When I was asked to Co-Chair the 8th Annual National Solo and Small Firm Conference in Lexington, Kentucky, from October 3rd through the 5th this year, I could not think of a bigger honor from the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division that I could have possibly asked for. Then, when I realized what I had gotten myself into, I started to panic. What do I possibly know about Lexington, Kentucky, that I could use to chair a conference? I can count the times I have ridden a horse on my fingers.
All I can tell you is that, at that end of the experience, I was pleasantly surprised by Kentucky bluegrass hospitality and the warm welcome we received. If you did not make this conference—you better not miss any more National Solo and Small Conferences put on by the American Bar Association because you most definitely missed out on a great time at the Horse Thoroughbred Capital of the World. The Honorable Jennifer A. Rymell GP Solo Chair can sure throw a successful conference. By the end of the conference attendees felt they were “Racing to Success” (which was the theme of the conference) in their practices.
The sponsors for the event were fantastic. They fired the starting gun by opening up the conference with a wonderful expo that provided a goldmine of information for the legal practitioner. In addition, if you did not go home with lots of knick knacks for your staff, you certainly failed at attending this conference.
Moreover, if you did not make it to Lexington, not only did you miss great networking opportunities with the Kentucky Bar Association and the Fayette County Bar Association, but you also missed reminiscing with National Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division members and meeting with American Bar Association President-Elect William C. Hubbard, who made an appearance at the first day of the conference. What a very special treat for attendees!
The Difference Makers Award Luncheon featuring John Rosenberg as the keynote speaker was an event to bring tears to your eyes. The attorneys honored made me want to aspire to continue to grow in the profession and continue to be the best I can be. With such inspiration, I felt as ready and confident as a winning jockey about to move my practice, just as he or she guides a horse, to the next post in the race.
The CLE events were first class. Three boot camp tracks were offered, including a technology track, a trial skills track, and a law practice track. If you did not come away with plenty of tips to run your practice in a winning way, considering the variety of CLE courses offered, you were a horse on the wrong track. I walked away with more than I could possibly remember or use and memories of great experiences with accessible speakers who answered my barrage of questions, even after their presentations were completed. Everything from the “Planet of the Apps” to “The Lawyers Guide to Attaining Financial Security” was featured.
There was time for some business at the conference too. There were numerous committee meetings, from board publications to finance to diversity. So if you did not previously have enough to experience at the conference, there was plenty more for you to do and become involved in during the days and nights in Lexington. The National Bar Leaders Dialogue was an effective discussion among bar association leaders who attended the conference. In addition, William “Bill” T. Robinson III, ABA Past President, graced us as the keynote speaker at the luncheon.
There was also plenty of opportunity for pro bono at the conference. KIND (Kids in Need of Defense) training, which consisted of tools for representing children in immigration court, was offered as a special CLE track. ABA division members also did a successful outreach at the local high school teaching financial literacy. There also was a group Division Members that visited the University of Kentucky School of Law and advised students “How to Find a Job in a Small Firm.”
Of course, there was the usual array of great food, which this time consisted of Kentucky specials such as green mashed potatoes, yummy selections of meat, and who could forget the melon shooters. What would a conference be without a taste of the local spirits—including the bourbon bar, mint juleps, and (of course) local beer. I have acquired a new love of mint juleps. Enough said. Oh, and the band “The Sensations” helped to close out the first night at the conference by signing the night away. Every night finished in the hospitality suite, which of course got rambunctious—would you believe security had to be called for the noise level in the room—so I knew it had to be one of the greatest conferences ever!
I did manage to sneak away from the all the conference had to offer and my duties as Co-Chair and to view the gems of the city of Lexington. The picturesque downtown with great sidewalk restaurants and unique shopping made a spectacular weekend venue, and I was sorry I did not extend my stay. Probably my favorite visit was to the one room office where Henry Clay hung out his shingle in the first decade of the 19th Century. What a special, breathtaking moment.
The weekend finished with a day at the horse races. We were given a detailed explanation of the racing program and how to understand and choose our bets at the races before being shuttled to the race track. The Keeneland race track was spectacular to visit on opening weekend—like a day at the spa. It was a true horse racing experience with hats and winners galore. We were able to see potential future Kentucky Derby winners race, so now I am a horse racing connoisseur: something I never would have had the opportunity or even thought I would love without the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division’s suggestion.
As I look back on the time in Kentucky, I can’t really put my finger on the one or two most important things that I could really say took from the conference. Was it the valuable information for use in my practice from the CLEs, the fulfilling feeling from the pro bono work, the knickknacks from the vendors, the hangover from the mint juleps, the money won at the track, the bluegrass hospitality, or the inspiration from colleagues? No, honestly, it was the long-lasting friendships that have developed over time by being a part of the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division and the wonderful support I received as Co-Chair of the Committee.
So if you missed your opportunity to spend some time at the races, may I suggest you might be able to bet on some horses at the next event this May in Las Vegas? Mind you: what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas and while Las Vegas seems to have everything, I can’t guarantee you will find anything as unique and special as Kentucky bluegrass in Sin City. But what I can guarantee, is that you will find wonderful friendships and support in your practice through participating in events sponsored by the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division.