Belly Up to the ‘Bar Talk’ with Sommers, OBA 11/15/18 11/15/18 9:52:15 PM
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Omaha Bar Association President Dave Sommers (right) interviews Patrick McNamara, founder and managing attorney at McNamara Law Firm, during a recent podcast recording. (Photo courtesy of Omaha Bar Association)
Belly Up to the ‘Bar Talk’ with Sommers, OBA
By Scott Stewart
The Daily Record
Dave Sommers laughs when he’s asked if he runs a media outlet.
Yet Sommers, the 34-year-old executive director of the Omaha Bar Association, spends time going
out and conducting interviews, moderating panel discussions, organizing events and relaying news to the association’s more than 1,500 members.
“I see my job as connecting people and informing them,” Sommers said.
One of the main ways the Omaha Bar Association is reaching out to its younger members is a podcast,
which Sommers launched in September 2017. He said the idea grew out of his own consumption of podcasts and realized there’s quite a few that have a legal bend.
The goals of the “Bar Talk” podcast are to inform and entertain, as well as transfer knowledge from older attorneys to the next generation.
Younger attorneys are more likely to be plugged into podcasting.
“There are a lot of stories and information that we don’t necessarily get into as a bar association because of structures in place, traditions, things like that,” Sommers said. “I found this to be a way to have different discussions – sometimes fun, sometimes serious – to connect with younger attorneys but also get some of the history, the stories from the older attorneys who have all this knowledge, this institutional knowledge that I don’t want to have just go away without being imparted on the younger crowd.”
Podcasts have included interviews with Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael G. Heavican, retired U.S. District Court Judge Lyle E. Strom and attorney J. Terry Macnamara of McGrath North. Sommers said he was inspired by oral histories collected by former Creighton University law professor Richard Shugrue’s interviews with state and federal judges, housed in Creighton’s Klutznick Law Library.
“There is history there that is worth understanding,” Sommers said. “It’s a foot in the door if you know that background.”
Not all podcast episodes are focused on history, though. A recent episode features Sommers sitting down with Creighton first-year law student Jacob Baker. Podcasts also regularly feature panel discussions on a variety of issues with young attorneys, including discussions of legal topics surrounding the beer industry, inspired by a declaration made by Brett Kavanaugh at his Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
Sommers said the podcast started on a shoe-string budget, but he plans to invest in improving the quality of the recordings. He said there’s about a thousand local listeners and about 400 people tuned in from other locations outside Nebraska. He also hopes to grow its audience over time.
“If somebody can listen to a podcast and learn a practice tip that keeps them from making a mistake, I have done my job,” Sommers said. “If they can get a chuckle out of it, too, then I’m all about that.”
In part, Sommers said the podcast helps out the Omaha Bar Association’s Young Lawyer Division. It gives them an opportunity for leadership positions at a younger age and offers networking and regular programming to help them connect with their profession.
Sommers said he tries to push himself to offer as much as possible to OBA members, and that ethos resulted in experimenting with new ways to build relationships.
Podcasting isn’t the only way the Omaha Bar Association is using technology to better engage with its members. The association has also embraced technology when it comes to continuing education opportunities, while also balancing an understanding that in-person events generally result in better engagement.
“I’m not about making this a virtual bar association,” Sommers said.
But using Facebook Live to make an interesting lecture – which traditionally requires traveling to a specific place at a specific time, a challenge for busy practicing attorneys – available to more association members, while also allowing them to earn continuing education credits, is a win-win.
Sommers said Nebraska limits on-demand continuing education to half the required credits. Live events, including those attended virtually, permits questions to be asked – and those are not limited by the same restrictions on earning credit, Sommers said.
Beyond live broadcasts, the association also uses social media posts to engage with its members.
It has accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Linked In, in addition to its website, www.omahabar association.
com, which includes other content such as an event calendar and member-only information.
The “Bar Talk” podcast can be accessed from the Omaha Bar Association’s website, as well as directly at soundcloud.com/oma-habar.