[This article was edited 4/8/14 to reflect the fact that the dancers represented a lion, not a dragon. There is a traditional lion dance and a traditional dragon dance. Here is some information on the lion dance, performed at the APALSA event.]
It never fails to amaze how often those new to a profession lead the way.
That’s what occurred to me last Saturday evening, as I attended the first-ever banquet of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association (APALSA) of Arizona Summit Law School.
Out of the box, the talented law students took to heart a few of the most important lessons of professional event planning. Experienced (long in the tooth) planners, take note.
Here are three of those lessons, gleaned from Saturday’s gathering:
1. Food: Good, easy, relevant
Your legal event need not have food and drink. But if you go down that road, bring it, would you, please?
This is how terrific their combination of various Asian foods was: I had planned to snack lightly at the event, as I had promised my younger daughter that we would get a bite together afterward. As I strolled the buffet line, though, that plan went out the window. Yes, I did get my daughter dinner later; but all my senses insisted that I eat a full meal at the APALSA banquet. And so I did.
A special shout out to law student Mary Tran, who hand-crafted a Thai iced tea that was the perfect complement to the meal. As I sit here Tuesday, I know my morning would be improved mightily by a glass of that!
All of the food and drink (plus the open bar) contributed to an evening of celebration and cultural identity. Nicely done.
2. Speaker: Smart, funny, brief
Let me be the first to say it: More Jared Leung, please.
The evening’s keynote was the Fennemore Craig lawyer, and he caught our attention in two ways.
First, he opened by admiring and critiquing the bathrooms in Fennemore Craig’s new-ish space. Restroom-talk is not the typical go-to intro for legal keynotes, but it got our attention as he described the difficulty some have mastering the motion-activated sinks. Leung’s message was about the importance of finding the sweet spot in our professional lives.
And that’s why Leung carried a tennis racquet (his second unique approach) up to the microphone.
“What are you comfortable doing as a lawyer?” he asked the assembled law students. “What is your thing?”
“If we just all stick with what we’re comfortable with,” he continued, “our growth will be limited.”
Punctuating his point with a tennis swing, he offered a story about a Queen Creek high school football player, Carson Jones, who, with some teammates, opted to stand up for a bullied special-needs classmate. (Read the story here.)
“Here we have a 16-year-old showing us how it should be done,” Leung said, explaining how Jones’s actions required courage. He reminded the students that law school and the legal profession offer ongoing opportunities to decide how and when to do the right thing.
“Get out of your comfort zone, and find the sweet spot. Someday I’ll learn from you.”
With a smile, Leung noted that he (like the rest of us) already was doing just that.
3. Lions: Yes, please
No, I suppose you’re right. Every legal event need not have a Chinese lion and a traditional lion dance. It might be odd to spring that on Bar Convention attendees.
But the APALSA banquet had one, and the articulated, two-man operation teaches us volumes about connecting with your audience.
First, it had obvious relevance to the association, and its presence was certainly evocative for many at the banquet.
But more important, it provided a lift in spirits—aurally and visually—that far too many bar events overlook. I’ve heard for too many years that legal affairs must be serious business—and then watched as attendees nodded off or checked their email during sonorous speeches.
No one checked email as the dragon marched about the room, demanding attention and collecting donations to the ASU Asian LEAD Academy. No one nodded off as the terrific DJ filled the room with music.
After all, the spirit is not fed only by footnotes and legal speeches. For your next event, consider a lion. Or maybe learn from TED talks. Or at least (please!) have some Thai iced tea.
Congratulations to APALSA and its president, Vicente Reid Y Lugto, and the whole board. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event.Follow @azatty