NACDL - For NACDL, Modern Communication Is the Key to Lawyer Education (From The President)

For NACDL, Modern Communication Is the Key to Lawyer Education (From The President)

NACDL provides service and information through multiple avenues including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, as well as NACDL’s website, listserves, E-News newsletter, webinars, and podcasts.

Access to The Champion archive is one of many exclusive member benefits. It’s normally restricted to just NACDL members. However, this content, and others like it, is available to everyone in order to educate the public on why criminal justice reform is a necessity.

As defense lawyers, we know that clear and effective communication is essential. This is not only true in a law practice, it is true as well for a bar association. And it is especially true for a bar association whose core mission is to provide training and support for its members in their daily practice. NACDL recognizes that the capacity to communicate clearly, effectively, and rapidly is essential to the fulfillment of its educational mission. To achieve that goal in the face of an explosion of new technologies and new modes of communication presents extraordinary challenges, especially for a large national organization. But every challenge presents unique opportunities. I am pleased to report that over the past few years NACDL has embraced these opportunities with the same zeal that our members bring to their advocacy on behalf of clients.

NACDL’s flagship mode of educational communication has always been, and will continue to be, its premier publication, The Champion. It is hard to believe that just a few short years ago, our monthly magazine was essentially the Association’s only mode of communication. Aside from an occasional letter to membership, that was all that was possible. Of course, the birth of the Internet and the widespread use of personal computers changed all that. But even as recently as five years ago, NACDL’s infrastructure was ill-suited to deliver service and information as quickly or efficiently as our members had a right to expect. No longer.

NACDL now has a robust communication platform that provides service and information through multiple avenues. Soaring usage numbers bear this out. As I marvel at the transformation that has catapulted NACDL into a position of leadership in communication among membership organizations, I know that there are still many members who are not aware of all the changes and all the opportunities to receive and exchange information that are just a few clicks away on whatever personal communication devices they use.

A prelude to effective communication is accurate membership information — a key ingredient in getting the right resources to the people who need them most. During this period of innovation, NACDL has installed a new and fully interactive database. It permits instantaneous member communication with and among members. Each member now has the capacity to update vital contact information and other aspects of her profile, and to provide fully interactive links to personal websites. New search functions enable members to locate other members in any geographical region, and then click through to their websites. And the “Find-a-Lawyer” feature on the new website permits the general public to search for lawyers by city, state, or within a particular radius. In 2012, the new website’s “Find-a-Lawyer” feature is averaging nearly 4,000 unique visits per month.

Most importantly, by providing information on areas of practice and interest, NACDL is able to direct programming opportunities to those who will most likely benefit from them. This enables NACDL to communicate more effectively — and less frequently. While providing as much valuable information as possible, NACDL must remain sensitive to avoid inundating members. That is why many of NACDL’s most effective new tools are more widely available to members on an opt-in basis.

This is surely the case with NACDL’s newly designed website that presents a vast wealth of information on substantive law, policy developments, CLE programs, and products. NACDL members can not only search various areas of interest, such as indigent defense, white collar, national security, and many others, but also utilize the Resource Center — a constantly expanding repository of topic-specific resources designed to enhance access to information for practitioners.

NACDL offers several listserves that enable members to freely exchange questions, answers and information on criminal law and procedure-related matters. Some listserves have close to 1,000 members and produce dozens of valuable exchanges each day. NACDL offers specific listserves on topics including DUI, Eyewitness Identification, Forensic Evidence, and White Collar Crime, as well as a “General” listserve and “Young and New Lawyers” listserve. Members can sign up for and manage listserve subscriptions by logging in as a member at nacdl.org and choosing the “manage your listserve subscriptions” link at www.nacdl.org/listserve.

All NACDL members automatically receive NACDL’s monthly electronic newsletter, E-News. This service provides news and information from the previous month as well as links to products and NACDL and affiliate-sponsored programs. Past issues of E-News are available on NACDL’s website, linked in the menu under the “News & The Champion” button at the top of every screen.

About a year and a half ago, NACDL launched its live and on-demand webinars initiative, many of which are made available at no cost. These programs, numbering over a dozen thus far, have covered such critical topics as the Supreme Court’s Padilla decision and its aftermath, the release of the report concerning the prosecution of Sen. Ted Stevens, and representing juveniles in adult courts. And just last month, NACDL began a monthly initiative offering one-hour webcasts of a popular segment from a prior live NACDL CLE program.

In March of this year, NACDL launched a new weekly podcast, “The Criminal Docket.” Each week, “The Criminal Docket” provides highlights in criminal justice news from the prior week, and previews what’s coming up on the criminal docket in state and federal agencies, legislatures, and the courts. In addition, every episode explores items on the criminal justice agenda, in-depth, with top leaders in the legal practice, public policy, journalism, academia, and other arenas whose lives intersect with the criminal justice system. Podcasts have covered topics from the newly introduced federal Brady legislation to the failed War on Drugs, and from the Supreme Court’s jailhouse strip search decision to the 9/11 detainees’ arraignment at Guantánamo. You can subscribe to the podcast at no cost at the iTunes store. In addition, links are provided in the Daily Criminal Justice Briefing each Friday and Saturday. All episodes are available on NACDL’s website at www.nacdl.org/thecriminaldocket.

As we entered 2012, NACDL launched the “NACDL Edge” app, now available for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Android operating systems. Now, even on the go, members can use the NACDL Edge app to access information including news of interest, continuing legal education opportunities, the member-to-member directory, the latest issue of The Champion, and NACDL’s experts database. Links to download this app are at www.nacdl.org/nacdledge. Every day, NACDL’s public affairs & communications department issues NACDL’sDaily Criminal Justice Briefing, a news roundup, with links, to important criminal justice news from across the nation and around the world, in both legal and mainstream press. You can sign up to receive this valuable, free member benefit at http://www.nacdl.org/briefing.

NACDL is on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. On Facebook, you can follow NACDL by clicking “like” at www.facebook.com/NACDL. And we are @NACDL on Twitter. And on LinkedIn, just submit a request to join the NACDL group.

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In addition, NACDL also employs targeted communication to convey important information that is relevant only to a segment of its members. For example, when a critical development is looming in a particular state, NACDL can direct communications solely to members in that state.

How invaluable is all of this? Statistics can be dry, but they are often revealing. Consider that as of the first week of May, since launching the NACDL Edge app, it has been downloaded 1,647 times. NACDL webcasts have been viewed 2,577 times since the project launched just 18 months ago. NACDL now has 2,136 direct followers on Facebook and a reach into the tens of thousands on that social media platform. On Twitter, 1,619 people follow NACDL’s work. And there are currently 2,875 people in NACDL’s LinkedIn group. Each day, nearly 1,200 NACDL members receive NACDL’s Daily Criminal Justice Briefing. In the less than two months since NACDL launched its weekly podcast, “The Criminal Docket,” there have been more than 3,000 downloads. And in 2012, NACDL’s Resource Center, including the experts database and brief & motion bank, is averaging about 2,300 unique visits each month.

Notwithstanding all of these innovations, this is not the end. NACDL will soon begin broadcasting webinars that will harness cutting-edge technologies to provide greater clarity and such features as split screen viewing and interactive communications between presenters and viewers. This will provide extraordinary opportunities for desktop learning.

Ultimately, lawyer education is not just about the latest law ­­­or court decision; it’s about developments in criminal justice generally. For example, it is knowing about the recent disclosures concerning lab failure with hair comparisons. Such information is vitally important to defense attorneys. And the new tools and initiatives described in detail above are making it possible for NACDL to keep its members on top of all such developments in the criminal justice arena.

As I reflect upon the many changes during my years in the ranks of NACDL’s leadership, I am awed at all of this innovation. Yet as my term as your president winds down, I am supremely confident that NACDL will remain at the cutting edge in its capacity to provide legal education and resources to the criminal defense community.