March 2020 News Print

Letter from the President

Message from the President

How many times have we heard the phrase “this is the new norm” in the last month?  The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc within our firms and organizations.  Or has it?

For a year, we have been talking about courageous leadership and what it takes to implement daring transformations. Sometimes a significant event forces us to make change. Now is the opportunity to provide value to your firms and organizations:

  • Create solutions;
  • Enhance telecommuting policies that support alternative working environments;
  • Conduct process mapping and streamline once-inefficient practices;
  • Provide online educational and CLE content for your attorneys and staff; and
  • Design and execute a business model that has been adapted for the online environment.

ALA Gateway leadership is also taking the opportunity to adapt to the current climate and will be revamping our educational programs and other events.  While the March and some of the April programs were postponed, we plan to pick back up where we left off to create educational options that are relevant and important to our members and business partners.

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Board of Directors

This is my final President’s message as the term ends in a few short days. Normally, the new officers are sworn in at the March chapter meeting. We improvised to comply with our chapter requirements, and the 2020-2021 board members were installed via Zoom by chapter advisor, Donna Sobkoviak, on March 18, 2020:

Dawn Gaskill – President
Jill O’Connell, SHRM-SCP – President Elect
Lori Hanlon – Vice President
Emily Spehar – Secretary
Kara Brostron, CLM – Treasurer
Julie Logan, SPHR, SHRM-SCP – Past President

I’m passing the baton to incoming President Dawn Gaskill, who is ready to kick off her term at a Zoom board retreat on April 1, 2020.  I owe a very special thank you to all of my fellow executive board members and team co-chairs who volunteered their time, expertise, and alliance this past year. You are all inspirational, courageous leaders!

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Calendar of Events

CORONAVIRUS ROUNDTABLE: Contingency Plans for St. Louis Firms
Gateway Chapter members (Members Only) participate in a weekly discussion every Monday afternoon, 3:00-3:30 p.m., via Zoom. Use the same login details as previous weeks or to get login details, register at

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Spotlight Member

WELCOME TO OUR NEWEST MEMBER, Sponsored by Adams & Martin

Business Partner Adams & Martin took advantage of a bonus opportunity offered in this year’s business partner renewal packet to sponsor the ALA and Gateway membership dues for a new member.  As a result, Merri Cross, Office Administrator at Dentons, has been selected to receive one of the two awards. 

Merri was asked to rejoin Dentons in October 2019, after a short stint where she returned to a business development position in commercial real estate.  From 2013-2018, she led Dentons’ Global and US Business Development initiatives for the Firm’s Real Estate and Hotels & Leisure practices.  She also led the US Real Estate Practice Administration efforts during that time.  Merri has more than 20 years of experience in commercial real estate and construction, and much of her career has been a hybrid role of business development, marketing and operations.  She is the proud mom of twin girls and has been happily married to her husband, Jon, for almost 18 years. Please take a moment to welcome Merri to the Gateway Chapter!

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Comp & Benefit Survey starts now

IT’S SURVEY TIME: St. Louis Law Firm Compensation and Benefits Survey
This year the Gateway Chapter is partnering with Armanino, LLP to create a compensation and benefits survey among St. Louis firms. The look of the survey will be different from years past and similar to Armanino’s other geographical surveys. This survey measures some additional benchmarks such as billing rates. You may respond to only the portions of the survey you deem important for your organization.  Also, the ALA member’s registration setup walks the member through the purchase of the survey prior to sending out the survey questionnaire.

The survey was deployed on March 12 at 2:00 p.m., so please check your spam folders for a message from  Many of us have been preoccupied with the pandemic impact on our firms, and the e-mail may have slipped your attention particularly since it was from an unknown source.  The survey responses are due May 8, 2020.  The results report is due by the end of June 2020.  Please take the time to enter your data for more meaningful survey results. The more participants we have, the better data we have for everyone!

Please contact Sarah L. Allen at 314-516-2694, [email protected], ALA Gateway Chapter Comp & Benefit Survey Committee Chair, if you have any questions.  The registration link is:

For registration questions, contact:

Crystal Lee
Analytics Manager, Consulting
Law Firm Services Group
[email protected] | 310-745-5845

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Who's News?

For the first time in 20+ years, the Annual Bunny Hop was postponed to adhere to social distancing guidelines. So, we did the next best thing and donated Easter basket contents to the children’s services at Great Circle.  Special thanks to our Community Connections Team members Jillian Piechocinski (and husband John), Casie Galczynski, Lori Hanlon, and Jessica Stella for organizing the materials and preparing them for delivery. 

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Women Who Lead

Mark Your Calendars!  ALA Gateway Chapter and the local chapter of ILTA will be combining resources once again to bring you the Second Annual Women Who in Lead in Law event on June 25, 2020, 1:00–6:30 PM, at SLU Law School Courtroom.  We are excited to share that April Campbell, ALA International Interim Executive Director, and Joy Heath Rush, CEO of ILTA, will be the keynote speakers. The dynamic duo will discuss how women lead differently and how using abilities that come naturally to us are often a real advantage in leadership. Leading differently isn’t always immediately seen as valuable, but if you commit to staying true to yourself, your style, and learning from every experience, you’ll see the impact from others and gain confidence to keep building on your special skill set.

Following the keynote, we will move into roundtable workshops with moderators to help us navigate important topics such as:

  • Work-Life Blend/How Do You Unplug
  • Confidence/Getting a Seat at the Head of Table
  • Emotional Intelligence to Drive Results/How to Handle Conflicts That Don’t Have a Solution
  • Self-Branding/Authenticity
  • Diversity, Inclusion and Ageism Addressing Generational Issues/Tactics Millennial Leaders Can Use to Be Heard
  • Knowing Your Worth/Collaboration

The afternoon will conclude with a very special guest!  Details to be released soon, followed by a networking reception.  You will not want to miss this exciting afternoon!

Sponsors for this event are:  Adams & Martin, JW Terrill, and Sherry Hurst Legal Recruiting.

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Photo Gallery

NO NEED TO ROLL THE DICE: HR Workshop and Business Partner Appreciation
A chapter-sponsored workshop on February 19, 2020, provided valuable information on current HR topics, followed by a fun night of Bunco to acknowledge all Business Partners.  Enjoy these memories! Click here to see photos.

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The Gateway Chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators is a separate legal entity from the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA). ALA licenses the use of its name, mark, logos and other protected properties to chapters that are in good standing. ALA disclaims all liability or responsibility whatsoever for the actions, representations and liabilities of the Gateway Chapter, specifically including those of any nature whatsoever arising from or out of the content of other features related to the Gateway Chapter website. In no event shall ALA be deemed the guarantor of the Gateway Chapter.