THE WORLD OF ATTORNEY CONFERENCES – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My first husband, Larry, was a litigation lawyer in New York City. He specialized in bankruptcy law. Every year there are numerous legal conferences that provide continuing education for practicing attorneys all over the country. It’s a way to help lawyers keep up with the new developments in their fields. Attendance at a few a year is usually required by most large law firms. The firms usually paid for the airfare, accommodations and enrollment fees.

So these conferences were seen by practicing attorneys as mini vacation opportunities. They were always held in prime vacation destinations, like Scottsdale, Ar., San Francisco, CA, Park City, Utah and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Skiing in Park City, Utah at Norton bankruptcy conference

Larry gradually started speaking on the panels of these conferences. He eventually hooked up with the Norton Bankruptcy Judges’ Conference and became a regular faculty member at their meetings. We ended up going to at least two or three a year.

These conferences were a lot of work for Larry. He had to do extensive research on the new cases in his assigned topic area. He had to put together a huge booklet of materials for all the conference attendees. But he loved it. And continued to do it for many, many years.

I almost always went along with Larry. We also often took our two kids. We developed close friendships with the Norton family who ran the conference – senior parents and two adult children, plus their spouses and kids. We also became good friends with many other lawyers who also regularly spoke on the panels. Many of us had kids of roughly the same age, so our kids also formed friendships with their conference buddies from all over the country.

One of the Norton canvas bags given out at each conference

These conferences were often the highlights of our year. We loved them! We’ve done some wonderful things on our conference circuit travels. We explored Yellowstone National Park several times and did white water rafting and horse back riding in Wyoming. We once had a special, exclusive tour of Sea World at a party there in San Diego, CA. We skied almost every year in Park City, Utah.

Horseback riding at a Norton Conference

On one skiing trip, two other conference families got stranded with us at the top of a mountain in a white out, with zero visibility. We were stuck in the lodge at the top of the mountain until the ski instructors felt they could safely guide us down the mountain.

In Scottsdale, Ar., we all took a guided tour into the desert. Part of the tour was a mini lesson in shooting. The guide set up beer cans for us to shoot and taught us how to use his gun. No one got anywhere near the cans, even the instructor. Except for me. I hit one dead on. Larry insisted that it was a fluke or beginner’s luck. So I took another shot. Another can went down! Everyone was stunned and impressed. My nine-year old son turned to his Dad and quietly told him, “Dad. You’d better not piss off Mom!”

Whitewater rafting with the kids at a bankruptcy conference. We are at the very front.

I became known for one thing on these trips. I was the only wife who got up at 6:30 AM, on vacation, to go and watch her husband’s panel presentations. I was a lawyer so I could follow the discussion to at least some extent. And I was very proud of Larry. He was an excellent speaker and teacher. I felt it was important to be there to support him and cheer him on. Larry was very proud to be the only panelist with a claque in the audience.

My kids got their faces painted at a big event at one of the conferences

I have about twenty souvenir canvas bags from the various Norton Conferences over the years. I still use them, but I really keep them as souvenirs. They remind me of all the fun times we had traveling the country in the cause of bankruptcy law education!

5 thoughts on “THE WORLD OF ATTORNEY CONFERENCES – BY ELLIN CURLEY

  1. I so remember those conferences from my working days. I was a sales rep for a large national student loan lender — our sales training conferences were usually held in Orlando, Las Vegas, or Denver, the only places where the conference facilities were large enough. We were caught in Las Vegas for several days after 9/11; three weeks later we were in Orlando. We were always given a 1/2 day off and tickets to the local attractions — a group of us did all of Epcot in one afternoon right after 9/11, as we were the only ones there. Those trips were a lot of work, but great fun.

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    • Conferences were a perk and a burden. Larry had to spend a lot of time preparing reading materials for his audience as well as lectures and often panel discussions. But all the lawyer events were in the mornings and every afternoon was free. At night there was often a scheduled dinner or entertainment. A group of us would go off and have fun all day and then get back together for the evening, either on our own or at the conference activity. There was also a lot of networking going on and contacts as well as friendships that were established there, lasted for years and years.

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    • We all really enjoyed those conferences. Even the kids had a blast. When they were in higher grades at school, it was harder to take them along, but when they were young and could be pulled out of school for a few days, it was great. They got to know the adults as well as the other kids and groups of families hung out together several times a year. These are very fond memories for all of us. I’m sorry I lost track of the people I met there, but after the divorce, Larry got custody of the legal friends and continued to do some conferences without me.

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