Case Study: Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) Certification Program Christine Do July 1, 2021

Case Study: Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) Certification Program


The Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) is the premier professional association connecting leaders and managers within the legal industry. ALA provides extensive professional development, collaborative peer communities, strategic operational solutions, and business partner connections empowering our members to lead the business of law.  

ALA needed assistance with the management of its Certification program because there has been no transitional staff training or standard operating procedures. The client needed the Nonprofit Resources (NPR) team to assess the current program and database, create updated standard operating procedures (SOP), while maintaining the current candidates in the program. 

The Certification program was previously managed internally by the client. However, after analysis of the program, we found the following issues: outdated databases, delinquent candidates, a loss of revenue as candidates decreased, and existing certified individuals did not stay current in their maintenance fees.  


The Nonprofit Resources utilized a 4-step approach to transition and overhaul the certification program.  

Step 1. Maintain existing program and use first year as an “on the job training” opportunity while actively looking for ways to increase efficiency. The focus was on the following: 

    1. Update database and integrate program database with client’s existing database 
    2. Capture passive revenue by getting current certified individuals up to date on dues
    3. Codify and clarify instructions and details of the program 

 Step 2. Create standard operating procedures for all aspects of the program so that the client has a playbook to maintain this program.  

Step 3. Identify ways we can improve client outcomes: throughout the maintenance and development of this program, we looked for ways that we can assist our client in areas where our work overlaps with existing client programs. For example, we coordinated our work with their third-party exam providers to streamline communication, we coordinated with their third-party event planners for education accreditation opportunities that will drive attendance and program participation and worked with their learning design team to create training materials to increase certification success rates.   

Step 4. Identify ways to grow the certification program: the certification program has in the past the potential to be a large revenue stream for the client. After several years of being under-served, our team was excited to bring the client a menu of options to help drive revenue in this program. 

This client had a small, but agile team focused on this program. One Nonprofit Resources (NPR) account manager provided oversight and continuity on this project and several NPR administrative assistants assisted in maintaining current program participants while also developing SOP’s. Investing time in creating SOP’s will enable the team to fluidly manage this client while reducing the time required to train additional administrative support.    


NPR interfaced with two third-party vendors with this client: one event managing team and one exam creators / management team.  

Initially, it was unclear how to best work with these third-parties, since the roles and responsibilities of each were not defined. 

NPR solved this by meeting individually with both groups and developing an interim plan that would get the team through the first year (first cycle) of the program. After one cycle was completed, the team reconvened and was able to create an updated SOP and roles and responsibilities chart with both vendors to reduce participant issues.  


  • Re-captured 30 delinquent Certified individuals 
  • Updated database with accurate information for all 424 certified individuals 
Figure 1. Certification Program Revenue 2021 Actuals and 2022 Projected
Figure 2. Certified Legal Manager (CLM) Program

In addition to generating revenue from the certified individuals, the NPR team worked with the ALA learning design team to develop specific training for the professional certification program. In order to maximize client revenue, it is essential to identify all of the areas where client work overlaps and consistently identify ways to better integrate professional certification in existing programs.


The NPR team is uniquely suited to be able to inherit an under-served project or program and identify how to maximize its potential, while maintaining current processes. When taking on something like this, it is incumbent to have staff that can process a high volume of information, creatively problem-solve, and take accountability with the client and participants on areas that we can improve the standard operating procedures.

NPR now has created an excellent standard operating procedures document that would enable our team to assist other clients in creating or reinvesting in their certification program. For many of our clients, they are their industry’s only professional certification program and the potential for an additional revenue stream is an opportunity that they should capitalize on. Data shows that certification provides significant advantages to professions and job candidates. Access to a professional certification program can also help drive event attendance and association membership. However, it does require staff with experience in creating and maintaining the program in order to maximize this revenue stream. Our team can balance the strategic vision with the attention to detail required to have a successful professional certification program.


First, I really appreciate the comprehensive analysis of these new and unique programs that has been undertaken. I am so impressed! I also appreciate the collaborative effort involved in this particular instance, it’s awesome.  I concur with the assessment.Thank you for all this work!!!”

Our client’s staff has been in a period of transition, so our goal has been to handle items independently and not cause stress or extra work for their staff. They currently have an interim executive director who we are just getting up to speed with on our current projects.

“Earning the CLM designation is the crowning achievement that, combined with my education and years of experience, provides confirmation of my mastery of those competencies needed to be considered among the top professionals in the legal management field. Not only has acquiring the CLM increased my own confidence, but it has also provided me with increased appreciation, recognition, and confidence of the partners in my firm. I believe that having the CLM designation gives legal managers a competitive advantage over those with equal experience and educational backgrounds.” — Dawn Kowalski, CLM, Firm Administrator at Smith Bigman Brock, PA, in Daytona Beach, Florida

“Becoming a CLM is one the most rewarding accomplishments I have experienced, both on a professional and personal level. It has provided me with a sense of confidence, pride and renewed excitement for my career and the legal profession. I am grateful for the support, encouragement, and assistance I received throughout the process from my friends and colleges in ALA, our local chapter and my firm.”
― Barbara J. Paige, CLM, Regional Director for Dorsey & Whitney LLP in Seattle, Washington

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