Ingham County Bar becomes financially sound

‘Systems freak’ has passion for organization

By Brett DeGroff
Legal News

When volunteers come together to further some high-minded goal, they may not be very interested in sorting out details like who cashes the dues checks and what format press releases should be in.

That is where Madelyne Lawry comes in.

Lawry, executive director of the Ingham County Bar Association, is a self-described “systems freak.” She has a passion for organization and policy making. She puts that passion to use as the owner and operator of Shared Resources Inc., which manages day-to-day operations for several nonprofit organizations including several legal organizations.

“I think that everything works smoothly when there are systems and procedures in place,” said Lawry, of Grand Ledge. “We can share those so our clients don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”

Local bar associations and practice area focused groups face the same dilemmas as other volunteer organizations. Members volunteer their time to advance a big picture objective, but may not be focused on the little tasks that a big picture requires. Additionally, since leadership often changes on an annual basis, a disproportionate amount of time can be spent solving the same problem multiple times. Lawry and Shared Resources Inc. have dealt with all the day-to-day problems these organizations face, and know how to solve them.

Lawry’s work with the Ingham County Bar Association is an example of what she and Shared Resources Inc. can do. 

“Before, it was just about staying afloat,” said Liisa Speaker, the ICBA’s vice president and past treasurer. “Now we are a financially sound organization and we are getting to choose what programs we want to do.”

Speaker said Lawry made immediate contributions to the ICBA.  Much of the initial work was implementing the kind of policies and systems Lawry says every organization needs. 

“She is very stringent about having policies and following policies,” Speaker said.  Speaker also added that Lawry’s approach in this regard is exactly what the ICBA needed.  “Now we are run like a business.”

Lawry is very hands-on with her client organizations, attending every board of directors or executive board meeting. Since the ICBA has added Lawry, operations have been streamlined, and membership has ballooned, adding more than 200 new members in one year.  That has allowed the ICBA to add popular events such as a “meet the judges” social, which has been well attended.

“We were able to do the added events because we had more funds and because of her work,” Speaker said.

But Lawry brings another dimension as well. Lawry works with organizations outside the legal sphere and has been in the field for more than 25 years.  Besides being familiar with her client organizations, Lawry works with all sorts of vendors. This means that not only does Lawry know how to accomplish most tasks her clients want to tackle, she knows who to call for jobs that need to be farmed out.

All of this comes naturally to Lawry.  Although she wasn’t the oldest child in her family, she earned the nickname “Sergeant” from her father for keeping the other five on track.  After getting her start in public relations, Lawry moved on to managing associations and planning events. Eventually she struck out on her own to form Shared Resources Inc., and she has found the pursuit challenging and rewarding.

“I get to work with some of the most amazing, inspiring and talented people,” Lawry said.  “I’m always learning and I of course I love the organizational aspect of it.
“I also love helping them accomplish what they want to accomplish.”