Many NALP members already plan to attend the 2024 Annual Education Conference (April 16-19). However, 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 (or your staff’s attendance) at the conference.
The NALP Annual Education Conference (“AEC”) remains the single largest, most comprehensive, and most well-respected educational program in our profession. The content provides much to choose from — over 90 concurrent sessions and 2 plenary sessions — covering all areas of our profession from recruiting and career counseling to professional development, law student PD, diversity management, and more.
No doubt you are already aware of the conference’s value; now you may need to communicate this value to those who need to authorize or fund your attendance. The following documents provide important information to make the case for you – or other staff members – to attend the annual conference.
Given the challenges and changes in our profession and our world over the past couple of years, it is imperative to stay on top of current industry trends; learn about best practices as they evolve; and develop, rekindle and maintain relationships with peers across the industry. This document has some tips that should help you make the strongest case for your attendance at the NALP Annual Education Conference.
If you need to request support or authorization to attend the annual conference, consider whether making the request in writing is the best approach. In addition to reviewing the tips below, you may use and tailor this sample memorandum (MS Word file). Your request should:
As stated above, the NALP Annual Education Conference remains the single largest, most comprehensive, and most well-respected educational program in our profession. Review the full conference brochure (available here in PDF) in detail to gather more of the specifics to support 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: Estimate all the costs involved, including the registration fee, airfare, lodging, meals, ground transportation, and other miscellaneous travel expenses.
Highlight the value provided by the conference in relation to the registration fee: The conference price is a bargain when you consider how much is included in addition to the educational programming and networking – six meals and three receptions, including three breakfasts, three lunches, the Opening Reception, the Regional Receptions, the DEI Reception, plus the Member Celebration, which includes light dinner options.
Take advantage of early registration: The “early bird” conference fee for NALP members is $925 and is available until early March. Note that it is beneficial to have members of your staff become individual associate members of NALP to get this conference rate. The conference rate for non-members employed at member institutions is $1200. Individual associate membership in NALP is $250. Your organization enjoys a savings of $25 if members of your staff are individual associate members of NALP, plus they get all the benefits of NALP membership.
Use AEC attendance as a retention tool: It is no secret that the job market for legal career professionals is competitive. Encouraging your employer to invest in you and other members of your team can be a powerful retention tool as it demonstrates a commitment to professional development and signals how much contributions are valued. In an environment where employers are seeking ways to demonstrate employee appreciation outside of compensation, attendance at the AEC is a great solution!
Team building for your organization: The AEC is a great time to get members of your team (whether they be in the same office or located around the country) together for team building. For many organizations, this could be the first time that colleagues will have an opportunity to meet face to face for several years.
Give assurance of COVID protocols: NALP is committed to the safety and wellbeing of all conference attendees. Attendees will be required to provide proof of COVID vaccination and to comply with all safety protocols mandated by the local government and the conference venue.
Overview of who attends the conference: It may be important to provide an overview of who attends the conference. Conference attendees 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. It is important to note that with so many changes in the legal market, there are many attendees who are new to the profession or may have recently joined their institution. This will be a valuable opportunity to build that new network. 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, law firm partners, law school professors and deans, judges, CEOs, and other experts. Make a note that the NALP conference features a wide array of speakers from across the legal industry.
Consider consultants for your organization: Point out that the AEC is a great chance to see outside consultants and speakers that you might consider bringing to your institution.
Benefits to your law school: Be specific about the benefits to your law school as an organization. Identify specific sessions in the conference brochure that you plan to attend and relate them to current projects that you are working on for the career services office or for your school. Identify specific presenters, consultants, colleagues, or vendors whom you will have an opportunity to meet, learn from, and speak with. For example, you will have the opportunity to hear first-hand from the ABA during a special Q&A session. In addition, you will have the chance to meet with and learn from peer institutions on how they manage the issues you are dealing with every day. Another selling point for your school might be the opportunity to meet with alumni in the city where the conference is located. Alumni visits could be added to an extra day of the conference week. The conference also offers an opportunity for you to connect in a meaningful way with the recruiting staff at firms where you seek to place law students. It is a chance to hear about recruiting trends and anticipated hiring needs shortly before the start of the busy summer recruiting season.
Benefits to your legal employer: Be specific about the benefits to your organization. Identify sessions in the conference brochure that you plan to attend and relate them to current projects and problems that you are working on. 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 peer institutions 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 supervisors that the conference will provide an opportunity to connect in a meaningful way with the career development personnel at law schools where you seek to recruit summer associates. The conference offers an opportunity to meet representatives from numerous organizations all in one place.
In-person networking: After so many online activities and programs, networking in-person with colleagues in the legal industry will help advance your organization’s goals. Meet others who are managing similar issues, learn best practices, discuss problems, and bring solutions back to your organization. Meet vendors in the legal careers industry as well.
Professional development for you: 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.
Prior conferences as an example: Refer to a time when you attended another conference, got an idea, and implemented it at your offices. You would say something in the memo like: “As you may recall, it was at a past conference that I learned about [example subject], which led to our successful [launch of program] or [adjustment to initiative] or my personal development in [skill].”
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: 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 afterward 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.
Decide whether it makes sense to make your best case in person or in writing. In either case, do not 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.