Dear ACTEC Fellows,
This e-mail is primarily for ACTEC Fellows who have never attended a national ACTEC meeting (though others are welcome to read it too).
I have been an ACTEC Fellow since 1992. I had never attended an ACTEC national meeting until the Summer Meeting here in Seattle in June 2017. I enjoyed that meeting, and resolved to attend one of the March ACTEC annual meetings, which are the biggest.
I just returned home from the ACTEC national meeting in San Antonio. I had very high expectations/hopes for this meeting, and they were all exceeded by this fabulous meeting! I know there are many other ACTEC Fellows out there who have never attended a national ACTEC meeting. With the zeal of the newly converted, I am writing this heartfelt e-mail in hopes of convincing those of you who have never attended an annual meeting to give one a try (and please do not wait as long as I did).
There are many excuses for not attending an ACTEC national meeting, and I will address those below. First, I want to tell you why I think ACTEC national meetings are so valuable.
1. Committee Meetings. I have heard for years that the Committee Meetings are the most valuable part of the national meetings, but I never really understood why until I attended some. I have to admit that the title "Committee Meetings" makes them sound excruciatingly boring. With respect to these Committee Meetings, nothing could be further from the truth. Where else could you listen to the smartest trust and estate attorneys in the whole country discuss cutting edge issues in a wide variety of subject areas? A young Fellow from Philadelphia attending her first national meeting whispered to me, "These Committee Meetings are gold!" She is absolutely right!
I tried to think how we could characterize these meetings in a more interesting way. How about "Super-Charged, Interactive, Cutting Edge CLEs"? You do not get CLE credit for them (but most of us have plenty of CLE credits anyway), and these meetings are usually discussions with some short presentations mixed in. They are fascinating to listen to, and they are not nearly as tiring as CLEs with a series of speakers who talk for an hour each.
I have learned useful information at every Committee Meeting I have ever attended. Even if the subject is not a major focus of my practice (like Asset Protection), I have learned about new issues to spot. The Practice Committee provides terrific information for sole practitioners like me (and also for attorneys at firms of all sizes). Even though I am not a techie, the Technology in the Practice Committee has also been valuable (for example, I just learned that if home wireless network equipment is more than three years old, it is not sufficiently secure; I will be contacting my IT expert tomorrow!). And the gigantic Estate and Gift Tax Committee is always great fun; all the national experts who contribute to this list serve are there in person to debate current tax issues.
2. CLEs. The CLE's at the national meetings are also excellent. There is usually a panel of speakers, so attendees get the benefit of multiple perspectives. The materials are also great. (Yes, I know you could always order and read the materials, but will you really do it? It is much more interesting to hear the presentations in person.) Even if the topic does not "grab" you initially, the presentation will be well worth your time.
3. Getting to Know Other Fellows. ACTEC Fellows are some of the nicest, friendliest people in the whole world! National meetings are a fabulous opportunity to see old friends and make new friends. I tried to meet as many people as I possibly could, and they were all great! I am sure we have all referred clients to ACTEC Fellows we see in the directory but have never met. How much more fun is it to know Fellows all over the country and be able to refer clients to people you have met?
4. Sponsors. I met some terrific people who were sponsors, and I learned about services I was unaware of before.
5. So Much Fun! The national meetings are full of energy and fun! I had a fabulous time! :)
In short, I am now "hooked" on attending national ACTEC meetings, and I resolved in San Antonio to attend at least one national ACTEC meeting per year going forward.
What took me so long to figure this out? Here are some of my excuses for not attending earlier:
1. Expense. I have been a sole practitioner since 2000, and national meetings seemed like a big expense. While it is expensive when you add up the registration fees, hotel, and airfare (and time away from the office), it is also a terrific value. After attending the two national meetings in 2017 and 2018, I now recognize the tremendous value of these meetings. The information and the relationships are truly priceless. I can not think of any other way I could have an equivalent experience. It is well worth the cost.
Fellows attending their first national ACTEC meeting get a break on the registration fees. Sole practitioners can still deduct the full cost of attending the meetings (and it will reduce income if you are trying to meet the new Section 199A thresholds). Think about how many billable hours it really costs you. If you are still hesitant, take a leap of faith and try a national meeting anyway! I guarantee you will love it!
2. My Spouse Could Not Go. If your spouse can not go or does not want to go, go alone! In some ways, that is more fun anyway, because you do not worry about whether he or she is having a good time. (And if your spouse wants to go, that is great too!)
3. Not Wild About the Location. Many of the March meetings are at large resorts, and I personally do not care for large resorts; I would never choose one as a vacation destination. (It was no accident that my first March meeting was in beautiful San Antonio, where our hotel was downtown right on the Riverwalk.) What I learned at this national meeting is: If you throw yourself into ACTEC meeting activities and getting to know other Fellows, it hardly matters where the meeting is. While I loved being in downtown San Antonio and seeing several old friends who live in SA, it would be very easy to fill my national meeting time with the scheduled meetings/activities and socializing with other ACTEC Fellows. So not being wild about the location is not a good reason to avoid national meetings.
4. I Don't Need National Meetings to Get Benefits from ACTEC. We have an active Washington state ACTEC group which I have enjoyed very much, and the ACTEC list serve is invaluable. I convinced myself that I did not need to go to national meetings to get the benefits of ACTEC. What I realize now is that I was missing one of the best parts of being an ACTEC Fellow. While the WA state group and the list serve are great, the national meetings are amazing opportunities that are available ONLY to us ACTEC Fellows. No one else can attend at any price. It is an opportunity to meet, talk with, and listen to the greatest experts in our field. What is not to like about that?
5. Which Meeting to Attend? I was very excited to attend a March meeting, and it was really terrific! At the March meeting, you get the Trachtman lecture (which was excellent--thank you, Hugh Magill!), and there is usually the largest attendance. The San Antonio meeting had 703 Fellows, which is the most ever at a national meeting! When spouses and family members and sponsors were added in, there were well over 1000 attendees! I found the March meeting very stimulating and exhilarating! Some Fellows I spoke with prefer the summer and fall meetings, which are smaller, and are usually held in cities. Any national meeting will be great; just pick one and go!
I also recommend that any Fellow who has never attended a national meeting read the New Fellows Manual, which was recently e-mailed to all of us. It is excellent; it not only sets forth a ton of useful information, but it captures the culture and warmth of ACTEC. The tone of the manual is as important as the content. Kudos to those who produced that manual!
I also want to thank my good friends Lora Brown, Randy Grove, and Marcia Fujimoto (all past or current WA state ACTEC Chairs) for patiently encouraging me to attend national ACTEC meetings for the past several years. You were all 100% correct!
If this e-mail convinces even one or two ACTEC Fellows to attend their first national meeting, it will have been worth the time it took me to prepare this. I regret that it took me so long to figure this out, and I can not go back and recapture what I missed. Please do not make the same mistake! Look at the schedule today and plan to attend a national ACTEC meeting soon! :)
Thank you for reading this!
Sandra Lynn Perkins, PLLC
1325 Fourth Avenue, Suite 2000
Seattle, WA 98101-2570