The Pedway Miracle

Chicago-WinterThis has been a brutally cold winter, the worst I can remember in the fourteen years I’ve lived in the States. Every day I see Chicagoans trying to do what they can to avoid the worst of the weather. So this week, I want to share with you a miraculous way to avoid the snow and cold and still make it all the way around downtown Chicago. My friends, let me introduce you to the Pedway.

What’s Pedway?

Now on Google Maps, the Pedway is an underground and overhead walkway that connects approximately five miles of downtown Chicago. If you work in the Loop, chances are you are either on, or a few minutes from, the Pedway.

Why am I now extolling the virtues of the underground? Because of my experience last week at the ABA Midyear Meeting. The 2014 Midyear, which wrapped up earlier this week, was an opportunity for attorneys across the country to travel to Chicago to meet each other, learn about the ABA, and share their knowledge about everything related to the practice of law.

I primarily attended the Midyear last Friday. My meetings took place in the Hyatt Regency and the Swissotel, both on the far east side of the Loop. My office at the Prudential Plaza is also on that side of the Loop. And lest you forget, it was a high of 11 degrees last Friday. My day was therefore spent trying to get to as many events as I could while simultaneously spending the least possible amount of time outside in the Arctic Winter.

I arrived at the Swissotel at 8am for my first meeting of the day – the Opening Plenary Session for the ABA Young Lawyer’s Division. YLD President Mario Sullivan spoke of the numerous initiatives YLD has put on over the past year, in particular his own initiative, Bullyproof, the Anti-Bullying Initiative. After Mario finished, Congressman Mike Quigley took the floor. I have a special place in my heart for Congressman Quigley. Not only is he the Congressman in my district, his office was one of the first to congratulate me (via Twitter) when I became an American citizen last year. After the Congressman had finished talking, I walked up to him, held out my hand and introduced myself. I congratulated him on the job he was doing and thanked him for recognizing my new American citizenship. It may have taken fourteen years, but I had finally met my first U.S. congressman.

With the Opening Session complete, I needed to return to my office for a short while. Throughout the morning, rumors abounded that one could get from the Swissotel to the Hyatt Regency without going outside. The Prudential is in between there somewhere so I figured I could get there too. Three hotels, two office buildings, one spa and about three dozen revolving doors later, I did.

The Adventure Through The Pedway

An hour later, it was time for Round 2 of the Pedway. After fifteen minutes (and several wrong turns), I made it back to the Swissotel to attend my second session of the day: From Law School to Law Practice: The Solo Practitioner. Some of the more salient tips from the three young solo and small firm practitioners:

  1. Learn your market.
  2. Use social media.
  3. Get involved in the bar and the community.
  4. Practice your elevator speech.
  5. Bill properly.

Each of those can be unpacked much further and I look forward to prepping a course on them for young attorneys. But for now, it was time for Round 3 of the Pedway, and this one was in the Hyatt: Is Your Bar Membership in Jeopardy.

This program was presented by the NCBP, National Conference of Bar Presidents. The presenter facilitated the program in a unique way: attendees were given the answers and had to provide the questions, much like in Jeopardy. The game show atmosphere allowed for open dialogue and a heartfelt discussion on the numerous challenges bar associations face now with their membership. After that it was back to the Swissotel for some YLD socializing and then to the Prudential for office work again.

But I decided to return to the Hyatt for my last session of the day, the NCBP Forum on Racial and Ethnic Diversity. I was determined to end the day as I had began it, with the Pedway. Now, from the Prudential to the Hyatt above-ground takes about five minutes. Underground? Just a bit longer. So I walked, and walked, and walked, under tunnels, over bridges, through doors and more doors, and finally twenty-five minutes later, I ended up at the Hyatt. Perhaps my Pedway miracle wasn’t so miraculous anymore.

But the Pedway did take me to an excellent diversity forum with which I leave you today. At the forum, bar leaders from across the country discussed their bars’ efforts to increase diversity among their leadership. One of the more intriguing programs arose out of a collaboration between the ABA and four minority bar associations. The program, called the Collaborative Bar Leadership Academy, welcomes diverse bar leaders from across the spectrum to work together and develop skills to become leaders in their bar associations and legal communities.

The program spoke to me in particular. I’m currently in my first year of bar leadership with the ABA and the CBA. I have thoroughly enjoyed my experiences with both organizations and the opportunities they have provided. I encourage you, if you’re committed to advancing diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, to apply for the Academy, meet your fellow bar leaders and learn how, together, you can transform our profession. The best part? It’s in Minneapolis in June. If you go, you won’t even need a Pedway miracle. Well, hopefully.

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Michelle Silverthorn

Michelle Silverthorn

After spending seventeen years living in the Caribbean, Michelle undertook a number of around-the-world detours before ending up at the doorstep of the Commission, including four years as a general litigator in New York and Chicago. She remembers pretty much everyone she’s met in her travels but she would especially like to meet again the passengers on a January 2001 flight from Miami to JFK. At the pilot’s request, they donated enough money for Michelle, who had her wallet stolen, to get back to college safely. She would very much like to tell them all thanks.
Michelle Silverthorn

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