar’s chances of attracting the coveted millennial cohort. And dues were raised Jan. 1, 2012.

And Greenberg directly:

There is no single explanation. But what I think is the primary reason for the decline starting in 2012, I would attribute it to the technological challenges affecting communications with our members and potential new members.

At Greenberg‘s impetus, the bar plans to launch state-of-the-art website in December, but he does not see buying tech as enough.

“The digital transformation is not just about buying the right software or having the best website, which we’re doing. But it’s also about changing the culture.”

I interface with bar association leaders and staff on a regular basis in regard to digital publishing and media solutions. They are among the most dedicated and hard working people you’d ever want to meet. Their belief in our legal system and the public it serves is the equal of anyone’s.

Greenberg has a point though in failing digital media technology being used by bar associations – as well as a mindset that needs to change in some circumstances

Communicating with bar members and the public, meaning engaging with them in the way they are engaged by other organizations and companies via digital media is a challenge. Bar budgets and staffing for digital media are tight, at best.

Bars appear to be governed by legal professionals, often practicing lawyers who have little expertise in digital media and online engagement. This can result in demands for a little of this and a little of that, resulting in custom, unwieldy and needlessly expensive digital media solutions.

For example, though LexBlog doesn’t deploy websites enabling direct member interaction with bar associations, we do deploy a SaaS solution for bar digital media and publishing.

As any SaaS provider does, LexBlog provides a platform, including support, with regular feature and core updates coming regularly.

Because of the reduced incremental cost of deploying a SaaS solution with a customized interface and customer selected features, customers receive a superior digital media platform at a tremendous savings in dollars and human resources.

But many bar associations, guided by “a little of this and a little of that” mentality, buy what is basically a custom website using baseline software, which can result in complexities, delays, higher costs and a less than satisfactory experience for all. Worst of all, the site is frozen in time for years.

The outcome can be lesser engagement with members than possible, the inability to showcase the publishing of its members, less engagement with the public so as to increase the relevance of lawyers, increased costs and less revenue.

I only have have experience with bar association digital media and publishing solutions, not the entire range of bar technology, but Greenberg has a point that failing technology and a lagging tech mindset can put bar associations at risk – as to achieving their very worthwhile goals, if not more.

Kevin O'Keefe
About the Author

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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