Happy New Year, young lawyers! As you start out in 2018, take a minute to reflect on your professional growth in 2017. Recognize where you succeeded and where you fell short. Think about how you want to continue your growth in 2018. What worked last year? What didn’t work? What are the goals you want to work on now? If you need some guidance, check out these five SMART resolutions that I suggested last year.
One of the five SMART resolutions I had suggested in 2017 was teaching. This year, I’m expanding that to include the other side of education – learning.
When I was a young lawyer starting out, one thing I never did was attend conferences. I was lucky enough to work at law firms where I could fulfill all of my CLE requirements without leaving the building. Partly because of that, and also partly because of the sheer workload that comes from being a young lawyer, for the first five years of my career, I missed out on the professional development that comes from attending conferences.
Why Young Lawyers Should Attend Legal Conferences
You don’t attend legal conferences, you say? Well, apart from the CLE credit that you can get from many of these conferences, conferences are essential to help you forge your professional identity as a lawyer. How will technology continue to transform your practice? What role will diversity play in your workplace? In addition, engaging in these conferences will help people start to see you as an expert in your field. When conference planners are looking for new speakers next year, your name might be at the top of their list. And don’t forget about the best part, in my opinion – networking. Going to conferences, meeting people inside and outside your field, discussing similar challenges, and of course, sharing all the war stories that everyone has.
So as you start planning out your 2018, take a look at some of these legal conferences happening in the first half of this year, many of which should be of particular interest to young lawyers. I only identified conferences broadly applicable to all practice areas. I guarantee you that whatever you practice, there is a conference out there specifically relevant to you and your practice area. In addition, some of these conferences may be local to you and some may not. Even if you can’t travel outside of the state, stay aware of the developments happening at these conferences and what they mean for your practice area. It’s no mistake that many of these conferences focus on legal technology and the future of our profession. And remember, you can engage with all of these conferences on social media. In our modern way of communicating, it’ll almost be like you’re there.
Yes, we still have a few days left in this month of post-holiday doldrums. Since you might be staying in this month, how about taking this opportunity to expand on your learning from the comfort of your office chair, living room couch, or bed? There are thousands of free and paid online classes that young lawyers can take, from Coursera, edX, and Lynda, among many others. They may not be legal related but they can give you a chance to expand your talents in interesting niche areas, and also to explore the vast and still untapped potential of MOOCs. If you want something for CLE credit, take a look at the three online courses that we offer on the Commission’s website, including our new one on diversity and implicit bias.
And just in case you want to start your conferencing from now, check out LegalWeek in New York City. LegalWeek sprung out of LegalTech, long one of the largest legal technology conferences in the world. LegalWeek still includes LegalTech but also includes a variety of other “mini” conferences for chief information officers, legal marketing personnel, and those interested in diversity and talent management. Stop by that last one and listen to yours truly speak about one of my favorite topics – millennials in the legal workplace.
Winter blues probably still have you down but if you’re up for it, this might be a great time to head out west to Vancouver and attend the ABA’s Midyear Meeting. The ABA’s Young Lawyers’ Division plays a key role in this conference. You can interact with the YLD assembly, engage in the YLD Fellows debate, and attend the multitude of panels and meetings, including ones on law school debt, Title IX, and becoming a better public speaker. And if you’re not able to make it to Vancouver, check the website in a few months to see the materials and videos posted online.
In March, head to Chicago and the ABA Techshow. Technology has shifted how we are going to practice law now and in the future. Advanced search with artificial intelligence. Data analytics that predict the most efficient outcomes for clients. Computer software that can draft client briefs. If you’re a young lawyer and you’re not conversant on what’s happening in technology, there is still enough time to get involved. Events like the ABA Techshow can help. Whether its attending programs like “Running a Small Law Office on Mac” or seeing the over 100 technology vendors as they demonstrate how their software can make your law practice more efficient and accessible to clients, put the ABA Techshow on your radar for 2018.
You might remember NALP from those law firm reports you read in law school. NALP is an association of over 2500 legal career professionals. Its Annual Education conference is the largest legal education conference in the country. The conference addresses all aspects of legal professional development, from recruiting to career counseling to diversity and inclusion. Aimed at professionals who work in law school and law firm professional development, NALP focuses on the other side of law practice that often doesn’t get enough attention in the mainstream – how to train law students and lawyers to have the successful skills to practice law. Not to mention, many NALP members are also young lawyers.
There’s a great term that experts have been using called self-navigation. Clients can assume direct control and management of their law-related problems. They have access to statutes, case law, articles, and opinions. They can review you, find you on social media, and look you up on AVVO. We live in an era where everyone feels like they have shared access to same level of knowledge. Every profession – medicine, accounting, the law – is going to have to train its new professionals on how to deal with a world where clients genuinely believe they know more than experts do. How will you, young lawyer, engage with that new world?
For the past two years, my organization, the Commission on Professionalism, has put on a forward-thinking conference on the future direction of the legal profession and the innovative delivery of legal services. We call it The Future is Now. This year we will put on the 2018 version of our conference. As before, it will feature TED-talk like speeches from leading practitioners in future law, followed by town halls where the audience can engage in discussions with the speakers. You can read about the last two conferences on our website and shortly, we will announce the date and line-up for our next conference this May 2018. Stay tuned.
In the immortal words of Hamilton, take a break! Everyone needs a break, especially young lawyers. Take some time to recharge before getting back into the swing of things. As you do, reflect on what you have already achieved over this year. Remember those goals that you listed at the beginning of the year? Chart your progress on them. Do you need to refine them? Draft some new ones? Think of this June conference as one about You. And if you’re looking for ways to restart yourself midway through 2018, take a look at my colleague’s suggestion on breaking down the 24 hours in your day and really diving into what you do for each of those hours. You might be surprised by what you find.
Those are my 6 conferences in 6 months for young lawyers. Did I miss any? Feel free to share in the comments or on social media. I hope to see you at one of those conferences this year. Happy New Year, everyone.