Anything is possible! In 2014, there were five local chapters of NALS in Alabama and now there are six. NALS of Central Alabama was formed in 2015 by five members-at-large of the state association, Alabama AALS. These founding members had been active in the state association as well as on the national level of NALS and carved their own path to form their chapter online: NALS of Central Alabama.
What started with five members now has nine. How did they do it?
The online chapter idea came out of need and desire. With the demands of work and family, the original five members from all over Alabama needed more time to get to chapter meetings. Another problem they faced was the distance to get to a meeting. The members still wanted so much to be active members of NALS on a local level that they decided to build a support network through online communications with other members-at-large in Alabama who were also having difficulty attending meetings and who wanted to be an active presence in the association.
After the decision was made to start an online chapter, NALS of Central Alabama decided to communicate through email and hold online meetings via chat to discuss business as well as ideas to promote the chapter and organization. They are able to add to the continuing legal education (CLE) that they receive in person at the state board meetings by following NALS webinars and other online resources offered through NALS. To keep everyone current, the chapter also reminds its members of the upcoming CLE opportunities. NALS of Central Alabama makes arrangements to meet briefly in person at the state board meetings held during the year.
In forming the online chapter, the members initially adopted the standard bylaws, standing rules, and rules of procedure designed by NALS and AALS, but are slowly working through the documents to adapt the rules more specifically to the online chapter and members’ needs. The chapter now has contact information on the AALS webpage at www.alabama-als.org and also has a Facebook page.
The current membership has many past presidents of the state and local chapters in Alabama and a NALS past president, Susan Turner, PLS. Talley Brathovd, PP, PLS, from Grand Bay, Alabama, was the first AALS member to join the online chapter in April 2015 and currently serves on the AALS state board. She will serve as AALS president-elect for the upcoming year. NALS of Central Alabama also has members who serve on both state and national NALS committees.
Even though the chapter is online, NALS of Central Alabama has received numerous chapter awards from AALS for attendance at state chapter meetings and membership retention. This is probably due to their creativity in making this online chapter blend with the chapters that meet in person.
One of the greatest things about having an online chapter is that the members can organize and meet at any time. They can accomplish so much and do it quickly with the same great results as an in-person meeting.
One of the first projects that NALS of Central Alabama developed was an electronic voting option so that the Alabama State Association (AALS) could have online voting for all members at election time versus just those members present at the winter board meeting elections. To be sure it would work, the voting system was rigorously tested by NALS of Central Alabama and other members of AALS. The voting system they designed worked so well that it can be used by the AALS board members for business and the individual chapters of AALS could use it for its online elections. This electronic voting system is still in the testing phase and there are hopes that it will create a future transition into electronic voting for all chapters of AALS.
NALS of Central Alabama has co-chaired two AALS state board meetings with the Montgomery Association of Legal Secretaries (MALS). One was a winter board meeting in Montgomery in January of 2016 and a fall board meeting in Prattville in September 2016. At the September meeting, NALS of Central Alabama and MALS had a very successful donation drive for the WellHouse “needs list.” WellHouse is a local group that provides a safe residential environment for women who have been rescued from human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
This online chapter does not yet have a logo, but it does have a presence that can easily be shared. Here are photos of the water bottles with NALS of Central Alabama labels and the NALS of Central Alabama members attending the AALS Annual Meeting in Daphne, Alabama, just after forming the online chapter.
It will be interesting to see how the online presence of NALS of Central Alabama will influence current chapters with electronic voting and inspire other “at large” members to form online chapters.