Making the most of legal conferences
Legal industry conferences are frequently an integral part of a lawyer’s professional development: they are often a primary means of obtaining the requisite continuing legal education requirements for Bar membership, and they can offer a forum to better connect with fellow legal practitioners, industry peers, and potential clients.
While there are some clear advantages to be gained from attending industry conferences, I regularly speak with lawyers who are mystified, terrified, or both, as to how best to navigate these multi-day, annual events.
Here are three simple tips to help make the most of your next legal conference:
- Write down your conference goals on the flight to the event, and measure them on the flight home. Take five minutes on your flight to jot down a few key goals for the conference. Any key people you want to meet? Any insights you are looking to gain on the industry? This can help form a mental checklist for you while at the conference and provide you with an accountability loop you can review on your flight home.
- Take notes on two sessions you attend and share them with your firm and clients. A simple blog post or email after the conference to highlight a few key take-aways, ‘lessons learned’, or great quotes from the speakers can reinforce to the market you are staying at the forefront of the issues facing your industry and/or profession. It doesn’t have to be a long piece – even a quick paragraph to your clients saying, “I was thinking about you at this conference I attended where they discussed X” and some quotes/stats from the session will go a long way to demonstrate your commitment to your craft. Similarly, sending out a note within your firm can be great internal marketing to others who may not have attended the event.
- Quality over quantity networking. Conferences are widely regarded as great networking opportunities, so there can be a temptation to try to connect with everyone (and anyone) in attendance. In my experience, this has limited long-term benefit to your profile. Instead, my experience is the most impactful networking occurs in the three to five meaningful conversations you strike over the course of the conference. If you approach a conference with a goal of making between three and five meaningful connections (as opposed to trying to meet 50-100 new people), my experience is this is both a goal most people see as reasonably achievable and, ironically, a more effective one for building up your network over the long-term.
Taking a purposeful approach to conference attendance can have a more meaningful impact on your professional development, and ensure your hours spent at a conference have the greatest yield possible for your career.