Ah, the professional convention. To some lawyers, they're a great way to network while catching up on the latest professional developments. To others, they're a short purgatory of endless meetings, roundtables and presentations.
Even if you're a conference-hater, these gatherings shouldn't be ignored. Conferences, conventions and other convocations of skilled professionals can be important sources of new information, new strategies, and even new clients.
Develop Your Specializations at Industry Events
If you specialize in particular practice areas, as most lawyers do, consider attending a conference hosted by a relevant professional association. For what's usually a modest registration fee, you can learn about the issues facing professionals in the field, from their own perspective. A land use lawyer, for example, may want to check out the American Planning Association's annual conference. Every non-lawyer present represents a potential client. Be sure to bring an extra set of business cards.
Or you could go the opposite route, diving in to legal gatherings. The annual meetings of national and local bar associations can be important ways to familiarize yourself with new legal developments. The ABA's annual conference, to take the most obvious example, hosts gatherings for over 25 practice-specific sections. Similarly, the AFL-CIO Lawyer's Coordinating Committee brings labor lawyers together for regular interactions.
Network With Conventioneers
Professional conferences and conventions are some of the few times where a significant amount of successful professionals and leaders all gather together. Here's your chance to rub elbows with experts, share a drink with a potential new employer, or make a (hopefully good) impression on your peers. As a bonus, many of the best chances to network take place outside the main event, at cocktail hours, breakout sessions, or local outings. Take advantage of the more social side of conferences in order to grow your network.
Remember, CLE Credit Is Its Own Reward
Then, of course, there's the love of learning itself. Sometimes, there's also the love of bar-mandated learning. Many conferences offer enough CLE presentations to provide a good binge, letting you catch up on much needed CLE hours. Even South by Southwest, the indie music showcase cum tech conference, offers CLE. Don't limit yourself too much though; attend only events that offer CLE credits and you may end up overlooking some of the more interesting opportunities available.