Monday, July 12, 2010

Tips for getting the most out of conferences

Alas, it is conference season. I know many ASPer's are just getting back from Elon Law School and LSAC's conference on counseling. I wish I could have joined everyone, but sadly, I am still in a travel freeze.  After 5 years, and countless conferences, here are some tips for making the most of the experience:

1) Be social, even if you are an introvert

Yes, sadly, ASP can be sort of clique-y.  It's not intentional; many of us have known each other for many years, and some of us worked together for years before we switched schools, moved, etc. However, it is worth remembering that 90% of us where the uncool kids in school growing up (we were way too smart) so we welcome everyone as adults. We are not mean girls (and boys), I promise. Say hi. If you are shy and uncomfortable, let us know. Most of us were uncomfortable at our first conferences as well. The only way to get the advice and help you want is to break into the cliques and start talking to people. Really, we are like a congregation of kindergarten teachers once you know us.

2) Be a joiner, even if you are not a joiner.

You need exposure. To get exposure for your program, school, etc, you need to join things. AALS, LSAC, Institute for Law School Teaching and Learning, Humanizing Legal Education. When you are at those conferences, be a joiner. Go to the (sometimes stupid and quirky) social functions. Join subcommittees.  When you join things, be social and let people get to know you and what is great about your program. The legal academy is a tiny place, so everyone knows someone at your school. This is instrumental for your career. You never know when you may need a phone call placed on your behalf to your boss/dean, letting her/him know what a great job you are doing. the only way to for that to happen is to be social, and be a joiner.

3) Ask questions

We tell our students there are no stupid questions, and then we are afraid to ask questions as conferences for fear of sounding stupid. As someone who has presented a ton, I don't think I have ever heard a stupid question.  We completely understand that people new to the profession need to ask basic questions. We want to help. Conferences are places where you should be asking questions.

4) Toot your own horn. No one else will.

While being social, be sure to mention your accomplishments. If you feel like you don't have any accomplishments, then just tell people what you are doing.  No one else is going to let others know the great things you are doing at your school. ASPer's are the modest, non-competitive ones in the legal academy, which is self-defeating at times.

5) If you are would like to present at a conference in the future, tell somebody

The powers-that-be (that change from year to year, conference to conference) don't know if you would like to present unless you let people know. ASP is unlike other areas of the legal academy, in that you don't necessarily have to write a paper in order to present something that you are doing. While we are a many-talented group, I haven't encountered any mind readers among ASPer's as of yet. 

(RCF)

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