Cultivating Excellence among Committees and Sections is the title of an article in the ABA’s Fall 2012 BoardLink and should be a goal of every women’s bar association.  Committee members who understand and support their committee’s charge and who carry out their tasks in a supportive and collegial environment will find committee service both rewarding for the organization and for themselves as individuals.  Reviewing committees, their charges, leadership and membership should be done on a regular basis.  Look first to your organization’s bylaws.  Are certain commitees required? Here is an example of a portion of a bar association’s bylaws which spell out rules regarding committees:

Governance – Committee Review Sample Bylaws (NMSBA)

Think of ways to streamline committee charges to avoid redundancies which could lead to inactivity (“I thought the XYZ committee was supposed to be handling that”) or frustration that precious volunteer time is wasted.  Articulate the purpose of each committee and publish it so that members and prospective members alike know what is expected of them.  It is very possible that your women’s bar association has too many committees.  By the same token, if a board is doing all the work of the organization, it is quite likely that committees should be created.  Ideally, participation on a committee can be a way of solidifying member participation and nurturing future leadership in the organization.

Governance – Committee Review

Remember that every good idea cannot be adopted by a committee. How can committees be structured to encourage innovation and support the enthusiasm of members without overwhelming the capacity of volunteers and staff? 

Is Your Garden Overgrown? Bars Develop Programs by Design, Not Chance

Even the most effective committees need to be nurtured by leadership and staff. Here are some ideas from Vicki Clark of Building Capacity of Organizations.

When thinking about the work of committees, don’t overlook the possibility that you may be able to offer your members the opportunity to participate in ways that engage them and are helpful to the organization but which don’t require enormous commitments of time:  Microvolunteering: More Opportunities for Member Engagement.

Take a look at some examples of types of committees and their duties:

California Women Lawyers

Queen’s Bench Bar Association

Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles

Women Lawyers of Sacramento

Colorado Women’s Bar Association

Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia

Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys

Women’s Bar Association of Illinois

Kansas Women Attorneys Association

Women’s Bar Association of Maryland

Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts

Minnesota Women Lawyers

New Hampshire Women’s Bar Association

New Jersey Women Lawyers Association

Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York

Oregon Women Lawyers

South Carolina Women Lawyers Association

Association for Women Lawyers (Wisconsin)

Texas Women Lawyers

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