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Berliner Cohen’s Susie Fagalde Author of “Bridging the Gap Between Then and Now”

At the November conference I stood up at the Board of Governors meeting and addressed the Executive Committee and the general assembly regarding the overall feeling of exclusivity given off by the recent proposed bylaw amendment. As one of the younger members of LSI, I wanted to expand on my comments from November.

I find value in this organization, in the education I receive and in the networking opportunities through meeting members of other associations. I also find value in creating new friendships with members of other associations. This is an organization I would like to continue being a part of and that I would like to see be successful well into the future.

LSI has a long history. I would never discount that history. We really don’t need to look any further than our Articles of Incorporation to see that this organization was intended to foster a community that promoted new ideas and brought diverse people together. However, I feel there is an air of exclusion that is threatening to take over this organization. I feel that we are in danger of losing sight of our true purpose, which is bringing together legal staff from throughout the state and as our own motto says, providing “Excellence Through Education.” The attitude of "this is how we've always done it" will not lead to growth of this organization. That sort of thinking just does not resonate with those my age. If we want to grow, we’ll need to find a way to innovate. I was raised to think that new ideas were a good thing and even if it didn’t work out – hey at least we tried something different. I understand that this is a corporation that has business to conduct, but maybe it’s time to look at new ways of conducting that business, streamlining our processes to maximize efficiency and allow for more time to get back to our original purpose of growing our association and educating our members.

Growing an association isn’t easy. Gaining new membership with people in their 20s and 30s can be tough. We have busy lives with young families and a lot of commitments outside the four walls of our offices. Joining an association with a very established membership can be very intimidating too. I remember attending my first conference and not seeing anyone in my age category that I could connect with. I have been fortunate enough to meet some very nice people that I would now consider friends – but had I not made those connections, it would make for very long weekends every four months. To start off I wasn’t sure where I fit in. I had only been a legal secretary a few years, just a drop in the bucket compared to the vast years of experience some of the members in LSI have – how could I possibly have anything in common with these people? I realize now that LSI is comprised of many wonderful people that are full of knowledge and are not so intimidating once you get to know them. I might still be one of the youngest people in the room, but at least I see some friendly faces when I look around now.

I am trying to grow my career and hopefully grow a family. I try to be an active part of my local community. There are only so many discretionary free hours I have – and four times a year I give several of them to LSI, not including the time spent as President of my local association or in preparation for the quarterly and annual conferences as a Legal Specialization Section Leader. I say all of this not because I think I have all of the answers, but because I want everyone to understand that it is important to not only get the younger generation to join, but to want to stay a member. We need to be welcoming of these younger people. I promise we are not going to come in and shake everything up until it’s unrecognizable. We will, however, bridge the gap between the “Then” and the “Now” and bring LSI firmly into the 21st Century.

Susie Fagalde is a probate/estate planning secretary with Berliner Cohen, LLP in our Merced, California office. She is currently LSI’s Probate/Estate Planning Legal Specialization Section Leader. She is the Merced County LPA President and previously served as MCLPA’s Secretary from 2014-2016. In her spare time, Susie is an active member of her community by serving on charitable boards and recently became a certified foster/adoptive parent and is awaiting her first placement.

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Reproduced with permission from The Legal Secretary (February 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Legal Secretaries Incorporated. Sacramento, CA.