Committee Handbook

This Handbook is designed to help Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs navigate their leadership terms.  It was created with input from the AIPLA Board of Directors, past Committee Leaders, and AIPLA Staff.  The information contained in this section is updated regularly by AIPLA Staff.



Getting Started

This “Best Practices” outline is designed to provide new Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs with suggestions for identifying and managing their responsibilities as leaders of a Committee. This outline is not intended to be comprehensive, but merely to provide helpful suggestions to those persons new to Committee leadership.

Committee Reports

  • 2024 Spring Meeting Committee Reports (Click Here)
  • 2023 Annual Meeting Committee Reports (Click Here)
  • 2023 Spring Meeting Committee Reports (Click Here)
  • 2023 Mid-Winter Institute Committee Reports (Click Here)
  • 2022 Spring Meeting Committee Reports (Click Here)
  • 2022 Mid-Winter Institute Committee Reports (Click Here)
  • 2021 Annual Meeting Committee Reports (Click Here)
  • 2021 Spring Meeting Committee Reports (Click Here)
  • 2021 Mid-Winter Institute Committee Reports (Click Here)
  • 2020 Mid-Winter Institute Committee Reports (Click Here)
  • 2019 Annual Meeting Committee Reports (Click Here)
  • 2019 Spring Meeting Committee Reports (Click Here)
  • 2019 Mid-Winter Institute Committee Reports (Click Here)
  • 2018 Annual Meeting Committee Reports (Click Here)

As soon as you are named Chair or Vice Chair, contact the outgoing Chair/Vice Chair and talk to them. Ask what they saw as real issues/projects, what was left on their “to do” list, and what works or doesn’t work.

Ask for a “data dump” regarding the Committee’s current projects, Subcommittees, active members (including Subcommittee Chairs/Vice Chairs), on-going/long-term projects, if any, and for helpful tips for taking charge of the Committee. Ask for their files and email lists and any other documents (or copies of the foregoing) that would help provide continuity for your term. 

In particular, ask for the following documents/lists from the past year: 

  • Committee reports 
  • Reports to the Board 
  • Current projects 
  • Resolutions, finalized or in progress 
  • Email surveys/questions to Committee members and summary of replies 
  • Issues voted on by Committee members and results of the vote
  • Liaison List
Get in Touch With the Committee Leaders

1. Contact the Board Liaison for your Committee. Find out what projects the Board might have in mind for your Committee for the upcoming year and prepare your own ideas.

2. Discuss the role and participation of each of the Subcommittee Chairs/Vice Chairs with the outgoing Chair/Vice Chair to determine their level of commitment and effectiveness. Ask for recommendations to replace ineffective Subcommittee leaders.

3. Contact each of the Subcommittee Chairs/Vice Chairs that will be reappointed and reconfirm their commitment to serve. Discuss Subcommittee’s projects, progress-to-date, and plans for the year.

4. Contact candidates for vacant Subcommittee leadership positions to determine their willingness and ability to serve.

5. The Women in IP Law, New Lawyers, Lawyers, Diversity in IP Law, and Corporate Practice Committees (the “Target Committees”) each appoint Liaisons to the various Substantive Committees. If your Committee is a Substantive Committee, discuss the role and participation of each of the Liaisons from each Target Committee with the outgoing Chair/Vice Chair to determine the level of commitment and effectiveness of the Liaisons. Ask for recommendations to replace ineffective Liaisons.

6. Contact outgoing Chairs/Vice Chairs of each Target Committee for recommendations to replace ineffective Liaisons.

7. Contact each of the Liaisons and reconfirm their commitment to serve.

8. Contact candidates for vacant Liaison positions to determine their willingness and ability to serve.

9. Try to have Subcommittee leadership and Liaisons in place and ready to work by the upcoming Annual Meeting.

Take Responsibility for Your First Meeting as Chair

If the outgoing Chair has not made plans for the upcoming Annual Meeting, take on this responsibility and immediately begin planning for the Committee meeting. If the outgoing Chair has made plans, offer to assist with implementation.

a. Confer with the outgoing Chair to determine what old and new business should be discussed.

b. Pick a topic for the upcoming Committee meeting and publicize it frequently by email with the cooperation of the outgoing Chair/Vice Chair.

c. Use the Committee’s community and email list to encourage members to attend the Committee meeting, meet the new Committee leadership, solicit new ideas and topics, and volunteer for Subcommittee leadership positions.

d. Try to arrange to have a short “changing of the guard ceremony” by the outgoing Chair/Vice Chair, if appropriate.

e. This will be the first meeting you Chair, so come prepared.

Stated Meetings

1. Plan to attend each stated meeting, if at all possible. It is very important to the success of your Committee that you lead each meeting and attend each Board/Committee Leadership meeting. At the very least, either the Chair or the Vice Chair should be in attendance at each stated meeting. 

2. It is up to you to keep the members of your Committee informed. The Committee webpage and email list is the best way to communicate with the members. Learn how to use the webpage and email list. Set up a Calendly with Randy Sagara if you need help:  https://calendly.com/rsagara

3. If at all possible, coordinate the topics of your upcoming Committee meetings with the themes chosen for the upcoming stated meetings. Contact the Chair of the Professional Programs Committee to find out the themes of the upcoming stated meetings. 

4. Prepare for meetings: 

  • Prepare meeting agendas well before each meeting and distribute them to Committee members prior to the meeting. Work with Subcommittee Chairs on developing the agenda in advance. NOTE: All Committee meetings are to be one hour in length unless you join up with one or more other Committees or otherwise plan to provide CLE credit. CLE credit programs require additional information and work. Be sure to connect with HQ before deciding to do a CLE program. See also TIMELINE FOR OBTAINING CLE CREDIT
  • Circulate drafts or reports of non-controversial matters before the meeting. Unless there are comments, changes or additions, there is no need for face-to-face discussions of these items. 
  • Go the extra mile in lining up interesting speakers and giving coverage to hot topics at Committee meetings. Please be aware of the AIPLA policy that speakers for Committee meetings are responsible for their own expenses unless an exception is approved in advance by the Officer-in-Charge. 
  • If you plan on having speakers at your Committee meetings, please notify AIPLA Headquarters no later than two weeks before the meeting. If your are planning to invite officials from a governmental agency, please be sure to alert the Executive Director’s Office with enough time to submit a formal request. Also, speaker forms must be completed by your speakers in a timely fashion—be sure to follow up with them until all forms are completed and turned into AIPLA Headquarters. Registration requirements for stated meetings apply to committee speakers as well.
  • Keep track of dates and keep reminding Subcommittee Chairs and other Committee members of the deadlines to ensure that Committee projects are completed on schedule. 
  • It is absolutely critical that you advise AIPLA Headquarters staff regarding your Audio/Visual needs by the requested deadline. They can only guarantee what you need if you respond by the deadline! 

5. Conducting Meetings:

  • Start the meeting on time and end on time. Another Committee may be scheduled to meet in your room immediately after your meeting and members may plan to attend other Committee meetings. 
  • Leave time during the meeting for discussion of matters of interest to the members or matters which require input from members. 
  • Assign tasks to Subcommittees. Give Subcommittees meaningful work to accomplish. 
  • Try to actively involve Committee members in Subcommittees.
  • Always give credit where credit is due and be generous with praise. 
  • Schedule the next meeting/conference call while everyone is in attendance. This helps avoid scheduling conflicts. 
  • Keep good notes. 

6. Post Meeting Tasks: 

  • Prepare and submit your Committee report to AIPLA Headquarters within the time limits set to ensure its publication online and in the Bulletin. Report deadlines are circulated in advance of each stated meeting.
  • Distribute your notes to Committee members and Subcommittee Chairs immediately after the meeting. Make certain everyone agrees that your notes correctly reflect the decisions made at the meeting and the tasks assigned. Get a response by email from each person who has been assigned a task acknowledging responsibility for the task and the deadline for completion. 
  • Try to hold a virtual meeting with each of your Subcommittee Chairs once a month to keep in touch with them, provide them with any updates, and check on progress with their assignments.
Working with AIPLA Staff

1. Please respond promptly to AIPLA Headquarters Staff communications and respect the deadlines they set.

2. Get your Committee meeting descriptions in on time for the stated meetings.

3. Be certain to RSVP by the requested deadline for attendance at the Board/Committee Leadership Meeting and the Board/Committee Leadership Dinner. If you RSVP that you will attend but are unable to, please notify AIPLA Headquarters as soon as possible.

4. Please immediately notify AIPLA Headquarters if you have a change of postal address, phone or fax number, or email address.

5. Register for the stated meetings sufficiently in advance to ensure that your name can be included on the participation list and that your badge will be ready to print when you arrive.

6. Please follow the recommended format when submitting Resolutions to the Board and be sure to list the votes of all Committee members eligible to vote. Keep in mind that Board materials are made available to Board members approximately 10 days prior to each stated Board of Directors Meeting (dates can be found on the AIPLA Home Page) and any item projected for discussion at a Board Meeting should be received at Headquarters no later than two weeks prior to the scheduled Board Meeting.

Work With Your Board Liaison

1. Your Board Liaison is the person who can help get items on the Board Agenda. This is important if you want or need AIPLA to spend money or take official positions.

2. Most Board members have served as Committee Chairs, sometimes of more than one Committee. They can be a good sounding board and resource. Use them.

3. Your Board Liaison probably also has a longer relationship with the AIPLA staff. Don’t hesitate to call them in to smooth over problems or resolve confusion.

4. The AIPLA Staff, Officers, and Board work very hard to identify matters that need attention. These include issues and concerns regarding intellectual property laws, practices, procedures, rules, and other matters and possible improvements to those laws and practices. They cannot, however, identify all possible issues. Furthermore, some important issues affect only a few AIPLA members, and those can easily slip by undetected until it's too late. Many times, the most important issues initially were identified by only one or two individual members.

Therefore, it is important that you and your Committee members identify issues that are of interest or require attention. Once identified, you can bring them to the attention of the AIPLA Board (through your Liaison) or staff, but as a Committee Chair or Vice Chair you also can start working on them yourself. If a Committee believes issues are sufficiently important to warrant action, the concerns and possible solutions are addressed in the form of resolutions which, once endorsed by a Committee, are considered by the Board of Directors.

We encourage as many members as possible to identify concerns which they believe warrant action by AIPLA and, more importantly, to bring those concerns to the appropriate Committee. We ask all Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs to encourage members, either through emails to Committee members, or during Committee meetings, to identify issues and problems which they believe AIPLA should address. Please remain conscious of this portion of AIPLA’s purpose and actively seek out concerns and improvements to laws and procedures AIPLA can promote to help AIPLA fulfill its purpose.

End of Term


1. Provide your Board Liaison with a summary of the persons in your Committee that you believe are well suited for leadership roles. List their responsibilities, achievements, and personal characteristics that would make them good leadership candidates.

2. Make a recommendation to the incoming President regarding who should be appointed as Chair and Vice Chair for the next term. Provide reasons why you believe these persons are best qualified to assume leadership of the Committee. Remember, the final decision is made by the incoming President.



1. Once your successor has been appointed and has accepted the position of Chair, meet with them and provide them with a summary of the Committee’s activities during your term. If your Vice Chair succeeds you as Chair, make certain they have all the documents, files, contacts that you have at your disposal.

2. Provide a list of all Subcommittees, Subcommittee Chairs, and the activity level of each. Provide a list of all Committee/Subcommittee projects in progress and completed during your term.

3. Provide a copy of all Committee Reports submitted during your term. These are also posted online in the Committee Leadership Community Library.

4. Provide a copy of all Committee Meetings/Committee Educational Sessions speakers, topics, and panel discussions during your term.

5. Provide a list of all current TSC (Target-Substantive) Liaisons and indicate the activity levels of each.

6. Offer to provide transitional assistance with planning for the upcoming Annual Meeting and the first Committee meeting for the incoming Chair. Offer to introduce the incoming Chair at their first Committee meeting.

7. Maintain your membership in the Committee and continue to actively participate. Offer to take on assignments.



  1. Need a vote from your voting members:
  1. You must be logged on to (Https://community.aipla.org) and on your committee site.
  2. You must also be a community admin to send to the voting list.
  3. Once on your committee site and logged in, click on Settings > Email Community Members.
  4. In the drop down menu, select [your committee] - voting members.
  5. You can send attachments including calendar invites (as attachments only), but the system will pull the attachment(s) and send it as a link. There are no limits to the size of the attachments other than what is imposed by your organization. You can always post to your committee site and send a link to it (click HERE and select "Sending a link to a library or document in a library").
  1. Need to see how who is on your voting list, Click HERE and scroll down to the middle of the page under "Directory Search - Voting Members" and select your committee. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Find Members. Search results should appear at the bottom of the page. If you are committee chair of for that committee, then you should be able to "Export" the list.

  2. If you want to poll your committee, please contact us to set up a Survey Monkey or you can use your own survey platform.
  3. Questions or issues, please contact AIPLA HQ at aipla@aipla.org or rsagara@aipla.org.

Committee Membership

Committee service is a great benefit of membership and there are many AIPLA members eager to get involved. Please give these members an opportunity to serve. New members may be added throughout the year. Reach out to your members and keep them engaged, in between meetings and over the summer. An active and engaged committee benefits both AIPLA as whole and your committee members. 
Appointment Process
Committee leaders are appointed by the President-elect, who acts on the recommendation of committee chairs. Committee Leaders (Chairs/Vice Chairs) of committees generally serve two-year terms.  Additionally, some committees are appointed committees, and members are generally appointed by the President-elect to serve three-year terms.
Committee Membership Criteria

The membership of each committee consists of "active voting" or "information only" members. At the commencement of each committee year, members in good standing of each committee has the option to choose “active voting” or “information only” membership status. 

Committee chairs shall indicate in any request for a vote or other action by a committee’s active voting members that a repeated failure to respond may result in an active voting member’s being moved to “information only” status. 

After two successive failures of active voting member to respond to a request for a vote or other action, the committee chair shall have the discretion to reclassify that member as an “information only” member for the remainder of the committee year. A
committee member who has been reclassified from “active voting” to “information only” status in the prior committee year shall not have the option to choose “active voting” membership status for the next committee year, except with the approval of the committee chair”.
Changes in Committee Member’s Address or Status
We encourage committee members to login to their AIPLA profiles and update any changes of address, telephone and fax numbers and e-mail. These changes will automatically update in the committee directories. 



Committee Organization

Whether you are a new chair or a continuing chair it is important to get your committee organized for the new committee year which begins in at the end of October. 

In addition to appointing new members there are a number of annual steps to make sure the committee is ready to start the year. Before or at the first meeting chairs and secretaries usually do the following:

  • Discuss topics to be addressed by the committee during the committee year, including possible programs;
  • Confirm and book the meeting schedule as far in advance as possible;
  • Start forming subcommittees to address specific topics or functions.
Using Your Committee Online Community

All committee chairs have the ability to administer their own online community. As a committee chair, you can:

  • Send an email to your entire committee members (Setting > Email Community Members).
  • Post a discussion - this will also email you entire committee members.
  • Post an Event  - you can now post a recurring event by selecting Add Event > add your title, for Event Type select "Recurring Committee Event/Conference Call" > under Repeating Event? toggle to Yes > Send Invitations, toggle to Yes and it will send an invite to all your committee members.
  • Post a document (PDF, DOC, Slides, Spreadsheet, etc.) and then you will need to notify your committee members via email list above. You can also send an attachment via the email system or discussion and that attachment will get posted to your library.
  • Post an Announcement - This will not email your members as well. You will need to send a link of the announcement via the 2 ways above.
  • Surveys and Polling your Voting Members - Please contact AIPLA HQ or Randy Sagara at rsagara@aipla.org to help set up your survey and answer any questions about your voting members. We will send you a link to the survey and another link to the survey results which get pushed to you in real time.
  • Send an email to your Voting Members - we have created a distribution list for each committee's voting members. Click Here for the list of those email addresses.

If you have questions, please contact Randy Sagara at rsagara@aipla.org.

Committee Email List Usage and Guidelines

AIPLA regards the following material as inappropriate and expects that its members will not post such material when using the AIPLA email lists:

  • Obscene, offensive, inflammatory, libelous, derogatory or any other ad hominem messages.
  • Copyright violations: Anything that appears to be lifted in whole or large part from other sources.
  • Commercial messages: Use of this service for commercial purposes is not allowed, except to promote AIPLA products and services for AIPLA members. Messages posted from any source other than AIPLA that require the respondent to pay money to the sender, sender’s principal or sender’s agent to retrieve the information or service are specifically prohibited, unless prior approval is given by AIPLA.

There are some practices when posting messages to lists that are widely regarded by experienced on-line users as desirable to avoid. These include the following:

  • Off topic: The message is a request for AIPLA staff service, assistance or information, does not relate to the subject of the list or clearly relates to the subject of a different, more specific AIPLA list.
  • Should be a private reply: Messages similar to "I've done this or know that, contact me" should be sent to the original author, not the list.
  • Unsubscribe Instructions. As these are automatically added to every message and are specific to each recipient, leaving them in your reply, adds substantially to the "noise" content of the message.
  • Unnecessary headers or footers: Messages containing excessive visible mail headers and other unnecessary content from e-mail handling systems also add to the "noise" content of the message.
  • Lack of substance: The message is a simple yes, no, I agree or I disagree type of message without substantive elaboration.
  • Excessive quoting: The message contains significantly more quoted previous messages than new content. When replying to a message remove everything not directly related to the replied to content. Preferably, remove all of the original message or messages except that part to which you are replying but please leave some of the original so your reply has context.
  • About AIPLA or the operation of the lists: Messages discussing how AIPLA or the lists are or should be run or used should be directed to support@aipla.org, an open, un-moderated list that anyone can visit. From time to time, AIPLA staff may post messages about AIPLA or the lists to the lists. Replies to such posts should be private to the author or public to support@aipla.org.
  • Duplicate posts.

Generally avoiding the above practices helps keep your message easy to read and to reach an audience that has indicated an interest in the kind of message you are posting.



Committee Meetings

This is where the ideas are generated. Let members run with ideas and be sure to give them a deadline of when they need to report back to the full committee. Please remind members that all meetings are confidential and that they leave their “client hats” at the door. Committees should also consider holding joint meetings to discuss a topic of mutual interest or to invite related committees to hear from your guest speaker. AIPLA encourages committees to involve new lawyers, so consider holding a meeting where each member brings a junior colleague or friend. 
Notice of Meetings
It's recommended the committee send members a full list of meeting dates at the start of the committee (or as many dates as possible) and to follow up with calendar invites. Your committee's meeting dates can also be posted on the committee's online community platform. 
Sending Meeting Notices via Online Communities
You may want to send committee meeting notices through your committee’s online community. For instance, you may send an email to all of your committee members by going to Settings > Email Community Members.  Meeting dates may also be added to the calendar on your community so members can easily see when the next meeting will take place.




Q:   I just took over as a Committee Chair.  Now what?
A:   The outgoing Chair of your Committee should have briefed you on the previous year’s activities at the Committee and subcommittee level.  If you have not yet been in contact with the outgoing Chair, we encourage you to call him or her.  We also recommend that you look at the Committee Leadership Handbook. There you will find an overview of your duties as a Committee Chair and tips for making your term run smoothly.
Q:   How can I update my Committee’s website?
A:   Please refer to the section of the Committee Leadership Handbook titled "Website and Email List Info."  The instructions contained therein will walk you through the process of using AIPLA’s Committee Microsites.
Q:    Is there a way to communicate with my entire Committee?
A:   Yes! Any committee member can send an email, or start a discussion, with their community. Head to community.aipla.org to find your community, then create your first discussion post. The post will automatically send a corresponding email to all of your committee members. 
Q:   How can I motivate my Committee to get active?
A:   Use your committee community to send an email or start a discussion that gets emailed to your entire committee to regularly communicate committee activities when projects arise.  Assign subcommittees with subcommittee leadership and stay in contact with them between the Stated Meetings.
Q:   What can I expect working with AIPLA Staff?
A:   While AIPLA Staff is more than happy to help you and your Committee, they are not to be used as personal assistants.  We are a very small Staff  - there are more Committees than Staff members at AIPLA Headquarters.  We cannot accommodate regular requests from each Committtee; however, as a Committee Leader, you should have received a copy of the Committee Leadership Resources Handbook.  The Handbook is designed to give you the guidance you will need as a Committee Leader and should answer most questions you may have.  If you have a question not covered by the Handbook please don’t hesitate to contact Staff – just don’t make them the primary resource for information!
Q:   Does my Committee need to meet at each Stated Meeting?
A:   No.  While we encourage you to hold a meeting to let your members and others within the Association know what your Committee is working on, you are not required to hold an official meeting at all three Stated Meetings.
Q:   How can I get CLE credit for my Committee meeting?
Please review the AIPLA Timeline for Obtaining CLE Credit, there you will find an outline and schedule of the tasks required to get your program credit. 
Q:   How can I get a USPTO speaker for my Committee meeting?
Q:   I have special AV requirements for my Committee Meeting.  Whom do I contact?
A:  AIPLA Staff will contact you in advance of the coming Stated Meeting to ask you about your AV needs for your Committee meeting.  Be sure to reply by the indicated date to make sure your requirements are included.
Q:   I have a resolution I would like to put up for a vote in my Committee.  How can I get a quorum?
A:   Please refer to the AIPLA Committee Voting Guide, in particular the section entitled “Tips for Committee Voting and Obtaining a Quorum.”  To get a quorum, you will need over 50% of the votes of all Active-Voting Committee members.  Each Active-Voting Committee member must vote on a resolution to qualify for a quorum
Q:   What do I do if I have Active-Voting Committee members who do not vote?
If a Committee member does not vote in many quorums, you may, as the Committee Chair, change that member’s status from “Active-Voting” to “Information Only.”
Q:   What should my Committee Report include?
A:   Please refer to the Committee Report Guidelines.  The Committee Report is intended to give the AIPLA general membership an idea of what your Committee is currently working on.  You can include various projects, an overview of the most recent Committee Meeting and sub-committee activity.