Networking at Conference – It’s Amazing What You Can Learn if You Just Ask

networking for blogAs administrators, we strive to continue to improve the quality of life within our firms. To do that, we need to continue to come up with new and innovative suggestions for the partners to vote on and accept as policy. One way we are able to do this is through networking. While you are at Annual Conference, be sure to spend time getting ideas from people you meet during your day. If you have a particular issue that you would like help solving, ask the people sitting next to you at meals, the people you meet in sessions or at one of the many idea exchanges offered during the week. Our fellow members are filled with ideas of what their firm is doing, how it has worked for them, what they would do differently if they had to do it over again and what they have learned since they established a new policy or procedure. One topic that is frequently discussed and where administrators are looking to set their firm apart is with benefits. For example:

I learned of an IT company in North Carolina (SAS) that has amazing benefits and was voted #2 on the 2013 and 2014 Fortune list of Best Companies to work for in the United States. SAS is able to offer each employee their own office with no cubicles on the campus, no set hours, unlimited sick days (and yet their employees average four sick days per year), on-site daycare, an on-site health care center with pharmacy, an on-site gym with a pool, live music in the lobby, four company cafes, and the list goes on. SAS receives 60,000 resumes from people wanting to be on their team. Unfortunately, most of them are not able to be hired because they have a 3% turnover rate.

I learned from the March 2014 Law Office Administrators newsletter that there is a law firm in Atlanta that has interesting add-on benefits, such as an on-site concierge for the employees. What a wonderful selling point for recruiting to be able to tell candidates that they will not have to go pick up their dry cleaning or purchase their groceries.

What are we able to learn from these two examples? What can we learn from our fellow ALA members at conference if we just ask? What new and cutting edge benefits are we able to offer our employees to keep them happy but still remain profitable? Be sure to use networking at this year’s Annual Conference to learn the answers to these questions and to share with others the unique and innovative ideas that have helped your firm become a better place to work!



Clara Onderdonk is Office Manager at Ernstrom & Dreste, LLP in Rochester, New York. She is a member of the 2014 Annual Conference Committee, a past member of the 2013 Annual Conference Committee and a member of the ALA Rochester Chapter. In May, she will be joining the Region One Team as a Regional Representative.

Don’t Let Your First Impression be Your Last

Remember these quotes: ForConfBlog-DressforSuccess

“Dress for success. Image is very important. People judge you by the way you look on the outside.” – Brian Tracy

“If you can’t be better than your competition, just dress better than them.” – Anna Wintour

“You can have anything in life if you dress for it.” – Edith Head

“Do I want my Firm to see photos of me at an ALA conference wearing blue jeans, a t-shirt and flip-flops when I am attending on their dime as their ambassador?” – DeAnna L. Lopez

We have all been taught that first impressions are crucial. How many of you have coached others to wear their best suit, shoes and accessories to an interview? It has gotten to the point that I want to take a photo of staff when they interview for a position, because I know that for the majority of them, it will be the last time that they take such great effort to look professional in the workplace.

Dress codes in law firms have changed drastically since the 1970s. I recall one large firm’s dress code required female employees to wear nylons and “proper undergarments” at all times. One legal secretary was sent home because someone could tell she wasn’t wearing a full-length slip under her dress. A paralegal was written up for not wearing a “matching pantsuit” to work. And guys – remember when you had to wear a tie, be clean-shaven and your hair couldn’t touch your collar? Times have certainly changed since those days… and so has the mindset of many of our employees and attorneys.

These societal and office dress code changes have even changed how we pack and dress at conferences. Yes, the environment is different, but we are now attending conferences not only with our colleagues and peers, but we are also making first (and hopefully not last) impressions with managing partners, speakers and business partners. After viewing photos of ALA Conferences held in the past few years, it was noted by ALA members that many attendees appear to be on vacation rather than attending a professional educational conference. While I am the first person to put on leggings and a sweatshirt when I get home (and my Firm allows blue jeans to be worn on Fridays), I appreciate my Firm supporting and financing my involvement with ALA, as well as my attendance at conferences and educational meetings. I want to be an ambassador of my Firm at all times to show my appreciation and respect for their continued support of my career. If any “Kodak moments” occur that are shared with my Firm or the public, I want them to see “professional” in the photos, not “mediocre” or have their reaction be “OMG… what was she thinking?”

ALA is the premier leader in the business of law, and we’re delighted that, as part of ALA’s new strategic focus, we are able to showcase this for you in Toronto during the 2014 ALA Annual Conference & Exposition. We look forward to being a part of your NEW inspiration, as you reconnect with your colleagues, connect with new and old friends, and explore the opportunities to lead your organizations into the future. As befits this unique, valuable, professional experience, we ask that attendees dress in business casual or professional attire for all official Annual Conference events. No jeans, shorts, or flip-flops please.


Lopez, DeAnna.2

DeAnna L. Lopez, CLM, SPHR, is the Office Administrator for the Houston, Texas office of Thompson Coe. Lopez is a member of the 2014 and 2015 Annual Conference Committees, a past President-Elect of the Orange County Chapter and is currently a member of the Houston Chapter of ALA, where she is serving on the Business Partner and Community Challenge Committees.

Humans Are the Network Perimeter – The Threat to Your Company’s “Crown Jewels”

The greatest cyber vulnerability to private companies is the human factor and our susceptibility to social engineering.

On a daily basis, companies are being attacked by cyber actors looking to steal data on behalf of a foreign nation state or for personal financial gain.

The threats can be based on any one or more of the following:

  • Computer (intrusion and data exploitation)
  • Network (DDoS)
  • User (social engineering and insider threat), or
  • Facility (physical access and supply chain) based.

These days, it is not enough to discuss how much money the company needs to spend on cyber security or how to prevent the next attack. Organizations need to be prepared for incident response and come to understand that there are often two types of companies:

Those which have been compromised and are aware of the breach, or

Those which have been compromised and are unaware of the incident.

Cyber criminals will often use “the path of least resistance”. If a criminal can gain access Cyber Blog text boxinto your internal network by distributing spam E-Mails with malicious attachments, why should they spend the resources using significant computing power and exploits to conduct brute force attacks or more sophisticated options?

No matter how dedicated your company is to educating the end users of your organization to the risks associated with today’s cyber landscape, the human element remains the top common factor of successful cyber attacks.

Early and frequent dialogue between legal, technical and C-level representatives regarding preparedness will pay dividends when faced with a cyber incident. Once a cyber incident occurs, it is often too late to have these types of detailed discussions.

In addition to development and implementation of an incident response plan, a thorough review of the “bring your own device” (BYOD) policy should occur. Does your organization allow employees to connect personal devices to the company network? If so, what steps are taken to ensure the protection of your intellectual property or “crown jewels”?

Protect what needs to be protected, maintain a constant understanding of your network architecture, and develop and utilize an emergency response plan.

Austin Berglas, FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC), will be presenting on cyber security at ALA’s 2014 Annual Conference. His session, “The Real Threat of Cybercrime – Protecting Your Firms & Businesses,” on Wednesday, May 21 at 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. will help attendees acquire the skills and tools necessary to protect their firms, the public and their clients from harm and misuse of data. Join his session to get a thorough understanding of the threat and legal issues involved in computer and internet crime, and examine the steps you can take to protect your firm.


berglasAustin P. Berglas is the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI New York Office’s Cyber program and oversees all national security and criminal computer intrusion matters in the largest Cyber Branch in the FBI. Berglas entered the FBI in 1999 after serving six years as an Officer in the US Army. In 2006, he was promoted to supervisor of the NYO Cyber Squad and was the recipient of the 2010 Director’s Award for Excellence in Cyber Investigations.

Toronto and Niagara Falls – What to See, What to Do?

Toronto Skyline

Photo courtesy of:

Historically and today Toronto is a diverse, culturally rich city with a wide variety of attractions, entertainment, shopping and restaurants that appeal to every palate. Incorporated on March 6, 1834, Toronto is set on the northern shore of Lake Ontario and features a vibrant lakeshore with beaches, theatres, festivals and – on Victoria Day – fireworks!

ALA is working with international tour company Gray Line to offer a variety of tours at inexpensive costs for our Annual Conference attendees. So gather your colleagues and take a peek at what is available in and around Toronto, including one of the Seven Wonders of Canada – Niagara Falls. Better yet, choose one of the two tours below and receive a 10% discount. Come in early or stay later and enjoy what Toronto and the surrounding area have to offer!

Niagara Falls

Photo courtesy of: Tom Moeres,



Niagara Falls Day Tour


Hop-On-Hop-Off Toronto City Tour



To secure your discounted reservation for either of the above tours, call Gray Line directly at 800.594.3310 (the discount will not be available online). Use Promo Code ALA2014 and then pay using your credit card and you will receive a 10% discount on the tour prices for the Niagara Falls Day Tour and the Hop-On-Hop-Off Toronto City Tour. Once your reservation is processed, you will receive a six-digit confirmation number and all of the relevant information regarding pickup time, place, etc.

We truly look forward to welcoming you to Toronto in just a few more weeks. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions. You can call the ALA office at 847.267.1252 or email your query to


Olejnik_Patty_2013-01Patty P. Olejnik, CMP, has been with the Association of Legal Administrators since 2010, starting as the Meeting Manager and promoted to Senior Manager, Conferences & Meetings in 2013. A part of ALA’s Member Experience team, reporting to Jeanne Schehl, the Director of Professional Development & Meetings, Olejnik leads the Conferences & Meetings team planning ALA’s Annual Conference & Exposition, the fall Business of Law and specialty conferences, and Board of Directors, Foundation of ALA Trustee and committee meetings. She manages two staff; Chris Kirbabas, Meeting Planner, and Kara Hill, Meeting Coordinator.

Social Media for the Legal Management Professional – HIVE Kickoff Toronto

Life was simpler before the internet. Outside the workplace, we were primarily consumers of information. We knew where to go to find the news, entertainment and education we needed. We had favorite books, newspapers, radio programs and TV shows. And we had general rules for managing how and when to avail ourselves of these resources. As a result, we rarely mixed work and play.


And then the internet happened and life became more complicated. Suddenly the tools we used for our leisure hours invaded the rest of our lives. Just as the reach of office email began expanding beyond regular business hours, it suddenly became much easier to check a Facebook update or do a bit of personal shopping online while at the office.

Then, of course, there were the teenagers: doing things online that made the rest of us glad for the relative safety of maturity. Unfortunately, we let some teen behaviors define a standard for behavior online and this made it difficult for some adults to envision how to maintain an appropriate professional presence online. One solution was simply to walk away from social media. However, given the way social media is so entangled with our lives, this no longer seems to be a productive strategy. So what’s the alternative? Some would say if you can’t beat them, join them.

social media w question But what’s the best way to join? This is where it helps to understand what the various social media platforms offer, the types of interactions they foster and, most importantly, what would serve your professional goals best at this moment. While social media platforms evolve over time, offering more and varied functionality, there are some basic functions that you should consider when thinking about where to plant a flag online:

Connection – Which social media platforms allow you to build a productive personal and professional network?

Relationships – Which social media platforms enable you to invest in relationships with the people that matter to you, regardless of their location or time zone?

Conversation – Which social media platforms facilitate meaningful conversation on subjects of concern to you? For that matter, where do you go to have an online conversation about something trivial that interests you?

News – You’ll find breaking news online long before you see it on TV, hear it on the radio or read it in a newspaper or email message. Do you know which platforms give you access to the latest news, as well as thoughtful analysis?

Information – The rate at which we are producing information today is astonishing. If Gutenberg’s press expedited the flow of information, the internet has turbocharged it. To complicate matters, a significant amount of the information on the internet is provided without the editorial oversight previously offered by traditional publishers and news organizations. So where do you find reliable information online?

Education – Schools and libraries used to be the primary places we went to learn. Today it is possible to get a world-class education online using free resources such as moocs (massive open online courses) and Khan Academy. Do you know where to find cutting-edge educational resources online?

(Notice, the list above does not include leisure activities such as FarmVille or Candy Crush Saga. Online games are a huge draw, but probably not the primary focus of the legal management professional.)

Perhaps the biggest challenge for professionals is finding the necessary time and then making good use of that time for their professional activities online. One the one hand, how do we find the time necessary to nurture our online relationships and maintain a reasonable online presence? On the other hand, we all know that it is possible to fall down a rabbit hole when you have a discrete task such as checking a fact or doing a quick online search. A link in a Wikipedia article takes you to another interesting article and another, and then suddenly you’re on Facebook playing Candy Crush Saga. Or, you take a brief break from your work and find that you’ve spent the last hour reading articles on improving personal productivity. (This is a favorite form of procrastination for professionals.)

If you have been grappling with any of these issues, I invite you to join me at my session, “Social Media for Professionals,” during the Association of Legal Administrators Annual Conference in Toronto. This session, on Monday, May 19 from 2:30 – 3:30 PM, will focus on the key social media platforms that can help you achieve your professional goals. Further, we will have an honest conversation about strategies that can help you accomplish your goals online without falling down the proverbial rabbit hole. And don’t forget to visit The HIVE where you can get answers to your technology-related and social media questions, as well as learn about the hottest tech topics.


Abraham, Mary

Mary Abraham is a law firm knowledge management leader and consultant. She has also built a practice facilitating strategic conversations and interactive educational sessions. Active in the legal industry for more than 22 years, Abraham is a frequent speaker and writer on knowledge management and social media issues. Her blog,, continues to win commendations and sparks discussions inside and outside the legal industry.

ALA Education Conference Toronto – “A Rock Concert in the Making”

The Ides of March has come and gone, but the “Wheels are Turnin’,” and we are “Roll[ing] With the Changes” for the adventure known as the 2014 ALA Annual Conference & Exposition! If you haven’t “Heard it From a Friend Who” . . . REO Speedwagon will be providing an outstanding concert for our members, guests and business partner attendees. This will be a full capacity event so be sure to get your conference registration in as soon as possible so you don’t miss out!

“There’s a new day coming in a future bright and everything’s going to be all right.” -REO Speedwagon

This is just one of the new events and features of this year’s conference. Here are more of the great things you can expect:

Education: Knowing, “Like You Do,” that our ALA members put education first, we created:

  • An extended conference education schedule this year (Monday – Thursday);
  • A customizable learning experience with more than 90 educational sessions;
  • Education that runs concurrently with Exhibit Hall hours, The Hive, and Business Matters sessions;
  • Hub offerings for Q&A with speakers;
  • Strategic HR accreditation, with 48 of our sessions approved for HRCI certification; and,
  • ALA and LMA have partnered to offer two marketing certificate programs.

Scheduling: We are “Building the Bridge” to your conference schedule and making tracking of education easier. Check out our Annual Conference sample schedules for examples. In a few weeks, the Conference App (planner) will be available. You are encouraged to use it to plan your conference schedule before arriving in Toronto. Among the many new upgrades, the web-based App will be accessible via Wi-Fi on-site.

Networking: “In My Dreams,” I started thinking, and we began to plan using the connexity experience—a way to add a personal touch at all levels of the conference experience. Because networking is such an important aspect, our committee opted to try something new with our members, speakers and business partners. Therefore, we have added many more points of contact for you, such as these networking opportunities:

  • The Welcome Reception on Monday evening. Really, every meal and event provides networking opportunities for you to share what’s working for you and learn how to improve on your day-to-day processes from your peers.
  • The inaugural IDEA and Association Awards event honors the best and the brightest in innovation, development, engagement and advancement.
  • The Networking Reception in the Legal Marketplace allows you time to build on relationships old and new with ALA’s dynamic and very generous Business Partners.
  • The Grand Finale Event: VIP Treatment will be an incredible night with dinner, the amazing rock concert by the incomparable REO Speedwagon, dessert and dancing.

The Legal Marketplace (Exhibit Hall): ALA will “Keep the Fire Burnin’” and welcome approximately 200 exhibitors with the latest in legal product and service innovations under the new banner, “The Legal Marketplace.” The name may have changed, but that is only to better focus on the broader spectrum of offerings. Be ready to:

  • Connect with experts at the Hub;
  • Learn the latest tech at the Hive; and,
  • Refresh your mind, body and portable devices at the Recharge station.

The Legal Office of the Future: Innovation Lab: In the Legal Marketplace, join Gensler for a guided tour of your future office through this amazing event. What will the legal office look like in 2035? How will it function? See groundbreaking technology and trends FIRST with ALA and Gensler.

The David W. Brezina Memorial General Session: Sponsored by the Foundation of ALA, this session showcases “Golden Country,” the Trial of Salim Ahmed Hamdan: Pro Bono Legal Services. Join Harry Schneider to learn how law firms can make a difference through his experience with a high profile pro bono case he argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

It’s “Time for Me to Fly,” and to see you at the “Educational and Networking Mosaic” in Toronto!


Bridgeman_Mark-300dpi Mark Bridgeman, CLM, is the Chair of the 2014 Annual Conference Committee. He has also served as the Region 3 Projects Officer, was on the 2011 Annual Conference Committee and spent three years on the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion. Bridgeman has been a regular speaker and presenter at ALA events since 2003, including the 2008 and 2009 ALA Annual Conference & Exposition. In 2010 he received ALA’s Outstanding Association Volunteer Award. He has recently served on the Annual Educational Conference Planning Committees for both the Greater Chicago and Wisconsin Chapters. He has served in various Board positions for the Greater Chicago Chapter and in several Vice President positions for the Wisconsin Chapter, as President, President-Elect and Director of Membership of the Orange County Chapter and is ALA Director-At-Large-Elect for 2014-2017.

Restaurants, You Ask? Oh Yes, Toronto Has Restaurants!

OK, so we’re six weeks away from the Annual Conference and you are now starting to plan your networking events and chapter get-togethers. You need help. Where can you find a good restaurant? What kind of food is available? How do you get information?

All of the above are very good questions, and I’m happy to be of service in answering them, or at least pointing you in the right direction.

Does Toronto have good restaurants?

We sure do! A recent New York Times article describes some of the amazing restaurants and ethnic food choices available in our city. I know you will only be here for a week or so but you really have to get out of the hotel and make sure that you try some of the great places to eat.

What is the local cuisine in Toronto?

I guess the short answer is we don’t have one type of local cuisine.

Instead, as noted in earlier blogs and in keeping with our conference theme, Toronto is a mosaic of many cultures and languages and food. Forty-seven percent of the population (5.5 million in the “GTA” – Greater Toronto Area) have a mother tongue in a language other than English or French. Over 140 languages and dialects are spoken here. Ours is one of the most multicultural cities in the world.

One of the biggest bonuses of this multiculturalism is the food. With over 7,000 restaurants serving dishes from hundreds of different cultures, it’s pretty hard to go hungry here.

Where can you get more information?

There is a great website available at

Go to the restaurants section and start searching. When choosing the district, stick to choosing restaurants in the following districts that are near the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC): Harbourfront, Financial, Entertainment, Lakeshore, Yonge Downtown, or St. Lawrence Market / Oldtown. Then you can subsearch for type of food and features (like a patio). There are links to websites, photos of the restaurants and in some cases, even menus. If you find a restaurant you like, make sure that before you make a reservation you ask if it’s walking distance to the MTCC.

Tourism Toronto also has a searchable database of restaurants but my personal preference is the website. However, if you have a big group and need help, then Tourism Toronto is definitely the way to go. They have a section for meeting planners where you can search venues for a larger group, private rooms, etc.

Remember that Monday, May 19th is a holiday in Canada so if you have a large group and need to book reservations you may want to do it early.

Want even more information?

The following link will take you to the section of the Tourism Toronto website where you can access the city of Toronto visitors guide, Toronto magazine and Toronto maps.

You can access material on-line, download it, or even contact the city and ask them to mail you a hard copy.

There’s an App for everything you ever wanted to know about Toronto.

Finally, what would a visit to a new city be without the opportunity for you to download some local tourism apps? Whether you’re looking for an App to help you navigate the multitude of restaurants and tourist hot spots or just an App that will help locate the closest water fountain or water bottle refill station, this link will find the App for you:

So if you are looking for the best gastro experience, finding the niche in the city that’s intriguing, arts, shopping, or the App to help you, Toronto has it! I’m looking forward to seeing you at ALA’s Annual Conference in May!



Linda Ryan is the Director of Administration at Kronis, Rotsztain, Margles, Cappel LLP (KRMC) in Toronto, Canada and has been a member of ALA since 1989. Ryan is currently serving ALA as a member of the 2014 Annual Conference Committee in the role of local liaison.