The International Bar Association’s annual conference is fast approaching in the diaries of members and non-members alike. This year, lawyers, academics and all other professionals involved in the legal sector will meet in Seoul, Korea; with the 2020 conference then due to take place in Miami, Florida.
As one of the largest associations of lawyers in the world, the IBA represents a unique opportunity for individuals, firms and networks to project themselves professionally, and to market their services to a global audience.
The team at MD Communications has been attending for 10 years. Drawing on our experiences and learns, I hope I can give some inspiration to first-timers as well as those lawyers who have been attending for years but may be perhaps wondering if it is still all worth it.
With audiences ranging in the thousands it can be challenging to those who are inexperienced, or who have not attended regularly. At my first conference, due to little planning beforehand and not knowing what to expect, I spent almost a week like a rabbit in the headlights and came away struggling to work out the ROI.
The case for attending in terms of brand building is a good one. Not only do you benefit through meeting with like-minded lawyers and other experts in the sector to learn and share cutting edge developments in the law and client service delivery, but also by associating with established contacts in your field, you enhance existing relationships in a new setting and develop new ones, opening up new networks and referral opportunities.
I wish I had known 10 years ago what I needed to do to prepare. Joining a Section, Committee, or Division I have found to be an essential way to feel more easily connected with smaller groups. I then identify the most effective dinners and social events to attend to network.
The same goes for the Law Society or other professional body events. Some brilliant contacts can be made if you go to breakfasts and receptions, including with counsel.
Then there is the opportunity to see, question and be part of the debate on sector developments with global and national leaders in their field, on issues germane to your area of work. Through social media, and the judicious use of hashtags tailored to your market, you gain greater visibility as well as being seen by those present, following such feeds, as a useful commentator – whether it be LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.
Use LinkedIn and social media to work out if any contacts, or contacts of contacts, are present. Introductions from friends, or friends of friends, are so much part of business. What better way to enhance the event than short meetings and mutual conversations?
Use the IBA website assiduously. Check to see who else is speaking and attending who you would like to know, but don’t. A series of targeted emails to EU colleagues, or local contacts in advance, can lead to meetings and invitations to law firm parties and events. The social calendar is an essential part of the IBA scene.
Be open. Go to sessions on areas that help you build business. In the Law Firm Management Committee where I am on the advisory board and was previously the chair of the business development working group, I have chaired several events on managing the directory process; but from technology to advocacy, there is as much skills-based insight as there is pure law.
Finally, orientation and a planning are critical. Get there early if you can – so avoiding jet lag – and use pre-meetings and committee retreats, if possible, to max out business development opportunities. Know, day by day, what and where you should be, and how to get there. Look at public transport and cost-saving measures to keep costs down.
Myself and Linsay, our head of directories, awards and tenders, will be heading out early for pre-meetings with our committee four days ahead of the conference starting.
If you would like to meet with Linsay and me while you’re there, please get in touch – we would love to hear from you. I have plenty more advice to give so if you would like to drop me a line before you head out, please email me.
Our Seoul 2019 webpage has our contact details and more information and tips on how to get the most from the conference.
See you there I hope.