Attending Conferences Can Be Affordable, If You Know Where to Look
Josiah J. Puder is an assistant editor of The Affiliate and practices with the Roseland, New Jersey, firm of Lum, Drasco & Positan LLC.
So, you want to attend one of the ABA YLD’s amazing conferences. Nice location, top-notch programming, and exciting networking opportunities. You would love to go except for the one deal-breaker encountered by most young lawyers—you don’t have a firm credit card and your rent needs to be paid before you fly out to exotic Los Angeles. Take heart, there are sources of funding available to ABA YLD affiliates and members if you know where to look.
The YLD presents two national conferences each year, one in the fall and one in the spring. Three representatives (four if one is a minority, a government, or small firm/solo attorney) from each YLD affiliate are eligible for up to two-days per diem at $100 per day for their attendance at each conference.
A limited number of scholarships are also available to conference attendees who represent new affiliates or affiliates that have not sent representatives to a national conference for three or more years. These reimbursements include lowest discounted round-trip airfares, up to $20 ground transportation, and up to two-days per diem at $100 per day. Affiliates may request consideration for these reimbursements through their district representatives prior to the fall and spring national conferences or through ABA YLD Affiliates Director Ryan Reed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, affiliates and affiliate members should keep in mind that each affiliate has its own policy on funding. In New Jersey, for example, “each member of our delegation is eligible for funding [from the New Jersey Bar] to any ABA YLD conference, not just district representatives,” said David Wolfe, ABA YLD conference and program director. Wolfe, an active member of both the ABA YLD and the New Jersey State Bar Association’s YLD Executive Committee, has also made use of his law firm’s interest in and commitment to participation by young lawyers in bar activities and has sought funding on many occasions from his firm.
Asking your firm to fund your trip may seem like a daunting task to some, especially if you are a newly minted lawyer; however, most law firms and organizations do in fact realize the value of becoming involved in the ABA. Sometimes seeking funding from your firm or young lawyer organization will depend upon the relationship you have with the powers that be, but the ABA YLD has developed a resource, called Getting Involved in the ABA Young Lawyers Division
to help you make your pitch. Chapter 6 of this publication, “Getting Your Boss to Say Yes,” can be particularly helpful and can be found at www.abanet.org/yld/appointments/2007-08GettingInvolved.pdf.
Of course, the first place you should look for funding to a conference is your affiliate. If you can show your employer that your local young lawyers organization has offered to help fund you to an ABA YLD event, it can help demonstrate that the firm should value your attendance. Dennis Drasco, a member of the ABA House of Delegates and former chair of the Section of Litigation, has encouraged associates at his firm to attend conferences. “ ABA conferences provide an opportunity for young lawyers to participate in issues that affect the profession, attend CLE programs given by the best lawyers around the country, and are an excellent forum for networking and making friends all over the U.S.,” said Drasco, a managing member of his law firm.
If you don’t qualify for the above or you think the costs are still prohibitive despite partial funding, the following are some creative ways to make attending a conference less onerous on your wallet:
• Book airfare in advance—airlines generally charge more for flights as seats fill up. Booking early, even months in advance (the ABA YLD makes its choice of city and conference schedule available well in advance of meetings), is the best way to ensure lower prices.
• Share hotel rooms—yes, this may harken back to your undergraduate days; however, this is also a great way to meet new people and slash the cost of your hotel room in half.
• Share cabs and transportation costs with other members—there are conference specific resources on the YLD website for room sharing and the like.
• Attend free receptions hosted by the YLD or other related entities in which there is open attendance.
• Ask your firm to fund the balance of costs—if you show your firm that you have received partial funding and ask for the difference, it may be inclined to cover the balance.
“Each affiliate member should at some point attend a conference,” said Reed, a lawyer from Kentucky. Reed noted that conferences are “informative, fun, and top shelf in every way.”