The Benefit of Membership – Bret I. Parker

Bret I. Parker

Winter 2015

 At the New York City Bar Association, we talk frequently about the concrete benefits of membership such as free or discounted CLE programs, professional development and skill-building opportunities, and free online research tools in the library or by remote access. In today’s world, people want a “return on investment” for their time and money and I can’t say that I blame them. These benefits are important and we’re committed to providing the best of them for our members.

But what we shouldn’t miss here is the forest for the trees, that is, the overall, general benefit of belonging to an association, and of belonging to an association like the City Bar.

Webster’s defines an association as an “organization of persons having a common interest.” Our common interest at the City Bar relates most broadly to the functioning of the legal system and the legal profession itself. More narrowly, certain subsets of our membership are interested in certain substantive topics (criminal law, trademark, bankruptcy, etc.) or giving back using our legal skills (pro bono).

By associating, we further our common interest by improving our profession, most notably through our committee work. It’s important to note that it’s a “common interest” and not a “common perspective.” In fact, it’s the diversity of our membership that makes us stronger. And that’s not just diversity in the usual sense of race, gender, sexual orientation, and so on, but diversity of practice type or client base, diversity of socio-economic background, diversity of political views, and more. Because we strive to remain balanced in our committee membership, reports, and panels, our views are all the more respected because they reflect compromise and a shared, thoughtful opinion on the topic at hand.

At the City Bar, we are constantly brainstorming ways to bring members together when today’s technology would have us working alone at a desk. Setting aside time for networking at CLE courses and programs is one way. Creating a new space like the library lounge is another. Social events like Bar @ the Bar and Lawyers Connect allow our members to get to know each other in a less formal setting. Sharing news about your new position or promotion in our “Member Moves and Milestones” (by emailing us here) raises your profile in the profession and allows us to pause and congratulate one another on our accomplishments. Later this year, look for some web-based innovations that will offer exciting new ways to associate with other members.

We are fortunate to be a leading association in the legal field, and we owe that to the generations of members before us who came together here in this historic building. When an association reaches a critical mass, it becomes a kind of virtuous circle. Because of our reputation, you want to become a member. Because you become a member, our association grows stronger.

And that brings us full circle to member benefits, because the stronger we become as an organization, the more benefits we can provide to our members at a greater value. So yes, the specific benefits the City Bar provides its members are varied and valuable, but the simple act of joining and participating in this Association is what makes us stronger as a whole, enhances our profession, increases our collective ability to impact society, and benefits us all.