*Revised per member input on April 13, 2012
The future of NALS rests on its ability to help members be more successful. To increase its members’ ability to be more successful, the NALS Board of Directors recognizes the need for and advantages of a change to our current governance model. For an association to remain relevant and successful, the rate of change in the association must be commensurate with the rate of change in the world. We all recognize we are living in a fast-paced, changing world. Technology especially is forever changing the world in which we live and work. The Internet, email, instant messaging, and social networking provide NALS the means to instantly communicate and converse with any member at any time. NALS continues to embrace these opportunities that will forever change the world of associations.
NALS is fortunate to have extraordinary volunteers who do extraordinary things for this association. We would not be where we are today without the work of our volunteers. Yet just as the world is changing for the association, so it is changing for our members. Members have less free time to dedicate to the work of the association. They are just as committed as our historical volunteers, but NALS committee structure must address the time constraints and ever changing needs of the volunteers.
Likewise, the NALS board structure has not kept pace with the rate of change in the world. Our current board structure was set in place before computers were on every desktop. Email and the Internet were not available to staff and most members. NALS needed functional directors to reach key components of our membership and volunteers that NALS didn’t have the resources to reach directly. NALS needed regional directors to forward information on NALS programs and services to members in their geographic area. Now members can and do easily connect with NALS leaders and staff.
Today NALS requires a different set of competencies from its board members. They must possess specific competencies to move the association forward and remain relevant in our profession. By selecting board members based on these competencies, we ensure we have the skills needed on the Board to take decisive action quickly and keep pace with the constantly changing needs of our members.
The NALS Board of Directors has announced a framework of initiatives to reform and modernize the governance structures of NALS. The announcement follows an intensive and positive series of discussions involving the NALS Board of Directors and Think Tank.
These discussions began in 2009 when the NALS Board of Directors established the Think Tank to act as the strategic arm of the association. The Think Tank was tasked with analyzing all aspects of NALS with the goal of ensuring NALS’ viability and vibrancy for years to come. You first saw the results of the Think Tank’s early work with the change in education programming with emphasis on the four specialty law areas. These changes, which occurred throughout the year and formed the basis for the new format of our 2011 Education Conference & National Forum, were met with much acclamation by the membership.
At its meeting in June 2011, the Think Tank turned its attention to the duties and competencies of board members, emphasizing the need to change the focus of the Board to member needs in the various areas of law. They examined the issues regarding our current governance structure, recognized that functional and regional directors were no longer serving as the communication conduit between members, committees, and NALS, and came to the conclusion that NALS needed to streamline. By moving to a smaller competency-based board structure, the board members will be more engaged and productive; staff and volunteer time will be better utilized; and very importantly in today’s economy, the association will save money.
Additionally, volunteers are increasingly reluctant to commit to a year of service on the NALS Board under its current structure. While numerous members are nominated, few accept. Recent ballots have had only one candidate for multiple Director positions. During the 2011 Board of Directors nomination process, there were three Regional Director positions with no candidate (no member had accepted the nomination). The NALS Nominations & Elections Chair had to solicit volunteers for these positions, and this was not the first year this occurred.
Top leaders, as well as the Think Tank and staff, knew that NALS must take action in order to remain relevant and a key leader in the legal support industry. In August 2011, NALS’ staff attended the ASAE (American Society of Association Executives) conference where the book Race for Relevance: 5 Radical Change for Associations was featured. This book introduced five radical changes that associations must undertake to remain relevant for the future:
- Overhaul the governance model and committee operations;
- Empower the CEO and enhance staff expertise;
- Rigorously define the member market;
- Rationalize programs and services; and
- Build a robust technology framework.
Since NALS was researching these areas, this publication reinforced the direction and provided necessary guidance. All the conclusions reached by the Think Tank have been supported by the findings of this book and confirm the changes we create today ensure our excellence for future generations of members.
The NALS Board of Directors, in agreement with the Think Tank, has recommended two initiatives for streamlining the association. The first involves overhauling the current governance model and empowering the staff. This will enhance the skills of those at the top levels of leadership and unleash the potential of the association. The second initiative involves defining the member market, rationalizing our programs and services, and building the technology framework to capitalize and enhance technological opportunities. These initiatives involve change and now is the time for that change.
The first step involves moving away from the traditional governance structure and embracing a smaller board, one that can take decisive action more quickly and ensures all board members take personal responsibility for the board’s actions. After careful research and analysis, the Board and Think Tank feel eliminating the functional and regional director positions and moving to a five-member, competency-based board is the most conducive way to significantly strengthen the association and the value of membership. This move will require members to be selected based on the knowledge and skill set they possess. The research conducted was very clear the best practices should focus on a slate of qualified candidates reflecting the most desirable mix of capabilities supporting the association’s current and future direction. This process will ensure the board is made up of strategic thinkers with solid leadership skills and will create board-level diversity in geographic and industry experience. A recommended slate will provide the NALS membership with a Board that is selected to meet the challenges facing NALS at the time and to ensure the Board has the experience and knowledge to address the changing environment. NALS members would retain the right to vote on these board members; however, the way these members are selected would change.
The Board of Directors and Think Tank are passionate about their commitment to make our association better, stronger, and more relevant to all members. The following is the NALS Board of Directors’ proposed solution for a governance restructure.
Create Five-Member Competency Based Board plus Executive Director
All members of the NALS Board of Directors will need to demonstrate leadership abilities, creative thinking, strategic thinking, and visionary thinking. Members must also demonstrate that they possess at least one of the following competencies:
- Financial Guru (able to generate revenue)
- Visionary/Innovator (able to see and describe the Big Picture)
- Technologically Savvy (aware of trends in the world and the legal profession)
- Relationship Builder (able to collaborate with other associations)
- Strategist (able to plan for the future – 5 to 10 years)
The entire board would also need to be competent and diverse—diverse in age, ethnicity, gender, geographic location, area of law, and size of law firm.
**One board member may be a non-member industry professional. This person would not have the right to serve as president.
To comply with legal requirements, two board members would hold titles: one “President” and another “Secretary.” The remaining three positions would hold the title of “Board Member.” The President and Secretary would be selected by the Leadership Identification Committee (LIC), replacing the Nominations & Elections Committee, from the five leaders recommended for the slate, which would then be voted on by the membership.
Board member terms would be three years with the option of the LIC to reappoint for a second term. After serving their second term, a board member must then roll off the board for at least one year, but could potentially be considered again if warranted. However, the LIC would have the power to extend a term beyond these limits by one year if they deemed it necessary. Board members would have staggered terms, so not all of the initial board appointments would follow the above-mentioned three-year term limit. The President may serve a two-year term if recommended by the LIC.
The LIC would initially present a slate of five board members to the membership, which must then be voted upon. A simple majority vote from votes cast would determine the election results. Members would have the option to vote yes or no to each individual appointment on the slate as presented. After the initial vote, only new board appointments would be listed on the slate for a vote. If any candidate does not receive a simple majority, the LIC would then submit a new candidate for the slate. All voting would be electronic and the voting period would not exceed two weeks.
DATE OF REALIZATION:
The new board structure would potentially be in place for the 2014-2015 year. The slate would be presented for a vote in October of 2013.
Create Leadership Identification Committee
*Due to member feedback, the LIC selection process has been reassessed. In order to determine the most unbiased and highly qualified candidates for the LIC, the NALS Think Tank and Board of Directors propose contracting the organizational consulting and assessment services of Mr. Erick Burton, CSP, professional leadership coach and founder of the Burton Leadership Center (www.erickburton.com). Mr. Burton would serve on the LIC in the non-member of NALS position and participate fully in identifying leaders and proposing a slate to the membership for a vote.
*Final candidates being considered for the LIC and Board would complete leadership assessments developed by Mr. Burton. These special validated assessments can generate over 2,100 unique reports. Each participant receives an 18-page report on themselves with detailed insight into how a leader handles pace, procedure, people, and problems. The reports would be available to the President when making appointments to the LIC and to the LIC when determining candidates for the slate.
*Mr. Burton’s services for the initial year will cost $2,500. It is anticipated he could serve a 2- or 3- year term on the LIC, however contracting his services beyond one year will not be decided until after the initial year of service is complete. Contracting Mr. Burton’s services is extremely important during the initial year since NALS will have to select an entire LIC and an entire board of directors. As a leadership consultant, Mr. Burton will bring a unique expertise to the LIC and greatly assist NALS in establishing a best practice and selecting the most qualified leaders to serve on the 5-member board.
*LIC Committee Selection
The LIC would be appointed by the President in consultation with Mr. Erick Burton, CSP, a leadership coach, who would serve as the non-NALS member on the LIC. Four additional individuals would be appointed to this committee, for a total of five. Appointments would consist of NALS members spread out geographically—North, South, East and West, when possible—to ensure that members in all areas are well represented. A call for nominations to the LIC will be sent to all NALS members. All nominees will receive an initial questionnaire/application to determine their interest in and qualifications for the LIC. The President would vet individuals considered for the LIC and the final LIC candidates would complete Erick Burton’s leadership assessment to aid the President in appointing unbiased, qualified individuals to the LIC.
Term limits for this committee would be three years with the option to be reappointed for a second term. After serving their second term, individuals must then roll off the committee for one year. Terms would be staggered among these individuals to avoid any one President controlling entire committee appointments. The initial committee would be determined via collaboration between the 2013-2014 President and the 2013-2014 President-elect, in consultation with Mr. Burton.
The LIC would determine the most highly qualified candidates for the five, competency-based, board member positions. They would be responsible for submitting a slate of board members to the membership for vote. The Executive Director would serve as the Staff Chair of this committee, without a vote. Members of the LIC would be responsible for identifying NALS members with the necessary skills to serve on NALS Board of Directors. They will do so by attending meetings, networking in person and online, obtaining recommendations of members and leaders of states and chapters throughout NALS. The LIC will also consider all potential candidates nominated by the members if those nominees submit the required application/questionnaire. The LIC will select the best-qualified candidate for each vacant position and prepare a slate of nominees to be presented to the membership for vote.
There would still be an official call for nominations and all nominee information would be given to the LIC for consideration, along with other worthy candidates that have been identified. A process of resume submission and completion of a Board Candidate Questionnaire, reference checks, and interviews would be conducted. Candidates may be eliminated during the questionnaire and resume process. Only a select number of candidates would proceed to the interview. The final candidates for the Board of Directors would complete Erick Burton’s leadership assessment to aid the LIC in identifying the best qualified candidates for the Board. Members will cast a “yes” or “no” vote for each candidate on the slate, including the candidates for President and Secretary.
DATE OF REALIZATION:
This committee would potentially be appointed no later than March 2013.
Enhance & Better Utilize Staff Expertise
The second initiative would be to better utilize NALS Executive Director and staff expertise in order to help implement the direction of the board. By March of 2014, staff would begin taking a larger role in the committees by serving as a liaison to the board. This initiative would simplify the reporting process, by removing the middleman and allowing board members to focus on NALS’ strategic direction instead of the tasks of committees. With the new structure, the Board will be in a better position to brainstorm and approve strategic ideas, but the carry through will be delegated to the Resource Center staff, who will be empowered to handle the day-to-day operations of NALS. Ultimately, this will maximize the talents of NALS committee members and maintain focus on meeting the needs of NALS members.
In order to be proactive now, the NALS Board of Directors and Think Tank have also assessed the current committee structure and have made changes and additions that perfectly align with the future direction in which NALS is heading. The following committee structure goes into affect during the 2012-13 year.
- Certifying Board
- Editorial Board
- Ethics Series Task Force
- Education Committee
- Education Products Task Force
- Litigation/Civil Law Task Force
- Estate Planning/Family Law Task Force
- Corporate Law Task Force
- General Law Task Force
- Library Task Force
- Professional Development Conference Task Force
- National Forum Task Force
- Grassroots Innovators
- Next Generation Leadership
- Future Leaders Development Task Force
- Young Legal Professionals Task Force
- Text Development Committee
The NALS Board of Directors’ hope for the future is that we will be able to focus our efforts toward finding the most qualified leaders who possess the skills and experience to meet NALS strategic initiatives; who will ensure a pathway for continuous, strong leadership focused on member success; and who will make the best possible use of our member resources in order to develop new solutions for enhancing NALS.
Our goal is to ensure all members have a full understanding of the purpose for the changes and how the process would work. With your support and approval of necessary changes to our bylaws and governance documents, the first action, overhauling the NALS governance and committee structure, is planned to go into effect during the 2014-2015 year. Several things must be accomplished before that time and we would proceed by:
- Submitting necessary bylaw changes for vote;
- Updating governance documents;
- Appointing a Leadership Identification Committee (replacing the Nominations & Elections Committee), who will conduct the selection process to identify a slate of qualified candidates;
- Accepting nominations and conducting questionnaire/interview process to evaluate candidates and select the five who best possess the competencies and skills, and;
- Presenting the slate to the membership for vote for the 2014-2015 year.
The process of renewal we embark on here releases the talent and energy of every leader and every member of NALS that is necessary to ensure success and viability of our organization. As we proceed with these steps, we encourage all members to open their minds to new possibilities. We welcome your feedback and encourage you to share it with us via email, email@example.com or via a comment on this blog post. We also invite you to participate in a presentation and open forum regarding these proposed changes at the 2012 Professional Development and Education Conference in Tulsa this coming March. This process will involve hard work now, but the rewards are worth it. These changes will ensure that NALS is prepared for the future and will continue to thrive, just as we have for over 80 years.
Please note that these initiatives are the proposed plan of action recommended by the Board of Directors and Think Tank, a strategic arm of the board. NALS is committed to remaining relevant and providing quality education, networking and other member benefits to its membership. Your leaders welcome comments, questions and concerns; and your feedback will be fully considered before implementation of these proposed changes. Since we are still in the beginning phases of this process and as a way of remaining transparent in our goals as an organization, we are providing our members with all information that is available to date. As more information develops, it will be freely shared with the membership.