The Antithesis of Intellectual Property

  • December 01, 2017
  • Caroline Nevin

The CBA as a model of information sharing

The theme of this issue of BarTalk is Intellectual Property. The underlying premise of intellectual property is that a monopoly of ownership can be assigned to a creation of the intellect. There are valid reasons for this concept being protected. However, in the case of the CBA, we are very committed to the view that there should never be a monopoly on ideas about how to make our organization better. 

When I first joined the CBA 20 years ago, I quickly noticed that information was very sparsely shared. With 10 provincial branches, two territorial branches (later three, as Nunavut joined) and the in-house counsel Canadian Corporate Counsel Association (“CCCA”), there were bits and pieces of information being gathered and paid for through multiple offices. Very little of it was available to others. Somehow, the concept had evolved that those who collected the information, or paid for the collection of it, should carefully control who had access or used it. 

Fast forward to 2017. We now widely and rampantly share information across the entire organization. We have an intranet site where all staff have access to information that helps everyone do their jobs better, regardless of the size of their office. We have cross-office functional staff teams working on improvement projects with pieces of information and expertise provided from all the participating sites. We have bi-weekly two-hour calls of all Executive Directors and the National Senior Management Team, to not just share information but make collective decisions about how best to use it. And, we now have a concrete membership feedback system in place developed by one of Canada’s best researchers in this field, Nik Nanos. 

Every quarter, Nanos will survey half of our membership. The topics will vary, depending on where we are in our planning cycle for developing new products and services or re-evaluating current ones. We have had two “waves” of these surveys already, and both have already fed into significant changes. The objective of the surveys is to ask key questions about what we’re doing for members, whether it is relevant, and what else our members need. Most importantly, those answers are shared across the country, not just with staff but with the Association’s leaders too. Everyone is working from the same information. And, with shared knowledge comes shared responsibility and accountability for acting on it – what a powerful idea!

As an example, the most recent survey asked questions about our Sections and PD programs. We learned some interesting things, including:

  • BC has one of the highest participation rates in the country when it comes to Sections
  • CBA is the primary source of annual CPD, second is law firms and third is other practice-related associations
  • In-person PD is the preferred option by far, then live webinars
  • There is a need for more effective communication about Sections and upcoming activities
  • There is a need for more practice-specific PD

These are just some of the key learnings that we are sharing all across the organization, so we can bring our powerful collective energy and ideas to the important work of improving and adding value to our Sections and PD programs. With free enrollment in 75 BC Branch Sections and 41 National Sections – including the in-house counsel gem, CCCA – plus access to hundreds of hours of PD programs here in BC and online across the entire CBA, we are strongly focused on acting on your feedback and making your membership even more worthwhile!

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Caroline Nevin
cnevin@cbabc.org