Everything Starts with an Idea

By Kurt Brown

Webster defines an idea as an “indefinite or unformed conception”. It is the springboard from which a new process is formed and it is that “springboard” that propelled the NJALA to win the coveted 2017 ALA IDEA Award, an honor bestowed on our chapter and the brainchild behind the idea, Immediate Past President, Doreen Marino. 

ALA’s IDEA (Innovation, Development, Engagement and Advancement) Awards program is designed to recognize unique programs, services and events that improve the legal community and advance the business of law. There are no predetermined categories, and participants are encouraged to ‘think outside the box’.” Twenty submissions were entered for this year’s awards, with only three submissions selected as the final recipients. 

The NJALA proudly accepted this award at the Association Awards Gala held during the ALA’s 2017 Annual Conference & Exposition in Denver, Colorado earlier this month. Since receiving the award, many chapters have inquired about the program and are looking to develop something similar themselves.


The NJALA is lucky to have a large membership (almost 150 members) and a solid business partner program in place. We noticed, however, that some chapters do not have the luxury of these elements and were struggling to maintain their identity. We wanted to “adopt” a smaller, less fortunate chapter. The Board of Trustees evaluated nearby chapters located in Region 1 of ALA and chose to adopt the Central Pennsylvania (Central PA) chapter. The Central PA chapter was delighted to be on the receiving end of this adoption.

The provisions of the adoption consist of the following:

  • A scholarship of $3,000.00 to send members to an ALA conference of their choice in 2017. Central PA chapter representatives have told us that they plan on using this money to send their board members to ALA’s Chapter Leadership Institute (CLI) in July 2017.

  • An invitation to join NJALA members at conference dinners and other social events. Four members of the Central PA chapter attended our chapter dinner in Denver and again joined us at the Association Awards Gala.

  • Associate membership in the NJALA, allowing Central PA members to attend monthly meetings, educational workshops and social events sponsored by the NJALA. Some Central PA members have already shown an interest in supporting our 50th Anniversary Gala in July 2017.

  • As members of the NJALA, Central PA members will have access to our Listserv and job bank, as well as all the resources supplied by our business partners.

  • An open invitation to all Central PA members to participate in our annual Bowl-A-Thon or any other community challenge that NJALA sponsors during the year.

  • Sponsorship will be reviewed annually, to be voted on each year by the NJALA Board of Trustees.

The purpose of this adoption is to help mentor Central PA chapter representatives in the areas of membership, education and business partner programs. NJALA wants to assist them in the further development of these efforts.

The adoption is designed to create opportunities to which the Central PA chapter may not have previously been exposed. The NJALA wants to give the Central PA chapter an opportunity to meet regional members and to get more involved with other chapters. We want to expose the Central PA chapter to what other chapters are doing about dwindling membership or what speakers they have used for educational seminars or workshops that have been successful. 

One of the biggest factors in instituting this program was the ability to expose Central PA members to potential business partners. Because of the proximity of our two chapters, many of the NJALA business partners could have the ability to service the law firms of the Central PA chapter. This is one area that we are going to pursue with our newly-formed Business Partner Relations and Advisory Committee.

The program is in its infancy, but the NJALA has also formed an Adopt-a-Chapter Committee to act as a liaison and to assist in the implementation of the programs we wish to help the Central PA chapter develop. Our objective is to remain with the adopted chapter until such time they have grown their membership and have established a solid business partner program. Once these goals are achieved, the intention is to open the program to another chapter.

As NJALA members, we should all be very proud of the 2017 ALA IDEA Award recognition and the hard work our Board of Trustees and members are doing to elevate our chapter and the ALA.

Kurt Brown is the Executive Director of Einhorn, Harris, Ascher, Barbarito & Frost, PC in Denville, New Jersey.

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