On Saturday, April 12, 2014, over 70 attorneys, law students, and prelaw students gathered in Crystal City, Virginia for a JRCLS Regional Conference themed “Law and Leadership.” This conference was inspired by vision of Women in the Law Chair, Nan Barker, who planned a similar regional conference in Phoenix, Arizona last November. The Women in the Law Committee, D.C. Chapter, Conference & Events Committee, and volunteers from Norwalk, Connecticut to Charlottesville, Virginia came together to make the D.C. conference a success.
The conference started with breakfast and a keynote address by Mary Hoagland, Executive Director of the Law Society. Dr. Hoagland spoke about the meaning of leadership and how we can become better leaders. She quoted The Life of Bees saying, “You are best at doing the things you love most.”
Dr. Hoagland’s remarks were followed by a plenary “Leadership in Religious Liberty Panel” featuring Kim Daniels, Gayla Sorenson, and Hannah Smith, and moderated by Eric Baxter. Each panelist brought a unique perspective to the discussion. The panelists discussed everything from the recent explosion of religious liberties litigation to how individuals can make a difference for supporting religious liberty. Christopher Hatch, an attorney in Vienna, Virginia, shared his reaction: “I enjoyed the religious liberty panel and their updates on high profile cases. I also appreciated their advice on how to get involved at the non-Supreme Court level and how to best approach discussions on religious liberty and government mandates with those who may not share my views.”
The religious liberty panel was followed by two rounds of break-out sessions. During the first break-out period, one panel covered job search tips and was moderated by JRCLS D.C. Chapter Chair, Stacy Cheney. The other panel was moderated by JRCLS Conference & Events Committee Chair, Ginny Isaacson and discussed the wide range of paths open to attorneys, particularly female attorneys, who choose not to stay in private practice.
Ms. Isaacson commented, “Sometimes it is daunting for women who aren’t practicing law anymore to come to Law Society events. The World of Options panel showed that there are a variety of ways to continue using your law degree outside the traditional practice of law. I think women carry a lot of guilt for not working or working too much, when the goal is to own and feel comfortable about whatever decision you make. The Law Society welcomes all attorneys whether they are practicing or not, and it is a great way to feel connected to the law without committing a lot of time.”
During the second break-out session, conference attendees were able to choose between attending a negotiations seminar or a panel on work-life balance. The negotiations seminar was offered for CLE credit and was taught by Georgetown adjunct professor, Julie Linkins. The work-life balance panel was moderated by Lori Sorenson, WIL Chair of the JRCLS D.C. Chapter, and covered perspectives of both male and female and single and married panelists. Ms. Sorenson felt the most important advice offered during the work-life balance panel was “to work hard, yet set boundaries, even in the beginning of your career.”
The conference concluded with lunch catered from Café Rio and closing remarks by Douglas Bush, Immediate Past Chair of the Law Society. Mr. Bush entitled his remarks, “Everything I Need to Know about Leadership I Learned from the Dog,” and focused on the importance of service and compassion in leadership. He shared how his wife has been particularly loving and devoted to their family’s dog and as a result, the dog will follow his wife. His remarks were a good reminder that effective leadership is about service rather than power.
The regional conference was an enriching opportunity for JRCLS members and friends to build new connections and strengthen old ties.