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Observations from the ABA Annual Meeting

July 31, 2009
ABA's Chicago headquarters

I’m out in Chicago attending the American Bar Association Annual Meeting.  Chicago is similar to Philadelphia in many ways.  There’s a Fado Irish Pub, a Devon Seafood Grill, steakhouses like Smith & Wollensky, and even a Jose Garces restaurant (Mercat a la Planxa – the food is as tasty as the others and is most similar to Tinto).  Other than that, it’s a bigger city, there’s more tourists and visitors walking around, buildings like the new 92 story Trump International Hotel and Tower are much taller and even the famed Chicago breeze makes the summer weather more bearable than the current humid conditions in Philly.

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If you’ve never been to an ABA Mid-Year or Annual Meeting, it’s quite a sight.  There’s 1,600 events, over 200 CLE sessions and too many lawyers to count.  There’s young lawyers, old lawyers and law students.  Folks used to billing 60 hour weeks relaxing and socializing.  At the after-hours party for the young lawyers division and others at The Underground last night, it was almost surreal to see people in suits dancing, or at least trying to, in a night club

The law students I’ve spoken with all have the issues and questions you’d expect: What type of classes should they take during their second and third year? Are there going to be jobs out there when they graduate?  How do you break into certain fields?  What led me to practice in my field?  You can tell them the right answers and encourage them to have hope, but they’re justifiably concerned.

Meanwhile, the lawyers, particularly the young lawyers, also have voiced plenty of worries.  People have faced layoffs, reduced salaries, frustration at employers who still have high profits per partner statistics, and so forth.  Even a good deal of the programs here feature an angle or slant related to the economy.    

The point is that from what I’ve seen so far here is that the issues we face in the Philadelphia area are by no means unique to our region and market.  Nationally, we’re all in the same boat.  There’s a guarded optimism that things (the market, job prospects, etc.) will get better, but no one seems to want to predict when that will be.  Till then, we, as young lawyers, have to keep working hard and take advantage of opportunities that are presented to us.

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