Legal conference season is already beginning, and there’s no time like the present to start considering what 2018 will look like for you as a legal professional. How will you improve yourself and your law firm this year?
Attending a legal technology conference could help.
Why attend a legal technology conference?
Industry events like conferences and conventions are excellent opportunities to progress professionally and personally. Attending (and actively participating in) legal technology conferences, bar association conventions, professional association events, and local networking meetups can help you enrich your knowledge, make important professional connections, and find new clients by enhancing your referral network—not to mention they can help you market yourself better and save time on non-billable work.
More importantly, attending conferences can help you stay ahead of your competition. Recent statistics from the American Bar Association (ABA) indicate that the number of practicing lawyers in the United States has more than tripled since 1977. For comparison, the national population has only grown by 47 percent in the same period.
It’s not news that the legal field is competitive. But recently, the profession has faced increasing pressure to meet the evolving demands of the market. With the rise of non-lawyer competition, evolving expectations from clients, and increased segmentation, it’s clear that the legal marketplace is changing.
This is your chance to move towards a more profitable, fulfilling career. Why? Because your competition is not adjusting. Legal technology conferences offer the information you need to catapult your firm ahead of others in your space.
How to choose the best legal technology conference to attend
Attending legal conferences and events can mean a significant investment, but can also provide huge benefits to your firm. These events will involve registration costs, time away from your practice, and potentially travel (hopefully to somewhere on your bucket list). Taking all of that into account, costs can add up pretty quickly.
But attending legal conferences can bring incredible benefits for your firm. Consider this: You might attend a session that transforms your productivity, or opens the doors to new marketing channels. In this way, the next legal technology conference you attend could single-handedly change your business and potentially save you a lot of time and money.
The key is to carefully choose events that will most benefit your firm, and to soak up as much as possible while you’re there.
Here’s a list of tips to help make sure your next investment into a legal conference is the right one.
1. Define your goals
The best conference for you will address your educational goals and business needs, while helping you foster community connections.
How do you know what those are? Try to carve out a few minutes from your day for thoughtful personal reflection so that you can find out. Here are a few questions to help you get started:
- What are the business challenges I face today at my firm?
- What is missing from my practice today that I think I’ll need tomorrow?
- Where is the legal profession headed? Is there a conversation I want to be a part of?
- What do I want to learn?
- What inspires me?
- Who do I want to connect with or meet?
Once you’ve answered a few of these questions and have a good idea of your goals, you can move on to step two.
2. Look for conferences that meet your goals
Search online for conferences that match your goals, or ask people in your network to recommend a conference that might cover relevant topics. Get a list together, and then start reviewing potential candidates in more detail.
Start by reviewing the agenda and speaker roster for the upcoming events that most pique your interest. This will help confirm whether each conference offers programming to help you meet your goals, and give you an idea of what else you might be able to take in.
If event information hasn’t been updated yet, review the schedule from the previous year to get a taste of what the conference will offer.
3. Look for reputable reviews
Once you’ve narrowed down your list, check to make sure the events your considering have strong reviews. The best events will have excellent personal and professional reviews online.
Look to reputable sources like LawSites Blog, Above the Law, Lawyerist, Attorney@Work, and LXBN for reviews of the events you’re considering. The attorneys, legal professionals, and journalists who write for these blogs have the opportunity to attend a wide variety of industry events, and they often write up their honest reviews of their experiences. Even better, some may even have published a list of their favorite events for the year.
4. Look for community buzz
Beyond formal reviews, look to your existing social networks to give you more details on each conference. First-hand accounts from conference attendees will give you an idea of the often intangible experience that an event delivers on—the speakers, venue, and networking opportunities should all come together to create a memorable event.
Start by asking around and searching the internet for testimonials. If you love social media, consider checking out the conference hashtag, which you should be able to find on a conference’s website.
For example, the conference put on by the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) always gets people talking. A quick search on Twitter for #ILTACON leads to blog post highlights from attendees and key takeaways from last year’s event.
5. Look for events that go above and beyond
These days, legal conferences go well beyond stodgy speeches. Events that nurture the body, mind, and soul have arrived in legal. In 2017, ABA Techshow, unveiled a new format with a greater emphasis on well-being and healthy activities. Giving a nod to the Clio Cloud Conference for raising the bar, it’s exciting to see iconic industry events like ABA Techshow approach legal education with a fresh perspective.
6. Consider the future of law and get inspired
Attending a legal gathering with a future-forward perspective offers you the chance to look at how legal technology is changing both individual practices and the future of law as a whole.
The social benefits of legal tech events can be massive. Often these events will have networking opportunities where you can meet known experts or new innovators.
If you want to stay local, consider getting involved with a Legal Hackers chapter in your area. These member-driven groups meet regularly to collaborate on solutions to legal issues and are a fantastic way to be more involved in your community.
Coming to a city near you, Evolve Law hosts local events across the country. Each legal gathering strives to bridge the gap between technology and the law. Featuring a panel of well-regarded community innovators, they are a fantastic way to network and engage in your community.
Look to social media to see if any innovators you’d love to meet are attending upcoming conferences on your shortlist to help you decide.
7. Consider what could improve your law firm from a business perspective
You are a fantastic attorney, paralegal, or administrator but it’s unlikely your education unpacked the mysteries of online law firm marketing. Many legal tech conferences will cover the business of law in addition to lively legal discussion, and these are certainly worth considering. Learning new ways to tackle key business challenges can save you time, streamline your day-to-day activities, and provide clarity on where to invest your marketing dollars for maximum impact. Now that’s a good investment!
Industry-leading legal technology conferences like the Clio Cloud Conference combine outstanding sessions featuring leading legal, business, and technological minds. Better yet, the event is fully catered. Even if you don’t use Clio’s software, the agenda always provides outstanding thought-leadership and best-in-class networking events for all members of your firm.
Now in its sixth year, the Clio Cloud Conference is taking place in New Orleans on October 4-5.
8. Narrow it down
With all of the above in mind, make a shortlist of your top two or three events, and review them again from top to bottom.
Remember to consider each event’s programming, its industry reputation, testimonials, and networking opportunities. If an event aligns with your business challenges, personal goals, and professional aspirations, it’s time to get serious about attending.
9. Double-check what’s included and set your budget
Once you know which event(s) you’d like to attend, as a final step, double-check that you understand what is included with your registration for the conference before you purchase a conference pass. Each event is different. Some conferences are fully catered and the networking elements are included. Others will require you to shell out some extra cash to attend the evening activities, purchase a separate ticket to engage with exhibitors, or require you to sort out your own meals.
Knowing what’s included ahead of time can help you avoid any surprise costs, and be that much more prepared to get the most out of your conference experience.
10. Look for discounts.
Many events have a newsletter or social media channels offering discounts. Before you buy, sign up for email updates, follow relevant accounts on social media, and watch for group rates or promo codes that will help you save on registration costs. If you don’t find something initially, try reaching out to the event organizer to see if they can extend you a special offer to make the event work with your budget.
Also, keep in mind that almost all conventions will offer a competitive hotel group rate. The conference may have also negotiated extras for conference attendees staying at the hotel, like free Wi-Fi or complimentary hotel gym access. If the event offers transportation to offsite activities, you can be guaranteed that the conference hotels will make for the most convenient experience.
Change is hard. But as a lawyer, you’ll find strategic advantages in embracing change, especially since a Georgetown University 2018 Report on the State of the Legal Market concluded that the vast majority of firms have not. The report reads:
Unless law firm leaders take these market changes seriously, they may well find themselves–like the French generals in 1940–prepared to meet challenges that no longer exist and outmaneuvered by competitors who are using a completely different playbook.
Deciding to invest in yourself and your firm by attending a legal industry event is one way of taking advantage of this open opportunity.
One more thing—after all your research and consideration, the final step is to enjoy yourself and make the most of your time at the event. After all, it isn’t every day that you get to spend time with hundreds of other passionate, driven people in your field. Take time to go to conference networking events and strike up conversations with other attendees. You never know what you may learn.
The Clio Cloud Conference is easily the most popular in the legal industry, and as a bonus, it’s taking place in the best place to visit in 2018, according to the New York Times.
Don’t miss out—register now to join us in New Orleans on October 4-5.
Lauren Sanders manages Special Projects at Clio and is the lead event coordinator for the Clio Cloud Conference. Her passion for experiential learning started as a teenage camp counsellor, was solidified by organizing youth empowerment events, and now drives her to transform the legal technology conference landscape.
*This is an updated version of a post originally published on February 20, 2017.