March 15, 2023 – Shifts in workforce demographics, inflation, and disruptive technologies require attorneys and law firms to be more resilient and adaptable than ever.
State Bar of Wisconsin members looking for tools to help them adapt to change will find them in a presentation by Courtney Clark, the closing plenary speaker at the State Bar of Wisconsin’s 2023 Annual Meeting and Conference (AMC), June 14-16 in Milwaukee.
Victim of 9/11
Anyone looking for advice on being resilient and coping with change will find inspiration in Courtney Clark. Just 43 years old, she has beaten cancer three times, survived a brain aneurysm, and adopted a teenager.
She uses lessons from those experiences to help organizations adapt to change and crises. Clark was 26 years old when she was first diagnosed with cancer and 28 when she was diagnosed again.
A Texas native, Clark discovered that the cause of her cancers was her proximity to Ground Zero on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I had just graduated from college and just started my first job in Soho, 16 blocks from the World Trade Center,” Clark said.
She had just stepped off stage after doing a presentation in 2019 when her husband texted her a link to a news story about the death of Luis Alvarez. Alvarez, a first responder on 9/11, died 18 days after testifying before Congress about the reauthorization of the September 11 Victims’ Compensation Fund.
The news story contained a link that included eligibility criteria for participation in the fund. One of the criteria was being present at a site located within 1.5 miles of the World Trade Center any time between Sept. 11, 2001 through May 30, 2002.
“I’m sitting there going, ‘Oh my God, this explains everything,’” Clark said. “It all makes sense why this has happened to me.”
Resilience, Adaptability and Connectivity
Clark started a nonprofit, then was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm at 31. She made the decision to switch careers while she was in graduate school, working on a degree to help her with her job running the nonprofit.
Jeff M. Brown is a legal writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison. He can be reached by email or by phone at (608) 250-6126.
One factor in her decision, Clark said, was the poor fit between her skillset and her job at the nonprofit.
“I’m an idea person,” Clark said. “I’m the person who gets people excited about things and building community. I’m not the person you want to have doing to the day-to-day things. That’s just not the way my brain works.”
Another factor was the reaction she got after a presentation she gave in graduate school.
“Three people within 24 hours, said ‘You should be a motivational speaker.’ I’d never thought about that.”
Clark uses her experience in beating cancer and overcoming the aneurysm to guide her presentations and her research.
One misconception that she often confronts when presenting is that resilience is synonymous with positivity.
“People think of resilience as having a good attitude,” Clark said. “But what I’ve found is that it’s adaptability that’s a great predictor of resilience – the ability to roll with the punches. Those who are flexible are the ones who are more resilient and better able to navigate change.”
But adaptability is only one side of the resilience coin. The other, Clark said, is connectivity – not only between employees, but between old and new ways of doing things.
Older employees often struggle to adapt to workplace changes.
“The more seasoned you are, the harder it is for you to let go of old ways of doing things,” Clark said. “After all, you might have been the one who implemented the way it’s always been done.”
If younger employees are more adaptable, Clark said, her research shows that they struggle with making the connections necessary to both cement new ways of doing things and ensure they receive proper training.
Clark said that making such connections is where older employees shine.
“We found that the older employees were better at connecting to other people and sharing stories and giving advice,” Clark said.
“It’s about, ‘How do we share stories … how do we create connection between folks,’ because the groups who can find ways to rely on and learn from other people are the ones who can navigate these tricky situations,” Clark said.
The switch to virtual work has made it harder to make those connections, but not impossible. Resilient organizations, Clark said, are relying on younger employees’ facility with digital technologies to facilitate connections between employees and teams.
Clark said she hopes more organizations follow suit.
“I hope that we see organizations putting a lot of effort into growing the connection that we build, even if we’re moving to a less in-person model,” Clark said.
That effort is critical, Clark said, because you can’t have a resilient organization without resilient employees.
“The majority of your staff and your organization’s culture has to be developed for resilience,” Clark said.
She says that’s what’s behind the type of open-ended questions (“What would you do if….Tell me about a time when…”) that are now common during job interviews.
“Individual employees have to be flag bearers [for resilience],” Clark said.
Clark gives between 40 and 45 presentations a year.
“I call what I do content-based motivation- all grounded in research,” Clark said. “Some presentations are more inspirational, some are more tactical.”
Clark said she always reminds herself that the desire to build resilience is universal.
“I always do it with an eye toward ‘What does that mean for you?’” Clark said. “The reality is that we all struggle.”
Clark, who’s worked with state bar associations before, said attorneys usually respond better to tactical presentations.
“I tend to find that attorneys are pretty literal and they’re doers – ‘Tell me what to do,’” Clark said.
She said her presentation at AMC with be practical, relevant, and a little bit irreverent.
“I really want to give them ideas that they can implement right away,” Clark said. “But I’m going to be a little goofy too.”
About the 2023 Annual Meeting and Conference
This year’s AMC is in the heart of downtown Milwaukee, at the historic Pfister Hotel, just blocks from the shores of Lake Michigan and close to art centers, theaters, and the 3rd Ward.
See nationally-renowned plenary speakers, attend your choice of more than 20 CLE sessions to enhance your practice, and network and celebrate with your colleagues.
It’s a great excuse to visit Milwaukee – recently named by National Geographic magazine as one of the best destinations to travel to in 2023 – one of five U.S. places on this list of 25 “Best of the World” destinations.
Networking with Bench and Bar
AMC is the largest State Bar gathering of the bench and bar – providing opportunities for conversations with judges outside the courtroom. Meet judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and circuit courts from across Wisconsin.
Judges are among the presenters and speaker, and also have the opportunity to attend and earn judicial credit.
Your Choice of CLE Sessions – and Opportunities to Network
CLE sessions at AMC will cover trends, topics, and advice to boost your practice, including the Friday morning interactive ethics plenary – as well as over a dozen breaks, social events, and a networking luncheon on Thursday.
Customize your schedule to earn up to 12.5 CLE, EPR, LPM, and LAU credits (plus CLM credits for Wisconsin Association of Legal Administrators members) on a vast array of topics for every practice area and experience level. Additional credits may be earned by watching select complimentary webcast replays during specific weeks in July and August.
Celebrate with Your Colleagues
On Wednesday, celebrate as Dean Dietrich is sworn in as the 68th president of the State Bar of Wisconsin – followed by the Marquette and U.W. law school alumni reception where all are invited.
On Thursday, join us as we applaud award recipients at the Member Recognition Celebration, followed by the Red Carpet Reception and social event.
Welcome Back, Wisconsin Association of Legal Administrators
As they did last year, the Wisconsin Association of Legal Administrators (WALA) is holding its Annual Conference of Education in conjunction and cooperation with AMC, bringing attorneys and WALA members together to mix and mingle.
The Wednesday WALA sessions are available to all AMC attendees, and include topics on practice management, recruitment tactics in a tight job market, and data breaches and best practices to lower risk and mitigate harm. WALA attendees can earn up to 3.0 CLM credits from the Wednesday sessions and are invited to attend all of the AMC programs and breakouts with the full conference registration.
What's Included in Your Registration Fee
Registration includes access to plenary speaker sessions, CLE breakout sessions, WALA educational sessions, Legal Expo, continental breakfasts on Thursday and Friday, conference breaks, all receptions, celebrations, parties, and the chance for entry into prize drawings. It also includes conference course materials in downloadable formats.
AMC Registration: Reserve Your Spot by May 5 for Best Rate
Save on your registration when you register by the early early-bird deadline of April 28, 2023. Plus, first time member-attendees save an additional $100 off registration.
Stay at The Pfister: How to Get the Conference Rate
Reserve your room at The Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee, a historic hotel that opened in 1893. See all available hotel services and amenities.
Make your reservation by May 14, 2023, for the best room rates. To ensure you receive the conference discount, mention you’re with the State Bar of Wisconsin Annual Meeting & Conference when making your reservation by phone.
To reserve your room: