What event had its start in 1983?

Then, as today, it’s all about “connection”

Shawn McCann
2019 September

Labor Day weekend is almost here, and many people will celebrate the end of the summer with barbecues and family events. CAALA members look forward to something else – spending the weekend in Las Vegas with 3,000 of their peers, associates and friends. That can only be one thing – CAALA Vegas.

This will be our 37th annual convention, my 16th as an attendee, and my first as CAALA President. That has me very excited, because I love CAALA Vegas, it’s one of my favorite events of the year. I’m not the only one who feels that way, since we’re now considered the nation’s largest gathering of trial attorneys.

As you read this column, many of you are already at the Convention or on your way. Some of you are young lawyers attending for the first time; some of you can’t count how many times you’ve gone before.

Unless you are a real CAALA trivia expert, you might not know that the first year for CAALA Vegas was 1983. It wasn’t a convention then, just a seminar. Doing an event in Las Vegas was the idea of CAALA’s President Buddy Herzog, and he asked Gary Paul, Tom Dempsey and Tom Stolpman to organize it. The three were nervous about it and they’ll tell you they weren’t sure there would be a second Las Vegas Seminar, let alone 36 more. But it was successful, and CAALA’s members have been coming to Las Vegas every year since.

The numbers that first year were quite a bit different than today. Attendance was about 300, there were 31 speakers and eight exhibitors. Fast forward to 2019 and this year’s CAALA Vegas will have 3,000 attendees, 123 speakers and 140 exhibitors.

One reason I’m so excited about this year’s Convention is the changes that have been made by CAALA’s Education Chairs and Vice-Chairs, and the Convention Co-Chairs. Back in 1983, Jacqueline Vitti Frederick was the only woman speaking at the seminar. This year I’m proud to tell you that there are 52 female presenters. That says a lot about where we are today. I’m also pleased that 38 presenters are speaking for the first time at our Convention. That says a lot about our future.

I want to personally thank Education Chair Elizabeth Hernandez, Vice Chairs Martin Aarons and Taylor Rayfield and Convention Co-Chairs Christina Coleman, Timothy Loranger, Minh Nguyen, Bob Simon, Natalie Weatherford and Twila White. When you attend one of the sessions this year, walk up to the front of the room and thank them for putting together such a great convention.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Convention lately; what it has meant to me and why it is so successful. CAALA Vegas is Southern California’s most successful legal event, and it’s as popular for judges, legal staff professionals and law students as it is for CAALA members.

As I look back at the Conventions I’ve attended, some of my best memories are of meeting people for the first time who are now friends and associates. By spending time with judges or defense attorneys in the relaxed setting of the Convention I was able to establish relationships that have lasted for years. These relationships have made me a better lawyer.

As a young lawyer, I learned important lessons by attending sessions taught by some of the best trial lawyers in the country. But I can honestly say it was even more important to connect and build relationships with the people I met.

So, if you ask me why CAALA Vegas is so successful, my answer is Connection.

After six years as a CAALA officer, I’ve learned that it’s not by accident that the Convention is so good for connecting and networking. CAALA staff has spent hours making sure that there are plenty of networking opportunities.

If you are attending, the first thing you notice is that the entire Convention is concentrated in one portion of the Wynn Resort, not spread out over several hotels or even several floors of the hotel. The session rooms are all adjacent to the exhibit hall, and again, that’s not by accident. The exhibit hall is always crowded, and that way you are constantly running into friends and acquaintances.

On Thursday and Saturday night, the two Convention parties are also an excellent place to meet and connect.

If you are a New Lawyer, this year we’ve added a New Lawyer Lounge near the exhibit hall that will let you connect with your peers. We’ve also upgraded our event mobile app and it has all the Convention information. It’s also the way you can communicate and share photos with other attendees. I’m happy to say our social media presence is also improved, so look for Convention photos and updates on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, hashtag #caalavegas2019 and #CAALAVEGAS.

From the first session to the last, you have a chance to connect with attorneys, judges, legal staff and law students, something most of us don’t have the chance to do very often.

My best piece of advice if you are attending the Convention is to have fun and connect with as many people as possible. You’ll remember it for years to come.

Shawn McCann Shawn McCann

Shawn McCann is a partner at Banafsheh, Danesh & Javid. He graduated from Loyola Law School in 2003. Shawn handles a broad variety of cases regarding personal injury and product liability. He serves on the Board of Governors for Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles and Consumer Attorneys of California and was recently admitted into American Board of Trial Advocates. He currently serves as CAALA President.

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