American Bar Association - Division for Bar Services

Mecklenburg County Bar - Operational Review

December 5, 2008 - Download the full report here (pdf)



A.  Statistics

B.  Governance

C.  Policies

D.  Financial Management

E.  Staff Management and Administration

F.  Program Administration and Development

G.  Communications and Membership Outreach




The bar's primary communications outlets - Bar blasts, Web site, and The Mecklenburg Bar News - are nicely designed. The MCB has a brand identity; there is a classic, stylish feel to the written materials. They project an aura of professionalism and competence. Beyond the look and feel of its written and electronic materials, the bar's message to members is less-well articulated in a cohesive, strategic manner. Rather than highlighting individual programs such as CLE or BLI, the emphasis should be on how these programs relate to the higher purpose of serving members. While membership may be mandatory, a member's sense of affinity and engagement is not. While not exactly taking members for granted, the MCB would benefit from adjusting its outlook so as to be more "voluntary" in its approach to marketing the bar to members.


The board and leadership of the organization are clearly concerned about the bar's relevance to members and creating a sense of affiliation beyond the compulsory. The data available in the analysis of membership survey report, MCB Pulse of the Profession Survey, provides some guideposts. The bar already has significant programs in place that address issues - both for the transactional lawyer in a large firm and the courthouse lawyer. The key is strategically and consistently communicating why the bar matters to members and the difference it makes. It is not just about what the bar does, but why it matters to the individual lawyer and to the profession.


Exemplary Practices

  • The bar produces a highly sought after, well-regarded membership directory. It is available both in print and online.
  • The bar has a well-designed look and feel to its print and online publications.
  • The Mecklenburg Bar News has good editorial mix of bar activities, court news, and human interest stories. The layout is eye-catching and readable.
  • Electronic communication - bar blasts - are used judiciously and effectively.
  • Outreach to specific classes of members such as in-house counsel and managing partners is exemplary. 

Recommended Areas of Attention

  • Consider developing a sustained strategic marketing plan to build member awareness and member engagement. Integrate the message with print publications, events, volunteer activities, personal outreach, and educational programs. Simply, succinctly and straight forwardly, answer the question, "What do I get for my dues dollars?"
  • Consider creating a style manual to codify use of the bar's logo and ensure uniformity in layout and design.
  • Consider investing more staff resources in the Web site. Among features of the site that require attention are:
  • Create clearer labels on the navigation bar so as to be meaningful to the user;
  • Enrich practice-related content for "members-only" or for "section members-only;"
  • Link the bar logo on content pages back to the home page for easier navigation;
  • Streamline the shopping cart by eliminating the need to navigate back-and-forth between pages to register for a CLE program;
  • Optimize the search feature by indexing PDF documents such as the bar news and annual meeting minutes;
  • Link from calendar listings directly to registration forms for CLE programs and other events.
  • Consider creating an alternative version of the Mecklenburg Bar News for the Web site. The tabloid size is difficult to download in PDF format. Also, the utility of the download feature is limited because there is no index or summary of the stories that are available from each issue.

Next Section: Conclusion


Previous Section:  F.  Program Administration and Development