The ABA’s Last Gasp

A memo to the Board of Delegates of the American Bar Association closes with as clear a statement of its moribund state as possible.

Of course, another option is to do nothing. However, that is a false choice. Our internal data and market research clearly show that the ABA is on a trend line that will render it irrelevant and fiscally unviable. As a result, we believe that a new membership model is the most practical first step that the Association can take to secure its future. The Board must find a path that allows for the implementation of a new membership model while fairly allocating the responsibility to contribute to member value and the risk and reward of the new membership model across all aspects of the Association. The Association missed its opportunity in 2010 to make meaningful change and, while it must be prudent, that cannot happen again. Otherwise, the ABA and the entities that are part of it will wither on the vine.

This comes as no surprise, as the failure of the ABA to reflect the needs and interests of the bar has been manifest for quite a while. In fact, they asked and were told in clear terms why lawyers fled en masse.

The ABA leadership just does not get it. Lawyers started leaving the ABA when the ABA stopped representing lawyers and started pushing an active liberal agenda. Simplified dues categories and bundled benefits are not going to overcome that.

What other organization, held captive by a clique of passionate progressives, would believe passage of Model Rule 8.4(g), making it an ethical duty upon pain of disbarment not to adhere to social justice orthodoxy? Or Resolution 117 to make diversity the foremost function of the profession?

Despite being told, in no uncertain terms, that the lawyers wanted no part of their progressive political party, and coming to grips with the realization that the ABA was on a trend that would render it financially unviable, the same big brains that destroyed the association decided to ignore everything and believe that the problem was the price and marketing of unicorns.

Over the last eighteen months, the Association has been working on a recommendation from the Standing Committee on Membership (“SCOM”) for a possible new membership model for the American Bar Association, originally named “OneABA,” for implementation in Fiscal Year 2020. The new model was based on research performed by Dr. J.P. Dube’ that identified the benefits that potential members valued the most and the price that made sense to them.

There’s no doubt that the ABA was a pricey membership, which didn’t matter much when its dues were paid by law schools and Biglaw, so that human beings didn’t feel the pinch. And there’s similarly no doubt that the ABA offered nothing of interest to lawyers in terms of benefits. Self-important associations are too self-important to deign to provide value for their dues. Member benefits were for the little bar associations. Mere membership in so august a body as the ABA was more than enough value for the peons.

And the concept worked for a very long time. The ABA was taken seriously by the bar, and it was sufficiently important for lawyers to be members, even delegates or participants on committees, because it was the American Bar Association. Until the ABA became the social justice bar association, when it ceased to be important. Or more to the point, it chose to go from irrelevant to antagonistic to the majority of lawyers who weren’t obsessed with progressive causes.

Did the ABA simply ignore what they were told by former members? Not exactly.

The research also showed that the new membership model was just a step forward and that we need to identify ways continually to deliver more value to members while being aware of the price sensitivities of lawyers. We also confirmed that the ABA needs to improve the perception of our brand as others seem more able to define the ABA, often inaccurately and to our detriment.

By inaccurately, it seems the ABA isn’t taking issue with its being defined as positioned to the hard left of the political spectrum, but defined as goofy, radical and terminally misguided. They would much rather define themselves as heroes of social justice. Same ideology, but tied up in a much prettier bow. The aspect of being an association focused on the legal profession, as opposed to making lawyers “leaders in the fight against injustice,” made a whooshing sound as it flew over the delegates’ heads.

The ABA has two systemic functions beyond being a place for legal academics and Biglaw attorneys to go for a group hug. It accredits law schools. It reviews and reports on the qualifications of nominees for the federal bench. As for the latter, the ABA has already cut its own throat, ignoring the responsibility to vet qualifications and instead substituting its view on judicial candidates’ politics. The ABA has rendered itself irrelevant to the judicial selection process, with somewhat less credibility than the SPLC has with designating hate groups.

As for accrediting law schools, it bears responsibility for the excessive volume of law schools, for profit or otherwise, putting out graduates who are extremely diverse with no hope of passing the bar exam, and even less hope of getting a job. The fantasy failed, and we’re awash in law school grads whose stock in trade is no longer time and advice, but misery.

Can the ABA save itself? Bruce McLeod isn’t hopeful.

Not only is it not remotely useful to the legal profession, but it has become a positive detriment and an adversary to those who are simply trying to make a living, and don’t want to throw in with ABA’s radical leftist scheme to remake the world. In recent years, ABA has simply gone on a radical, leftist frolic, pressing for abortion rights, open borders, curtailment of the second amendment, and special rights and protections for every manner of sexual deviant. ABA has openly and notoriously reduced itself to a simple adjunct of the left-most splinter of the Democratic Party, and everybody readily sees it.

But everybody doesn’t see it. The lawyers who support the ABA’s shift into radical politics think it’s fabulous, and the 85% of the bar that disagrees is not merely wrong, but “literally Hitler.” And its delegates and academic fellow travelers believe that it can salvage its unsustainable finances by reducing dues and giving members a discount on books no one wants to read.

It’s not that the bar doesn’t need an ABA, an organization to speak to and for the needs and interests of practicing lawyers, but that this association has chosen a path that no discount on a copy machine can overcome. And if their brains were half as big as they believe they are, they would realize it. They do not.

46 comments on “The ABA’s Last Gasp

  1. Dan

    “We also confirmed that the ABA needs to improve the perception of our brand”

    Note, the ABA doesn’t need to actually improve its “brand”, only the perception of its brand. Obviously, if the brand were accurately perceived, any attorney would want to be a member.

    Reply
      1. MonitorsMost

        Hey, take it easy on the marketing majors. They can’t fix the product, just the branding.

        Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That’s not my department says Werner Von Braun.

        Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      Much as I agree, it creates a vacuum. You know what nature thinks of a vacuum. And it can always get worse.

      Reply
      1. Dan

        Of course, the ABA’s demise doesn’t demand that a replacement rise up immediately, nor does the ongoing existence of the ABA preclude another organization from arising who actually does intend to represent the legal profession as a whole. So where is it?

        Reply
          1. Dan

            I’m not actively pushing for such a thing, but I’m a little surprised it doesn’t exist already. As you’ve repeatedly pointed out, there are lots of lawyers out there who aren’t at all interested in being SJWs, and therefore aren’t buying what the ABA’s selling. OTOH, the value of an organization to act as the voice of the profession (if it actually does so) is obvious. It seems someone would have already started something, but perhaps it’s just in the infant stages at this point.

            There would still be questions like “who gets to accredit law schools now” (until ABA is well and truly dead), but there isn’t any reason that ABA-prime couldn’t already exist.

            Reply
            1. SHG Post author

              That’s a good point. I don’t know what it means that no other org has stepped in to fill the gap.

            2. B. McLeod

              It has to be very difficult for the ABA to sit in judgment on the law schools, given that ABA is gaming its “membership” numbers far worse than the schools have been manipulating their bar passage and “placement” numbers. It’s the pot trying to impose ethics on the kettle.

          2. B. McLeod

            Many of the sections would be completely viable on their own. They would just need to set up their separate platforms and cut ties with the ABA.

            Part of the Ein Volk “OneABA” Plan originally was a money grab to seize control of section dues and memberships and “bundle” one or two section memberships with the ABA membership to help justify the pricey price. There is a separate memo on the ABA website in which the SCOM explains how they were forced off that position. The simple reality is that the sections don’t need ABA, and the ABA can’t afford to dick with them for the very reason that it could easily accelerate the departure of whole blocks of current members.

            Reply
        1. B. McLeod

          Currently, the standard seems to have been passed to transgendered persons. ABA sees nothing more critical to the legal profession today than special rights and protections for the transgendered. Specifically, all transgendered persons must be afforded toilets and pronouns of choice, no matter whose speech must be compelled, and all foreign transgendered persons must be granted asylum in the United States on the grounds that people back home are mean to them.

          Reply
          1. SHG Post author

            The ABA membership had always been into fluids, but in the old days, their favorite was clear with a mist of vermouth.

            Reply
            1. Sgt. Schultz

              Kinda expected better than what a 12-year-old on twitter would say from the Great Bennett. Put in a little effort there, Tornado-guy.

            2. Sgt. Schultz

              Surprised you still don’t get the point. What does McLeod’s views about transgender people have to do with the ABA? Or practicing law? So his sexual deviant stuff was terrible? So what? Who is the ABA to dictate that ethical lawyers must believe in any political agenda? I’m fine with abortion, gays and transgender people, but I’m not fine with the ABA saying I shouldn’t be allowed to be a lawyer if I wasn’t.

              SHG says you’re one of the smart lawyers. I don’t see it.

            3. Patrick Maupin

              Your bovine excrement removal skills are legendary (and sorely missed on your days off), Sergeant, but I think you may have missed the mark on this one.

              Being a Texan myself, I’m pretty sure I can decode Mark’s initial comment as pure satire. But don’t take my word for it — do a little googling to see what he, himself, may have written about that august organization.

  2. B. McLeod

    One of the most surprising things about the memo is its disclosure of actual 2017 and projected 2018 membership numbers. In the February 2018 ABA Journal story where commenters explained their reasons for leaving, ABA claimed “a 22 percent market share.” The 2017 numbers disclosed by the memo reveal that the claim was false when made, as the 2017 numbers actually represent, at best, only a 14 percent market share (and that, only if all dues payers were lawyers).

    Like ABA’s laughable effort to spin itself as “nonpartisan,” the ongoing jiggery-pokery with the phony membership claims renders the association’s basic dishonesty increasingly transparent. Unspecified “others” are able to “define” them “to their detriment” because they have discarded every vestige of ethics and integrity in pursuit of the leftist campaign that seems to have become the ABA’s core reason for being.

    The pressing need to push their radical political program prevents ABA leadership from even entertaining any momentary thought that it could be the root of their problem (and if it is, of course, nothing can be done, because turning away from the great crusade would be unthinkable).

    Reply
    1. SHG Post author

      If only lawyers realized how the ABA’s great crusade was truth and justice, they would all join. But for those unspecified “others” defining them to their detriment. Such is their “truth.”

      Reply
      1. B. McLeod

        Even among those who have joined, the majority evidently don’t consider the great crusade worthy of a personal monetary contribution. If we compare the 194,448 total dues payers in the 2017 Actual figure from the memo with the 412,499 total membership number claimed in the February 5, 2018 ABA Journal article, we can see that only about 47% of the “members” are paying dues in any amount. The remaining 53% are free-riding, providing ABA nothing but their participation in the padded “membership” number that is touted in ABA lobbying efforts and amicus filings.

        Reply
        1. B. McLeod

          The disclosures in the memo also add amusing irony to the ABA commenters who derided ex-members commenting on the February 5, 2018 ABA Journal article as “cheapskates and freeloaders” for commenting without paying dues. However, we now know that 53% of the current ABA membership consists of such “cheapskates and freeloaders.”

          Reply
      2. Nemo

        Given their concerns over branding and how it is used to unfairly describe themselves, I propose a new brand name for the group, the Social Justice League of America.

        Can’t wait to see what the new HQ will look like.

        Regards,

        Nemo

        Reply
        1. LocoYokel

          They’ll have to fight the SLPC and DNC for that name, and probably others that I am thankfully, blissfully unaware of.

          Reply
  3. Skink

    I fired these dopes long ago, but they won’t go away. I bet they still count me among the faithful. I refuse membership in a group dumb enough to lose the ABA.org domain to the American Birding Association.

    Reply
      1. Skink

        In the City, all you see is pigeons. Everyone everywhere else knows them to be rats with wings. I guarantee your love is unrequited. If you c’mon down, I’ll show you some baldies, herons and other flyers that’ll steal your hair just for fun. But they won’t love you, neither.

        Reply
        1. SHG Post author

          Not all of us live in the city, you know. I’ve got bird. Nice birds. Beautiful birds. They don’t love me either.

          Reply
  4. ExpatNJ

    SHG wrote:
    “ABA … accredits law schools. It reviews and reports on qualifications of nominees for the federal bench.”

    SO, in light of the Janus ruling by SCOTUS, will ABA then demand membership just to legally practice law?

    Reply
  5. Richard Kopf

    SHG,

    For the vast bulk of us, lawyers have always represented clients rather causes. That principle, albeit old and now frequently thought of as retrograde or worse, is why the ABA will die. The ABA has flipped that dictum to its detriment. It is not true that the blind can see.

    On the lighter side, I will continue to pay my ABA dues until I get notice of dissolution. I still like watching reruns of the Walking Dead too.* Would it be too creepy to say I have a fascination with rotting corpses? I’ll leave that to you.

    All the best.

    RGK

    * “If I had known the world was ending, I would’ve brought better books.” — Dale

    Reply
  6. B. McLeod

    Law360 picked up on and reported the ABA memos in the mid-afternoon of July 9, but SJ appears to have “scooped” the nation’s legal media on this story.

    Reply

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