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Do you want to be a law school conferencer?


Putting together a law school conference is hard work. Increasingly law students are taking matters into their own hands and doing it, as the pay-offs for the school and students are tangible.

Organizing a conference has varied benefits. It serves to promote the name of the law school along with serving as a base for professionals to enhance their knowledge and the students getting an early-in-their-lifetime opportunity to interact with leading legal practitioners.

"While there were a number of delegates from corporate houses who attended the event, the biggest beneficiaries of the event were the students of National Law School itself," claims convenor of NLSIU Bangalore's Focus India 2009 conference Sandeep Uberoi.

"They got an opportunity to listen to and interact with some of the market leaders in the field and get a holistic perspective from the commercial, legal practitioner's point of view," he adds.

Before you book the caterers
The initial planning stage will be the make or break of any conference. It could be a student initiative or in arrangement with the university or could be done by hosting an internationally known conference.

NUJS Kolkata did just that when it hosted the International Law Students Association (ILSA) International Conference 2009 in July.

"This conference cannot be hosted by anyone and everyone," says president of the NUJS chapter of ILSA Kinshuk Jhunjhunwala. "Over 150 law schools from all over the world take part in the bidding process and only one school wins the bid. Luckily, or otherwise, it was us this time."

By contrast, NLSIU Bangalore put together its own conference from scratch in May of this year. Uberoi was in the organising committee of the NLS Focus India 2009 conference. "The idea of hosting such a conference began with an informal discussion between some students," recounts Uberoi, "and resulted in NLS hosting the event within a span of three weeks."

Themed party
"Having a clear idea helped us to have a panel who featured the who's who of legal India," advises Uberoi.

The goal of Focus India 2009 was to provide an interface for dialogue between leading Indian lawyers, bankers, lawyers, policy makers, financial advisors and business leaders.

"It is critical to ensure that this clear as then you can figure out who your audience is," he says. "While figuring out Focus India, we were clear it was a corporate conference and we then researched the various areas that would engage people to take time off to come and listen."

Government Law College Kozhikode's hosted "The Bankrecht" – German for banking law, which was themed as an international seminar on emerging trends in banking law.

"The theme was selected as we felt that banking law was an area where the emerging legal concerns were largely addressed by practical solutions, which are never brought to critical analysis," explains Bankrecht co-organiser John Varghese.

"Further there was a need for an academic industry dialog regarding the issues in banking industry. We were working in banks, and we had felt this need personally too while working in the banks."

NUJS Kolkata's Jhunjhunwala explains that apart from personal influences, the idea to select international trade and environment as the main theme of the ILSA conference came about for two main reasons.

"Firstly, we wanted to select issues that hadn't been addressed as such in the glorious history of ILSA," he says.

"And secondly, the issue of trade and environment is basically an issue on sustainable development - something that always brings upon a brilliant debate with polarized points of view. Moreover, everyone knows about sustainable development. Being a student level conference primarily, it was decided to go ahead with it."

Give us your money!
Most organisers are of the opinion that sponsorship is the most difficult part in the organization of a conference.

Sometimes firms that are interested in the theme of the conference turn out to be the best potential sponsors – if the economy is willing.

With Bankrecht's theme of banking law banks contributed a major part of the budget.

Varghese says that sponsorship was tough in the current climate.

"While some of the banks who had promised sponsorship had backed out citing recession, we are thankful to the management of Union Bank of India and Deutsche Bank who came forward to sponsor at least a part of the seminar."

IIT Kharagpur's conference, which was held in collaboration with National Foundation of Corporate Governance faced a similar problem.

At Focus India, sponsorship was less of a problem according to Uberoi, as they had purposely kept the budgets very low.

Deepaloke Chatterjee was a one of student organisers for the recently concluded NUJS conference on Publicly Funded Patents & Technology Transfer: A Review of the Indian "Bayh Dole" Bill.

Because of the tight theme of the conference, the law school was able to approach firms specialising in IP, he explains.

Speak to us!
"Getting speakers for the conference was the most daunting task ahead of us," notes NUJS Kolkata's Jhunjhunwala.

Milking your existing network and of people you have worked for, or approaching dignitaries or scholars giving lectures on campus is a good source. Also use professors' contacts, recommend the convenors.

Ashish Arun, Vice President of NUJS ILSA says that the conference was chaired by professors from Michigan, London and Delhi, which was very helpful in attracting an international roster.

"We invited bankers and various corporates as delegates ," says NLS Bangalore's Uberoi, "hence selling the idea of this worked to our benefit and we had 52 partners participating."

If you build it they will come
At the same time, you will want to make sure that you get the punters through the door, of course.

"Create a website, news clips et al but nothing is better that word of mouth, especially alumni," enthuses Uberoi.

"Blogs related to the theme also serve as good way of promoting the conference," notes Deepaloke. "Our conference details were widely promoted through IP based blog SpicyIP."

The aftermath
A publication at the end of the conference that summarises it all is a good idea. But you don't necessarily need to do it yourself.

"We were initially going to come out with a compilation of our own for the conference, however, just a week away from the conference, the American Journal of Economics and Business Administration contacted me regarding publication of the articles received for the conference," explains NUJS Kolkata's Jhunjhunwala.

The journal is an international journal with free online access, giving the conference and articles widespread exposure after the event.

The journal also peer reviewed the articles, which will then be published in a special edition dedicated to the NUJS conference, according to Jhunjhunwala.

Happy conferencing!

Are you organising a law school conference in future? Send us the details and we will post up the dates.

And if you are looking for contributors to a non-commercial law journal, please also let us know and we will post this up.

2009 law school conferences Details
Aerospace Law Meet, National Seminar on Air and Space Law in India Organized by NALSAR Hyderabad and in association with Indian Space Research Organization, Bangalore and Institute of Applied Aviation Management, Calicut organized a two day national seminar titled "Aerospace Law Meet 2009" on 28 and 29 March 2009
First GNLU Media and Law Training Programme Organised by Gujarat National Law University from 11 to 13 September
National seminar on Recent Anti-terror Legislative Changes in Criminal Justice Administration: Perceptions and Perspectives of Criminal Justice Professionals Organised by Centre for Criminal Justice Administration, Dr. RML National Law University, Lucknow in collaboration with BPR & D, Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India, New Delhi on 30 and 31 August 2009
Workshop on Legal Education: future challenges Organized by the KIIT Law School, Bhubaneshwar
International Conference on Globalisation of Legal Education and Legal Profession: Challenges and Opportunities Organized by Jindal Global Law School on 8 August 2009
International Conference on convergences of Corporate Governance Norms Organized by the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur and National Foundation for Corporate Governance on 5 and 6 March 2009
Photo by: Andreas-Rueda
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