A little over twenty years ago, I took a bold step. I had participated as an active and appreciative member of the Association of Legal Administrators since 1984, having become an “official” member of the international association, and the local Philadelphia Chapter, in August, 1985. During the following years I took increasingly responsible roles in the local chapter. I chaired virtually every event the chapter offered. And I spent three years serving on its Board of Directors: one as secretary and two as vice president. I also participated at the international level; mostly by speaking at Regional and National conferences, and writing articles for the Association’s many newsletters.
During those many years of participation, I brought many new members from suburban law firms into the fold. But those members struggled to find relevance and commonality of experience with urban, larger-firm colleagues. So in late 1991, I, along with colleague Patricia Sierzant, took the steps necessary to separate from the Philadelphia Chapter, and form our own Chapter: Independence Chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators.
We were worried that we would not have sufficient members to get our charter. When our charter was issued on February 9, 1992, we had a scant 11 members. We were loud and proud of our new-found independence; hence our name. Within months of our founding we issued our first newsletter. In the first year we had our first educational event, vendor expo, and managing partner appreciation event. I served proudly as president for the first two years, and as newsletter editor for 11 straight years.
Today, the Chapter boasts well over 50 members in Montgomery, Chester, Delaware, Bucks, and Lehigh counties. On October 5, 2012, I attended the Chapter’s 20th Anniversary Celebration. Ten of the Chapter’s 13 past presidents were in attendance. A testament to the strong personal and professional relationships our participation in the ALA fostered.
Pictured, from left to right, are the past presidents: Suzanne Cressman (2002-2003), Janet Molloy (2003-2005), Marian Law Burns (1995-1996), Patricia L. Sierzant (1993-1995), Ellen Freedman (1991-1993), Joan Wean (1998-1999), Melissa Bunch (2007-2008), Kitty Malcolm (2000-2002), Amy Coral (2008-2010) and Adelaine Williams (2010-2011).
The Chapter’s Fall 2012 Newsletter “Patriot News” just arrived in my inbox. Today it is completely digital. Back when I was editor, it was a beautiful 2-color printed edition which ran 36 – 40 pages, and won awards, usually the top award bestowed by ALA, each year. It started in WordPerfect 5.1 DOS, and I remember the struggle I had converting it to Word for Windows. What a dream it must be to produce this new crisp full-color digital issue! Inside the issue was a recap of the 20th Anniversary event. But that wasn’t all.
The Newsletter had an article and pictures regarding the Bar Liaison “Lunch and Learn” educational series in August, 2012. This widely popular event is co-hosted by the Bar Associations of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lehigh and Montgomery counties, and is held at each of the Bar Association locations. This year’s topic was Microsoft Word 2010 – A Refresher, and I had the honor of being the presenter at each hour-long session.
The Newsletter also featured an article entitled “It’s Time to Teach Young Lawyers What They Really Need to Know: Habits Essential to a Healthy Bottom Line” which was written by — you guessed it –me!
Here I am, all these years later, still participating in what will forever remain in my mind as one of the best professional organizations in the world. I don’t qualify for membership in the international Association of Legal Administrators, despite my position as Law Practice Manager for the PA Bar Association, because I am also a consultant. But I am a proud Life Member of the Independence Chapter (albeit not with all the rights of a regular member). Although I don’t get to participate as often as I’d like, I still enjoy keeping in touch with friends and people I still regard as colleagues. They are a family I am not willing to give up, and I am grateful they still treat me as such.
My strongest belief when I joined the Association of Legal Administrators was that I would get out more than I ever put in. The more active I was, the more I would learn and develop as a leader in my field. I took on whatever challenges were thrown at me, and actively sought out others. And from my perspective, my efforts and dedication paid off in full. For those of you who have office managers and administrators who are not active in the association, I urge you to push them to not only join, but actively participate. Your firm will realize an enormous return on investment. The firms I served in the past will all attest to that.
My appreciation to all of the members of the Independence Chapter, and so many members of the international association who still remain in touch. May your new year be rewarding personally and professionally. And may your growth opportunities continue.