Legal conventions in my part of the world happen during June. Conventions are a great opportunity to fellowship with colleagues without business pressures and deadlines. Some might say that we have June conventions because our mandatory continuing legal education reports are due in July and conventions are one-stop shopping for the credits we need. Others observe that favorable weather and the end of the school year make June a peak month for lawyer vacations, and the fact that so many lawyers are not at the office means little gets done anyway so one may as well go to a convention. There is plenty enough cynicism in the world these days, so I choose to believe the first reason makes more sense, but I can’t rule out the second.
Unfortunately, this year many conventions have been canceled. Besides the huge loss of revenue for sponsors and hotels, these cancellations hurt lawyers who planned to attend. I attended my first convention by video conference and it was quite an eye-opener.
Video conference services are among the few industries benefitting from the pandemic, along with online food and liquor deliveries. For my convention, they did not disappoint.
I hadn’t attended the National Organization of Associations convention since 2002, when I was one of the recipients of their “Most Outstanding in the Field of Achievement” award. It was a heady time for me. There was no convention from 2005 to 2008 as litigation with the upstart Association of National Organizations wound its way through the courts. With that behind them, the NO-A resumed activities.
The lecture hall was packed with chairs occupied by cardboard cutouts of the attendees, socially distanced with empty chairs between. Some grumbled that this was a ploy to keep from returning registration fees. Others were thrilled to show a picture of themselves attending the convention, which provided cover in case the convention was their reason to say they were unavailable for other events.
NO-A’s legal subgroup was well represented. I especially enjoyed the lectures on “Professional Backgrounds for Zoom Meetings” and the panel discussion on appropriate attire for Zoom court appearances. The takeaway from that talk was that while suit or casual clothes were at the discretion of the court, bathrobes were never proper. In true lawyer fashion, the answers depend on other stuff. Thankfully there were none of the ubiquitous break-out groups that are as enjoyable as a dental visit sans anesthesia.
For me, perusing the vendor tables is one of the best parts of a convention. These tables are in a room away from the lectures, typically near the coffee pots. I learn about new technology, get ideas and meet potential providers of services I often didn’t even know I needed. The NO-A convention had a sub-hall of companies that buy annuities from injury victims and lottery winners. Some people called this the Hall of Bloodsuckers and avoided it, but I think they had the best snacks on their tables. Virtual snacks are calorie-free.
Virtually touring the vendor booths was probably the most fun of the convention. iPads mounted on Segways (RIP Segway, from me and mall cops everywhere) rolled up and down the aisles. Some of the booths had actual humans to visit with although the conversations were muffled through masks. Others had iPads and remote presentations from the vendors. It was a bit surreal to watch a video commercial of a company, captured on one iPad and relayed to me via another until it landed on my home screen. I expected Morpheus to place his hand on my shoulder at any moment and offer me either a red or blue pill. It should be no surprise that I would quickly take the blue pill and ask for seconds.
Recreational activities were a bit disappointing. I couldn’t reserve a Segway for the sunrise 5K run but it is just as well. My avatar’s finish time would have unrealistically upped my average and would only lead to disappointment when I actually run again. I understand that people who played in the convention’s golf and bowling tournaments were similarly displeased. The surprise hit of the convention was the Pong tournament. Most of the attendees old enough to remember Pong entered, but the final winner was a teenager from Booger Holler. I am not sure this kid is a lawyer but there was no denying his cat-like reflexes.
The best part of the virtual convention was the drive home from the resort. There was none. Usually, a weekend of convention with meetings, partying, and galas means the highway is packed with zombies trying to get back home Sunday afternoon in time to get ready for work on Monday. This year, I mowed my lawn and took a nap on Sunday. I truly missed the face to face time with old friends. If we gather next year in person, I will count my blessings.
©2020 under analysis distribution llc. under analysis is a nationally syndicated column. Spencer Farris is the founding partner of The S.E. Farris Law Firm in St Louis, Missouri. He Facetimed this column via a speech to text app for your enjoyment. Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent to Under Analysis via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.