Monday, September 28, 2009
LACBA Harnesses Electronic Media to Spread Worldwide
By Sherri M. Okamoto, Staff Writer
Should a Los Angeles attorney go on vacation to Florida, New York or Shanghai and meet another lawyer from there, it is possible that both could be members of the Los Angeles County Bar Association.
LACBA Chief Marketing Officer Michael “Tim” Elliott explains that the organization began offering “virtual membership” to attorneys worldwide, at a reduced rate, in 2002.
At present, Elliott estimates the organization has approximately 2,500 so-called “e-members” in 17 countries across Asia, Europe, South America and almost every state in the nation.
“I personally wanted to visit the members in Hawaii,” Elliott jokes.
The organization also has about a thousand members in San Diego County and in Riverside County, and a “couple thousand” in Orange County, Elliott adds.
“It was just a matter of growth, a matter of servicing the legal industry in a better way,” he says of LACBA’s global expansion. He says the group felt attorneys who were licensed in California but not practicing in Los Angeles County could not obtain the services they wanted or needed.
“They still have to satisfy their MCLE and they still want to know what’s going on” locally, Elliott says, so LACBA decided to reach out to those practitioners.
No ‘800-Pound Gorilla’
In doing so, Elliott insists that LACBA is careful not to step on the toes of other local bar associations outside of Los Angeles. “We do have a big footprint…but we use it wisely to benefit our organization and in consideration of other bars….I don’t want to classify us as some sort of 800-pound gorilla.”
He says that LACBA always lets other local bars know what the organization is doing in their areas, and, “We partner with those bars all the time,” sharing information and marketing resources and co-sponsoring various events.
“We’re good neighbors and partners,” Elliott says.
Virtual membership allows e-members to access LACBA’s online services, participate in practice-specific list-serves, purchase CLE materials, receive daily e-mailed case summaries, and receive member discounts.
Elliott credits the success of the organization’s virtual membership program to LACBA’s extensive electronic communication network.
He says the group has over 110,000 useable e-mail addresses—accounting for 93 percent of the organization’s members and over 80 percent of potential members—and can “slice and dice” this database “in any way we want…by area of practice, geography...by gender and years of practice, even down to the colleges they went to.”
While the group sends out an average of 1.4 million e-mails each month, Elliott says the e-mails are “highly targeted,” and very few people ask to be removed from the mailings.
“It’s probably one of the most sophisticated operations, electronically, in the nation,” he opines. “I’m quite proud of what we built.”
In addition, LACBA also maintains a Facebook and Twitter account, Elliott says, after noting the growing popularity of such social networking sites and receiving requests for an official LACBA presence from members.
“It wasn’t when or if, we knew it was definitely going to happen,” he recalls. “We wanted to be on the cutting edge of that.”
Elliott insists, “You gotta be able to service in the medium that the member wishes to communicate with,” noting that the LACBA accounts on those websites are growing in terms of “friends,” “hits” and “tweets” on a daily basis, and have been “very big on student outreach” as well.
Overall he says, “It’s quite an operation,” and allows LACBA to continue to grow while many other bar organizations are struggling to retain and attract members.
“Right now, it’s tough out there,” he acknowledges. “But we’re hanging in there, we’re holding our own.”
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company