Earlier this month, the 2023 edition of Meritas®’ annual Litigation and Labor & Employment Group Meeting took place. The Meeting was held between Oct 4-6 in beautiful Austin, Texas, and featured member-presented, substantive content and plentiful networking opportunities.
The Meeting brought together lawyers from across Meritas’ North American member firms. This included Boughton’s Matthew E. McCarthy (one of only 2 Canadian attendees) who provided a brief recap of the Meeting and a fabulous week in Austin.
Learning and Discussion
The substantive content of the Meeting was focused heavily upon labour & employment law developments in the United States—although many of these developments echo similar movements (or potential movements) here in Canada. Topics included non-competition agreements, statutory paid leave, and labour relations board activism. The panels also provided significant opportunity for attendees to discuss the issues and offer the perspective of their particular jurisdiction and practice experience.
As a labour & employment lawyer practicing in both British Columbia and Ontario, but who very frequently advises clients based primarily in the United States, Matthew found these presentations to be a great chance to learn about the trends and viewpoints of colleagues from an array of locations and backgrounds. He viewed it as an invaluable opportunity to gain greater understanding of the U.S. market and enhance his abilities to advise American clients about Canada in comparison to the legal reality they are used to living in.
A highlight of the Meeting was keynote speaker William (“Bill”) Hart, Adjunct Professor at the University of Texas – Austin School of Law and renowned copyright lawyer. Attendees were equally engaged by Bill’s analysis in this fascinating legal area and delighted by his colourful anecdotes from his over 33 years of practice. From the Beatles’ “Lost Concert” to the dubious origins of Stairway to Heaven’s most famous riff, Bill dazzled the group with equal parts legal acumen and storytelling. Also, according to Matthew, “most of the attendees were humming some blast from the past by the time the session wrapped up”.
Connections and Collaboration
Perhaps an even bigger component of the Meeting was the social and networking element which provided an opportunity to meet or re-connect with colleagues from different locations and compare notes in a more casual environment.
The Meeting kicked off with a fascinating tour of Austin’s vibrant street art scene and continued with multiple networking dinners—letting attendees sample delicious local fare including some famous Texas barbeque! These informal events strengthened the connections between attendees and will hopefully open the doors to future successful collaboration.
The networking in Austin also went beyond the official Meeting events. Many attendees stuck around Austin post-Meeting to attend the famous Austin City Limits music festival. Unfortunately Matthew was unable to manage that but he did find the time to explore the city independently and, thanks to some helpful advice from host law firm Fritz Byrne, he was able to indulge his passion for college football by attending a Texas Longhorns home game. He did not allow his love for football to stop the networking, however, as he spent the game socializing with a Longhorns family that turned out to consist of multiple practicing lawyers and one federal judge!
This anecdote, while seemingly random, does speak to an important truth about everyday employment law. As Matthew likes to say, employment law is fundamentally about relationships. Relationships between employer and employee, but also between a client and a lawyer. Those relationships can start in unusual ways, but they never start unless we’re constantly open to connection and collaboration.
As a lawyer, that means remaining engaged and curious in everyday conversations because you never know where that pivotal connection will come from.
As an employer, it means thinking about your employment law needs before the need arises so that when it does, you already have a relationship with the right lawyer to help.
To discuss any cross-border employment issues or any other “everyday employment law” needs, please contact Matthew E. McCarthy of our employment group.