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Bar News - August 17, 2016

Making Connections: Membership Survey Highlights Changes in Attorney Interaction

NHBA members pursue professional networking in a variety of different ways. The figures above reflect the answers of NHBA members responding to a multiple choice question on the association survey that was sent out to a representative sample of the membership in January 2016. Because multiple responses could be selected, the figures do not total 100 percent.

In past days, lawyers gathered and gabbed in the back of crowded courtrooms while waiting for the call of the list. They caught up with the latest gossip while standing elbow to elbow, poring over deed books at the county courthouse, or ran into each other while grabbing a sandwich at the local diner.

Today, court dockets are streamlined and lawyers don’t linger as long in courthouses; most registries of deeds are online; and many lawyers eat at their desks, sorting emails while chomping on something heated up in the office microwave. How do lawyers network nowadays, and do they expect the bar association to furnish those opportunities?

The NH Bar Association’s recent member survey provides a wealth of information that Association leaders and staff are using to examine its activities and services and better align them with the interests and preferences of members. To be sure, survey respondents cited continuing legal education/professional development (84.9 percent) and keeping members informed (55.2 percent) as the activities they valued most from the Bar Association. Further down the list of choices, less than a third of the members (29 percent) included “fostering professional connections” as an important role for the Bar Association.

Another question probed how members make professional connections today. Members’ answers reveal that a lot of their interaction with other lawyers occurs while they are doing other things. As the accompanying chart shows, attending live CLE programs (regardless of provider), was the most frequently mentioned connection activity. Less frequently cited were email list serves, where members exchange advice and insight in their practice areas; attendance at local and county bar meetings; and NHBA committee and section participation. A significant minority – 17 percent – agreed with the statement that they “do not actively seek connections.”

The results, sorted by geography, show some important differences. Only 10 percent of members overall cited local and county bar meetings as a networking choice; but that figure rose to 15 percent for the members in the less urban counties of New Hampshire. Members from outside the state or rural counties (all except Hillsborough, Merrimack and Rockingham counties) were more likely to cite CLE attendance and listserves as networking avenues than the 52 percent of the membership located in the three largest counties, who mentioned a greater spread of choices. The NHBA’s Midyear Meeting, which has been well-attended for the past few years, was cited in 4.9 percent of responses, and the Annual Meeting in 1.8 percent of responses.

The survey shows members are not strongly demanding new professional development opportunities, but they did make some suggestions for improving existing programming. Eighteen percent said the bar association could enhance events by increasing attendance at CLEs and other events, and 14 percent sought more events that would bring together older and younger generations, and 14 percent favored after-work gatherings. Thirteen percent said the bar does not need to do anything beyond what it does now.

Want to read more? The entire survey, as well as an executive summary and a PowerPoint presentation, are posted online. Log into the For Members area and look for the survey in “Member Services and Benefits.”

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