5 Action Steps That Increase Bar Association Engagement

May 18, 2022


The internet changed how legal professionals learn, network, and find career opportunities. At the same time, younger lawyers have different professional and social values when compared to their senior counterparts. While technology has evolved to accommodate the changing environment, bar association involvement has decreased or remained stagnant. 

As a result, memberships at local and state bar associations are dropping fast. According to a survey conducted by the American Bar Association, memberships at 11% of local bar associations declined 7-10% in 2019. COVID-19 policies accelerated this trend as networking opportunities, courses, and events were taken online or canceled. 

Increasing membership engagement and attracting new members requires a two-fold strategy to (a) stop the declining membership rate and (b) attract new members. 


Reinvention is critical to increasing bar association engagement.

Legal services organizations and specialty bar associations should formulate a new marketing strategy to adapt to the changing digital environment. Here are five steps to get you started:


1. Evaluate membership benefits.

There’s no shortage of networking opportunities on and off the internet. Considering that connecting with other professionals is fairly easy, it helps to ask if joining a traditional bar association is worth the membership fee. 

Exclusivity is the key to maximizing the value of joining a bar association. Anyone can create an account on LinkedIn or register for a conference. Few people have access to well-known professionals and influencers in niche areas. 

Does your organization have specialty seminars featuring leaders in the industry? Are there programs that provide professionals with volunteer opportunities to further their careers? By focusing on exclusivity, bar associations can find unique networking opportunities not available anywhere else that increase the value of membership.


2. Offer activities that connect with member values.

Young professionals across all industries look for memberships to help them address critical issues that affect their community and beyond. Bar associations that operate under legacy models are likely not offering younger generations opportunities to maximize their impact on the world around them.

Look for ways to help members increase civic engagement and outreach, and influence public policy. Unique advocacy tools that integrate with your membership management software make it easy to create a grassroots action center to connect members that want to take action. 

Offering philanthropic activities does more than just increase the profile of your bar association. Participating in charitable activities with public service organizations allows members to network with like-minded people in the legal profession, boost self-confidence, and increase professional vitality.


3. Improve the online membership experience.

Legal and management professionals are probably very familiar with high-quality banking, commerce, and social media websites. Most of these applications feature an enhanced user experience created by expert developers that sets the standard for other web-based services.

Your website, mobile app, learning management system, and other connected applications should provide a similar experience. Outdated, buggy, and slow systems are inconvenient and difficult to use. They can also reduce trust in the user, especially for commercial transactions requiring a credit card.

Website applications are expensive for bar and legal associations of all sizes to design, develop, and maintain. Thankfully, there are numerous subscription-based association management applications that make first-in-class technology accessible to smaller businesses. 

Along with giving you unique tools to measure engagement, many third-party software applications offer perpetual membership programs that work seamlessly with your accounting software. When used together, these integrated software solutions provide a seamless experience for members similar to their most trusted applications.


4. Offer exclusive ways to network online and in person.

Quarterly social events are not enough to attract new members that need networking opportunities to establish their practices. At the same time, networking within their law firm exposes them to the same people they see daily. By holding exclusive events, bar associations can provide career preparation and advancement opportunities that aren’t available anywhere else.


5. Level up your continuing education programs.

Like most industries, lawyers must fulfill ongoing educational requirements throughout their professional careers. Since these requirements are relatively standard across the industry, why not offer a system that is modern, easy to use, and available on any connected device?

Young professionals are used to first-in-class systems at their law firms and educational institutions. Modern subscription-based learning management systems offer a similar service level at a fraction of what organizations were expected to pay for a customized system.


Looking for more bar association engagement strategies?

enSYNC —  a trusted partner of prominent legal and bar associations — has helped numerous organizations increase engagement and reach their membership goals. 


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