Holding an Effective Virtual Business Meeting

Dear Section Chairs and Chairs-Elect:

Technology is changing not only how law schools educate and train the next generation of lawyers but also how law school faculty and professional staff communicate and share best practices in scholarship, teaching and administration. AALS Sections now have a choice to hold their annual business meeting in person at the AALS Annual Meeting or to conduct their business meeting virtually. In this installment of the Section Counselor we draw your attention to some online tools that can make holding a virtual meeting a really effective way of conducting Section business, including soliciting nominations and holding Section officer elections.

AALS Sections

For a variety of reasons, you may be interested in hosting a virtual business meeting. For starters, there is often little time to hold a Section business meeting when your Section’s program at the Annual Meeting concludes. As a result, the business meeting may be poorly attended in person. In addition, virtual elections have the potential to promote wider Section engagement in the process and encourage more faculty and professional staff to participate.

In soliciting nominations from your membership, you can take advantage of the tools that AALS provides to communicate with your members— in particular, your Section’s listserv and website. A call for nominations can be sent out via email to your membership or posted to your Section’s website. A list of nominations can be posted to the Section’s website, distributed through your Section’s listserv, or through the many free, online tools that allow you to hold online elections. Some examples include Survey Monkey (https://www.surveymonkey.com/mp/online-polls/), Doodle (http://doodle.com), Poll Everywhere (https://www.polleverywhere.com/), Poll Maker (http://poll-maker.com), and Easy Polls (http://easypolls.net). Using these resources, you can also solicit nominations anonymously and keep track of who is nominated.

When holding a virtual business meeting, here are some best practices shared by other Section officers:

AALS Sections

  • Know your membership. Small Sections may benefit from direct outreach, whereas larger Sections may benefit from online polling or a live web conference
  • Know your bylaws. Your Section’s bylaws may have requirements for holding officer elections and business meetings. You will want to review those before holding a virtual business meeting to ensure that you follow these rules
  • Choose the right virtual technology. Holding a business meeting remotely gives you flexibility. You can conduct the meeting by telephone, Skype, or other live web conference technology. If you have questions about selecting the right online business meeting platform, you can always contact AALS staff to help you
  • Make Elections Fair. Communicate deadlines effectively to your members and let colleagues know that they must sign-up as Section members in order to be eligible to vote, nominate, and hold office
  • Distribute Agenda and Nominations Well In Advance. In order to ensure the widest possible participation and member engagement during the business meeting, you will want to prepare and distribute your business agenda/list of nominees before opening the polls or conducting your live web conference

Finally, we collected some model calls for Section officer nominations that you may find useful. They are collected in the library of Section resources at https://www.aals.org/section-election-communication-samples/.

AALS Staff would be glad to help answer any questions you may have about conducting virtual business meetings and officer elections. Our community manager, Patrick Riley, can be reached at (202) 296-1566 or priley@aals.org or you may contact support@aals.org.

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