Under Analysis: Lawyers' Summer Camp

Lisa Henderson-Newlin, The Levison Group

Summer has arrived and so has the increase in requests for continuances due to family vacations or the need to simply have a day at the pool. (Don’t other people make continuance requests based upon this reason? No? I guess that’s just me.)

When we were younger, summer also meant getting shipped off to summer camp to sleep in bunk beds and make pointless crafts that our parents pretended to love, but couldn’t wait to throw away. (Did you really think they kept that bracelet made of string and the coffee mug that had holes because you can’t sculpt worth a darn? I don’t think so. There’s a reason you’re a lawyer and not an artist.)

Even though we no longer go off to summer camp, lawyers frequently go off to our own kind of summer camp…the summer camp known as “seminars” and “CLEs.” The more I think about it, seminars and CLEs are the equivalent of the childhood summer camp.

Sure, we don’t come back from a seminar with poison ivy and bras that were thrown in the freezer (or at least I hope not), but we do come back with stories to tell and free stuff to give to our kids.

These seminars are similar to summer camp in that they are typically in exotic locations that seem far more desirable than where we usually reside. Does the seminar about estate planning really need to be in Las Vegas? Or does the CLE on the new tax code need to be held at Lake Tahoe? Of course not, but it makes it a lot more fun to hear about tax shelters while nursing a sunburn and a hangover (and sipping a little “hair of the dog” during the morning case law update).

There might not be horseback riding at the seminars, but in my experience, there are still dangerous travel conditions that could also lead to injury. The 2 a.m. drive to the convenience store to get Slim Jims and Good n’ Plentys is just as dangerous as mounting a horse in the middle of the afternoon. There also might not be arts and crafts hour, but there are booths of vendors offering everything from free pens to drawings for an iPad. You’re guaranteed to come home with as much useless junk as you did from summer camp.

Although seminars typically don’t have an end-of-the summer talent show, the real talent can be seen late at night at the bar, where you can find your colleagues demonstrating how to balance a spoon on the nose or how to shotgun a beer in the least amount of time. It’s a showing of true talent and skill.

The “letters home from camp” aren’t so much letters as emails to the secretaries asking them to put all calls to voicemail and cancel the appointments for the rest of the week. After all, you will need time to digest all that you’ve learned at the seminar. (You will also need time to digest the White Castle you ate at 11 p.m. when you thought it was an excellent idea.)

Summer camp evenings are usually filled with scary stories and tales from beyond. Seminars are also filled with scary stories, but they are usually tall tales about some elusive attorney no one knows who told off a judge and then spit on the floor before exiting the courtroom. These stories have just as much truth and credibility as the ghost story about the dead truck driver with the hook for a hand who carves up little children for fun.

So this summer as you head off to your seminars and CLEs, you should take a moment to appreciate the fact that we work in a profession that allows us to travel to vacation spots and do it under the guise of work.
We truly are lucky in that regard. Now I’m off to pack my bags for Florida, as I’m headed to a great seminar there about the intricacies of estate planning for pets.


Under Analysis is a nationally syndicated column of The Levison Group.  Lisa Henderson-Newlin is a shareholder of the law firm McAnany, Van Cleave, and Phillips.  She’s a contributing writer at NickMom.com and writes a humor website, LisaNewlin.com. Contact Lisa at lhenderson@mvplaw.com or contact Under Analysis by email at comments@levisongroup.com.
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