Earlier this year, the ISBA's Standing Committee on Government Lawyers (CGL) invited government attorneys to respond to a brief survey concerning bar association membership issues. The survey's results indicate that the CGL's constituency includes government lawyers practicing at the federal, state and local levels, as well as private practitioners with a substantial percentage of governmental clients. The reasons why government lawyers choose to join (or not join) a bar association are as varied as their places of employment. By identifying some of the more common reasons, however, the CGL and the ISBA hope to make the ISBA a more meaningful organization for those who are already members, and a more attractive association for those government lawyers who have not chosen, thus far, to take advantage of ISBA membership.
According to the results from the survey, government lawyers most frequently use the Illinois Bar Journal, the ISBA Bar News and the various committee/section council newsletters. Additionally, about half of the respondents take advantage of ISBA-sponsored continuing legal education (CLE) programs and the ISBA's Annual and Mid-Year meetings. Not surprisingly, the ISBA's publications and CLE programs are some of the strongest reasons those responding joined and remain members of the ISBA.
Although the ISBA's publications and CLE programs provide the most useful resources for government lawyers in their practices, the ISBA's services programs were not viewed as favorably (i.e., reduced rates on office supplies, insurance, etc., which are usually provided by government employers were not highly ranked). When I talk to non-ISBA government attorneys, their usual response to why they are not ISBA members is that they do not feel they receive value for their dues. The CGL will continue to work with the ISBA to respond appropriately to our constituency's concerns.
The CGL has taken the first step with regard to providing more value to government lawyers through the sponsorship of CLE programs designed more specifically for government lawyers. On September 19, 2002, the CGL presented, in conjunction with the ABA, its first CLE program, "Ethical Considerations in Public Sector Law," at the ISBA's Chicago Regional office (please see the article on the program inside). Through this type of government lawyer-specific seminar, the CGL and the ISBA are trying to provide more direct benefits to public sector attorneys.
The CGL is also working to develop other ideas for CLE programs, services and benefits more closely tailored to the needs of public sector practitioners. However, as always, we welcome comments from our constituency regarding services and benefits they would like to see offered by the ISBA. There may be some excellent ideas that CGL has yet to explore, and we would appreciate hearing from our colleagues on this issue. If you have any suggestions, please email me at: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.