We were talking in the office the other day about memorable legal CLE panels, and how few and far between they are. The standard is so low, so filled with lawyers wringing their hands and droning their way through word-dense powerpoint slides, that standing out should be relatively easy.
I've tried to do that in the presentations I give, living by the rule of never reading off of powerpoint slides and keeping things as lively as possible. But the one presentation that lives in memory (and probably infamy, for some) is a panel I put together a couple of years ago for the ABA's Business Law Section annual meeting.
The ABA Business Law Section is a big group, and it deals with many important legal issues. But no one would confuse your average Business Law Section presentation with anything resembling entertainment.
So naturally, I put Marc Randazza on my panel (which was titled something like "Someone Online Hates You"). Randazza is a first amendment lawyer extraordinare. He has dealt with many of the most interesting cases at the intersection of the First Amendment and the online world - a prickly professor's defamation lawsuit against Above the Law, Glenn Beck's futile UDRP case, and of course, the Righthaven beatdown. Just to name a few.
Despite being somewhat under the weather, Marc put on a helluva performance, getting off riffs, one-liners and anecdotes - a fair number of which were seriously off-color - that had the staid Business Law Section crowd howling in laughter. He stole the show. The best part came when I got the evaluations a few weeks later. It was a binary response: From most, all 5's, raving about how Marc Randazza was the best presenter they'd ever seen at a legal event. And from a few - and you know the tight-lipped type - comments along the lines of how offensive Marc Randazza was, and how they couldn't believe such foul-mouthed comments would be allowed at an ABA event.
As I've always maintained, if you're not pissing a few people off, you're doing something wrong.
I gotten to know Marc better since then; he's helped me out with a number of issues and is currently representing me in the Rakofsky v. the Internet debacle. Besides being seriously funny, whip-smart and irreverent, he's a helluva decent guy.
A helluva decent guy with no tolerance for censorious thugs, of course.
Anyway, I need to find another opportunity to spring Marc Randazza on a group of unsuspecting lawyers. Maybe the ABA Ethics 20/20 panel would like to hear Marc's perspective on how to regulate lawyer advertising . . .