Conferences / Symposia, Continuing Legal Education / CLE, In-House Counsel

Moonlighting: Inside an Insider’s Legal Conference

Last week was my company’s annual legal conference. This year, lawyers from around the world descended upon the cultural and historic haven called New Orleans. And we had lots of stuff planned. And I don’t mean just food. Although the week did feel kind of like this:

Food / Event / More Food / Event / AND More Food / Event / Full-on Food “Event”

We spent a part of the first day volunteering with a New Orleans-based organization called St. Bernard Project. SBP is an amazing non-profit that was formed 5 years ago by a lawyer (Zack Rosenburg) and a teacher (Liz McCartney). After a week’s visit to New Orleans, these two decided to give up their lives as they knew them and settle in New Orleans to help people whose homes and lives were devastated by Hurricane Katrina and the Oil Spill. SBP has several programs and about 60 of us worked in the effort to rebuild houses — painting, removing siding, installing insulation, et cetera. SBP is all about quality when it comes to rebuilding homes; so if the air bubble in the level you’re using is even just touching one of the vertical lines on either side, you can expect an earful from your supervisor who won’t care that your “real” job doesn’t involve the use of power tools. Unless it’s April Fool’s Day at the office. (More on that at another time.)

Our legal conference also included a couple of training sessions. One of them was held by Second City. Yes, Second City — you know, the famous comedy club/school that has trained (among other comedy elites) the entire original cast of Saturday Night Live?

Apparently, our business clients felt that their lawyers were sorely lacking in humor and could use some lightening up or something. I know, I don’t get it either. No, but Second City actually provides corporate workshops and training to improve teamwork and communication. And they are totally awesome! (Or “brilliant” as our British lawyers prefer to say — apparently “awesome” isn’t as awesome-sounding in the UK as we think it is here.)

So anyway, our trainers were a couple of comedians who had tons of energy and were all-out hilarious. They were even pretty good at the training thing and didn’t make fun of the fact that we were all lawyers. At least not much. Okay, they did, but it was all good, really. They had us do a bunch of fun exercises to get us to think creatively, and to say thank you all the time, and to really listen to each other’s ideas. All stuff we lawyers are really bad at!

The conference also of course involved a lot of informational sessions and CLEs. These included updates from each of the different legal teams on the past year, recognition of accomplishments, and topics of interest, such as ethics, legislative updates, and diversity. We had to include something on the more serious and informative side, after all — we had to fill in all that the space between the food somehow.

And despite my admonishments last week about having fun at company social events, we had plenty of those opportunities as well — dinners, karaoke, dancing of all sorts (ahem), and even a Halloween costume reception (check the recent images in my twitter feed for a pic of me with a colleague in costume). One particular attorney even got injured by having a little too much fun. I won’t tell you the whole story, but I will say that a mechanical bull was involved. Oh yes.

All in all, our annual legal conference was quite a well-planned event with lots of opportunities for lawyers from all over the company to engage, share ideas, and establish better working relationships. And have some fun.

Susan Moon is an in-house attorney at a travel and hospitality company. Her opinions are her own and not those of her company. Also, the experiences Susan shares may include others’ experiences (many in-house friends insist on offering ideas for the blog). You can reach her at and follow her on Twitter at @SusanMoon.

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