2014 ABA Midyear Meeting Recap

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The ABA Midyear Meeting was an amazing experience. The Hyatt Regency Chicago and Swissotel served as host hotels, with the Hyatt set up as headquarters for the ABA Association, and Swissotel the primary meeting grounds for the Youth Lawyers Division. Wind chills left temperatures feeling near negative 20 degrees, so the underground pedway connecting the properties was nothing short of a miracle.

Prior to arriving, I reviewed the available program itenary and chose to sign up for the Anatomy of ADR and Law School to Law Practice event. I arrived at the Swissotel early Friday morning unsure of what to expect – it was my first ABA national meeting…

Law School to Law Practice:

The description, “program discusses the pros and cons of starting a solo practice, and how one succeeds after he or she has committed to the objective of making it as a solo practitioner.” Attending simply made sense. Topics discussed may be useful to any young attorney in launching their career. The program was orchestrated by the YLD Solo Practitioners. Chris Blaylock, of the Law Offices of C.W. Blaylock served as the moderator, along with Orly Ahrony, and Elizabeth “Jodi” McShan as panelist.

The program was planned for one hour, which I predicted to be quite challenging. One hour is not enough to cover almost anything in the legal profession, let alone explain how to launch and develop a firm. Nonetheless, the panelist gave it their best shot.

The material was broken down into three sections: Marketing and Accounting; Networking/Retaining a Client/Client Communications; and the Pros and Cons of Running a Small Firm. Opening slides listed basic information easily discoverable online with little research, but in the interest of ensuring that everyone was on the same page I understood the purpose. Additionally, it made it super convenient and helpful for future reference. Later slides, discussed in detail best practices for a solo practitioner along with recommended resources.

While the information was extremely valuable, I would argue the biggest benefit afforded was the opportunity to interact one-on-one with individuals that have recently launched successful law practices. The ability to develop networks and gain insight from these individuals was priceless. Every panel member shared their contact information and encouraged attendees to reach out. I connected with one individual specifically, Chris Blaylock, who was very obliging. Chris shared invaluable information with me as to which methods of advertising and research he found to be most successful in his experience. Whether I chose to hang my own shingle in the future or not, personal access provided to these solo practitioners was very beneficial. Thank you.

Moving along, the remainder of Friday was spent networking/working at the astonishing Hyatt Regency. Overlooking their lobby, Big Bar, Stetson’s, and Market. In passing, I ran into the Honorable Judge Scott from the New Castle County Superior Court of Delaware as well as Bill Johnston, partner at Young Conaway. I have known both individuals since becoming a member of the Delaware Rodney Inn of Court program my first year of law school. I was thoroughly pleased to see them in town.

ABA Assembly:

The main event for Youth Lawyers in attendance is the ABA Youth Lawyer’s Assembly. It took place at the Swissotel on Sat morning. As a first time attendant, I must say the Assembly was quite impressive. The decorum of speakers and the audience was exemplary.

In preparation for the Assembly, young lawyers are selected as delegates to represent each state’s interest in deciding resolutions. At the Assembly Resolutions are submitted and debated with a speaker managing the forum. Accepted resolutions are then presented to the ABA as recommendations for Bar Associations around the country. If it’s difficult to imagine, just think of us as Congress for young attorneys, kinda…

No, but seriously, I served as a delegate for Pennsylvania and was quite honored by the opportunity. As members of the Youth Lawyers Division “YLD”, we represent the future of our country’s bar. Thus, participation in the Assembly fosters progression of the legal field as it adapts to new challenges and advancements presented.

I found the Resolutions to be well written, thought-out, and presented. Specifically they proposed:

  1. amending the Model Rule for Continuing Legal Education to include requirements for new lawyer training focusing on practice skills, the business of law, career development, and health issues;
  2. enacting rules that would permit in-house attorneys to practice law in pro bono matters in the jurisdiction where they work without being licensed to practice law in that particular jurisdiction
  3. asking Congress and the US Department of Education to establish various benchmarks to slow the increase in law school tuition, limit the debt burden of law school graduates; enhance the access to the legal profession, particularly for minorities and traditionally disadvantage groups and better equip lawyers to provide quality legal services to the public.

Resolution 1YL was met with moderate resistance. Primarily, because of concerns with the availability of funds to implement such an amendment. Resolution 2YL was heavily supported because of the astounding need across the country for pro bono attorneys. Resolution 3YL was met with no opposition at all, and when I say none, I mean zero! Given the bias of the evaluating audience (recent law school graduates), it is not hard to figure out why. In the end, Resolution 1YL was struck down and Resolution 2YL and 3YL were passed.

The Assembly also included special presentations from current ABA President James Silkenat, who challenged us as young lawyers to step up to those who seek to make a living off of “dumping on lawyers.” Mr. Silkenat went on to explain that he believes this is a great time to be a lawyer due to the effect that we may have on reshaping the legal field.

Ms. Paulette Brown, ABA President-Elect briefly addressed the group and asked for our cooperation and support during her time as ABA President. The grand gesture was certainly appreciated by YLD members and it was wonderful to hear a willingness to work together.

Finally, the 2013 YLD National Outstanding Young Lawyer finalists and winner were introduced. Each of them with an amazing story! Congratulations to all of you! Read more, here.

In closing, the ABA Midyear Meeting in Chicago was awesome (yes even in such frigid temperatures)! The ABA Annual Meeting will be in Boston this August; however, I am marrying my wonderful fiancee that same weekend thus, I will not be attending… But no worries, I will be back again!

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