CBA Young Lawyers Section Hosts Northeast Regional Professional Development Conference for Young Lawyers

Written Tuesday, October 3, 2023

 Planners and Keynote Speaker NEPD Conference
 (From Left to Right) Christopher A. Klepps, Cindy M. Cieslak, YLS Chair Sarah O'Brien, Hon. Sarah A. L. Meriam, Alison J. Toumekian, and CBA President Maggie Castinado

On September 21 through 23, more than 50 attorneys from Connecticut and nearby states gathered at Mohegan Sun for the Northeast Regional Professional Development Conference for Young Lawyers. The conference was hosted by the Connecticut Bar Association Young Lawyers Section and provided the opportunity for young lawyers from throughout the northeast region to network and gain critical skills and knowledge to develop as leaders in the legal profession.

The conference began on the evening of Thursday, September 21, with a welcome reception on Mohegan Sun’s Earth Terrace. This gathering allowed attendees to socialize with one another in a relaxed setting before engaging in the educational content covered over the following two days.

CBA Assistant Secretary-Treasurer and 2022-2023 YLS Chair Christopher A. Klepps served as host of the conference, inviting CBA President Maggie Castinado to the stage to address the young attorneys with welcome remarks prior to the start of the educational seminars on the morning of Friday, September 22. She encouraged the young attorneys in the audience to effectuate positive changes within the legal field and push for increased inclusiveness, civility, and justice, stating "You are the faces of hope and the faces of our future and the change that is necessary in our profession.”

 Social Media Presenters NEPD Conference
 (From Left to Right) Ryan McKeen and Karen Vladeck present From Suits to Selfies: Embracing the Digital Era—A Lawyer's Guide to Social Media Success.

In the first seminar of the conference, From Suits to Selfies: Embracing the Digital Era—A Lawyer’s Guide to Social Media Success, Ryan McKeen of Connecticut Trial Firm LLC and Karen Vladeck of Whistler Partners shared their expertise in using social media platforms to enhance a firm or practitioner’s online presence.  They encouraged attorneys to actively engage on social media platforms to share opinions, network, and expand their visibility, noting that many lawyers and firms underutilize the digital communities available to them. The speakers also cautioned that “There is no difference between online life and in-person life” and cautioned the audience to refrain from any behavior or speech that would not be acceptable in their real-world professional relationships.

 AI Program NEPD Conference
 Dr. Cain Elliott presents Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about AI and the Law (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Dr. Cain Elliott, head future legalist and senior vice president of Filevine, presented the conference’s second Friday seminar, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about AI and the Law (But Were Afraid to Ask). He began by providing a high-level overview of what artificial intelligence is and what types of AI based programs are relevant to the practice of law.  Dr. Cain explained that the development of AI is an inevitable result of the advancement of technology, and like any other tool, it can be used either effectively or inappropriately. He presented cautionary tales of attorneys who misused AI programming without understanding the processes behind the technology and advised the attendees to expend the time and effort necessary to comprehend and properly utilize artificial intelligence in an ethical and effective manner.

 Keynote Speaker NEPD Conference
 Hon. Sarah A. L. Merriam presents the keynote speech for the conference.

The conference’s keynote presentation was provided by Hon. Sarah A. L. Merriam, who serves as a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Her speech centered on her own experiences as a young attorney, which she reflected upon while advising those in attendance to find enjoyment and meaning in their work. “Don’t be in such a hurry. Everyone has these checklists of ‘I’ve got to do this by the time I’m 30,’” stated Judge Merriam. “You don’t have to be in such a hurry. Do the things you want to do and that make you happy.” She noted that her own path to becoming a federal judge had not been straight forward, but consisted of many personally significant roles where she undertook fulfilling work.

 In House Panel NEPD Conference
 (From Left to Right) David Robinson, Lisa Lugauskas, Fallon DePina Banks and moderator Christopher A. Klepps participate in From the Courtoom to the Board Room: Careers in Corporate and In-House Counsel.

The final Friday seminar of the conference, From the Courtroom to the Board Room: Careers in Corporate and In-House Counsel, consisted of a panel discussion with three attorneys, Fallon DePina Banks of Cigna, Lisa Lugauskas of Old Republic National Title Insurance Company, and David Robinson of the Hartford, who all hold in-house roles within companies. During the seminar, which was moderated by Christopher A. Klepps, each member of the panel shared their own personal story of why they chose to pursue an alternatives to private practice and the advantages that such roles can offer.

The final day of the conference, Saturday, September 30, consisted of two educational seminars. The morning began with Alternative Pathways to Leadership: Government, Lawyering, and Community Engagement, which took the form of a panel comprised of attorneys Michael Dumas, Melanie Dykas, Aigné Goldsby, and Shasta Inman, moderated by YLS executive committee member Ali Toumekian. In the seminar, the attorneys discussed the importance of civic engagement and how participation in bar associations and affinity groups can provide a path to leadership roles in government and other organizations.

During the final seminar of the conference, Balancing Wellness with the Scales of Justice: A Perspective on Attorneys and Wellness, Professor Larry Dickson of Plain and Simple Counseling and Consultation Services presented on the critical issue of well-being within the legal profession. He explained how to identify different physical, emotional, and mental health warning signs as well as how to engage in stress reduction and relaxation techniques to address them.

Following the end of the conference’s seminars, attendees were able to enjoy a final lunch together before departing.