To maintain professional competence, a lawyer must complete continuing legal education (CLE). Model Rules of Prof’l Conduct r. 1.1, cmt. 8 (Am. Bar Ass’n 1983). For a law student or a recent graduate, conferences are a great way to learn about new legislation and litigation practices, build your network, expose yourself to different areas of law, and earn CLE credits. By its nature, law school does not give the kind of specialized instruction lawyers need to enhance the skills and techniques they will need in their respective fields. Conferences are a good opportunity to fill in the gaps in your legal education. Below are a few tips for attending a conference as a law student or inexperienced attorney.
Tip One: Cut Down on Costs
Conferences are expensive! See, e.g., 13th Annual Labor and Employment Law Conference, AmericanBar.org (2019) (Section member discounted price: $625); 23rd Annual National Institute on Class Actions, AmericanBar.org (last visited July 25, 2019) (Section member discounted price: $685). Law school is pricey enough without this added expense.
Some conferences offer discounted rates for students and/or newly admitted attorneys, but if none is listed, don’t be afraid to ask for a discount. If you are a law student, ask the conference organizers if you can attend for free or for a reduced price. See 13th Annual Labor and Employment Law Conference, AmericanBar.org (2019) (noting that full or partial fee waivers may be available based on financial hardship).
You can also ask if a sponsor needs help, which is often another way to gain access to the conference without financial cost. For example, at the 2019 ABA Section of Litigation & Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division CLE Conference, the ABA Litigation Division committees held an open house to bring in new members. Because I helped to set up the Appellate Practice Committee’s booth, I was able to attend sessions during the remainder of the conference for free.
Tip Two: Come with a Plan
Conferences are fast-paced and can be overwhelming if you haven’t planned ahead. Luckily, this is not hard to do—almost all conferences publish a schedule ahead of time. Read over the schedule and look up some of the people you might want to meet. Lunch may not be included, so pick out a place to eat nearby. By planning ahead, you can save yourself a lot of day-of aggravation and get more out of the experience.
Tip Three: Talk to People
You never know whom you will meet at conferences—but it is a rare opportunity to talk to people you might not otherwise meet, or who might not otherwise have time to speak with you. You do not have to talk to everyone, but remember that connections drive our industry. Be strategic with your time.
Daniel Kessler is a law student at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.