Big Ideas ALA Executive Director’s Letter

ALA’s Vision for the Coming Year

Happy New Year! When I spoke with our publications team about this month’s column back in late fall, I suggested focusing on trends and predictions for the legal industry in 2017 — perfect for the start of a new year, right? But then I started thinking about all those political pollsters who got so much wrong, and I figured it was better to stick with something a little less unpredictable.
Oliver Yandle, JD, CAE

And that is my lack of success in keeping New Year’s resolutions. For many years, I approached the new year with a list of things I was going to do — lose weight, learn a new language, write a screenplay, start running again. I didn’t write any of this down, of course. Nor did I break those goals down into more achievable steps. I usually didn’t share my list with anyone, either. But that first week in January, I was all in — buying Rosetta Stone, downloading screenwriting software, getting new gym shoes.

I would usually make some progress in those first few weeks, until something happened. Maybe it was too cold to go running. Or brunch replaced that two-hour block set aside for writing. Or a movie sounded better than conjugating verbs. Once I was off-track, it was hard to get back on.

As ALA President Laura Broomell noted in her November/December column, I, too, eventually realized that without a detailed plan and clear accountability, I wasn’t likely to achieve my goals. I also learned that setbacks are to be expected, and when they occur, they don’t have to be fatal to my overall goals. In fact, those are just opportunities to adjust my approach and improve my chances of success. The rapid changes and volatility we are experiencing in the legal industry makes setting goals for law firms and legal departments more challenging than ever — but it’s also more important. A clear plan with concrete measures is essential to success in today’s legal marketplace.

The same is true for ALA. Throughout 2016, the Association’s board, chapter and committee leaders and staff have been collaborating on the second phase of our strategic plan to “elevate ALA.” The three-year strategy builds on the foundations laid by phase one to establish ALA as the undisputed leader in the business of law.

We’ve identified five key goals as our focus for 2017–2020:

1. Define our identity. As the legal management profession changes and evolves, ALA must clearly define its role and leadership in the industry. Establishing and communicating a compelling and engaging identity is essential to achieving our long-term vision.

2. Increase member and business partner value. ALA has a long history of delivering essential resources, knowledge and networking to its members and business partners. With increasing competition, ALA must continue to build and enhance its reputation for value.

3. Enhance industry thought leadership. Leadership in the business of law requires that ALA take an active role in addressing key issues facing the profession and advance positions to elevate the critical role legal management professionals play in the industry.

4. Advance legal management professional development. As legal management professionals face increasingly complex challenges, ALA must develop educational programs, resources and networking opportunities to provide them with the knowledge, skills and abilities to succeed.

5. Build community and engagement. ALA members and business partners have identified networking and community as the most valuable benefits of their involvement in the organization. Building on that strong foundation is essential to our continued long-term success.

And speaking of Legal Management, you may notice some changes in this issue, including:

  • A responsive redesign. Starting with the January 2017 issue, members and subscribers to Legal Management will be able to read the publication on any device. The website has been relaunched with a responsive design that automatically reformats the pages to fit your computer screen, smartphone and tablet dimensions. Readers will also be able to create a PDF of an individual article or the entire issue with just one click of a button.

  • Open content access. Also beginning this month, we are providing open access (no login required) to all content within the current issue, except the “ALA Now” section, updates from ALA headquarters, and Certified Legal Manager articles — these sections will remain member-ID protected. The archives of all Legal Management back issues are also restricted to members only.

We hope these changes enhance your readership of the magazine and make it easier to share this valuable content with your colleagues. On behalf of the entire ALA staff team, we wish you all the best for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year and every success in keeping those 2017 resolutions!