Conferences are fun. You meet people who are ambitious and passionate about their careers. You see new cities not through the eyes of a tourist, but those of a business traveller.
You often enjoy good food, state-of-the-art facilities, and polished company. You are full of energy because you are operating outside your comfort zone. You juggle finding your way around in a new city, looking the part, making conversation with new people, and allocating time to explore the city on your own terms.
I attended the Canadian Bar Association’s Canadian Legal Conference in Vancouver earlier this month. The Vancouver Convention Centre was the main building for the conference with some events in the nearby hotels. The conference program was impressive — varied and diverse professional development sessions and small group meetings. I really had to be selective about what sessions I wanted to attend. It helped that all of the conference materials were provided on a USB key.
There are many reasons why law students should attend conferences. As a recent law graduate, I found that there were several benefits to attending this year’s CBA conference.
For one, I heard speeches by government leaders, including Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Rob Nicholson, who fielded a Q & A session with conference participants. I also heard from Alberta Premier Alison Redford, who shared a glimpse of Canada’s future energy policy and highlighted the importance of provincial collaboration.
The conference also gave me the opportunity to practise my French with native speakers who are also legal professionals.
And finally, I got to explore Vancouver. It had been on my to-do list for a while.
For law students, there is a lot to gain by attending conferences. Here are my top five reasons for why you should make it a priority:
1. There is money set aside for you to do so. As a law student, you benefit from either a reduced registration cost or no cost at all. Some conferences will even pay for your transportation. Otherwise, find out if your law school will support you financially. For example, in 2010, while in third year law, I attended the National Pro Bono Conference in Calgary. Between Pro Bono Law Alberta and my law school, all of my expenses were covered. Once you are working, chances are your employer will only pay for your attendance if the conference is closely aligned with your practice area.
2. It recharges your mind. After a conference, I often return refreshed with a renewed sense of ambition and competitive spirit.
3. There is plenty of opportunity to network; you know — shake hands, give out business cards. At this early stage of my career, however, networking was not my main focus. Instead, I mainly used the conference to inspire me. What other possibilities exist and how can I take advantage of them?
4. It helps to prepare you for the expectations that come along with this profession; how to talk, how to walk, and how to conduct yourself as a lawyer in a CLE environment.
5. You get the opportunity to develop unique and narrow skills by attending sessions on specific legal issues. For example, I once attended a CPD session on the protection of migrant workers.
This year’s CBA conference was well planned and provided value for spent money and time. I look forward to being active in the CBA throughout my career.
[em]Anita Goela works in the family duty counsel office at the A. Grenville and William Davis Courthouse in Brampton, Ont.