It appears that the perceived benefit of being a member of a state bar association has changed overtime.
The ABA Journal reported on a recent survey of attorney feedback regarding state and local bars. "The ABA Division for Bar Services has surveyed the membership of state and local bars since 2005 to get member feedback for the associations. The division also surveys the bars about membership growth and retention, dues and activities. The findings are discussed in an ABA press release and in this report."
The survey found that "[s]tate and local bar members aren't focused on tangible association benefits such as product discounts and social occasions. More important, the respondents said, were networking opportunities and association efforts to boost the image of the legal profession. Meanwhile, work-life balance has become less of a concern since the economic downturn, the surveys have found."
One of the major findings was that respondents "say [that] fostering a positive image for the legal profession is one of the top three bar functions."
Fostering a positive legal image is an ongoing concern for both the legal profession and law schools, and state and local bars are in a good position to promote the profession through pro bono activity or other.