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March 12, 2019 Midwinter Meeting

How to Escape the Polar Vortex and Enjoy Miserabilism – A Recap of the Midwinter Meeting

Tom Richardson

There are three reasons I wanted to attend the 2019 Midwinter meeting this year:  the networking, the programming, and getting out of the Midwest in the middle of the winter.  This year, at the end of January, the middle of the country was dealing with its own sort of miserabilism (more on that later) in the form of the Polar Vortex.  I explained to my wife and young daughter that, while I would miss them greatly, it was essential that I go to the meeting in Los Angeles.  When I got in my Lyft to the Omaha airport, it was 13 below 0, and no, I was not waiting outside for it to arrive.  When I arrived in sunny California a few hours later, I knew that I had made the right choice to attend this meeting.

As the only in-house attorney at Paxton & Vierling Steel Co., a steel fabricator in Omaha, Nebraska, I typically do not have a lot of contact with other attorneys unless an issue arises.  Luckily, our outside counsel introduced me to the Forum and suggested I get involved as a way to connect with construction attorneys locally and across North America.

Over the past few years, the Forum has opened many opportunities for me to get involved and develop a network of construction attorneys.  I began, as many in the Forum have, by participating in the YLD monthly calls and eventually becoming the YLD liaison with Division 11 (Corporate Counsel).  Currently, I am serving on the Membership Committee as the Chair of the Law School Outreach Subcommittee.  Participation in the monthly calls is a great way to get introduced to the Forum with a small commitment of time and cost, but the way to experience the best opportunities to learn and network is through the Forum meetings.

The networking opportunities at the Midwinter Meeting were as exceptional as ever.  The first “sanctioned” networking event I attended was the First Time Attendee reception.  While this was not my first Forum meeting, I participated as part of my role on the Membership Committee.  I enjoyed the opportunity to introduce the newcomers to Forum leaders and other regular attendees I have connected with in the past.

Shortly after the FTA reception, we were off to another networking event.  Thornton Tomasetti and HKA Global hosted a free networking and Santa Barbara wine tasting event for the meeting attendees and LA County Bar Association members at Thornton Tomasetti’s office on the 44th floor of the AON Center.  The view, the wine, and, most of all, the fellowship were amazing.


In addition to the networking breaks between the Plenary Sessions and the Workshops, the Forum also hosted the Welcome Reception at OUE Skyspace LA.  At the Welcome Reception, we again had the opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new connections, but this time we also got to encourage each other to take the plunge down the glass slide on the outside of the building between floors 70 and 69.

The Forum’s meetings also provide great programming.  This time, Anna Oshiro and Peter Hahn took the stage in the beautiful Crystal Ballroom that previously held the Academy Awards and introduced the theme “Public Construction Projects:  Not Always a Hollywood Ending”. Plenary 1 then started with a bang as Dr. Christopher Thornberg introduced us to his upbeat thoughts on where we are heading economically; he also introduced the concept of “miserabilism” to the Forum which became the unofficial meme of the whole meeting (not in a bad way).  To bookend the program, we wrapped with an ethics session in a public construction version of Jeopardy! starring the Forum’s own Alex Trebek and Donald Trump.

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Tom Richardson

Paxton & Vierling Steel Co., Omaha, Nebraska, Division 11 (Corporate Counsel), Young Lawyers Division