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Bar Associations – Revenue vs. Members

My Shingle has an interesting blog post on Bar Associations providing links to attorney websites not by quality or need, but based upon fees paid to the Bar Association. While I do not have a problem with Bar Associations charging for advertising, the advertising should be clearly marked as such.

A bigger concern is Bar Associations that choose revenue over the interests of their own members or the general public. In the area of Continuing Legal Education (CLE), for instance, Bar Associations must be extra careful in promoting their own CLE programs. Bar associations must try to offer their members the best and broadest CLE offerings at the most affordable cost. Bar Associations should use online CLE to showcase their OWN state’s lawyers. While buying canned online CLE presentations from out of state lawyers may increase revenue, it does a grave disservice to the members of the Bar and to the public.

Bar Associations should go even further by offering online CLE programs to the public for free. Such offering would not diminish the revenue stream. Offering free online CLE to the public helps the public learn more about the law. If the CLE showcased Bar Association members, the program would also foster goodwill and familiarize the public with attorneys of their own state. Offering CLE only from out of state attorneys gives the impression their are no local attorneys capable of handling things.

Limiting competition, shunning their own attorneys and gouging customers may translate into short term revenue increases for a Bar association. In the long term, however, such actions cannot help but translate into a strong disdain for the Bar, by both its members and the public. A backlash, in the form of precipitously dropping revenue, cannot help but be the result.

What percentage of online CLE offered by your Bar association is provided by attorneys from your own state?

Brett Trout

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