President's Message

By Mary Beth Donoghue

An NJALA member recently asked me how long I have been a member of the NJALA, and if I found the organization to be beneficial to my career.  The answers to these questions were simple.  

I joined the NJALA and the ALA in the spring of 1993.  At that time, I was the Office Manager of a mid-size law firm in Union County, handling human resources, accounts receivable and billing.  I had practically grown up in this firm.  I had been the copy clerk in high school there, and worked at the firm on breaks and summers during college.  

Upon receiving my college degree in accounting, I was hired by a large law firm to be the Accounting Manager.  Within a year, the mid-size firm had lured me back to my role as Office Manager.  Several months later, a partner at the firm asked if I had heard about a group of office managers who met once a month and discussed managing law firms.  That group was the NJALA.  Now, 25 years later, I cannot even imagine not being a member of this wonderful organization, which has both guided me, and given me the opportunity to meet so many people during the course of my career.  

I have been fortunate to be able to attend several ALA regional and annual conferences over the years.  I recall attending my first regional conference—the NJALA board wanted all the first-time attendees to get the most from the conference experience, so they assigned a “mentor” to each first-time attendee.  Long-time ALA/NJALA member (and now a past president), Karen Steinberger, was my mentor for that conference, and she remained my mentor and friend until her retirement a few years ago.  

Karen encouraged me to be active in the NJALA by attending the monthly meetings, volunteering for various committees and networking with other members.  Karen and I would also connect at other times outside of NJALA events, maybe to discuss a particular topic or just to vent about the life of an administrator.  

After all, it doesn’t matter what size firm you work at, we all face some challenging situations and questions everyday.  For me, it has always been such a comfort to be able to call or e-mail NJALA colleagues with a question, because I know they have experienced similar issues.  Over the years, technology certainly has enhanced our ability to reach out to other resources for assistance, but the ability to connect with a colleague who truly understands your situation is “priceless”.  

Along this same line of thinking, the NJALA board hosted a breakfast meeting last year, and invited all the new members who joined NJALA in the preceding two years to attend.  We had a terrific turnout.  Each board member talked about his/her firm position, how he/she came to join the NJALA and what he/she has gotten out of his/her NJALA experience.  Then the new members spoke about themselves, their firm positions and what they hope to gain by being NJALA members.  We received great feedback about what new members are looking for in our organization, and they expressed appreciation to the board for making a connection with them.  

Since then, I have had two of the new member breakfast attendees reach out to me with questions about particular matters they were handling.  They just wanted to be able to either bounce their thoughts off another colleague or obtain some trusted advice.  I certainly don’t know the answer to every question, but I hope I can help guide my fellow administrators to resources that can assist them.  I also hope that every member of the NJALA feels comfortable enough to reach out to a fellow member for a solution, direction or just to talk.  We are always here for you!

This coming week, May 3rd to 6th, I will be one of 20+ NJALA members attending the 2018 ALA Annual Conference & Exposition at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.  I am looking forward to spending time with my fellow NJALA colleagues, and having the opportunity to meet other colleagues from around the country and the world.  I know we are all excited to learn new skills and ideas to bring back to the chapter and our firms.

Mary Beth Donoghue is the Administrative Office Manager of Day Pitney LLP in Parsippany, New Jersey.

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