ALA Conference Recap: Penny Stauffer

We found our snow bunny!

While Karen Wilhelmi was looking forward to a bit of snow at her first-time conference experience and Cindy Snook was absolutely not (but shared a few tips anyway), Ken Sockolov was decidedly neutral on the matter (but enjoyed the session on ethics and some good food and wine).

Enter the snow bunny: Penny was actually excited about the snowy, cold weather in Denver!

Penny shares her conference experience with us:

Joelle, Tammie, Penny (l-r)

I found the conference to be the same in some ways and different in others, but overall good. Some of the sessions that dealt with “Leadership Improvement” were much like the usual thing, so I tried to steer more toward some new material (or at least new to me).

I went to two sessions by the same speaker that dealt with handling difficult employees that offered reminders of the do’s and don’ts of what we should and should not do from an HR perspective and the second session dealt with ADA and ADAAA (ADA Act Amendments) training which was really good and she was a fantastic speaker!

Another session that I found different and interesting was “How to Tell Someone is Lying.” This was fascinating as the speaker works with law enforcement and FBI for a living. She used video clips of interviews to show us ways to detect “deceitfulness; someone who may be withholding information; and flat out not telling the truth.” It was very interesting and interactive…I wish it had been a longer session.

Tammie, Joelle, Penny (l-r)

Of course, I always attend a leadership session even if it’s not particularly updated and the one I attended was at least interactive and the speaker was inviting.  The last session of the last day was probably my favorite. The subject matter wasn’t anything new, but the speaker and the material were very good. This session was how to be engaging and effective during presentations. He gave fantastic tips on winning over distracted audiences and making your power point presentation interesting. So good! And, I must say when a speaker can captivate you in the last session on the last day of a conference…he’s pretty darn good!

Photo by Joelle Stone

I notice a new theme emerging at this conference. There was a lot about diversity with a noticeable emphasis on Transgender issues and inclusion. There were sessions on the subject and a larger general session with a Transgender speaker. The general session was very good and I think eye-opening for everyone. Regardless of independent opinions on this issue, at some point we all will need to become educated on this level of integration.

I personally loved the weather!!

Many thanks to Penny for sharing her enthusiasm for the snow (which, by the way, I completely share!) and her ALA Annual Conference and Expo experience!

While I don’t think there will be snow at the conference next year (is there snow in Maryland in May?) the event should be another good one. Information about future conferences can be found here.

Also, if you want to “attend” the Annual Conference this year, you can do so by signing up for the Virtual Conference Sessions and enjoy a session or two while basking in our summer sun!  




ALA Conference Recap: Ken Sockolov

The ALA Annual Conference and Expo may have taken place last month but the lessons and inspiration continue to rejuvenate our local administrators!

Last week, Karen Wilhelmi shared her first-time attendee experience and Cindy Snook shared a few tips she learned from her favorite sessions.

Today, Ken Sockolov, Chief Operating Officer for Boutin Jones, shares his perspective of the recent conference:

Snow in April!

It’s always good to get away from the daily task of putting out fires and checking chores off the list, giving me time to put some thought to those items that aren’t at the top of current priorities.  Additionally, the annual conference gives one perspective on which topics are currently hot in the legal industry and lets you discuss those topics with others outside of your own organization.  The ALA Annual Conference assists in that with Idea Exchanges between firms of like-size, as well as having educational sessions on various topics.  I really like that.  If nothing else, it’s wonderful to hear that others have the same problems with trying to go paperless, addressing succession planning, and keeping up with constant technology changes. The breadth of educational topics is one of the most appealing aspects of these conferences.

My favorite session of the conference was one of the talks which accompany open sessions that include all attendees.  A professor for the University of Virginia, Mary Gentile PhD, gave us her insights on addressing ethics in the work place.  Her take on trying to “teach” ethical behavior lies somewhere between “that’s a good idea” and “most people recognize an ethical question when they see it.”

Photo by Ken Sockolov

Dr. Gentile tells a story about a business school graduate who, while interviewing for a job, was asked if they taught ethics at his school.  He replied, “Yes.”  The follow-up question was about what he learned in the class.  He (the student) replied that there were various theories of ethics (think, Aristotle, Plato, et al), and that you need to know them in order for you to choose the one to apply in a given situation . . . That is, know which one to use as an excuse for not doing the right thing!

So, if learning about ethics isn’t necessary or very useful, what can you teach?  Dr. Gentile has put together a program that helps people move past awareness and analysis to action when they run into ethical issues in the workplace, training them to think about how to put forward their objections when they occur.  Without going into detail, Giving Voice to Values gives you a map of who to talk to, how much to push, or what to expect.

Rather than teaching you about ethics, she wants people to know how to advance ethical behavior.

Aside from the educational aspects, I was only slightly disappointed that there was no live music at this conference.  While we expect to spend hours (days) in sessions educating ourselves, the wind down after a day of speeches and classes is really welcome.  At least the wine and food were plentiful.

Many thanks to Ken for sharing not only his conference experience with us but another snow picture!

Information about future conferences can be found here and, while there are no conferences planned for Hawaii in the near future (sigh), the 2018 Conference will be held in National Harbor, Maryland. (Check out the photos from the resort and convention center website – the location looks fantastic!)  

Also, if you were not able to attend the Annual Conference this year but don’t want to miss out on some of the sessions, please visit the link to the Virtual Conference Sessions. What a great way to keep current on what our fellow administrators have been learning!




ALA Conference Recap: Cindy Snook


Even though many of us were not able to attend the ALA Annual Conference and Expo we can live vicariously through various local administrators who were able to attend.

Karen Wilhelmi recently shared her first-time attendee experience and we have a few other recaps from Sacramento administrators coming up which will be posted over the next week.

Cindy Snook and Michele Tracy “enjoying” the snow

Today we are sharing the experience of Cindy Snook who is a seasoned conference attendee! Cindy has the unique perspective of having served on the Region 6 Board of Directors from 2011 – 2013 as the Region 6 Projects Officer, even helping to plan two Regional Conferences as well as be the point person for the Exhibit Hall.

Cindy tells us about a couple of classes that stood out for her at the recent ALA Annual Conference and Expo:

The ALA Annual Conference this year had good and not so good aspects to it. We were situated in downtown Denver, Colorado and there were many interesting places and restaurants that you could walk to.  The not so good part was the weather in April.  We had a couple days of sunshine and several days of snow and rain.  I thought the hotel and the conference rooms were very accommodating with respect to walking distance, exhibit hall, etc.

One of the classes that I really was not anticipating attending but somehow ended up in due to the overbooking of another class was the “Surviving an Active Shooter” class.  The three police officers that presented during this class were all involved with capturing the shooter at the Columbine massacre.  They provided a great deal of insight into how to protect our law firms should we encounter such an unfortunate event. Some of the tips they gave were (1) run, (2) stay behind locked doors, (3) silence your cell phones so they cannot hear them ringing and, (4) the use of pepper spray. One of the things they told us not to do is to pull the fire alarm. The reason for that was that you don’t want the firemen interfering with the police officers who are hunting down the shooter. I found this class to be very interesting and hope that this never happens to any of us but it is nice to have a plan of action.

Another class that I really enjoyed was “Executive Presence: How to Achieve Greater Influence in your Firm,” presented by Elizabeth Fried, Ph.D.  She was an excellent speaker and had us go through several activities/exercises that I found to be very helpful. I liked the way she broke it down into how people see you and your executive presence: (1) How you Act, (2) How you Speak and, (3) How you Look.  One of the books that she suggested we buy was one titled “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” by Marshall Goldsmith. I’ve already ordered my copy!

Joelle, Penny, Cindy, Tammie (l-r)

I would say the highlight of my trip was being able to spend some quality time with the other members of our chapter going to various events and dinners.  We are lucky to have so many talented individuals in the SVALA to bounce ideas off of from time to time.

Many thanks to Cindy for sharing her conference experience with us and for being such a valuable resource to SVALA members.

For those planning ahead, information about future conferences can be found here. The 2018 Conference will be held in National Harbor, Maryland. Hopefully, the weather cooperates!  

Also, don’t forget to check out the Virtual Conference Sessions!




ALA Conference Recap: Karen Wilhelmi

The SVALA was well-represented at the ALA Annual Conference and Expo in Denver! We have a few recaps of the event which will be posted over the next few weeks but I thought it would be appropriate to start with one from a member who had never been to an Annual Conference before.

First conferences are always so exciting and inspiring!

Karen Wilhelmi is the SVALA Website Chair and the Chief Financial Officer at Weintraub Tobin. Please read all about her experience and then check out the Virtual Conference Sessions!

From Karen:

Joelle Stone and Karen Wilhelmi hanging out after a full day of the Conference

This was my first time I have ever attended a National Conference of ALA; previously I had only attended a Regional Conference. Right out of the gate I noticed the sessions they offered were two-three-four times the amount than offered at regional.  This is great but actually makes it really hard to pick what you want to listen to. Although, I went to a Newcomer’s Reception on Sunday night and one of the things they really encouraged was if you aren’t getting what you thought you would out of a session don’t be hesitant about getting up and leaving and going into another session that was your second choice.

They offered different tracks to make it easier for you – Basic, Intermediate and Advanced education tracks, a 2020 education track (core competency sessions that will help you prepare for what lies ahead in the future of the business of law) and a new track called LPM (Legal Project Management).  It is hard for me being a CFO to not want to go to the Finance related sessions, but I really made an effort to stay away from them as much as possible. I was happy that I did as my best sessions were not finance related. My best sessions were: (1) Generational Marketing Strategies and Tactics for Engaging Different Generations, (2) Social Media, Digital Marketing Mechanics and More, and (3) How to Help Senior Partners and Administrators Transition Out of Practice and Prepare Their Successors.  I didn’t come away with any handouts that said how to do or implement any of this but it got the light bulb and momentum going for making or suggesting some changes.

Yep, that’s snow!

Just a personal fun fact, I told Joelle how much I hoped that the snow that they predicted would come in on Tuesday so I could just walk to the conference in the snow . . . and it did! Joelle admitted she enjoyed it too. 🙂

Thank you for sharing your experience, Karen! It sounds like it was a terrific experience for a first-timer. Hope to see you at more Annual Conferences! For those planning ahead, information about future conferences can be found here.