The British Columbia Legal Management Association (formerly VALA) was founded in 1972 by a group of professionals then referred to as “Office Managers”. They were the pioneers in a new career – law firm management.
The BCLMA was formed about a year after the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) was founded, but it wasn’t until 1982 that the BCLMA became an official chapter of ALA. These pioneers of the profession had to pay their own dues in the early years as the benefits of the association weren’t well recognized by the lawyers, and the need to pay dues to both BCLMA and ALA proved onerous for some. With benefits soon proven, the issue of paying dues to both the local and international organization became less of an issue and BCLMA joined the ALA family, eventually sending two of its own on to the international board.
The first meetings were held on a monthly basis at the old Lawyers’ Inn on Dunsmuir Street. Most of the speakers were from the chapters and the meetings featured broad sharing of information. Topics included the latest in typewriters, photocopiers and the newest invention of the time – the computer!
When the new courthouse was completed, monthly meetings moved to the new Law Courts Inn. When it was suggested that dinner costs be included in membership fees, the BCLMA’s treasury grew to being capable of providing world class programming for its members. When the annual retreat was established, ALA’s President and President-Elect travelled to B.C. to participate and enjoy the good work done at our annual retreat. Recent retreats have been hosted in historic Victoria and the world-renowned resort community of Whistler.
The subsections are a vital part of the association. The Finance Section was the first, created in 1984. Human Resources and Technology soon followed. In the late 1980’s, the Marketing and Office Services (now known as Facilities and Services Management) subsections were formed. Small Firms was created in the early 1990’s. Newest subsections are Knowledge Management and Trainers. Today’s subsections represent the core strength of the association as the management positions in law firms become more specialized.
BCLMA and Vancouver have hosted three “Northwest ” regional ALA conferences (1986, 1991, 1995). At these conferences, BCLMA professionals welcomed their colleagues from the Pacific Northwest, western Canada and Alaska and Hawaii and participated in a number of excellent programs featuring the best known speakers in the field. The ALA Region 5 conference was hosted in Vancouver in October 2003.
The BCLMA has attracted legal managers and professionals from all across British Columbia – Prince George, Kamloops, Kelowna, Nanaimo and Victoria. In addition to these outposts, we have thriving enrolment in the suburbs of Vancouver, and many of these individuals contribute to the Small Firms subsection today.
The newsletter was launched in 1985. In this day of e-mail and instant communication, it is sometimes difficult to remember that the newsletter was the first and most important source of information for the association. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, the Editorial Board reintroduced the newsletter as TOPICS. TOPICS set the standard for ALA chapter newsletters and was an award winner in the early 1990’s for design and writing and best all around newsletter for chapters of our size.
Our association moved into the internet age in 1998 with the establishment of its own website.
Our chapter initiated the sharing of information in order to further the knowledge of legal managers and the advancement of our firms. Legal professionals developed information bases and reports for the association. Our own Law Firm Economics Survey became a model for similar such surveys across Canada. Additionally, the association has long enjoyed a collaborative relationship with the Canadian Bar Association’s B.C. Branch on collecting various pieces of law firm management information.
The BCLMA has always enjoyed a cooperative relationship with vendors, from the early days when vendors were speakers at various education meetings and advertisers in the newsletter. In the mid-1990’s, the relationship with vendors matured, and vendors became much more active in their support of the BCLMA, particularly with financial support of various educational and social functions. Those relationships continue today.
Our association is a truly vibrant chapter thanks to the numerous volunteers (for instance, http://writingpapershelp.com) and legal managers who continue to give their time and effort to enriching the professional lives of their colleagues.