Every year, my church holds an annual week-
end retreat for women. It provides women in all
walks of life (single, newlywed, married, mother,
grandmother etc.) with an opportunity to support
and encourage one another. Attendees can choose
between participating in inspirational talks and
recreational activities, and are given opportuni-
ties to share meals and stories. Unfortunately, I
have one friend who refuses to go. She tells me,
“I’m just not a retreat person.” She maintains this
preconceived notion of what retreats are like. I re-
ally can’t blame her. I harbored the same miscon-
ceptions before I attended my first retreat many
years ago. I was fresh out of law school and single
with no children. I thought to myself, “What could
I possibly have in common with all these wives,
mothers, and grandmothers?” As it turned out, the
answer to my question was: “Quite a lot!”
Before I attended my first retreat, I made the
mistake of labeling other women based on their
current roles in life. However, as I started to meet
and engage with them, I realized what a diverse
and interesting background each one had. Meeting
them opened up a whole new community for
me. I met photographers, authors, entrepreneurs,
lawyers, doctors, and even a former Olympic
contender. By taking a weekend away from my
frenzied daily routine to commiserate with other
women, I felt less alone and came away inspired
Professional conferences provide all in-house
counsel with the same invaluable opportunity. To
those of you who may be thinking, “But I’m not
a conference person,” I would pose the following
■ ■ Have you ever felt lost in your job?
■ ■ Do you feel like you don’t have the support of
■ ■ Do you feel misunderstood by the staff?
■ ■ Is your department understaffed?
■ ■ Are you the legal department?
■ ■ Are you the first in-house counsel in your
company ever ?
■ ■ Are you working in-house for the first time?
■ ■ Are you worried about losing your job?
■ ■ Are you wondering if you should stay at
■ ■ Are you struggling with burnout?
■ ■ Are you in need of advice, resources, or
information in a new or unfamiliar area of law?
■ ■ Most importantly, do you feel alone?
If you answered “Yes,” then you are a conference person. Professional conferences provide
much more than just an avenue to gain training
or get updates in areas of business and law; they
give you the chance to make invaluable contacts.
You meet people from a variety of organizations
and in all stages of their careers. I have been attending the ACC Annual Meeting for nine years,
and have made lifelong friends in the process. We
have seen each other through career transitions,
marriage, divorce, and even family loss. I can
pick up the phone and reach out to any number
of my ACC colleagues to discuss an IP contract
clause, an export issue, or compliance question (just to name a few). And it all started with
simply saying “hello” to someone on a bus ride to
an ACC function, at the morning breakfast buffet
line, or with a brief introduction to someone sitting next to me in a CLE session.
I recently attended a conference for government
contracting professionals. By being willing to offer
a handshake and introduce myself, I was able to
pick up business cards from high-level directors in
multiple government agencies and provided input
into a legislative implementation panel.
You never know where “Hello, my name is
_________” can take you. Accept the invitations
to breakfast and dinners at the event. We are all
subject-matter experts and we all have something
to offer and gain from that first handshake. A
connection that you make today could be the job
opportunity you need tomorrow. “Networking” is
really just a fancy word for “start with hello.”
Come to the ACC Annual Meeting in
Washington, DC this October. I would love to
The question shouldn’t be, “Can I afford to attend a conference?” The question is, “Can I afford
not to?” ACC
But I’m Not a Conference Person
18 ASSOCIATION OF CORPORATE COUNSEL
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VICE PRESIDENT AND
GENERAL COUNSEL OF
voices maryrose delahunty