WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
At the last few National Council meetings, most of the business that your officers, delegates, and other council members discuss touch on this important question. We all know that Tau Epsilon Rho Law Society has served the legal community for over 80 years, after its formation in response to discriminatory practices directed against Jewish law students in the first quarter of the 20th century. Our organization provided both a social and professional meeting place for its members, who were not welcomed through the doors of other national, regional, and local bar associations.
At the onset of the 21st century, we recognize our roots as a Jewish organization, and look to this core element of our identity as we work to recruit the next generation of membership and leadership. As with most professional organizations that began with a predominantly social agenda, we are competing for the time and interest of lawyers preoccupied with working 80+ hour weeks, and juggling the demands of family, profession, and community. In the long view, while we may be able to add new members from the ranks of those already admitted to the bar, these people don't find us on their own; we are dependent on lawyer recruitment on our current members who can approach other members of their firms, and other lawyers they know. Lawyers who join us as practicing lawyers, however, tend to join us because local chapters may fill a particular niche in their lives, such as local politics or networking within the local legal community. Members who begin their association with TER after law school do not gain a strong sense of our identity as a national organization (with all of the additional benefits that accrue from such an association), and some are not even aware that TER is anything more than a local special interest group. It is important that our graduate chapter leadership remember to stress our institutional history and identity while promoting their special, local, interests.
In order to build membership that appreciates the national aspect of our character, we need to return to recruiting members who have not yet focused their attention on any particular locality. The source of these new members can only and must be law school students. In my third term as National Chancellor, my priority is to restore our traditional strong membership in law school chapters, whose members will naturally gravitate to our graduate chapters upon graduation.
To accomplish this goal, we need participation by members with links to their own law schools, whether as faculty or interested alumni. I believe that fostering a successful law school program requires graduate members who can serve as mentors from the perspective of TER: who can educate law students as to our history and traditions, and encourage them to take advantage of programs and benefits historically made available to law students.
This is most important in those communities whose graduate members are aging, or where interest in local chapter activities has diminished or ceased entirely. The best way to restore the viability of these once active chapters is to recruit a new generation of members from the nearby law schools.
If any of you is active in your law school alumni program, or has contacts at law schools with a strong Jewish student base, please get in touch with me. We need you to be our liasons to these chapters. Our National Pledgor and I will work with you to coordinate support from the Schwartzberg Scholarship Foundation so that a program can be in place when students return to school this fall.
On another note, this year's Annual Meeting will be at the Hilton resort at Singer Island, FL from December 27 - January 1. We are working on developing program to rival last year's successful convention. If anyone is interested in being a CLE presenter, contact Joel Kaufman, our National Scholar.
Last year's convention was particularly successful due to the large number of early registrations. Early registration information will be available on the website in July. It is easier for us to plan activities when we have a sense of how many people will attend the convention, and I encourage all of you to register early.
Barry L. Lippitt