About 5,000 people are in Chicago this week for the 2018 annual meeting of the American Bar Association, headquartered at Hyatt Regency Chicago, taking place Aug. 2-7. The ABA hosts hundreds of conferences throughout the year focused on specific areas of practice (litigation, criminal, evidence, etc.), but this one is open to all entities and will include nearly 1,000 social functions, educational sessions and networking opportunities.
We sat down with Hilarie Bass, ABA’s Miami-based president and one of the most recognized female attorneys in the country, to learn about new initiatives the association is implementing at this year’s meeting.
New this year, The Forum is a program developed with a focus on current news events and prominent speakers. Notably, Bass will lead a discussion on the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. “One of my major initiatives this year has been women in the law and the progress we’ve made—specifically, why so many women in the law leave the profession,” says Bass. “[These issues] have been front and center in the ABA for more than 25 years.” Among the star-studded panel for this forum is Hon. M. Margaret McKeown, circuit judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; and Tina Chen, former chief of staff for First Lady Michelle Obama and co-founder of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund.
CLE in the City Series
Tested for the first time at the 2017 annual meeting, ABA’s CLE in the City Series is designed to take participants out of meeting rooms and into the offices of law firms around the city—a format that provides great networking opportunities as well as a chance to learn from Chicago’s legal community on eight different specialty tracks, from family law to legal writing. The ticketing for this series is also unique: Attendees can buy à la carte registration to attend one or several of these events without registering for the entire conference. Bass says the goal of this series, particularly marketed to Chicago lawyers, is to “bring in a significant number of new people who otherwise would not be attending an ABA conference because of the time commitment involved”—addressing a challenge many meeting planners face.
Believe it or not, the lawyers will let loose to take part in a talent show during this event at the Chicago Cultural Center on Saturday night. “We have a large number of very talented lawyers,” says Bass, noting this is a first for this event. They’ll also be entertained by the big-band sound of the Chicago Catz, cabaret performances, improv theater and many local food vendors.