Posted Aug 01, 2014 07:00 am CDT
Boston is one of America’s oldest cities, but everything will seem new this month when the ABA holds its first annual meeting there in more than 60 years. One of the highlights will be an address by U.S. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. on Aug. 11.
In Boston, the ABA will introduce the Magnitude360 format. The goal of this new approach—which in many ways harks back to the format of past annual meetings—is to focus the main events of the meeting over three days so attendees will be able to come together for a mix of CLE showcase programs, social activities and a bit of ABA pageantry without having to navigate through a maze of conflicting events.
“There will now be a focus on the ‘official’ annual meeting that minimizes the distractions,” says Andrew J. Demetriou, a partner at the Credo law firm in Los Angeles who chairs the Annual Meeting Program Planning Committee. “The central point is to create a sense of community so people aren’t scattered in a lot of different places.”
The Magnitude360 portion of the meeting will start with a welcome reception on Friday, Aug. 8. On Saturday, Aug. 9, there will be a variety of CLE and professional development programs, as well as events at the ABA Expo. The ABA Assembly will be held at 4 p.m., followed by the President’s Reception. On Sunday, Aug. 10, there will be more CLE programming and other events at the Expo until noon.
A key aspect of the new format is that sections, divisions and other entities will not present their own CLE programs in conflict with Magnitude360 programs. Other entities also will refrain from sponsoring social events until the ABA receptions have ended. Entities will be able to hold governance meetings while Magnitude360 is going on. Entities also may sponsor events, including CLE programs on Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 6-7, and from Sunday afternoon until the meeting officially adjourns on Tuesday, Aug. 12.
Under a new pricing structure, one flat rate will cover attendance at Magnitude360 events, including all substantive programs, events at the Expo and the President’s Reception. An à la carte menu of pricing is available for members who want to choose specific events to attend. ABA members attending governance and entity events only will pay no registration fee, although entities may charge for their programs.
Planning the meeting “was a real adventure because it’s something we’ve never tried before,” Demetriou says. “But the annual meeting needs to be adaptable to the needs of its members.”
In recent years, the annual meeting had become a weeklong behemoth with countless business meetings, CLE sessions, breakfasts, luncheons and evening social events vying for the attention of attendees who faced the daunting task of deciding what to attend.
In 2011, then-ABA President Stephen N. Zack appointed an Annual Meeting Task Force to find a better way. Zack is the administrative partner of Boies, Schiller & Flexner in Miami. In June 2013, the Board of Governors approved the task force’s recommendations to revamp the meeting by scheduling the bulk of ABA events over a three-day period and introducing a more flexible pricing structure.
“The goal is to establish the 2014 and future annual meetings as ‘the premier place’ for lawyers to meet, network and grow in the profession, while allowing them to maximize the value they receive, and concentrating CLE on Saturday and Sunday,” stated the task force in its report to the Board of Governors.
On Aug. 11, Chief Justice Roberts will address the House of Delegates and help launch the ABA’s commemoration of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, which will culminate next June with a series of events to take place in London and Runnymede, England.
The assembly will feature a presentation of the ABA Medal—the association’s highest award—to retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Earl E. Anderson of Vienna, Virginia, who has been active in a number of ABA entities. The keynote address will be given by U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson.
This article originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of the ABA Journal with this headline: “A Fresh Look: The ABA Annual Meeting in Boston features a new format to reduce conflicts, inspire a sense of community.”