Ding Dong, the (Print) Directory is Dead! 

Sarah Coole
State Bar of Georgia

You know the feeling. The feeling that you get when you do something really, really good at work, and you can’t stop smiling or feeling giddy about it? That’s how I feel every time I think back to Feb. 8, 2018; the day I officially killed our print directory.

It was a long time in the making. I’ve known for years that it needed to go. All the reasons that it needed to go hadn’t changed over the years either.

  1. It was outdated as soon as it was printed. By, like, a lot.
  2. It was only serving a very small number of our members.
  3. Every single thing in the directory was available on our website. And updated to boot!
  4. We were losing money on it (to be fair, we never made money on it and it was never expected).
  5. Florida and Texas weren’t printing one, so by default, we shouldn’t be printing it either.

This year, I finally had the right officers and executive committee to listen and really hear those reasons. In the past, there were many who just weren’t willing to let it go. They wanted to hold a 1,200-page printed directory in their little paws. But our 2017-18 officers saw it differently. They were so willing, in fact, that I didn’t even get to present my reasons during the meeting. It came up on the agenda, and someone made a motion to discontinue printing it before I could even start talking! They did end up having a little discussion, and I answered a few questions, but before I knew what had happened, IT WAS DEAD. {Insert lots of confetti throwing here!}

But to back up just a bit, here’s what I did. Over the past 10 years or so, I’ve submitted basically the same memo to the executive committee (updated as needed). The first time they had it on their agenda, they decided to make the printed directory an opt-in on the dues notice. We dropped the print run from 35K to 10K. A few years later when I submitted the kill-the-directory memo again, they decided to charge members $25 for a printed copy (instead of everyone getting a free copy). That step dropped the print run from 10K to 2.5K. At this year’s meeting, I was afraid that they would try to take a step further and increase the price. That’s when I knew I had to lean on the other arguments and make sure they understood that if we printed one copy or 35,000, it was the same amount of work and staff resources.

It was important to point out the amount of time that was spent creating the directory each year. And not just in the communications department, but other departments too. We were holding onto something that wasn’t serving its intended purpose any longer and was preventing us from creating new communications that reflected the 21st century. Discontinuing the printed directory would free up valuable time to focus on the projects that were working and improving others that need updated.

In my memo, I highlighted 13 years of the budget, how many we mailed, income from sales and income from advertising. The numbers really spoke for themselves, but it needed something more. That’s where the NABE listserv and all of you came in and helped. In 2015 and again in 2017, I asked y’all who still printed a directory and why. After gathering all of your responses, I made a table for the memo. I presented the information as it was given. I didn’t even try to sway the results by leaving off the ones who were stuck in the dinosaur age still printed. In the narrative, I did point out that most mandatory bars had discontinued their printing, and if they hadn’t, it was mostly because it was still making a profit for them.

So, there you have it! We can now officially raise our martini glasses to the State Bar of Georgia Directory & Handbook for doing its job for so many years. It can now officially rest and be at peace. Amen.  

{Here’s a link to my memo. If you’re on a mission to kill your own print edition, feel free to use whatever you need!}