2 minutes

What we heard at NELA Annual Convention 2024

Some of the key takeaways and discussions that resonated with us during the NELA Annual convention
Written by
Jamie Fonarev
Published on
July 18, 2024

We were fortunate to attend and sponsor the NELA Annual Convention last week in Philadelphia. We had incredible conversations with passionate employment lawyers, and were also able to attend several insightful sessions throughout the event. Here are some of the key takeaways and discussions that resonated with us during the convention.

Pre-Litigation Process and Summary Judgment:

During the “Summary Judgment Jiujitsu” session the panel emphasized the critical role of the pre-litigation process in enhancing a case's likelihood of surviving a summary judgment motion. Thorough preparation early in the case not only sets a strong foundation but also significantly influences the settlement values. Opposing parties often assess the potential settlement against the volume and depth of legal work presented. In the session, the speakers stressed the importance of meticulous discovery efforts from the outset, aimed at creating conflicted facts that bolster the case's position against summary judgment motions. 

The strategic groundwork laid during the pre-litigation phase can be a game-changer for plaintiffs. This approach not only prepares a case more robustly for the hurdles of summary judgment but also potentially elevates its settlement value, making it a compelling strategy, worth the extra effort. By focusing on detailed and proactive preparation, plaintiff's attorneys can better position their cases for success, underscoring the necessity of investing time and resources effectively from the very beginning of the legal process.

Consultancy Fees Debate:

At the “Effective Law Practice Management” session, a lively debate unfolded around consultancy fees - particularly whether solo practitioners and small firms should use consultancy to add to their revenue streams. The discussion was rich with ethical considerations and practical business implications. Panelists and attendees shared diverse perspectives, reflecting the varied legal landscapes across different states. This discussion highlighted the challenges small firms face in balancing ethical practices with business viability. The debate underscored the importance of understanding local market conditions and client expectations when setting fee structures. 

Solo practitioners have a choice between pursuing high-value cases and maintaining steady income through consultancy. The most profitable choice for a smaller firm is to spend extra efforts finding high-value cases and seeing them through to completion. But since bigger cases can take upwards of a year until resolution, the immediate cash flow needs might take precedence. Unfortunately there is no right answer or playbook, as individuals make the decisions that will serve them and their firms best. 

EEOC and DEI Topics:

We also sat in on some sessions that addressed the current challenges faced by the EEOC, notably due to budget cuts and staffing reductions. These limitations might hinder the commission's capacity to enforce worker rights effectively. The conversation also ventured into the evolving landscape of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives. A strategic approach was mentioned, using Title VII claims to argue that reducing DEI efforts could be viewed as discriminatory, potentially leading to increased litigation.

The insights from this session underscore the complex interplay between legal enforcement and political climates in shaping workplace rights and diversity policies. The potential use of Title VII claims as a strategy to counteract reductions in DEI efforts highlights a proactive legal approach to maintaining or advancing DEI initiatives amidst political and budgetary challenges. This approach not only reflects the legal community's adaptability but also its commitment to upholding and advocating for inclusive workplace practices. 

There are many more interesting things we learned while at the convention, but these three struck us as we reflected on the state of the Plaintiff Labor and Employment industry. We hope to catch more valuable insights at upcoming NELA and industry events!

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