By Gabriella Martin • June 03, 2017•Ms. JD, Conference
I have had the honor and privilege of attending several conferences this past year, one of which was the Ms. JD Annual Conference. While I did attend numerous networking events as a 1L, these conferences provided a different experience and allowed me to engage with lawyers from across the country. Although it may be daunting to attend a national conference, here are five reasons why it should be a “must-do” on your law school to-do list.
Immersion in a National Organization
National organizations are often easy to join as a law student. You sign up, often for a free membership, and start recieving emails, newsletters, and invitations to conference calls or webinars. This is all well and good, but it can make the organization feel like a far-off entity. From the comfort of your computer, its difficult to see the vastness of an organization or truly feel connected to other members. That all changes when you attend a conference. Especially at annual conferences, you are able to really see the reach of an organization as members fly out from across the country and around the world to attend. For many long-time members, annual conferences are the only opportunity they have to see one another.
The national conference not only allows you to get a sense of the organization’s membership size, but it also gives you a sense of overwhelming fellowship. Think about it. You have something in common with almost every person that is there, regardless of how long they been in practice or how important they may be—you’re all members of the same organization. That means you all receive the same emails and most likely joined the organization for similar reasons. This inherent fellowship makes my next reason a whole lot easier.
Networking on Steroids
At any conference, business cards exchanges and requests to stay in touch are abundant. Unlike what you may have experienced at smaller networking events, people come to conferences often with the sole purpose to meet people. Conferences are hosted to bring people together—those who would not have met otherwise, those who have only communicated by email, and those who work in different fields. They allow organizations to put their money where their mouth is by showing members that they do indeed have national network they can rely on and reach out to.
You Don’t Have to Go It Alone
While its true that you will have a connection with all those attending a conference, it doesn’t mean that you have to attend the conference by yourself. In fact, you may find that many of the student organizations at your law school have a national counterpart whose conference you can attend as a group. For example, I attended the Ms. JD conference with a group from our Women’s Law Society. Attending the conference with people you know helps put you at ease even before you walk in because you already know at least one other person there. It also allows members of your student organization to bond over the shared experience of attending the conference. Plus if someone in your organization has attended the conference before, you will also have someone who can introduce you to attorneys they met and get the networking ball rolling.
It’s Good Practice for the Future
As you get further into practice, especially if you’re at a bigger law firm or in-house counsel, chances are you’re going to be sent to a number of conferences. Remember one of the main goals of a conference is to network and as a lawyer networking means business, usually in the form of referrals. Like with anything else, attending conferences as a lawyer will be lot less intimidating if you’ve already attended conferences as a law student. Attending as a law student will also give you a bonus of already knowing a number of other members right out of the gate.
National Organizations Want Law Students to Attend
You would be hard pressed to find a national conference which turned away law students. National organizations, like Ms. JD, want members who join the organization as law students because this leads to longer term membership as well as getting put on leadership tracks. More importantly though, national organizations desire to recruit law students is reflected in discounted registration fees. They know law students are often working on a tight budget so they offer discounts, scholarships and sometimes volunteer positions in order to get more law students to attend.
Law schools frequently share this same desire. If there is a conference you or your student organization would like to attend, it never hurts to ask whether the school would be willing to subsidize part or all of your registration and travel costs. After all, conferences are not only education, but they are a golden opportunity to put yourself and your school on the map.
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