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Pros and Cons of LobbyConning for Solos and Smalls

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Many folks often complain about the cost of legal conferences – but trust me, the $300-$500 price range is pocket change compared to many events in my industry that start at one thousand dollars. If that’s true for conferences that you may want to attend, why not try lobby conning instead?

The New York Times recently reported on the practice of lobby conning which involves showing up at a conference but hanging out in the lobby to avoid paying the registration fee. Frugality isn’t the only motivation behind Lobbyconning; as frequent conference goers know, the most valuable parts of a conference take place in the hallways, outside of the formal presentations which can often be found online anyway. So why not skip them altogether, the theory goes.

Needless to say, conference organizers aren’t crazy about lobby conners, nor are participants who pay full freight to attend. I can see both sides – for solos and smalls, conference costs do add up and many starting out simply can’t afford to go. Still, there are alternatives to lobby conning or freeloading – such as one day passes or attending a per diem breakfast or cocktail reception if that option is available. Cash-strapped lawyers should also consider offering services for admission – for example, offering to blog or tweet the conference in exchange for a limited attendance pass. That’s a great way to make connections while providing value to conference organizers. 

As for conference planners, they need to be sensitive to conference costs. Having been involved in the planning of a 400-person conference for my marine renewables trade association, I know that the costs add up quickly. But by choosing lower cost venues, offering day-pass or single-activity options and aggressively seeking sponsors, conference planners can reduce costs for attendees and discourage lobby conning.


  • I disagree that conference organizers are unhappy with lobbyconners. Many conferences offer a free exhibit hall pass. This benefits the conference because the more traffic the exhibit hall sees, the higher fees conference organizers can charge exhibitors. Surely, they must anticipate that many holders of those passes will be doing a lot of networking both in the exhibit halls and in other common areas.

    As for me, I’ve lobbyconned at LegalTech New York for probably at least 10 years. Cost isn’t even an issue: most of the sessions hold no interest for me because they’re geared to IT professionals and/or people in BigLaw. I’ve also lobbyconned at Techshow. For many years, I would spend a good part of each day with a close family member who lived in Chicago, and network during the rest of the day and at night.

    Finally, one great way to increase networking opportunities around a conference is to organize a separate networking event near the conference venue. In addition to networking with people who attend the event, you also gain exposure via your promotion of the event. The dinner I organize every year during LegalTech is now such a well-entrenched tradition that it has its own sponsors.

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