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Family Law Section Column: A Different Kind of March Madness: The Family Law Conference at Ely

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Nevada Lawyer Magazine
“Over the years, the conference has evolved and now features enough courses to satisfy all of the CLE requirements one needs in a year.”
Family Law
No college basketball, no betting brackets, no cheerleaders (although the mental picture of a co-ed cheer team at our ages and shapes is astounding), just fun, nerdy law stuff at the Bristlecone Convention Center in Ely, Nevada. The 24th Annual Family Law Conference took place on March 7 and 8, 2013. Always following on the tail of the AOC (Administrative Office of the Courts) seminars, it is, for some, the capper on one full week of legal training. This time around, it was sold-out at 315 attendees including justices, judges, hearing masters, lawyers, paralegals and professionals from related professions from all over Nevada, all under one roof for two solidly-packed days of training. Perhaps we should have had cheerleaders to get through it all. Las Vegas and Reno may attract numerous conventions, but Ely is a southwestern “Brigadoon,” providing the perfect blend of hotel space, isolation from busy practices and strong city support. Stated simply, the town is wonderful to us. The convention center staff and state bar personnel work for months to create a seamless experience, blending continuing legal education, all-meals catering and afterhours options. This year saw the release of the Nevada Family Law Practice Manual, third edition, edited by Jessica Anderson (Reno), and the conference’s first wine tasting event on Thursday night, expertly planned by Rena Hughes and Rebecca Burton (Las Vegas), aiming for an affordable collection of tastes for those interested in starting a wine collection. On Friday night, the annual banquet included a keynote speech on civility and personal responsibility, delivered by Washoe County Presiding Judge David A. Hardy; the presentation of the career achievement Pillar Award to Judge Deborah Schumacher (Washoe); and the presentation of a first time William “Bill” Kapalka award for pro bono dedication to Bob Dickerson (Las Vegas). The speeches were heartfelt and moving. And we followed it with country swing music and dancing, with a performance by Slim Chance & his Psychobilly Playboys. www. The conference, conceived by Reno attorneys Gary Silverman and Peter Jaquette more than 20 years ago,
Nevada Lawyer
May 2013
originally began as a way for lawyers and judges to come together and form relationships. In an area of law where emotions often run high, the conference was, as Gary states, “...a way to bring the lawyers and the judges together under one roof, to break bread together, to make peace and to get to know each other.” By doing just that, some of the animosity and anguish that often accumulates in high-conflict family law cases dissipates. Over the years, the conference has evolved and now features enough courses to satisfy all of the CLE requirements one needs in a year. For 2014, register early and secure a hotel room before they sell out. All are welcome. New attorneys, judicial clerks and first, second or third year professionals come for the technical knowledge aspects and to start developing a professional network. The middle group comes for a blend of technical knowledge and networking. And justices, judges and senior attorneys come for a deeper level of discussion and debate, and to impact larger policy decisions that will filter down through the ranks. Hope to see you there next year.
BOB CERCEO can be reached at (702) 222-4021 or robert@ He has just stepped down as chair of the State Bar of Nevada’s Family Law Section, but remains on the executive council which sets up the Ely Family Law Conference CLE. He is a State Bar of Nevada Family Law Specialist, fellow of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, and is an easy person to reach if you have any family law questions.
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