NALA CEO and Executive Director Greta Zeimetz sits down with host Carl Morrison at the 2019 NALA Conference & Expo to discuss both the value NALA gives its members and the value its members bring to NALA. They also talk about the future of legal associations and how NALA plans to improve membership engagement over the coming years.
Greta Zeimetz, CAE is the Executive Director of the National Association of Legal Assistants.
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The Paralegal Voice
NALA Annual 2019: Membership Engagement with NALA CEO and Executive Director Greta Zeimetz
Carl Morrison: Hello and welcome to The Paralegal Voice. We are recording live on location here from the 2019 NALA Conference & Expo in Scottsdale, Arizona.
I don’t have a live studio audience like I had yesterday afternoon, some of the sessions, so I don’t have any like applause or anything. So thank you, thank you.
This is Carl Morrison. I am the host of The Paralegal Voice and I am here with a fantastic guest. I am going to announce in a second.
But first I want to say that our show is sponsored by NALA, CourtFiling.net, Legalinc and ServeNow and definitely we truly appreciate all the support that our sponsors give to us. NALA has been a sponsor since the very first show. So thank you to NALA for being a great sponsor.
Joining me today, I have got with me Dr. Greta Zeimetz, CAE. She is the Executive Director, CEO of NALA, the Paralegal Association.
Greta, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for doing this.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Thank you Carl. Happy to be here.
Carl Morrison: I will tell you guys, Greta is amazing. I am going to let her tell you about herself, but I have got to know Greta since she came on in 2015, is that right?
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Yes, correct.
Carl Morrison: And just she has been doing a lot of great things. So Greta, why don’t you tell a bit about yourself?
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Thank you Carl. I don’t like to talk about myself too much of course, but yes, I started at NALA in 2015 and have been making a lot of changes since; new databases, new learning management system, and I like to laugh because we got a new phone system; we actually have voicemail now. So we have been working on a lot of foundational things, logo updated, things like that.
So I live in Tulsa, where NALA is headquartered and a couple of my kids are with me and going to school at OSU and one son is up in Wisconsin. And I am a foster mom for a big Great Dane named Dixie, and she is wonderful.
Carl Morrison: Oh my gosh. Well, first I would like to say, as a former Okie, I now live in Las Vegas, but I am a former Okie, so Go Pokes.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Yeah, right, yeah.
Carl Morrison: I love dogs and Great Dane.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: She is beautiful, I love her.
Carl Morrison: Oh my gosh.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: I might be a foster failure, I am submitting that now.
Carl Morrison: No, never, never, never.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: That means I am a keeper, I can just be foster, but I love her.
Carl Morrison: So Greta, tell us a little bit about your background as an Executive Director for Associations in big picture. What does CAE stand for?
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: It’s Certified Association Executive. So it’s our certification through American Society of Association Executives. I worked in associations for more than 15 years prior to coming to NALA. So I was a Director of Education and Research for 13 years for a tax association and I have to tell you I love the paralegals much more, they are wonderful, they are a wonderful group.
Carl Morrison: Of course we are.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: I know.
Carl Morrison: Of course we are.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: I know, I love them, it’s great, it’s great.
Carl Morrison: So thank you, thank you.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Thank you.
Carl Morrison: Okay, so we are going to jump into my topic that I thought listeners would love to hear about and it’s about membership and membership engagement and engaging members. I know we struggle a lot in different ways.
So let’s first talk about legal associations.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Okay.
Carl Morrison: And of course NALA has been around for — since the beginning really of the paralegal industry.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Yeah, long time.
Carl Morrison: Almost 50 years, if you think about it, and truly NALA has been a force in the profession, and for me, I look at NALA as really — and its history and the organization itself, NALA really had to start at the grassroots level to really get started. There wasn’t a paralegal association already in place, you had to start and you had to create, because the industry was new.
So what would you say are some of maybe the three biggest strengths legal association wise in today’s environment?
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Sure, sure. Well, I really think in today’s environment, in terms of strengths, we really look at the members themselves of course and the knowledge that they can bring to those groups. It’s all about collaboration and expectations these days and it’s very hard for an association or anybody really as an organization to provide that level of expectation that consumers have.
And so by having our members and kind of having that network of members kind of working together, they are able to kind of be our arm out into the population or that olive branch or however you want to look at it in terms of reaching individuals that we can’t reach. So I think that’s one of the big strengths of associations, especially NALA and others, just being able to do that.
Carl Morrison: Yeah, right. What do you think has been, in the way of NALA, I am talking about NALA, what really has contributed to its longevity, do you think?
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Well, of course I have to say its members and its leadership. I mean we really have such amazing volunteers. I mean our volunteers go above and beyond. I mean a lot of associations will actually pay their board of directors, NALA does not. All of our board members are unpaid and they spend countless hours, they are just so passionate about their profession and they are just passionate about NALA. So I mean that just really helps a lot. I mean I am just amazed every year at how much time and energy they dedicate to NALA, we couldn’t do without them.
Carl Morrison: I will say that paralegals, by and large, they are givers and they want to give back and they want to give back to the profession and belonging to an association like NALA is vitally important for most paralegals to give back, and so having a volunteer board, having volunteer positions I think it’s just, A, paralegals are Type A individuals.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Which I love, if they say they are going to get something done, they are going to get it done, I love it.
Carl Morrison: Right, exactly, and we are overachievers, let’s just call a spade like a spade, we are overachievers.
So talking about the strength side of the equation, so let’s look at the converse side of it, so conversely, what would you say are maybe three of the biggest challenges that any legal association like NALA are really faced with currently?
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Yeah. I mean it really ties into again consumer expectations in terms of responses. I mean people want that instant response these days or instant gratification of purchase or something like that. We are not necessarily going to have drones drop off NALA gear to your house, but I think that’s one of the challenges for sure.
I think it’s also technology, it’s just really hard for associations, especially smaller associations, to afford the technology that they need to provide that service level that people expect, that’s definitely a challenge.
And I would think the model of how associations exist is a challenge, because it doesn’t allow us to pivot quickly to what’s happening in the environment.
Carl Morrison: And you have seen I am sure in the many years of being an association executive how in the last 10, 15 years, how much and how quick things change now in addition — conversely 30 years ago.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Right.
Carl Morrison: So much happened so fast as an association and even at the local level, affiliate level, you try to have to — try to keep up to what’s going on and sometimes it’s hard.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: It’s almost impossible, yeah, right, right.
Carl Morrison: Exactly.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Yeah, for sure.
Carl Morrison: So what do you think are some of these challenges that we are talking about, what do you think legal associations — can’t even talk, what do you think —
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: I got you all flustered.
Carl Morrison: I know, right. So what do you think legal associations can do to overcome these challenges that we are talking about?
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Yeah. I mean I like to look at the corporate world and see what’s happening out in the for-profit world to see what we can model in the not-for-profit, and a lot of it to me is really the collaboration that we can create so that members can connect to members in a peer-to-peer network.
For example, like GitHub, for example, where they have IT professionals that actually can rate each other’s work, they are using that almost as a platform to hire other IT individuals, which is great. Like Waves, for example, where you can collaborate with other people and you are driving and commenting. I mean so looking to see what’s happening in the corporate world that we can apply, which I think the big thing is kind of that agile association, and that’s a big term these days in Corporate America and NALA is really hitting the associations, where we want to be able to turn on a dime as well.
Carl Morrison: Right.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: So instead of having that structure and the way that we develop projects and it takes us forever to roll something out that we can actually meet those needs quicker and be more agile and looking at the software and technologies and the people that we have so that we can move a little quicker.
Carl Morrison: Because I mean for you as CEO of NALA, you have to look at it as a business, the association as a business, but you also have to look at it that it’s an association of volunteers.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Right.
Carl Morrison: So you are operating almost two companies within one if you —
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Right, right. And it’s funny, people are like oh, you are not-for-profit. It’s like well, we need to make money so that we can fund back to our members and things that we do.
I mean we talked about the conference here is that it’s very expensive to put on a conference. I mean I think the last time we looked it was like $108 for a gallon of coffee, plus, plus, plus service and taxes and all that kind of stuff. But it’s an investment, it’s an investment in our members and the attendees and we hope that they continue to partner with us and we would be a partner in their success.
Carl Morrison: And as a little just plug for this particular conference this year, it’s been — we have hit the record number of attendees, which is fantastic.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: I know, it’s very exciting.
Carl Morrison: We are lucky to have a fantastic location here, and that’s just what I stress to students, the importance, and even other paralegals that don’t come to a National Association Conference, come because it’s networking, it’s meeting others across the country. I have met so many people at this conference alone this weekend and I have still got another day’s worth to network, that I can reach out to now in corporate positions that I didn’t have before.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Absolutely, absolutely.
Carl Morrison: Coming to a conference like this is important.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Well, in fact, I think I saw a picture of you giving somebody your autograph. I think that was in the app that we had; the engagement we had beforehand.
Carl Morrison: Talking about engagement, exactly right, and that’s a great tool that we have got this year. I don’t know if we have had it in past years, but it seems like a lot of individuals are really — and not just me, but a lot of different people are really engaged with the app specific to the conference, that you can post pictures, you can direct message to individuals, you can connect with people, and it’s all about the — I call it the gamification.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: It is, it is, absolutely, because there is that leader board, you can check to see how people are —
Carl Morrison: And Kelly LaGrave, I interviewed yesterday. She and I are like competing.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Right, I have been checking that out.
Carl Morrison: So I have got to ask you, okay, you are going to put on your swami hat, put the crystal ball in front of you, so if you had a crystal ball and you can look into the future, and let’s say maybe 5, 10 years into the future, what would you see in the way of associations, in the way of membership model, engagement, member needs, et cetera, what would you see?
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: First, I really wish I had that crystal ball, but if I didn’t, it would be a Magic 8 Ball and I would ask it questions. But I think what’s going to happen is we are just going to see more of that agile association, where it’s going to be very customized content for people. I mean everybody’s time seems like it’s shrinking. We just don’t have as much available time for some reason. I don’t know why. I thought I would have more as I got older and that’s just not the case.
But I think it’s just more of customized content and being very specific content to those individuals and getting the content the way they want it, when they want it. So we have to be very, very member customer focused, even more so.
And I also think trying to cultivate a little more information, like we just started working on more surveys that we will share with the members. We just did a Contract Management Survey.
Carl Morrison: Which was fantastic.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Right, right, and I love that kind of stuff, because there is a lot of information out there, but if we can cultivate it and create it and give that to our members as something that doesn’t exist, I think that’s the other value that we can provide.
Carl Morrison: I will tell you that working in-house for a large corporation, coming here and I didn’t even know that that survey was going to be available and I saw it on the app and I am like this is fantastic, because when I go back in the office on Monday, I have the survey and I can say look, Mr. Bossman, this is what — here is the value, here is a benefit for me going, in addition to learning and so on and so forth; there’s other benefits…
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Right, absolutely. That’s great.
Carl Morrison: …that I get from it, so this is fantastic.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: I love to hear that.
Carl Morrison: Yeah, definitely. So member engagement, and so let’s talk a little bit about member engagement. What does it mean to you when you hear that phrase, member engagement, membership engagement, what does that mean to you?
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: I think to me it’s more about peer-to-peer contact that each party finds valuable. They get some value in that contact. So it’s not just the number of touches, if you will, from an organization, sending out marketing pieces or something like that; I think it’s about those relationships that can be created and cultivated, if you will, and grown, and like you were mentioning, meeting people and having these contacts and to me that’s the member engagement piece. So we need to create those vehicles for them to have that.
Carl Morrison: Right, and as taking off any leadership, any — I have other than the paralegal hat that I wear all the time, that’s a huge thing for me as an individual is having those benefits, that value other than belonging to an association just to belong.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Right, right, a checkbook member or something.
Carl Morrison: Right, exactly right. I never heard that, that’s great, a checkbook member.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Yes, yes.
Carl Morrison: That’s fantastic. I love it. Okay, so this is my last, what I call the substance question, is there something that associations struggle with or does it come relatively easy to most associations when we are talking about membership engagement? Is it easy or is it a challenge or is it a little bit of both?
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Well, no, I think it’s a challenge for all associations really and only because, again, different generations maybe want to engage differently with each other. I think the technology to create those engagements are not inexpensive at all and so for smaller associations they may struggle with that.
I think though they can be creative and find some of those freebie or low cost solutions that are out there and maybe they can’t compete with the larger associations in terms of some of those bells and whistles, but there are definitely ways to create that opportunity.
Carl Morrison: To me, big thing is the personal engagement, being able to talk, and not even physically being in the same room, but even technology now allows us between Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, your FaceTime, exchanging people’s numbers and contact information to even virtually engage with them is vitally important. To me, it’s part of that membership engagement.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Absolutely, absolutely.
Carl Morrison: Okay, so here is my fun question. You always know — if you have listened to the show.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: I have.
Carl Morrison: Okay. You know I have always got to have a fun question. So I have to ask you, what’s your funniest Greta story that can be told on air?
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: You prefaced that. Well, I don’t know if it’s my funniest, it’s just one that came to mind. It was my dad’s birthday recently and he passed away last year.
Carl Morrison: Oh, I am sorry to hear that.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: So I was thinking about him, and one of the things was we lived in Illinois and we would go up to Wisconsin and he had gotten — I don’t know, somebody gave him a cottage to use for the weekend or something and so we were all in the car and we were going up, and I was the map reader. And I really did not know where we were and I was told — we were real close and we weren’t, and so he just kind of teased me the whole time about how awful my map reading skills were, and I course love maps now.
Well, the joke was kind of on him, because we pull up, we see this beautiful house and we see the sign and it says the garage. Well, guess what? That’s where we stayed. And so it was me and my two brothers and we each had friends and we are all like young adult teenagers for the whole weekend. So he got to stay with us in the garage.
Carl Morrison: I love that.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: So my dad was like, yeah, we got it.
Carl Morrison: So if I were riding with you, should you be driving or should I be driving?
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Well, I don’t know, you mentioned that you have leadfoot and I do too, so I don’t know, either way we will get there quick. So I think we are safe, and there are GPS now, so I am happy now. I am good, I am good. I need that navigation though apparently.
Carl Morrison: Greta, thank you so much. It looks like we are at the end of our program and I want to thank you, Dr. Zeimetz. I love calling you that.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: I know, it just happened recently so it’s surreal, but thank you.
Carl Morrison: But truly thank you for joining me today and agreeing to do this.
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Thank you. Happy to be here.
Carl Morrison: So if the listeners had any questions about you, Association Executive or even about NALA, what’s the best way that they can get in contact with you?
Dr. Greta Zeimetz: Well, my email is on the website. It’s [email protected].
Carl Morrison: Fantastic. So that’s all the time we have for today’s episode of The Paralegal Voice, and this is of course brought to you by the generous support of NALA, CourtFiling.net, Legalinc and ServeNow and thank you again sponsors for your support of our show and thank you listeners for tuning in.
If you liked what you have heard, please rate and review us in Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or of course your favorite podcasting app.
I am Carl Morrison, host of The Paralegal Voice, and if you have any questions, please send them to me at [email protected], that’s [email protected].
Until next time, thank you for listening.
Outro: The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, or subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.