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TCL > February 2003 Issue > I'm Sorry I Missed You At the Convention...

February 2003       Vol. 32, No. 2       Page  25
Features
CBA President's Message to Members

I'm Sorry I Missed You At the Convention...
by John E. Moye

. . . But I’m looking forward to seeing you at the Institute.1

We didn’t see each other at the CBA convention because we didn’t have a convention. In case you didn’t notice, this year the Colorado Bar Association did not hold its annual convention. There are good reasons for this. The fact that you might not have noticed the absence of the convention is the reason that the attendance at our convention has been dwindling substantially over the years. The convention became an expense rather than a revenue source.

Our executive director, Chuck Turner, and our assistant executive director, Dana Collier Smith, who also had served as the chair of the National Association of Bar Executives Meetings, Seminars and Events Forum, were featured in the November–December 2002 Bar Leader magazine, describing the Colorado approach to bar meetings.2 Most bar associations in the country are evaluating the annual convention as a meaningful service to their members, and many are experimenting with meetings every other year or in out-of-state resort locations to encourage increased participation by the members. Everyone seems to agree that continued tinkering with the event is necessary to attract attendance and to provide a quality social and substantive experience that meets the needs of the members.

Times have changed. The evolution of the profession has focused our attention on substantive expertise rather than social entertainment. The increasing complexity of substantive areas of the law and increased specialization in our practices have resulted in the substantive sections and their activities becoming the strength of the CBA. The sections, in cooperation with CBA-CLE, present highly sophisticated, sometimes multi-day, institutes in which the lawyers who concentrate in particular substantive areas can learn the latest legislative developments and the most up-to-date techniques for advising their clients in their substantive areas. These substantive institutes have become the conferences of choice for our lawyers.

The Convention

There was a time when our convention was held at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. Those of us who regularly attended remember walking around the lake on beautiful September mornings, feeding the ducks as we strolled, and occasionally braving a brief snow squall that whipped its way across Cheyenne Mountain. After a breakfast in an elegant dining room or a bagel at the golf club, we would attend a general program presented by a national speaker, such as Irving Younger.

During the day, we would have an opportunity to attend a variety of panels on estate planning, family law, business entities, and real estate. The best lawyers in the state would teach us the latest developments in those substantive areas, so that those of us who primarily tried cases could still advise our clients about proper formation of a corporation under the new statutes.

A number of us played golf, while others attended the luncheons honoring judges and other prominent members of the Bar. Each time we would walk around the lake or work our way through a hallway of meeting rooms, we would see old friends and renew acquaintances. Some of us just sat by the lake and watched the ducks.

The prominent law firms in the state used to send all of their lawyers at the law firm’s expense. The heads of the firms often would reserve large suites so that they could host cocktail parties and receptions for friends and members of the firm. Those who planned ahead were able to secure reservations at the Penrose Room for large tables of firm members and spouses to enjoy a sumptuous meal. Every venue at the Broadmoor was packed with lawyers and their families, enjoying the opportunity to socialize with their colleagues, friends, and family.

The luncheons in the International Center usually involved prominent national and international speakers whose ideas and opinions were invigorating and challenging. In the evening, The Denver Law Club or another talented troupe of lawyers (all wannabe actors and musicians) presented a clever and provocative show, which sometimes involved a very elaborate production of dancers, chorus, and actors who practiced for months to prepare their material and present it. After the show, as many as could pack into the place reveled in the fun at the Golden Bee, chugging yards of ale and singing songs in harmony with the energetic piano player. And we’d wind our way back to our rooms on the other side of the lake, trying to avoid those pesky ducks.

Regional Visits to Local Bars

Several years ago, many things happened. The politics of El Paso County became controversial and, like the great resort it is, the Broadmoor raised its prices. The Bar Association made a decision to stage its convention elsewhere, in mountain venues primarily, where our members could enjoy the camaraderie of their colleagues in a mountain setting. Perhaps it was the change in location or the significant focus on more complex and sophisticated substantive law that caused the general programs offered at the convention to be less popular than before. In past years, attendance at the convention had been reduced so substantially that the CBA decided to discontinue the convention and try a different approach.

The CBA now has established regional bar visits for the seven regions of the local bar associations within Colorado. At each of these visits, an afternoon of free CLE programming is offered in the areas of ethics, professionalism, and law office management. The CLE portion is followed by a reception in which the CBA President and members of the CBA staff discuss current issues involving the Bar Association and its members. These visits have been very well received and have given the CBA staff an opportunity to meet with hundreds of our members. In the evaluation of these regional visits, members are uniformly in favor of continuing them.

There has been plenty of the camaraderie and good cheer, reminiscent of the receptions at the old conventions, during the receptions that follow the afternoon programs. These regional events have become an effective way for the officers and staff of the CBA to keep in touch with members of the local bar associations and to provide general training and CLE on a regional basis for our colleagues.

CLE Institutes

The CLE institutes, scheduled and presented by substantive sections of the CBA, are the new "conventions" for our members. These institutes are the substantive connections among lawyers in the areas in which they primarily concentrate their practices. This year, CBA-CLE is planning institutes on the following subjects at various times and locations throughout the year.

• Real Estate

• Family Law

• Business Law

• Litigation

• Solo and Small Firm

• Employment Law

• Agricultural Law

The programs presented at the institutes are taught by the best lawyers in the state in their areas of expertise. The quality of the education is exceptional and, according to the evaluations year after year, extremely useful. These are programs that justify the time out of the office. And, the participants are the colleagues members regularly see in practice and with whom they want to network. The institutes are the best way for today’s lawyers to focus on their continuing education and spend some quality time with lawyers who speak their language and share their practice.

At the institutes, the restaurants are filled with lawyers and their companions telling their favorite case or transaction stories, and discussing the value of the last lecture. A few late-night conversations usually develop into friendly arguments about some obscure substantive issue. At each of the institutes, the CBA is scheduling a social reception with the CBA officers and staff to meet and greet the participants while they enjoy the company of their colleagues.

Chuck Turner aptly summarized the change in the Colorado meeting approach by stating: "We’re not doing a convention. We’re doing seven."3

So, I am sorry that I missed you at the CBA convention, but it will be good to see you at the Institutes. Someone bring the ducks.

NOTES

1. The word "institute" used here is meant as an umbrella word to include symposia, programs, and conferences.

2. Smith, "The Changing Annual Meeting: New Timeframes, New Formats, New Directions," Bar Leader 12 (Nov.–Dec. 2002).

3. Id. at 14.

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