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Last year the Golden Gate chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) celebrated its 25th anniversary. We started out in 1977 with a mission to develop, promote and deliver high-quality educational programs to improve the skills of those in the legal field who manage law firms. We are a nonprofit organization made up of volunteers whose primary objective is to improve the standard of management in all legal service organizations, including private law firms, corporate legal departments and judicial and government agencies. We want every member to achieve their own personal and professional goals and can help to do that by providing opportunities to become fully competent legal administrators. The chapter is led by officers who make up the executive board. Elections are held annually, with more than 300 local members entitled to vote. The chapter also includes a larger, 30-member board of directors who also work toward providing and enhancing the chapter’s educational programs. Each year, the board prepares a calendar of events aimed at offering a variety of programs that address all areas of law firm management. These programs cover finance, human resources, general management and systems and technology. The programs take place several times each month at law firm conference rooms throughout San Francisco. Volunteer speakers who are experts and specialists in their fields (including attorneys for whom some of us work) are eager to share their knowledge or news of their latest technological product with our members. Of course, some of our own members at times will be featured at our programs in order to address their own areas of specialty. Our chapter’s educational programs are listed in our monthly newsletter and posted on our Web site, www.alasf.org. The programs typically attract 25-85 participants. More than 80 members attended our most recent Employment Law Update program, where the topics included workplace privacy, the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), arbitrating employment claims, wage and hour laws and the provisions of California’s new disability insurance law. On occasion, we present programs that are of interest to managing partners as well as administrators. A recent discussion, for example, covered the effects of the economy on firm-related management decisions and was geared toward firms of all sizes and practice areas. The Golden Gate chapter recently became an authorized continuing legal education provider, which allows us to offer educational programs for credit to our members as well as to attorneys. We are also preparing our members who are interested in the Certified Legal Management (CLM) exam by providing materials, speakers and study groups to assist them in passing the test. The CLM certificate reflects proficiency in skills that are essential to the effective performance of an administrator. In conjunction with the national group, we also offer monthly tele-seminars, which allow legal administrators throughout the country to listen to various experts and discuss common issues that affect our law firms. As a local chapter, we promote attendance at national and regional conferences. This year’s national meeting will take place next month in San Diego, and we are looking forward to hosting ALA’s 2005 national conference right here in San Francisco. While sessions at these conferences mirror our local section meetings, they also allow local administrators to concentrate on improving our skills while giving us a break from our daily office routines. With more than 9,500 members in the United States, Canada and Australia, the ALA creates an opportunity to bring together administrators from many locations, allowing colleagues with diverse backgrounds to meet and exchange experiences. Although the economy has been tumultuous, and California continues to fall further into economic decline, our members remain steadfast in their desire to be productive members of their firms’ management teams. The ALA’s educational role is particularly important given that no other local educational institution is focused on the development of non-attorney leaders in the legal industry. Another useful aspect of ALA membership involves the networking opportunities available to participating administrators. It is an unwritten rule within the group that when a member receives a phone call or e-mail from another member, a response becomes a priority in that person’s “to do” list. This approach allows us to share information about problems and solutions concerning law firm administration. This kind of networking also benefits administrators at smaller firms who typically wear many hats and are often generalists in all areas of firm management. Larger firms, in contrast, usually have specialized departments, with administrators able to double as peer consultants to colleagues elsewhere. To help spread that knowledge, the ALA’s main Web site, www.alanet.org, includes list serves and chat rooms that allow members to pose questions and receive answers from knowledgeable administrators regardless of where they live. We lean on one another to learn more about new products and approaches to managing today’s legal offices more effectively and efficiently. Given all of this information sharing and networking, the ALA also maintains a strong ethics code that covers such issues as confidentiality and that helps us maintain strong employer trust. Our principles and rules of conduct demand honesty, integrity, objectivity, competence, independence, professional responsibility and service in good faith to our employers and in a manner that is in the best interests of their legal practice. Edie Anderies is director of human resources and benefits at Hancock Rothert & Bunshoft in San Francisco. She is also president of the Golden Gate chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators. Her e-mail address is [email protected].

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