New York State Bar Association Institutes All-Inclusive Membership Model

By Susan DeSantis

January 23, 2024

New York State Bar Association Institutes All-Inclusive Membership Model


By Susan DeSantis

Distinguishing itself from many other bar associations, the New York State Bar Association will be enhancing its offerings to members by providing exclusive content, unlimited live CLE programming, 24/7 access to the association’s on-demand CLE library of 1,700+ programs, complimentary membership for  two of the association’s legal sections, access to hundreds of digital publications and forms, and countless additional partner benefits, all wrapped up in one, affordable, membership fee.

The association’s House of Delegates on Friday made a change to the association’s bylaws to institute the new membership model beginning in the 2025 membership year.

Members can belong to two of the association’s sections for free, with additional sections costing a modest $30 per membership. The association’s 28 sections range from those that focus on a legal practice such as Trusts and Estates, Tax, and Antitrust to sections that share common interests such as the association’s Women in Law Section or LGBTQ Law Section.  This is just the tip of the iceberg for this new membership package valued at over $5,000.

The New York State Bar Association’s Membership Committee, chaired by Clotelle Drakeford of the Legal Aid Society of Westchester County, and Michelle Wildgrube, a partner at Cioffi Slezak Wildgrube, proposed a subscription plan for association membership at the House of Delegates’ summer meeting June 10th.

In a recent interview, Wildgrube and Drakeford answered questions about the subscription model proposed by the Membership Committee.

Q: How will this new model benefit members?

Michelle: Members will find it easy to get everything they need for one price. As many may know, the association has a complicated dues structure, and this will eliminate that. Members can pay for their annual membership upfront or via monthly credit card payments like they do now with Netflix or HBO. After that, the overwhelming majority of their activities will be free. It couldn’t be simpler.

Clotelle: And one of the best parts is that the cost will be about the same as the average member is paying now. The Membership Committee studied what members are paying now on all their a la carte services — virtual CLEs, on-demand programming, membership fees and section memberships — before determining prices for the new model.

Think of it this way, if  members added up what they typically spend on membership dues, CLE credits either with NYSBA or through another provider, and additional resources throughout the year, they could actually save money with their membership since they could complete ALL of their CLE requirements under this plan among other amazing benefits.

Q: What is the advantage of this new model for the association?

Michelle: The association will maintain an ongoing relationship with members and continually demonstrate the value of belonging. It will also give the association a more predictable source of revenue and that will lead to an increase in membership because it sets the course for continuing to evaluate and provide more resources as time goes by, leading to stronger member retention.  In addition, the new model will simplify the process for joining and renewing.

Q: Will law students, newly admitted lawyers, retired attorneys and paralegals continue to pay less than lawyers in the prime of their careers? What will the impact be on sustaining members?

Clotelle: We are not planning to charge retired members or paralegal members much  more than they are paying now. Law school students will continue to be free.  Newly admitted attorneys will still qualify for free membership, but can opt to pay more to include more services and resources.  Government, non-profit, and public interest attorneys are welcome to submit a dues waiver request.

Q: What isn’t included in the new plan?

Michelle: Because of the expenses involved, in-person events such as section destination meetings, in-person CLEs, and Annual Meeting would be omitted from this model and require an additional fee should a member choose to register. But because there has been a trend toward virtual programming – spurred in part by COVID – many members will pay nothing more or their increased costs will be negligible. Surveys have shown that the majority of our members want virtual programming to be an option. Many prefer it. But that isn’t to say that the association is moving away from in-person programming. We still believe that’s vital for a membership organization.

Q: Would the model be available to firms for purchase?

Michelle: That’s a great question. We absolutely see firms taking full advantage of this, particularly if they are already paying the membership fees for their attorneys or spending additional money on CLE for their team. Some firms would not only save thousands of dollars going this route based on existing CLE expenses and additional resource library expenses, but there are potential savings that may traditionally go unrecognized, such as possibly saving on liability insurance premiums if all firm members are part of the New York State Bar Association.

Q: What impact would the new model have on the association’s many sections?

Clotelle: The sections have a lot to gain from this model. They can look forward to an increase in membership because of the two complimentary section memberships included in the model and the flat $30 fee to join each additional section. Plus, sections are going to receive royalties from the association based on a formula that takes into account overall NYSBA membership and section membership.

Q: What impact would the model have on the association’s CLEs?

Clotelle: With so many CLEs included in the cost of membership, we anticipate that CLEs will have a larger audience and that will make our speakers even more influential than they already are.

Q: What else should members know about this new model?

Michelle: Annual membership to the association will also include 40-plus section newsletters, 400-plus live CLEs any given year, 150-plus informational programs, 4 Bar Journals, 2 editions of the State Bar News, 52 NYSBA Weekly eNewsletters, 12 New York State Law Digest Newsletters, and 80+ eBooks that include hundreds of online forms.

Clotelle: Many of our members don’t know how much we offer but by moving to this exciting model, they will be able to take full advantage of everything we offer without worrying about the cost.


Six diverse people sitting holding signs
gradient circle (purple) gradient circle (green)


My NYSBA Account

My NYSBA Account