Resources for Making the Best Case for Conference Attendance
In a climate when budgets are tight and expenditures are receiving additional scrutiny, it is important to remember that we are in the middle of a constantly changing legal environment. Now is not the time to cut back on professional development and training or on important networking opportunities with colleagues on both sides of our profession. In fact, in an atmosphere where so many changes are being implemented on a daily basis, it is more important than ever to stay on top of current industry trends and best practices. Many NALP members already plan to attend the 2014 Annual Education Conference (April 9-12, 2014), but for those who need to seek authorization or funding to attend, here is some information that should help you make the strongest case for your attendance at the conference.
The NALP Annual Education Conference remains the single largest, most comprehensive, and most well respected educational program in our profession. The content provides much to choose from — nearly 100 concurrent sessions and two plenary sessions — covering all areas of our profession from recruiting and career counseling to professional development, diversity management, and more. No doubt you are already aware of the conference’s value; now you may need to communicate this value as you request authorization to attend. The following documents provide important information to make your case for you or other staff members to attend the annual conference.
Advocating for 2014 NALP Conference Attendance
Given the recent challenges and changes in our profession as a result of economic shifts, it is more important than ever to stay on top of current industry trends and best practices. For those who need to seek authorization or funding to attend, this document has some general tips that should help you make the strongest case for your attendance at NALP’s 2014 Annual Education Conference.
If you need to request support or authorization to attend the annual conference, think about doing it in writing. In addition to reviewing the tips below, you may use and tailor the sample memorandum (download MS Word file here). It will be important to outline the benefits of attendance, both to you and to your organization. It will also be helpful to estimate with as much specificity as possible the total costs of your attendance, and to quantify everything that is included in your registration fee. As stated above, the NALP Annual Education Conference remains the single largest, most comprehensive, and most well respected educational program in our profession. You should review the full conference brochure (available here in PDF) in some detail, to gather more of the specifics supporting your request to attend the conference.
As you pull together your best case for you or other staff members to attend the annual conference, here are some things to keep in mind:
Costs: Try to estimate all of the costs involved, including the registration fee, airfare, lodging, meals, ground transportation and other miscellaneous travel expenses. Research possible flight costs. Consider comparing those fares to the costs of flying to past conference destinations in your request. Remember that included in the conference registration fee are three breakfasts, three lunches, the Regional Receptions, the Seattle Celebration Reception in the Exhibitor Hall, the Diversity and Inclusion Reception, and the Member Celebration. The “early bird” conference fee for NALP members is $695 and is available until early March. (Note that it may be beneficial to have members of your staff become NALP individual associate members of NALP to get this conference rate. The conference rate for non-members employed at member institutions is $895. Individual associate membership in NALP is $175. You incur a savings of $25 if members of your staff are individual associate members of NALP, plus they get all the benefits of NALP membership.)
Note that Delta airlines is offering a 10% discount this year on applicable fares. Reference Meeting Event code NMHA7 when booking tickets.
Overview of who attends the conference: It may be important for you to provide an overview of who attends the conference. Conference attendees generally include law school and legal employer representatives from across North America, as well as many industry vendors and consultants. Attendees typically work in recruitment, professional development, and diversity management within legal employer organizations, and in career counseling, recruiting, professional development, public interest advising, and pro bono coordination at law schools. No matter what sort of institution they come from, most NALP members will find representatives of their peer institutions at the conference. The opportunity for law schools and legal employers to exchange information is invaluable, as is the chance to learn about innovative practices from other peer institutions.
Overview of the speakers: NALP conference speakers are a mix of NALP members, consultants, professors, law firm partners, law school professors, judges, CEOs, and other experts. Make a note that no other conference offers as wide a variety of speakers with expertise in the legal industry.
Consideration of the plenary speakers: We will have two knowledgeable industry insiders as our plenary speakers — Brad Smith, the Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Microsoft, and Steven Harper, author of The Lawyer Bubble and Contributing Editor of The American Lawyer. Both are well-known speakers and will offer valuable information about the legal industry.
Benefits to your organization: Be as specific as you can about the benefits to your organization. Identify specific sessions in the conference brochure that you plan to attend, and, if possible, relate them to current projects and problems that you are working on. You may also want to identify specific presenters, consultants, colleagues, or vendors whom you will have an opportunity to meet, learn from, and speak with. Highlight the networking opportunities the conference presents, such as the chance to meet staff members from schools or employers with which your organization seeks to develop stronger ties and connections. In addition, if you are at an organization with multiple offices, the conference provides an opportunity to meet with professionals from other offices and have meetings about topics that affect everyone in the organization. Remind your managers that even if your organization is not engaged in as much OCI as usual or needs to rebuild its presence on-campus after a period of inactivity, maintaining positive relationships is crucial. The conference offers an opportunity to meet representatives from numerous organizations all in one place.
Professional development for you: It may be helpful to relate the conference content to any goals you and your supervisor have set for your own professional growth. List any skills or knowledge you expect to gain or develop from attendance. If you are a lawyer, you may want to indicate that the conference provides an opportunity to earn CLE credit.
Coverage for your responsibilities: Depending on how your office is staffed, it may be important to think about, and even document, how your responsibilities will be covered while you are gone, or how you plan to stay on top of your responsibilities while you are away.
After the conference: You should think about and explain how you intend to gather and then share information when you are back from the conference. You may want to offer to brief deans or partners on the conference highlights, as well as prepare summaries of particular programs or share handouts from specific sessions with other staff members on your team. Consider scheduling a time afterwards for a short presentation and Q&A to your colleagues on lessons learned. When you implement ideas gained from the conference, be sure to let others know.
You will have to figure out whether it makes sense to make your best case in person or in writing. In either case, don’t put it off — asking early will demonstrate how important this is to you, provide time for handling questions, and allow you to take advantage of “early bird” registration fees, advance purchase airfares, and the discounted conference hotel rates.
We look forward to your joining us at the 2014 Annual Education Conference. Don’t hesitate to contact the NALP office if we can provide any additional information or support as you make your plans to attend!
Comparing Hotel Room Rates with Past Conferences
Good news on hotel room rates! The conference hotel rate is comparable to previous years.
Effective Room Rates (Single or Double Occupancy Room & Taxes)
|2014 — Seattle, WA
|2013 — Tampa, FL
|2012 — Austin, TX
|2011 — Palm Desert, California
|2010 — San Juan, Puerto Rico
|2009 — Washington DC
|2008 — Toronto, Ontario