Old-World Europe Without Crossing the Atlantic: A Montréal Spring Conference Preview
By Scott D. Laufenberg
Scott D. Laufenberg is editor-in-chief of The Affiliate and practices with the firm of Kerrick, Stivers, Coyle & Van Zant, P.L.C. in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
For the first time in many years, the ABA YLD is leaving the country for its Spring Conference. Attendees will get the opportunity to experience old-world Europe without crossing the Atlantic. ABA YLD Chair Jay Ray has announced that the YLD will be hosting a joint conference with the Association de Jeune Barreau de Montréal, or Young Bar Association of Montréal (YBAM), in Montréal, Québec, on May 3–5. In existence since 1898, the YBAM represents all Montréal attorneys with less than ten years of practice, and its membership presently includes approximately 5,000 members.
A Unique Opportunity
The genesis of the idea of a joint conference was the result of Ray’s attendance at several international young lawyer meetings on behalf of the division. Commenting on his international travel, Ray noted, “This has been one of the highlights of my time as an officer—not because of great venues—but because of the outstanding times I have had with young lawyers from around the world. The opportunity to converse and spend quality time with young lawyers from other systems and cultures, especially in their own cities, has been an unbelievable experience that I will always remember and be thankful for. By having a joint conference in Montréal, with a large number of Canadian and European attorneys attending, I hope to give our volunteers and members an opportunity to share in this fabulous experience and opportunity.”
“It did not take much arm-twisting for YBAM to jump on such a unique occasion,” added Jeremy Wisniewski, who serves as the President of Conference and Special Projects Committee of the YBAM. “In fact, we quickly understood that it would be a unique activity for attorneys on both sides of the border,” he stated.
Outstanding Cross-Border Programs
Although all YLD conferences offer the benefits of top-notch CLE and professional development programs in great locations, Ray believes that the Spring Conference will offer much more. “The conference will be set up to allow quality mingling and networking opportunities with the large number of Montréal, Canadian, and European young lawyers who will be in attendance. I believe the conference will also benefit attendees through high-quality CLE and professional development programming, including several outstanding cross-border programs, as well as bar leadership and public service programs. It will also give the attendees a welcome respite from work and, hopefully, some life long memories,” Ray stated.
Wisniewski shared a similar view and summarized the benefits of attending the conference as “learning, friendship, and networking—in that order.” He noted, “Above all, we are planning a wide array of topics on the programming front, many of which will focus on cross-border issues. Neither our members nor yours necessarily spend much time in their practice of law to learn about what is happening elsewhere. When you do, it gives you new horizons for your own practice.”
Memorable Social Events
In addition to the excellent programming, memorable social events are in the works. “On Thursday night we will be hosting a Welcome Reception at the Newtown,” Wisniewski explained. “This hip downtown restaurant and club is actually owned by the hip Formula 1 race car driver, Jacques Villeneuve.”
The Friday-night social event also promises to be one of the most memorable in at least recent YLD conference history. “This black-tie optional event will be held in the Château Mont Royal on top of Mont Royal in the middle of a park designed by Frederick Law Olmstead,” Ray stated. “This historic building offers a beautiful overlook of the city. The event will offer a mingling of U.S. and Québec cuisine and will allow cross-border and trans-Atlantic young lawyer socializing and dancing.”
North America’s Most European Big City
Even though Montréal is the largest French speaking city in the Western Hemisphere, attendees should not be intimidated. Commenting on the differences between the United States and Québec, Ray noted, “Montréal is different in that people primarily speak French, the people dress in more of a French style, and their cuisine is more French in influence, which is one of its biggest charms. But, at the same time, most people can speak English, and it remains a North American city that makes less adventuresome individuals still feel comfortable. Attendees will experience a city rich in history, the arts, beauty, and culture. They will also find the Montréalers to be a very friendly group of people who love to have a good time, which is another main reason I chose to have our conference in Montréal.”
For persons who have never ventured north of the American border or been to Montréal, Wisniewski commented, “Montréal is really North America’s most European big city. It’s got U.S. business know-how and lots of style. It’s the city of Celine Dion, rock musician Melissa Auf Der Maur (Hole/Smashing Pumpkins), financier Conrad Black, Cirque du Soleil, and Captain Kirk himself—William Shatner.”
While the conference officially lasts from May 3–5, attendees should consider extending their trip to enjoy more of Montréal and Québec. “I highly recommend a trip to Québec City, which is about a two-hour drive from Montréal. This beautiful city on the bluffs overlooking the St. Lawrence River is the only walled city on this continent north of Mexico. Whether walking on its cobblestone streets, shopping in its many stores, or staying at the beautiful Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, you will feel as though you are in Europe. We hope to organize a day trip to Québec City for attendees on Sunday,” Ray stated. Wisniewski echoed Ray’s recommendation. “Old Montréal will transport you to Europe: cobble-stone streets, charming restaurants, and the port area. St-Laurent Street will make you hip [with its] trendy restaurants where U.S. actors hang out when filming in Montréal,” Wisniewski noted.
The Spring Conference in Montréal promises to be a memorable one for both novices and veterans of YLD conferences. “I knew Montréal would offer us a city and conference that attendees would remember for years and years and would have the potential to rank as one of our best ever. I think it has this potential because when I mention going to Montréal to individuals who were active young lawyers the last time the Division went to Montréal, it is amazing how many stories are thrown out and the laughter it initiates,” Ray said.