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September 07, 2017

Message from the Chair Elect: Making the "Personal Case" For the Forum

Wendy K. Venoit

In my last two articles in Under Construction, I began developing a theme for my articles.  Since becoming Chair Elect, I have been highlighting the advantages of the Forum — whether as a training ground for junior lawyers (or lawyers new to the field), as a source of business, or as a legal resource. While the theme may stem from my membership committee roots, I have always felt the need to draw other construction lawyers into our fold and help them fall in love with the Forum, just as I did more than 17 years ago.

My last article focused on the “business case” for Forum membership.  In this bottom-line driven world, where the billable hour seems like everything, this business case is an important one.  More important to me, however, is the “personal case” for Forum membership, and what I can say about that.

As a woman in this industry, and as a former junior lawyer myself, I often felt outnumbered, sometimes intimidated, and, quite frankly, out of place.  While being a woman in this industry sometimes set me apart — not always a bad thing when you can use it to your advantage (which I undoubtedly tried to do) — I still needed a “home” where I could learn, thrive, and feel welcome.  The Forum provided that place for me. I first found a home in Division 8 (the “International Construction” division) as their liaison to the then newly formed young lawyers committee. There, I was able to form valued and long-term relationships with people like Chris Caputo and Keith Bergeron, people who became my partners in crime for late nights and stellar meals. In Division 8, I not only gained knowledge that was valuable to my practice, but it gave me the opportunity to interact with lawyers throughout the globe who would become my friends and colleagues. I was also welcomed into the membership committee, where I met some of the amazing former leaders of the Forum, including George Meyer, Greg Cashion, and Anne Gorham (to name just a few), eventually working my way up to Chair of that group. As my circle grew in the Forum, so did I. 

I grew to crave the camaraderie far more than the CLE (although the CLE is always good). It was the friendships that I formed that had me coming back year after year, meeting after meeting, wherever the Forum could take me—and it took me to some pretty awesome places!

Don’t tell my State Bar, but I far more enjoy the time I spend in the corridors and exhibitors spaces outside the meeting rooms, talking with my fellow attendees and valued exhibitors. The people that I meet at the forum events are not competitors, they are not trying to sell me anything:  most of them are my friends and I look forward to seeing them and finding out how their lives are going, hearing about the good and the bad. Sure, sometimes those connections lead to work acquisition, but that is not why most of us are really here, is it?   For many of us, me, the real reason we are here (and the reason we come back year after year, meeting after meeting) is to see the friends that we have made, who share similar experiences to ours (including the ups and the downs), and who can commiserate, congratulate and celebrate with us.

These are people I know and trust. When I made scary and uncertain moves in my life and career, the friends I made in the Forum were there to encourage me, motivate me, and also to catch me if I fell.

Thank you to all of you whom I have met throughout my time in the Forum and those whom have enriched my life in ways I could never have imagined when I first joined.  My hope is that every member of the Forum at some point in time realizes just what a gem the Forum is, and takes full advantage of (and fully appreciates) one of its most valuable gifts: the people. While the programs and publications are certainly excellent, the true lifeblood of the Forum and what makes this organization so special are the people who make it all happen and are the true heart of the Forum.

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Wendy K. Venoit

Hinckley, Allen & Snyder LLP, Boston, MA