The American Bar Association is overhauling its business model due to declining lawyer members and membership revenue. The organisation has offered a deal to longtime staff in advance of a comprehensive staff restructuring. According to the ABA Journal, the Voluntary Separation Incentive Programme (VIP) is being offered to those who satisfy certain conditions including 20 years service at the ABA. The restructure is a result of plummeting income for the organisation - the operating budget has dropped from $116 million in 2014 to $96.1 million in the latest fiscal year. Forty years ago, 50 per cent of the lawyers in the United States were members of the ABA. This is now reduced to 22 per cent of the market.
The organisation is planning for around $10 million cuts in 2018 with a further $5 million to be cut next year. It is considering reducing the number of meetings annually due to lower attendance. It is also renegotiating the lease of its Chicago headquarters and cutting back on travel costs. Other options include looking at whether it should eliminate certain committees. Those who are eligible for VIP and volunteer for redundancy will get 15 months salary in a lump sum.
The plan was approved by the ABA Board of Governors on 2 February. Speaking at the ABA Vancouver meeting, ABA executive director Jack Rives said the ABA’s membership currently stood at 412,499 members, 70 per cent of whom were lawyers. Students accounted for anther 26 per cent whilst the remaining four per cent included paralegals and international lawyers. The restructuring will focus on services which encompass the four goals of the ABA: to serve members, improve the profession, eliminate bias and enhance diversity and advance the rule of law.