Early the next morning, I had an early flight to Chicago attend a meeting of the (NALP) Foundation for Law Career Research and Education Board. Fortunately it was a direct flight, with only a minor delay.  Checking the time, I decided to take the El train into the city rather than a cab, both to save cab fare and to people and neighborhood watch.  It had been a long time since I’d taken the El train and I was looking forward to it.  The best thing (to me) about taking public transportation, besides the cost & convenience, is that it really gives you a chance to get a feel for neighborhoods in a city. Looking out the window and watching who board the train at the various stops provides a window into the various areas of the city you pass through. Chicago is home for me, and I am always curious about what’s changing and new. 

I wasn’t sure at which stop I needed to exit so I pulled out my IPhone and googled, “What is the closest stop on the Chicago Blue line to One S. Dearborn?” Piece of cake. Isn’t technology wonderful? It took a bit longer than I thought, but I was still able to arrive at my destination on time.  The only bummer was that the escalator was not working, so I had to carry my suitcase up the stairs from the subway.  Fortunately, the offices of Sidley Austin, where our meeting was to be held were right across the street from the subway entrance.

The view from the receptionists’ area was impressive, so I stopped on my way to the meeting room to take a few pictures. It was a sunny day, and boats drifted lazily on the lake. That made it a bit tough to be seated in a conference room with large windows. But it was better than a room without them.  Frank Aquila, the Board Chair called the meeting to order and much of the agenda was typical of many non profit boards meetings, a review of the minutes, update on recent activities and report on the financial situation.  Tammy Patterson is the CEO of the foundation and she shared her report.  Pam Malone, our Senior Vice President shared much of the development news. We had a working lunch that included a very interesting report by Bob Nelson of the American Bar Foundation on selected findings from the After the JD Project.  If you haven’t read it, I commend it to you.  I think you’ll find some of the results challenge conventional wisdom, and are instructive for firms challenged with diversity and/or associate retention issues.

The Foundation is engaged in strategic planning, so after lunch, the board met in executive session to think out loud together about the future of the foundation, and to respond to a report from the strategic planning committee.  We adjourned about 2:30, and headed to the Wit Hotel, which was where our overnight accommodations were, and where members of the board would participate in a panel discussion at a session of the Professional Development Consortium’s conference.  The Wit is on the east corner of northeast corner of State & Lake, and is a newer hotel.

Afterwards we joined members of the PDC for a reception. I hadn’t known about the Professional Development Consortium until Tammy explained what it was at an earlier NALP Foundation Board meeting.  The Consortium “is a group of individuals working at law firms, government agencies and corporations who are responsible for developing and administering training and continuing professional development for lawyers. In existence since 1990, this collegial group enjoys sharing ideas, strategies and best practices to improve the performance of lawyers and the profession. “   The timing of our two meetings made it possible for board members to attend the last session and for those of us from the two organizations to meet each other and learn more about each other and the two organizations.

After the reception the Board went to dinner at Keefer’s Kaffee on Kinzie Street, just north of the river. I don’t remember the specifics of the menu now, but my impression of the meal was that by the time we’d gnoshed on the appetizers, we barely had room for our entrees. The food was great, as was the service and the relaxed atmosphere of the dining room gave us a chance to catch up with each other and to learn more about our newer board members.

The Wit was quite interesting.  When I got off the elevator, I heard birds singing, and I thought, wow, I don’t think I had that much wine at dinner.  But, there really is a “bird effect” in the hallways.  The rooms are nice with a European feel. The room had a very high tech “panel,” for lack of a better word, that did just about everything, including let you check on your flight. The coffee provided in the room was Wolfgang Puck brand, and best of all, the room had a nice sized tub. The service was great, and I found out that Wit stands for “whatever it takes.”  The majority of the other guests were young, hip looking folks.  The club on the top floor of the hotel is apparently the place to be on a Friday night, because the elevator was packed with sophisticated looking, smartly dressed young folk.  Even with all the activity in the lobby, out in front of the hotel and at the club, the hallways and the room were quiet, and it didn’t take too long to drift off to sleep.