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Last month, RDM associate attorney Jay Gillen attended the 2022 Missouri Bar Annual Meeting in Springfield, Missouri. The event was the first in-person Annual Meeting since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was also Jay’s first opportunity to attend the meeting as an attorney since passing the bar exam in 2021.

Below, Jay provides his takes on the Annual Meeting from the perspective of a young attorney entering the legal field and stepping into the realm of post-pandemic, in-person networking.

I wanted to attend the Missouri Bar Annual Meeting for a few reasons. The first was to take the litigation program track to get exposed to different parts of the litigation process that I haven’t had as much exposure to, such as voir dire. The second was to network with other members of the Missouri Bar. And third, of course, was to complete some of my CLE credits for this year.

I was unsure what the programming would look like, but I had some idea of how the conference would be set up. During my 2L year at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, I attended the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana Annual Meeting as a guest.

The Litigation Program Track

I found that the litigation program track was well put together and well-structured to cover different aspects of the litigation process. From preserving the record on appeal to open questions for Missouri judges to how to conduct a voir dire that gets jurors to reveal their biases without having them hate you (my favorite session by far), there was much to glean from these programs as a new lawyer.

What I appreciated most about the sessions was that it was clear the Missouri Bar worked to get different viewpoints on panels and programs. This could be having both plaintiff and defense counselors giving their impression of the best way to discover and preserve evidence, or judges from different courts around the state giving insight into their preferences on how attorneys approach the bench or how they want briefs cited. These programs gave me exposure to what the broader field of litigation in Missouri looks like outside of our firm and areas of practice that I don’t usually get to see, as well as teaching me important tips for litigators.

In addition to the specific practice area sessions, the Annual Meeting also featured large session programs on broader, cultural topics. This year’s meeting included sessions on both election integrity and the St. Louis Freedom Suits. It was great to see that the Missouri Bar is not focused solely on present legal questions occurring in the state, but also celebrates the historical contributions and successes of Missouri attorneys in our state’s past. It instills a sense of purpose and the idea of continuing a legacy of serving the State of Missouri and its citizens.

Networking Opportunities

My second reason for attending the Missouri Bar Annual Meeting was to meet new people in the legal profession. During a discussion group with other young lawyers at the Indiana State Bar Association, many of us were concerned that we were not meeting many other attorneys outside of our regular circles. This inspired me to take opportunities to meet other people in the legal profession. I thought the Missouri Bar Annual Meeting would be a great chance to do this.

The receptions and dinners were a perfect time to mingle. I spoke to numerous people during these events. Somehow it seemed half of them had worked in the Missouri attorney general’s office, but there were also litigators, attorneys serving small-town communities, judges, estate planners, and many others. I’ve noticed that in my position, having been in the legal profession for only a little over a year, I forget that the legal community is not just made up of litigators and that there is a diverse group of people comprising the Missouri Bar. It was great to talk with many of these folks about their different work experiences and interests, though it was somewhat intimidating because I went in not knowing anyone else attending. I reminded myself that the more I formed connections, no matter how small, if I continued to return in the coming years, I would have more to talk about with my fellow Bar members and make stronger connections. The Missouri Bar Annual Meeting is a great choice to begin forming these important relationships.

Finally, it was nice to get some of the CLE requirements taken care of. But after attending the event, I believe that the Annual Meeting was a worthwhile trip regardless of the credit hours I picked up.

I especially enjoyed the CLE session by S. Rafe Foreman on jury selection and voir dire. Mr. Foreman walked through the psychology and strategies behind getting potential jurors to reveal their biases without making them feel ashamed or accosted. He described how important this skill is, as making potential jurors feel as though they are unsafe or being accosted can turn the entire jury box against an attorney at trial.

The psychological exercises Mr. Foreman had the attendees perform were particularly telling. They demonstrated that everyone in the room experienced emotions in similar ways and revealed that, as attorneys, we, too, have our own predispositions, whether we realize them or not. I found the insights Mr. Foreman talked about were relevant not only to the courtroom and the jury box but to our day-to-day relationships as well. I took a lot away from that particular session.

In Conclusion

I enjoyed traveling to Springfield for the first time and meeting many legal professionals who call Springfield home. Although I enjoy visiting new places, I hope next year’s meeting is closer to home in Kansas City. But for educational opportunities, networking opportunities, and free food and drink, I don’t think a young attorney could do much better in the Show-Me State than the Missouri Bar Annual Meeting, and I thank Rasmussen Dickey Moore for the opportunity to attend.

Greene County Courthouse photo Kbh3rd.