In Business for Our Members

How the CBA will re-build membership


We all know the saying there is strength in numbers. For professional associations like ours that exist for and because of their members, these are words to live by. But like most organizations with voluntary memberships, we experience a slow bleed year to year, with lawyers either not joining, or leaving our association. 

As stated recently in the Harvard Business Review, “according to the American Society of Association Executives… association membership is declining across the board. The recession certainly didn’t help, but cost-cutting isn’t the only reason for the decrease. Social networks now provide easy and convenient ways for industry members to find each other and network, and the proliferation of online content has led to vast and often free access to the types of information, insights, and training that professionals used to be able to access only through association membership… plus, [associations have] to address Millennial workers who place less value on formal and traditional means of networking, preferring to establish their own relationships in their own ways.”1 

Within the CBA, we have seen a particular decline in younger lawyers joining or renewing memberships. This too is not unique to us.

“The staff and volunteer leadership of today’s professional associations are faced with two related realities. One, Generation Y is on the cusp of taking over from the Boomers as the most significant cohort in the economy, making them the future of membership. And, two, there has been a slow and steady decline in the membership of many professional associations, with this decline disproportionately concentrated in professionals in the first 10 years of their career.”2 

The author notes strategies to address this trend that include:

Internal changes, especially social media, to recruit, engage and retain members in their first 10 years. 

Succession planning for boards and committees, allowing young people opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way through leadership. “Generation Y isn’t looking for recognition but they are looking for meaningful ways to flesh out the ol’ resumé and network.” 

Peer-to-peer guidance for younger members who wish help, but feel (rightly or wrongly) they are not respected due to age. 

To “leverage your assets,” those things that set you apart.

Dwindling membership led the CBA into a “Re-Think” process to re-engage lawyers and find out what they need and want from us. All double negatives aside, we must reimagine our organization so that lawyers realize they cannot afford NOT to be members.

We are reducing expenditures on governance so more funds can be allocated to membership supports. One new initiative is a program called CBA CONNECT for students and lawyers in the first few years of practice. “Whether you’re starting law school or getting established in your career, we offer events, programs, networking, career resources and professional development tools to support you on your journey.”3 This is an exciting multi-faceted initiative, available only to our members. So are the Young Lawyers Sections for peer-to-peer networking, learning and support, and the “Doing Law Differently-Futures for Young Lawyers” materials on how to develop a successful practice in the ever-increasingly changing world. Find them on our website.

In BC, we have built supports for students and small firm lawyers through REAL and SoloLink (read about them in this issue) and our proposal to the BC government for a student loan forgiveness program for lawyers who commit to communities that lack sufficient lawyers.

We continue to assist all demographics of lawyers in BC, including: rural, urban, at various stages of their careers and those from the diverse backgrounds that make up our Bar. In this way, we are unique in the legal profession. No one does what we do.

1-2 Click on footnote numbers above for more information.

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