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.




Regional Conference Recap: Laugh to the Top

The ALA Regional Conferences are so good they deserve more than one recap! (If you missed the Rockin’ and Winning recap by Paula Lee you can read it here.)

SVALA members enjoying some networking time
SVALA members enjoying some networking time

Susan Nielsen, the SVALA Salary Survey Chair, attended the Region 5 & 6 Legal Management Conference in Phoenix and, from the looks of it, went to some terrific classes.

Sue shares her experience about one stand-out speaker and his inspirational session:

My favorite speaker was Mack Dryden and his class was “Laugh to the Top: A Hilarious Guide to Achieving Your Goals.”

Mack teaches through his own very interesting experiences in life, his ability to laugh in the face of adversity and keep moving forward. Like Mack said, “Falling on your face is still moving.”

SVALA member lunch at Region 6 Conference 2016
SVALA member lunch at Region 6 Conference 2016

Once you decide to “get moving,” the first step is to put your life in a couple of simple categories. Things you can do something about and things you can do nothing about. Now you’ll know what to start working on and what to let go. Don’t waste your time and energy on the things you cannot control.

Mack explained the seven steps to achieving your goal:

  • Control your fears and stresses;
  • Maintain a positive mental attitude;
  • Identify a specific target;
  • Write a plan;
  • Take action;
  • Observe the outcome objectively;
  • When needed, adjust your approach (learn from it and adjust);

Not every plan will work. Make adjustments and stick to it . . . chunk away at it each day . . .  it will happen!

Overall, this class allowed us to gain a little perspective in our personal and business lives, learn to laugh at ourselves during adversity, rise above it and reach for our goals.

For more on Mack Dryden search for him on YouTube. You won’t be disappointed. The video he played during his presentation was hilarious (“Ode to Forgetfulness” – I can relate!)

SVALA members at Region 6 Conference
SVALA members at Region 6 Conference

Many thanks to Sue for introducing the rest of us to Mack! Everyone can use a good laugh and if it works to get us to our goals then all the better.

Wishing everyone a good laugh today! And, remember: “Falling on your face is still moving.”



Regional Conference Recap: Rockin’ and Winning!

There is something special about ALA Regional Conferences. They are more intimate, they are held in fun locations and you can always count on a good time at the First Legal party.

I wasn’t able to attend this year but several SVALA members went and came back raving about the event. Paula Lee is one who not only had a fantastic time but also came back with some great takeaways.

Let’s hear it from Paula directly:

Let's Dance!
Let’s Dance!

ALA Regional Conferences rock! This was my second time attending a regional conference. The first was the regional conference SVALA hosted in Reno. In my humble opinion, regional conferences provide the best opportunity for networking.

I loved that Arizona had the same time zone which allowed for a more restful experience. Four session choices for each session block allowed for a variety of educational learning. Some sessions were more crowded than others but I always felt the sessions were small enough to gain more insight and allow for more audience participation.

We go to share and learn about new ideas. I heard that one of our chapter members and current Past-President, Penny Stauffer, was the star of a session as she explained how her firm creates a DAR (Departing Attorney Report) which is a report that helps identify important data to management to transition attorneys that are retiring. It struck me how Penny stated that she thought it was something that every firm did and she learned that she was actually on the cutting edge.

You share you learn.

A quote that I heard at least three times was “Sitting is the new smoking.” Just a reminder for us to get up from our desks, take breaks and keep moving! And two quotes that I thought were insightful in regards to productivity is “Good is the enemy of great” and “Done is better than perfect.”

Joelle Stone and Jessica Miller networking, learning and having some fun
Joelle Stone and Jessica Miller networking, learning and having some fun

Our Sacramento chapter always seems to draw others into our group whether it’s someone from another chapter walking with us to a vendor event or sharing our spot near the band or pulling in civilians to get the party started. We are lucky to have such a fun and social chapter. As someone that needs to be pulled out of her shell, the conferences are the perfect opportunities to connect.

Thanks SVALA for providing opportunities like this one. I was one of those blessed individuals that won the SVALA scholarship to attend. So grateful! And my lucky streak continued as I entered the raffle where you get 15 vendor signatures when visiting the vendor booths and I won registration fees for the ALA Annual Conference & Expo in Denver next April 2-5. Woohoo!!

Congratulations, Paula! Having served on the Board of Directors with Paula and spent time with her at various events, I am thrilled she won the scholarship and the registration fees prize. Sounds like someone needs a quick trip to Vegas to see if the lucky streak continues! 



CLI: A Whole Lot of Dancing!  

Note from the editor: The SVALA President-Elect, Julie Denker attended the 2016 ALA Chapter Leadership Conference in Fort Worth, Texas with Cindy Pilon. (You can read Cindy’s recap here.)  Julie shares her experiences from her first CLI event below. Thank you for sharing, Julie! We know you will make a terrific President next year! 

2016 - CLI - Julie and Cindy 2
Julie (left) and Cindy (right) Not sure who is in the middle!

As President-Elect I had the great privilege of representing SVALA at the CLI Conference in Fort Worth, Texas last month along with Cindy Pilon, CLM, Law Firm Leadership and Holiday Event Co-Chair. The conference was held at The Worthington Renaissance Fort Worth Hotel downtown Fort Worth, in the heart of the historic Sundance Square.

The first night, as Cindy and I entered the elevator en route to experience our first Texas BBQ, we met a group of ALA members from Calgary, Alberta. They insisted we join them for dinner as they, too, were on the same mission. You just couldn’t have met a finer group of warm, welcoming and friendly people.

2016 - CLI - Julie - cowboy signThis year’s conference theme was “Let’s Dance!” and each session that followed was also a dance theme. The General Session, “Moving from Two Left Feet to Usher or Shakira” was led by ALA’s President, Laura Broomell, CLM. She got the dance theme rolling by providing an overview of ALA structure, demographics, member benefits and available resources followed by a Welcome Reception of hors d’oeuvres and.…wait for it…..dancing!! Wow, ALA Members can cut a rug!

Friday morning’s Keynote Session, “Are you Dancing (and Leading) from Your Soul?” was led by guest speaker Robin Getman. Robin is a hospitality expert with over two decades experience in training and management. She is funny, engaging and inspirational.  She taught us that personal power in organizations increase when people begin leading from their souls rather than positions of authority. The audience had the opportunity to learn about, talk about – even argue about – the conditions and consequences of the six stages of personal power and everyone received a resource packet to serve as a reminder of the implications and applications of the model. Fun was had by all!

I followed Robin to the next session as she led “Take This Job and Love It!” Here, Robin described common performance behaviors and characteristics using a fun, easy-to-remember, four-horsepower model. We learned ways to reinforce desirable behaviors and characteristics. We also learned how to redirect undesirable behaviors and characteristics and why it may be helpful to put the C.A.R.T. (Communication, Appreciation, Relationships and Tools, Training and Resources) before every horse.

2016 - CLI - Julie - statue“The Leader Shuffle Without a Wobble: Dancing Through Your Chapter Presidency” provided guidance, strategies, tools and resources to help me successfully lead as Chapter President. Here I learned how to navigate ALA’s website to locate tools and available resources that will help me make my presidency successful.

Chapters then separated by chapter size. This is where the ideas and conversation flowed like a beautiful Cowboy Cha Cha. As an example, the Indiana Chapter meets with local high schools and community colleges to educate students and the community to show that there is more to a career in legal than being a lawyer. The Jacksonville Chapter participates in mock interviews with a local paralegal school and reaches out to the local community to educate about the many diverse employment opportunities in the legal field.

Another chapter puts on an annual event for business partners called “Funky Bowling” as a way to strengthen and build those relationships in a fun, relaxed, and no pressure environment. They say it’s a huge success and it sounds like a lot of fun!  On-boarding and mentoring new members, especially those new to legal management, brought forth a lively discussion.

The Philadelphia chapter launched a YouTube channel to showcase the benefits of membership.  Check it out here.  Common amongst chapters is the reduction in webinar participation. Of note, the Cyber Chapter offers free monthly webinars.

2016 - CLI - Julie and Cindy outside
Julie Denker and Cindy Pilon

Chapter Management software is on the rise using StarChapter and Wild Apricot. Overall, this was one of my favorite sessions. I was inspired by the eagerness of others to share their knowledge and experiences to help fellow chapter members.

Up until now the “Let’s Dance” theme leaned a little towards the country two-step. That is until Judy Hissong stepped on stage and led the entire audience in the “Whip & Nae Nae.” Yahoo, now that was a hoot!  Whip & Nae Nae, I do not do very well. Judy’s “Don’t Dance Alone: Running an Effective Meeting” was informative and entertaining. We have all attended meetings that are poorly run. Judy said, be mindful of the collective time and talent of the parties in the room; send out the meeting agendas early; approve financials and minutes via email 48 hours before the meeting; create useful agendas and set ground rules. Judy said she never leaves home without, “Meetings Matter” by Paul Axtell, and, of course, I had to buy it!  Judy nailed it gracefully with her wisdom, humor, enthusiasm and charm.

Again, I am grateful for the experience, for the newly formed friendships, and for Southwest returning Cindy and I home without incident. I came away from CLI with tools, resources, leadership materials and the motivation to be an effective chapter leader. I sure have big shoes to fill.



CLI: New Friends, Texas BBQ and Renewed Commitment

Note from the editor: Cindy Cintas Pilon recently attended the 2016 ALA Chapter Leadership Conference in Fort Worth, Texas.  This is one of those conferences that gets high praise year after year! Cindy shares her enthusiasm and much of what she learned below. Thank you for sharing, Cindy!  

2016 - CLI - Julie and Cindy
Cindy Cintas Pilon and Julie Denker

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the recent CLI conference in Fort Worth, Texas. Our President-Elect Julie Denker and I traveled together to represent SVALA. A noisy hotel construction project, hot humid weather, and a Southwest Airlines network outage could not dampen our spirits or enthusiasm!

Our first official act was to join a contingent of Calgary, Canada, members for a Texas BBQ dinner. They were the first of many warm and welcoming folks we met on our trip. For me, the best part of CLI is interacting with other members (from the U.S. and other countries) and to listen and learn from their experiences. There was an instant bond and camaraderie formed with many that we met. I was energized by the tips and strategies they shared that can be applied to our board, my firm, and in my personal life. Here are a few things that inspired me, made an impact on me, and new ideas that I can implement.

I heard from other chapt2016 - CLI clockers how they built successful alliances with other legal organizations to collaborate in the sharing of knowledge and resources and to promote visibility. The other legal organizations include ILTA, ARMA, LMA, SHRM, and bar associations. Other chapters also shared ideas for membership outreach and succession planning. I learned that ALA has a volunteer handbook at their website, which I will definitely check out. Also, I learned that each chapter, including SVALA, has its own online community (chapter discussions) that we can utilize.

I heard that ALA is working on CLM study materials, a subject near and dear to my heart. I also learned that ALA is looking at possibly combining regions 5 & 6. I learned about what other chapters are doing for business partner events. Progressive lunches (like speed dating!) and funky bowling (with fun and challenging bowling moves) are my favorite. Did you know that the Cyber Chapter offers free webinars for all ALA members? And that the UPBMS program (Uniform Process Based Management System) is getting ready for rollout. The UPBMS is a common language used to describe legal support activities and processes, which can be for job descriptions and many other management and HR activities. The session that was the most fun for me was Express Yourself: Communication and Public Speaking. Region 5 leaders put together a creative, entertaining, and informative presentation.

2016 - CLI water fountainSome of my favorite inspirational quotes from the conference were “There are no bosses in ALA – we are all members.” “Help people feel good. Help people. Feel good.” “ALA is a safe place to try new things.”

I left the conference inspired by regional and chapter leaders who led sessions and shared their experiences, which renewed my commitment to my volunteer role. I am thankful for the Board’s support, fantastic Texas BBQ, and for Southwest getting Julie and I home without cancellations or delays!

Please let me know if you are passionate about any of these topics and would like to know more. I am happy to share the details with y’all!

Cindy Cintas Pilon