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Law conferences: The many benefits of participation

Attending a law conference last week, I had the chance to participate in the Canadian Law Student Conference, hosted by the Windsor Review of Legal and Social Issues. Now in its tenth year, this annual conference held in Windsor, Ont., invites students from across the country to present their own research papers and gives them the opportunity to win an award based on their paper or presentation.

Windsor’s law conference is not the only setting for students to present their work, but with its mandate to “utilize the study of law as a vehicle for social justice,” this conference attracts a wide range of unique and exciting topics in law.[strong]


How does the Canadian Law Student Conference work?
Each year, WRLSI calls for law students to submit their academic papers. If a student is selected to present their paper, they are invited to the conference, typically held in March, and participate in a panel discussion. The panels are divided based on an overarching legal subject or theme that emerges from each paper, such as international law, criminal law or media technology and the law. After students present their papers, the floor is opened up to questions from the audience, from the panel and from the panel’s facilitator (typically a professor or practitioner). The setting is comfortable and there is no expectation that the presenters will be able to or should be able to answer every question. In fact, many audience members will attempt to offer their own opinions in the event that a question stumps the panel.

This conference also opened with a talk from Supreme Court of Canada Justice Suzanne Côté. She discussed her experience at the Supreme Court and offered a more in-depth look as to how the court operates. After her speech, Côté graciously took questions from the audience and invited people to come and talk with her. This rare and enjoyable opportunity was open to conference participants, panelists and volunteers, as well as Windsor Law’s student body.

Why submit a paper to present at a conference?
Aside from the obvious benefit of adding another line to your resumé, presenting at a conference allows you to show off some of the hard work you put in to your legal education. Often, your paper topic will stimulate a very insightful and enthusiastic conversation or debate. Many of these conversations will continue even after the panel is finished. WRLSI in particular selects a broad range of topics. For example, this year’s topics ranged from an international taxation treaty to fitness trackers to indigenous youth in custody — there was something for everyone. The conversations were engaging, thought-provoking and led to unexplored and unanswered questions of law.

Conferences also allow you to get to know students from across the country, discuss their academic or professional goals and get a better understanding of their experiences at school. More, students are able to engage with professors and practitioners and have them comment on their presentation as it pertains to academia or firm settings. These networking experiences are casual yet invaluable. You never know where or when you’ll encounter these students or professionals again.

Why attend a conference even though you’re not presenting?
There are a number of benefits to attending a law conference. In my opinion, the biggest benefits include being able to listen to the latest student research ideas, getting inspired for your own research papers and networking with students and professionals alike in a relaxed environment.

Last week, I listened to a number of presentations in areas of law that I have yet to encounter through my studies. This forced me to reflect on my own experience at law school. What were the more nuanced areas of law that I wanted to discover? Was there a topic I found to be remarkable? Was I ignoring certain courses because I was unsure as to what they would entail? The conversations that flowed from last week’s conference left plenty of unanswered questions that encourage new research topics to explore. Even if your school lacks courses in an area of law, you may be able to further customize your own education and do a directed research paper with a member of your school’s faculty.

The takeaway
Think about the many hours you have spent on writing that one research paper. This was the paper that you managed to edit and re-work multiple times before the deadline. Think about the feeling of accomplishment when you completed that paper. A law conference such as the Canadian Law Student Conference gives you a chance to share your ideas, engage in inspiring discussions and celebrate all your hard work with peers and professionals from across the country.