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The Results Are In! CWBA 2023 Membership Survey



Background


In February 2021, after months of planning meetings led by the CWBA's then-President Sarah Parady, the CWBA Board of Directors approved the 2021-2024 Strategic Plan. The Membership Committee's first objective under the Strategic Plan was to Conduct a Member Survey--the last time the CWBA completed a membership survey was in 2017. The 2022-23 CWBA Membership and Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committees started the project by creating a Survey Working Group comprised of CWBA staff, leadership, and members. The working group's first task was to hire the right partner to help guide the drafting, distribution, and analysis of the survey. The working group recommended contracting with the ABA because of their extensive experience drafting surveys for legal organizations. After meeting with several professionals, the CWBA board voted to retain Rachel Ellett, Ph.D., the Manager of Research & Analytics for the ABA Division for Bar Services.


Once the ABA was onboard, the Survey Working Group began meeting with Dr. Ellett to draft the membership survey. The two main goals of the Membership Survey were to compare updated survey data to the results of the 2017 survey and to gather data to inform the strategic direction and decision-making of the CWBA moving forward.


Drafting a user-friendly large-scale survey is a challenging task. The working group spent months working with Dr. Ellett to craft the survey questions that would accurately measure the opinions and experiences of our members. Additionally, the working group put much thought into the sequence of questions. After multiple drafts and input from the CWBA Board of Directors, in February 2023, a 51-question membership survey was distributed to all 2,720 current and former members of the CWBA. In total, 355 members (13% of total active/inactive members) responded to the survey. Once the raw data was received, the Working Group worked with Dr. Ellett to draft a Membership Survey Report. Below is a summary of some of the results.


Demographics


Of the 355 survey respondents, 305 are CWBA members, 54 are not members/don't know. 86% of the respondents were white, and 15% were Black/Indigenous/Asian/Latine/NHPI/South Asian. The sample in this survey represents a slightly higher percentage than the national percentage of women lawyers of color, which is 10.15% (NALP 2022).


The majority of respondents have practiced law for less than 10 years (79%), and there is heavy representation of people who have been CWBA members for 0-5 years (57%) – but those members are at a wide range of career stages. The data reveals an even distribution from newly qualified lawyers to lawyers with over 25 years of experience.


The Denver metropolitan area (79%) was heavily represented in this survey. Virtual programs are ranked more accessible, and some comments when asked 'what could CWBA do better' cited a desire for more programming outside Denver.


10% of respondents indicated they were a person 'with a disability.'


Private practice lawyers made up almost 50% of the respondents. Government, non-profit, and legal services represent around 20% of respondents. A majority indicate that they are in stable employment and expect to remain in their position for the next five years.


A comparison with the 2017 yearly income of responding members reveals an over 50% increase in the number of members who make over $176,000 and those who make between $126,000 and $150,000. In the remaining categories there was a decrease in yearly income over the last five years. Yearly income of responding members across the top three categories was: Under $100,000 (25%), $100,000-176,000 (38%), and over $176,000 (36%). In sum, 74% of respondents make over $100,000 per year.


Reputation, Mission, and Scope


Overall, perceptions of the CWBA have remained positive since 2017. In 2017, 73% of respondents strongly agreed or agreed that the CWBA offers value for its membership price; in 2022, this increased to 75%. The top two services or benefits for respondents were 1) developing my career path and 2) making me a better lawyer.

"CWBA is where I feel most at home, most welcome and most empowered."

A review of the open-ended comments reveals a strong sense of loyalty and commitment to the organization, and most respondents indicated it was 'highly likely' they would renew their CWBA membership. The percentage of respondents indicating it was 'very likely' or 'likely' they would renew their membership was identical across all race/ethnicity groups.


Programming Priorities, Services, and Benefits


In 2017, the top three reasons for participating with the CWBA were "Networking and Referrals," "Professional Development," and "Camaraderie/Friendships." This has broadly stayed constant over the last five years. In 2022, the top two services or benefits for respondents were: 1) developing my career path and 2) making me a better lawyer. These functions were also listed as the highest priorities.


When asked for their top three concerns, members reported: 1) pay equity, 2) time pressures and balance issues, and 3) opportunities for promotion and advancement of women. When the data was sorted by length of time practicing and race/ethnicity, there were no major differences in priorities within the membership.


Belonging, Diversity, and Inclusion


A top takeaway from this year's member survey is that over 70% of respondents felt like they belonged. The percentage of white and non-white respondents 'strongly agreeing' (40%) or 'agreeing' (31%) that they belonged was identical. Older lawyers reported a moderately higher sense of belonging compared to young lawyer members.


Respondents saw DEI programming and building relationships with other affinity bars as an area of potential opportunity and growth for the CWBA. In the open-ended comments, several members asked for more DEI work and training. When asked whether they knew how to pursue a leadership role, lawyers of color responded 'disagree' at a rate two times higher than white respondents.


Conclusion


Many of the results summarized above were already areas of focus for CWBA. For example, for the last few years, the CWBA has hosted a "Pathways To CWBA Leadership" information session to encourage diverse lawyers to seek leadership within the organization. While it is rewarding for CWBA leadership and staff to read the positive comments within the survey results, we are committed to using the results to improve membership satisfaction within the organization.


If you want to support the future of the CWBA and help us continue to advance member satisfaction, please consider joining the Membership Committee and DEI Committee as we work on hosting member roundtables in 2024. To support this effort, please email working group member Hannah Seigel Proff (hannah@profflaw.com) to get involved.


 

Hannah Seigel Proff is a solo practitioner at Proff Law LLC, a boutique law firm specializing in juvenile and criminal defense. She is also the founder and acting executive director for Learn Your Rights in the Community (LYRIC).




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