Relevancy & The Future Direction of NALS


Click here to view frequently asked questions (FAQ). | Click here for printable PDF version.

*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:

  1. Overhaul the governance model and committee operations;
  2. Empower the CEO and enhance staff expertise;
  3. Rigorously define the member market;
  4. Rationalize programs and services; and
  5. 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

Qualifications
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.

*Click here to view a visual aid of the proposed qualifications for the Board of Directors.

Titles
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.

Term Limits
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.

*Click here to view a visual aid of the proposed term limits for the Board of Directors.
*Click here to view more information about the proposed term limits for the President and Secretary.

Voting Procedures
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.

*Click here to view frequently asked questions about voting procedures.

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
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.

Click here to view a visual aid of the proposed term limits for LIC members.

*Duties
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.

*The Process
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.


Overhaul Committees

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:

  1. Submitting necessary bylaw changes for vote;
  2. Updating governance documents;
  3. Appointing a Leadership Identification Committee (replacing the Nominations & Elections Committee), who will conduct the selection process to identify a slate of qualified candidates;
  4. Accepting nominations and conducting questionnaire/interview process to evaluate candidates and select the five who best possess the competencies and skills, and;
  5. Presenting the slate to the membership for vote for the 2014-2015 year.

Click here to view a timeline of the proposed election process.

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, thinktank@nals.org 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.

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  1. #1 by Kathie Amirante on January 24, 2012 - 9:39 am

    This is an exciting time for NALS. The think tank and the board of directors have been working very hard to make the right decisions for the future of NALS and the programs outlined here are the first steps to insuring our future. I commend everyone on the board, think tank, and staff for working so diligently to find these solutions and to have the courage to move forward and advance these new policies.

  2. #2 by Reba on January 24, 2012 - 11:30 am

    I would encourage all members to read all the information provided and to make sure that each chapter has a representative at the Tulsa Meeting to attend the town hall meeting on this subject so that they can go back and give all the information to their chapter members. Hope to see you all there.

  3. #3 by Vicki Ballinger on January 24, 2012 - 2:16 pm

    This is very exciting news. I’m glad to see NALS embrace the needs of its members and of the association so whole-heartedly. Thank you for taking this courageous step on our behalf.

  4. #4 by Debbie Lawrence, PLS, PP on January 25, 2012 - 8:57 am

    I just attended a state board meeting where this very subject was being discussed. Our state board is too top heavy and when it comes to voting – the EC Board always carries the vote by outnumbering the smaller voting group of Board of Governors. This is wrong and we are attempting to correct that.

    Hats off to NALS for seeing that its board is too top heavy and their government and responsibilities can be restructured! The bad economy and unemployment rate is reducing our membership and everyone is choosing carefully where to spend their money. It usually results in members using those funds for household expenses, rather than registering to attend seminars and conferences. We also see this creating problems in our chapters with fewer members willing to hold officer positions. Hopefully this is only temporary, but it does call for change and restructure. I hope that NALS also considers either reducing its CLE requirements for those recertifying or provides some educational seminars at no cost for those members who wish to recertify, but just do not have the funds to pay for attending seminars. Thank you for seeing the need to change and moving us forward!

  5. #5 by Brynne Williamson on January 25, 2012 - 10:38 am

    Debbie, it is true that due to the economy, many of our members have to make difficult decisions about where they can invest their time and their money. In addition to recognizing the need for a change in the composition of the board to a more efficient structure, NALS also saw the need for members to have access to quality CLEs at an affordable price. The webinars that are presented in the four core areas of law are offered to members at a price that is much lower than what can be found through outside sources.

    There are also many opportunities for NALS members to earn CLE credit for free! Each month, NALS offers a free webinar to its membership in one of the core areas of law. NALS members also have the option of attending the free CLE sessions in the Online Learning Center, which is a great way to learn from and interact with other legal professionals.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment on this exciting announcement!

  6. #6 by Dianna Roedel PLS on January 25, 2012 - 3:21 pm

    I do not believe that enough information has been provided to make a decision in the timeframe suggested. Since, we, as members are just learning about this, I believe we need more time to discuss it. I always thought this was a “member” association with their opinion weighing more than a “committee” but it is looking more and more like this is not the case. We want to all speak out, not just a selected few. Staff is just that, if they are not members and working in the legal field, how are they supposed to know anything about the legal field. How many more members do you want to lose?

  7. #7 by Natalie Holman on January 25, 2012 - 10:38 pm

    IDALS (Idaho) will be discussing these changes at our Winter Board meeting this weekend. Idaho has experienced first hand the very struggles outlined in the Docket article. These changes may help our state and local chapters keep afloat rather than fold. Change, however, is never easy.

  8. #8 by Judy Cady on January 26, 2012 - 8:30 am

    I applaud the NALS Board of Directors and Think Tank for developing these forward-thinking strategies to resolve the issues now. Taking such action is just one more demonstration of the strength and professionalism of NALS. Change isn’t always good, but here it is not only great it is essential to the future success of NALS. Thank you all for your hard work and sacrifices.

  9. #9 by Reba on January 26, 2012 - 8:41 am

    I was asked to post this anonymously from a member.

    Why, when I read the Announcement from NALS Board of Directors in the newest issue of the NALS docket, did I have that uncomfortable feeling I get when I’ve just sat through a timeshare presentation? I read the article again, hoping for a different result but didn’t find it. I have several concerns and do not feel these proposed changes, as I understand them, are in my best interest as a NALS member. Since I have not read the book so heavily touted in the article, I’m not sure I want to jump on that bandwagon. On the one hand I understand wanting to run the association more like a business, but on the other I wonder whether “empower the CEO” is really good. I know that I do not like eliminating the functional and regional director positions. I like having easy access to my Regional Director and remember that when I was a new member I would have never thought about contacting the “CEO” when I had a question or didn’t understand the process.

    I fear this will also mean that regional meetings will be discontinued. I attend conferences for CLEs and for networking. I know there are many members throughout our association that have to pay for their membership and pay all of the costs and fees associated with attending conferences. Personally I cannot afford to attend the national conference in October every year. I do not attend the Leadership and Professional Development meeting in Tulsa in March each year. Too often it seems that conference is long on leadership classes and short on CLE classes. Traveling to Tulsa in the variable March weather is not exactly a thrilling idea in my mind. Therefore, as the expense of attending any conference is my own and I must spend vacation time to do so, I choose to attend the Regional Conference each year. The Regional Conference is a more personal conference where new members don’t have to feel as overwhelmed with the whole conference experience. I believe dissolving this level of the association will do a great disservice to new members and to those “older” members, such as me, who cannot afford multiple conferences per year due to money and/or vacation constraints. The networking at a Regional Conference is invaluable. While we can send an e-mail or call Tulsa anytime and they are a tremendous help, sometimes you feel more comfortable contacting a regional member instead of “bothering” staff at the Resource Center.

    Further, I believe there needs to be much more information provided on the new Leadership Identification Committee and exactly how their process will work in identifying and providing “qualified candidates” to the members. Many more of our members currently do NOT attend the conference in Tulsa in March than do attend. Personally, I do not believe we, who do not attend, are adequately represented or considered when we’re told “if you want to know, attend the open forum”. Will this just pass without our voice? Are we to just accept?

    I value my membership in NALS. I enjoy attending CLE classes, be they at a conference, in the learning center or via WebEd. I am proud of the accomplishment I have made in becoming certified. I value the NALS pals I have made. I want to be able to say the same thing in a year, in five years, in ten years. Are the changes proposed truly going to do that for me? Right now I’m not too sure.

  10. #10 by Marie Ringholz on January 26, 2012 - 10:04 am

    Thank you all for your comments. I wanted to clarify that the changes introduced in the recent announcement will not be voted on in Tulsa. This is the first opportunity for us to have an in-person discussion. In accordance with NALS bylaws, NALS members will be notified of the bylaw change this spring and the electronic vote will be conducted at the end of the required notice period. Please continue to post your comments. If you would like to communicate individually, feel free to send your questions to thinktank@nals.org or any member of NALS Board of Directors or NALS Staff.

  11. #11 by Kathie Amirante on January 26, 2012 - 11:31 am

    I am excited to see so many of your comments posted here and hope to see many more as we move through this process. The NALS Board and the Think Tank are prepared to respond to all questions and have planned a forum at the Professional Development Conference in Tulsa to address all member issues. We are a member driven association and will continue to be under this new governing format. Members of the Board can and will still be nominated by the members, and the slate will still be approved by the members. No where in the plan do we turn the association over to staff, we just are hoping to use their expertise in the area of association management more efficiently. One thing to keep in mind when you see the term “CEO” is that in a non-profit association the CEO is a combination of the chief staff officer (executive director in our case) and the chief elected officer (the president in our case).

  12. #12 by Beverly Bishop, PLS on January 26, 2012 - 11:44 am

    I just finished reading the in-depth article on the proposed future direction of NALS. One can tell that the Think Tank has been very dedicated in their assignment to move NALS forward. I commend them. Although change is never easy, I believe this is a step in the right direction to ensure NALS is around for many years to come. I will be reporting on this at our upcoming state meeting, but I look forward to more information and am excited about this.

  13. #13 by Kim Kline on January 28, 2012 - 8:08 am

    I think this is a good move for NALS. I’d like to see more progressive focus on education and I think they can do that jus as well with this new format. I had one long-time member tell me that she felt when NALS was split into regions and given regional directors, it wasn’t a good move for the membership. I have never felt like I couldn’t or didn’t have contact with NALS directly and have never really used the Region Director as a way to access NALS. Our state chapter is seriously struggling getting people to serve on the board. This year, we don’t have enough people to fill the entire board and no amount of pleading has changed that so we are left wondering what to do also. Change can be good!

  14. #14 by Carl Morrison, PP, AACP on January 29, 2012 - 12:53 pm

    Change. When most people read about it or see change coming, some of us tend to react with a sense of fear. But we need not get bogged down in fear. “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Change can be upsetting. But nothing is as important to the survival of NALS as change. Change has been occurring and re-occurring within our organization since 1929. Radical change, rather than incremental change, is necessary because the legal association environment has changed considerably. Time is not on our side. In order for our organization to remain relevant and continue to thrive, as we have for 80+ years, it’s necessary for us to change. We have to be efficient and succinct. But just because change is occurring doesn’t mean that only a select few are in control. Every single member has a voice, an opportunity to express him or herself and that voice is heard, loud and clear. I can personally attest that every leader and staff member is listening to what each one of us has to say. Our strengths lie in those relationships and connections that we have with one another and within our passionate membership. If it wasn’t for that passion, our organization would have ceased to exist years ago.
    And don’t worry that the change will negatively affect the benefit and value you receive from NALS. On the contrary, ultimately with this type of change, NALS will be better equipped to enhance the value each one of us receives from our great organization.
    Embrace the future. Believe that the changes we make today will create an exciting and fantastic organization tomorrow.

  15. #15 by Karen McElroy on January 29, 2012 - 3:27 pm

    NALS has been in existence for 80+ years and all of us want it to thrive and continue long into the future. The Board and Think Tank are passionate about the association and its members and believe that through these changes NALS will be able to streamline operations, remain relevant in the constantly changing legal industry, and enhance the value of your membership. Please continue to express your feelings in this blog or contact any NALS Board member or the Think Tank at thinktank@nals.org. We look forward to seeing and hearing from you in Tulsa at a special presentation concerning the Relevancy & Future Direction of NALS. A joint leadership session will also be held to share thoughts, feelings, and to learn more about how all members can work together to make NALS the best legal association for each and every member in all of your communities.

  16. #16 by Terry Houston, PP Emerita on January 30, 2012 - 6:08 pm

    I have mixed feelings about a change this far-reaching because I don’t have enough information to form an opinion. Where are the minutes of the Board meetings? Members have a vested interested in the governance of our association and are entitled by the simple fact of membership to know what the board is doing. Yes, I appreciate that most members are either not interested in the management aspect or are content to leave those details to the elected officers. But those few who are interested are our future leaders. By shutting them out, by withholding details, the Board does an unforgivable disservice to the membership who trusted them enough to vote them into office.
    The other side of that coin is… on the issue of disclosure – and what could the Board possibly discuss that doesn’t concern the membership except, maybe, salaries of the paid staff – an aura of “loftiness” develops that shuts out an entire component of the membership. There are many who aspire to a leadership role but may not have quite the measure of confidence or self esteem to pursue their aspirations. Those folks might assume that, because they aren’t told what goes on in the boardroom, they aren’t worthy of knowing it, and they give up or quit before they get started. Some quit belonging, some just quit doing anything. Many of the rest of us simply want to know what’s going on, how our money’s being spent, and how our other commitments and contributions are being utilized.
    The apathy we’re experiencing lately did not develop overnight, and it’s not just a sociological or generational phenomenon. It’s as much the result of the membership having been cut out of the information loop for so long under the guise of the “consent agenda” concept that few are motivated to fight the attitude. We understand that the board is listening, but that needs to be a two-way street in an organization like ours. The board has the obligation to speak out as well, to disseminate timely information about what’s being done and what is in their plans and aspirations. The accepted way to do this is to first publish the board meeting minutes to give the members an opportunity to know what’s on the table. The rah-rah articles campaigning for our support can come later. First provide sufficient detail for members to comprehend the specific nature of the challenges before us, then we can develop our thinking and formulate a basis for our input. We can’t comment if we don’t know what to comment about.
    This proposed governance change is a massive reorganization that, if approved by the membership, will have massive repercussions down the road. The board is proposing we reduce our representation by over two-thirds, from 16 down to 5. Has NALS’ financial condition weakened to the point that we must consider compromising our traditional governance to stay viable, or is there some other compelling reason to ask for such a huge change? Either way, it’s time for the board to stop operating in the vacuum behind the consent agenda veil and start providing facts and figures to the membership. This isn’t The Emperor’s New Clothes or The Wizard of Oz, and the expectation of blind loyalty is wishful thinking in today’s market.

  17. #17 by Lisa Mitchum on January 31, 2012 - 10:00 am

    Members will continue to have a vested interest in NALS because they will still be recommending potential leaders. Your interest is only vested as much as you want it to be – and that interest varies so much among members! The only massive repercussions I see down the road for NALS are a streamlined board, working together with staff, for the benefit of members, with less duplication. As a younger and newer member of NALS (6 years), I welcome this change so that NALS will still be around and able to call itself the association for legal professionals for the next 80 years!

  18. #18 by Darlene Price, PP, PLS on January 31, 2012 - 11:07 am

    When I attended my first NALS Leadership and Educational Conference in Tulsa, I was taken aback by the fact that the seminars were “taught” by our members. As the years went by and I grew in NALS, I realized that was a good thing. NALS is a means for members to grow in their leadership roles as Board Members, Regional Directors, and on Committees. I began to see that as the main purpose of the national arm of our tri-level association.

    While I understand that our membership numbers are dropping and apathy is running amuck, I believe that empowering members not shutting them out, would be a better avenue to grow the association.

  19. #19 by Diane Stanley on January 31, 2012 - 11:32 am

    I am excited for the NALS organization and the initiatives being proposed to move the organization forward. We must remember afterall, NALS is a business organization and its success rests with its ability to meet the needs of the ever changing legal profession. We are a technology driven society, like it or not, and NALS’ commitment at this juncture is commendable. I have read all the comments made, thus far, and find them all to be with merit for consideration, especially in the area of corporate governance. A “huge” undertaking by all … seek the big picture!

  20. #20 by Doris Compton on January 31, 2012 - 1:56 pm

    I appreciate all of your input into these proposed changes. We are a member-driven association, and we want to hear the thoughts and concerns of all members whether or not they will be in Tulsa, where the discussion of these proposed changes will continue during an open forum for additional questions and answers. Those in attendance will be encouraged to take what they learn back to their states and chapters and continue the discussion. Following Tulsa, additional follow-up information will be provided to all members, with the discussion continuing until, in accordance with the NALS Bylaws, notice of the proposed bylaws change will be provided to all members and, at the end of the required notice period, an electronic vote will be conducted.

    The compelling reason for the changes we are recommending is our world has changed, but NALS hasn’t. The legal profession has changed. Technology has overwhelmed us and online social networking has forever impacted professional networking. This isn’t just happening to NALS – it is happening to all social and professional organizations that operate in the traditional model—i.e., the way we’ve always done it.

    What I do know from talking to members, from the NALS surveys, and just the world in general is every one of our members is pressed for time. They are working more. They have more demands on their time than ever before. NALS will never again have members join and remain engaged because it is “the thing” to do. Our members want to get something in return for the time and talent they give us—their heart has to be in it. We can’t afford to waste their time. We saw in Cincinnati that providing education specific to their work is key to maintaining their interest AND participation.

    Regarding the questions about the minutes, I can tell you that, during the 6 years I have served on the board, I’ve never had anyone ask me about seeing minutes from the board meeting, and I simply don’t know. My general impression has been members want to see the results, not long recitations of what we might have talked about.

    Like so many of our members, I struggle with change. This isn’t exactly the vision I had for NALS during my term as President next year but, this is a change I have embraced because I can see the impact it will have on the future of NALS. And I believe it is the main focus for all of us: to ensure the future of NALS.

    I look forward to continuing our discussion!!

  21. #21 by Diane Stanley on February 2, 2012 - 2:34 pm

    The primary objective here is to preserve the integrity of an 80 year old legacy!

  22. #22 by Cathy Hankins on February 6, 2012 - 1:11 pm

    Breathe in the chance to change and the ability to grow. ~ Jennifer Lewis-Hall

    It’s time for change and the new changes are exciting! In fact, these changes are long overdue. It’s been painfully obvious the past few years that the wrong people were on the NALS bus!

    Board service is NOT for everyone. I hate to say it but some members who have served “on the board” did nothing, contributed nothing and took up valuable space. Board business is confidential and so it’s not always obvious to the members that certain board members aren’t doing their jobs!

    If we continue to put the wrong people on the bus, we’re going to be left with a useless shell – no engine and a bunch of flat tires. When it’s all said and done, if NALS is going to remain the premier association for legal professionals, we have to get the “right people on the bus” who will move NALS into the future!

    Kudos to the board members and Think Tank for all of the hard work you have put into this. We have the chance to change and the ability to make NALS grow, so let’s take it before it’s too late!

  23. #23 by Sherry Baran on February 14, 2012 - 4:55 pm

    I think the changes are much needed. I also think we should also look on the local level in regards to the board and committees. We have long standing members who know NALS front and back then you have newer members who want to be a part of a new stucture but are put down in regards to ideas for change. I feel that term limits are a must not only on the National level but on state and local too. Also term limits on committees as well, since some committees are already taken every year by the same people. Now I’m not saying someone can do better because how would you know if they are not given a chance. Like everyone else here I struggle with change but for NALS to go forward in this ever changing world, Change has to come. I look forward to learning more.

  24. #24 by Cathy Hankins on February 16, 2012 - 9:06 am

    Behold the turtle. He only makes progress when he sticks his neck out. – James Bryant Conant

  25. #25 by Holly on April 13, 2012 - 6:18 pm

    Sounds very exciting!!! Change is inevitable. With change comes growth and knowledge. We can hold on to the past with one hand and grab the future with the other!

  26. #26 by Debi Smith on July 12, 2012 - 9:52 am

    This is actually the first I’ve read or heard about these changes, believe it or not. The first question that came to my mind was you are going to be asking people to serve 2 to 3 year terms. Right now, they are asked to serve 1 year terms and you have trouble finding people to serve! How do you expect to find people to serve the longer terms? As a long-standing member of NALS, I have never attended a National Conf. (although I am going to Portland this October). I don’t believe the members get the information now from National. If you do away with the Regions, etc., I expect we’ll be totally in the dark.

  27. #27 by Marie Ringholz on July 19, 2012 - 8:46 am

    Debi,
    Most members on the NALS Board serve multiple 1-year terms. For instance our current President-Elect, Doris Compton, PP, PLS, has been on the board since 2007-2008, when she was elected as Region 6 director. Karen McElroy and Brynne Williamson have served on the board four 1-year terms. There are 5 directors serving their first terms on the board. The others have served 2 or 3 years. NALS believes candidates who are identified as highly-qualified and asked to serve as fully engaged board members will willingly serve 3-year terms.
    NALS officers are actively engaged in social and business networking sites; and its members receive weekly emails, monthly and quarterly publications, and have access to a website full of information about the profession and the association. The information light burns bright for NALS members who want to be in-the-know. I hope you will have a great time at your NALS first conference—for most of us it is like that potato chip—you can’t just have one!

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