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Countdown to Communities: Why the Change?

By Jeffery Leon

June 22, 2017

Networking. Photo by Lifted Imagery

Starting July 1, D.C. Bar Sections will become D.C. Bar Communities, a significant re-envisioning of Sections’ structure and governance to provide a more robust experience for members. Communities offers greater value, a streamlined experience, and a focus on technology, bringing the Bar’s 20 sections into the 21st century.

In the second part of this series, here’s why Communities is an important step forward for the D.C. Bar and how it adds member value.

“Serving over 25,000 members, Sections is one of the most significant touchpoints the Bar has with its members.” – D.C. Bar Past President Tim Webster

During his term as D.C. Bar president in 2015–2016, Tim Webster elected that the D.C. Bar take a closer look at the vitality of Sections and maximize its value to Bar members. Like other similar bar programs across the country, Sections membership was declining. Individual sections were in silos, and little communication was happening across groups. Volunteer planners increasingly were bogged down in administrative overhead. Members wanted content and ways to connect and interact that were beyond the scope of what Sections could provide. It was time to address the issues.

The Bar’s transformation of Sections into Communities began with a two-pronged initiative: one by the Leadership Development Committee to study the governance structure of Sections, and the other by the Sections Council to engage with members and find out their interests and needs.

Michelle Bercovici, former Sections Council chair and a member of the Leadership Development Committee, says the Bar held several listening sessions with Sections leaders and members about programming, governance issues, member needs, and challenges in the current legal landscape. Bercovici assisted in conducting the extensive surveys of Sections members in 2015. According to Bercovici, survey results and the discussions showed that members wanted content, interactivity, and ways to engage with Sections on their own time to maximize work–life balance.

“The more we looked at the issues the more it became clear that a lot of the challenges we were facing required a reimagining of the governance framework,” says Bercovici. “We needed to be the 21st- century bar association.”

Communities will address the various issues raised by members to improve their experience with Sections. Members will be able to join up to three communities for one price of $79, allowing for communication and cross-pollination of ideas. Technology, requested heavily by members, will be a large focus, with online capabilities being introduced within the next year. The governance model will be overhauled, and, Bercovici adds, Communities Committees will help provide a broader value for members.

“The goal is to have a structure for Communities where we can laser focus in on membership, programming, and technology,” she says.

These changes, among a host of others, allow Communities to reflect a new, more direct, and more inclusive engagement structure for members. At every step of the way, the D.C. Bar worked closely to ensure that Communities will be geared toward fulfilling the needs of members and offering career and professional development, strong programming and events, and opportunities for community connections and networking.

“Our ultimate goal is delivering value to members,” says Bercovici.

Next week, we explore how you can get involved with D.C. Bar Communities, whether as a leader or volunteer program planner. Missed last week's story? Learn about the benefits offered to members of D.C. Bar Communities.