NYSBA House of Delegates Approves Subscription Plan Concept Proposed by the Membership Committee

By Susan DeSantis

June 21, 2023

NYSBA House of Delegates Approves Subscription Plan Concept Proposed by the Membership Committee


By Susan DeSantis

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.

The House of Delegates enthusiastically approved the concept of the subscription model, and the Membership Committee is now working to try to make it a reality by 2025. Under the plan, members would receive unlimited virtual CLEs, 24/7 access to on-demand programming, two complimentary section memberships and access to NYSBA’s entire digital library of resources including ebooks for one all-inclusive price.

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

Q: How will a subscription model benefit members?

Michelle: Members will find it easy to get everything they need for one price. As we all 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, most 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 – or perhaps a little more. 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 subscription model.

Think of it this way, if a member 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 the subscription 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 subscribers are more likely to stay members. In addition, the subscription 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 paralegals or sustaining members any more than they are paying now. Law school students will continue to be free.  Newly-admitted attorneys will still be free but can opt to pay more to include more services.  Government, non-profit, and public interest attorneys are welcome to submit a dues waiver request.

Q: What isn’t included in the subscription 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 subscription model have on the association’s many sections?

Clotelle: The sections have a lot to gain from the subscription model. They can look forward to an increase in membership because of the two complimentary section memberships included in the model and the flat $25 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 subscription 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 the subscription model?

Michelle: Annual membership also includes forty plus section newsletters, 400 plus CLEs, 150 plus informational programs, 6 Bar Journals, 2 editions of the State Bar News, 52 NYSBA Weeklies, 12 New York State Law Digest Newsletters and 20 plus printed resources including hundreds of online forms.

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





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