As my over ten-year tenure at the San Diego County Bar comes to close, I feel like I'm in a completely different space than I was when I was a NABE newbie. There are a gazillion ways that I've grown professionally, and through myriad meetings (and myriad mistakes), I have learned many very valuable lessons. Here are ten of my top takeaways:
1) Always put a volunteer between you and a problem.
This was the first piece of very valuable advice I remember receiving through NABE - it was a sentiment I heard over and over again at my first NABE annual meeting in 2007, and it is still something I try to instill in associates at the SDCBA.
2) Vendors are very valuable partners.
Our member benefit partners have helped me out in a pinch more times than I can count. Whether it has been something simple like giving us swag to help us fill gift bags or filling a content hole in one of our publications, strong vendor relationships have been invaluable. Our partners also often work with bars and other associations throughout the country, so I've also found them to be great creative collaborators and resources as well.
3) Always keep an umbrella and a pair of flats at your office.
Even if you live in San Diego and it isn't supposed to rain for a month. And especially if your new heels seemed really really comfortable at the store.
4) You are the marketing expert - your members will value your advice.
Lawyers are great at being lawyers, and while many of them are responsible for marketing their practices, you are the only (or one of the only) person at your association who does this kind of work day in and day out. There is a lot that we can learn from our members, but there is also a lot that they can learn from us.
5) Change won't always be easy, but it will always be worth it.
The SDCBA moved out of its 30-year headquarters, eliminated section dues, got rid of its print directory, overhauled its section and committee structure and made many more significant changes during my time at the Bar. And every change came with its faction of unhappy members. But the Bar still survived and the changes have helped the bar advance, and though there were often "growing pains," I feel like the Bar always ended up in a better place.
6) Some programs/events will fail despite your best efforts.
Through the years, there have been Bar programs and events that we put a lot of effort into and for no particular reason, there was little interest or engagement from our membership. We thought we got it right and that we were headed down the right track, but then found that the results weren't at all what we had anticipated. It happens. It's not you, it's them. Or maybe it is you. Regardless, it is okay to log a few failures along with all of your successes.
7) In a very serious profession, there is still room for silly.
In 2018, we created a cartoon featuring a "Legal Beagle," a follow-up to our 2017 "Attorney Avengers" comic-book campaign. We've had an improv coach lead a program on public speaking, and we've hosted game nights and yoga sessions in our conference center. We've never had a complaint about a program or initiative being too fun.
8) Your relationships with the press prior to issuing press releases matters.
One of the easiest ways to create inroads with the press is to serve as a source for helping reporters find other sources. The majority of the media calls I receive are reporters who are looking for an expert on a certain aspect of the law - and not someone to speak on behalf of the SDCBA. I've found the reporters who I have helped find sources are generally much more responsive to our Bar story pitches.
9) Create a communications plan that is meant to be malleable.
We have a three year communications plan at the SDCBA. Reflecting on the plan we created and approved in 2015, I recognize that many of our plans never came to fruition, and some of our strategies, tactics, and messaging continued to change and evolve as the Board's priorities, membership's needs, and the profession continued to evolve and change. While we didn't accomplish everything we set out to do, we accomplished a lot and the plan provided a good general direction.
10) NABE people are the best. Seriously.
Thank you all for all of the inspiration, insights, and steal-able ideas throughout the years. Being a part of the Communications Section has truly been an honor, and I am grateful for how generous you have all been with your time, talents, and policies and advice.