The Young Lawyer’s Division managed this weekend to bring back a beloved VBA tradition – the “Mid-Winter” Thaw in Montreal. Winter had come and gone, of course, but with the easing of travel restrictions, cooperation from the YLD, VBA staff, and the Omni Hotel, Vermont attorneys and judges were back from April 29 to May 1 in the big city that Vermont loves best.
There were 132 attendees, an impressive showing considering that COVID is still lurking and crossing into Canada, while easier than it was earlier in the pandemic (no COVID test required, and leisure travel allowed) is still not friction-free. Plans must be made carefully and in advance and documents uploaded to the “ArriveCan” app. Vermont Supreme Court Justice William D. Cohen, one of the speakers in the opening CLE on “Professionalism in Webex Hearings,” noted that he had expected a crowd of “maybe 30 people.” He commented on how heartening it was to see such a large audience.
There were a total of 9.5 CLE credits available over the two days of the meeting. In addition to getting CLE credits, those 132 resilient people and their guests had a cocktail reception on Friday night, sponsored by Vermont Law School, and another on Saturday night sponsored by the YLD.
In addition to all-you-could eat, the always-popular brunch on Saturday morning included a full program of speakers. Past YLD chair James Valente of Costello, Valente & Gentry, explained the ups and downs and ins and outs of trying to pull the meeting off this year in his opening remarks. Justin Brown of Sheehy Furlong & Behm then awarded the first-ever Judge Peter W. Hall Integrity Award. Judge Hall died of cancer in March 2021 and the award, in addition to honoring Judge Hall, is intended to highlight the critical role of integrity in the legal profession. It went to Eric Avildsen, the longtime Executive Director of Vermont Legal Aid, who was on hand to accept it in person. Brown noted that Avildsen received more than 40 letters in support of his nomination for this inaugural award.
Following the presentation, former Poverty Law Fellow Jill Rudge of the South Royalton Legal Clinic talked about the accomplishments of current Poverty Law Fellow, Emily Kenyon, and of the need for legal services for Vermonters who can’t afford attorneys. The current YLD Chair, Kevin Lumpkin of Sheehy Furlong & Behm, then introduced the keynote speaker, Jessamyn West. West, a library technologist from Randolph, made “fair use” a fun and interesting topic.
In summing up the meeting, Lumpkin noted his gratitude to all the Board members, panelists, attendees, VBA staff, and special guests. “It was quite a journey back to Montreal navigating COVID interruptions, but the event was a great success and it sure was nice to be up there in good weather. Stay tuned for surveys about the VBA membership’s preferences for future events – the road to the 2023 Thaw starts now”