Well-Paced Speeches, Lack of Music Encourage Networking at Bar Association Dinner

By Alesandra Dubin February 7, 2011, 6:45 PM EST

Photo: Lee Salem Photography

Beverly Hills Bar Association Litigation Section Dinner
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A U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice attending a social event in Los Angeles is big news in these parts. And on Wednesday, Justice Anthony Kennedy was in town to fete recently retired California Supreme Court Justice Ronald George, a longtime Beverly Hills local. Hosted by the Beverly Hills Bar Association at the Montage Beverly Hills, the new Beverly Hills Bar Association Litigation Section Dinner, planned as an annual event going forward, carried a sense of heft and importance. Association director of programs and events Pamela Weston produced the event, working closely with executive director Marc Staenberg. At the dinner, networking and conversation were among the top concerns organizers had for the ticketholders.

The inaugural dinner honored George and trial lawyer Roman Silberfeld. Adding considerable significance to the evening, Kennedy presented George with an inaugural award for judicial excellence, and Silberfeld received the the association's first excellence in advocacy award. To give guests an opportunity to actually talk with one another, organizers kept the speeches thoughtfully paced, and the music soft. In fact, although there was recorded music playing in in the reception area, there was no music at all—live or recorded—playing in the ballroom.

“The guests were primarily attorneys who came directly from their offices or the courthouse. This was designed to be a networking event, rather than a social event,“ said Weston. “Many of the guests work together on joint cases, and having the opportunity to talk in a relaxed setting was important. The background music [light jazz at the reception] created a friendly atmosphere that would help take them outside the office, but still be appropriate for networking.”

Kennedy and George set the crowd at ease, speaking in an accessible and approachable manner. But it was his George's attorney son, Eric, whose crowd-participatory speech was the biggest hit. The entire program wrapped by 9:30 p.m., which organizers arranged to be mindful of guests' work schedules.

“Once the doors to the main ballroom opened, we did not want to have any music playing. We wanted the focus to be on the evening’s program and speeches and our important guests, who were the big tickets of the night,” said Weston. “Rarely do L.A. events feature such an auspicious group of movers and shakers—these men are among the most powerful lawmakers in the country. Once guests took their seats, they could engage in deeper conversations with their guests during the gaps in the program without the distraction of music, a time during which much important business was being discussed. We also structured the program so that there would be lengthy pauses between speakers so guests could resume conversation.”

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