This year, the ICSC Law Conference on October 14-16 celebrated its 50th Anniversary. The planned pomp and circumstance were eliminated due to COVID-19, but the conference was still held using a virtual platform. While less than typical in-person attendance, there was still an impressive number of attendees, reaching 850!
The agenda was packed with the program sessions that we have grown accustomed to and even with the virtual format, the conference did not disappoint. While we all missed the various dinners, receptions and networking events that truly enable the conference attendees to connect with other industry professionals, the smaller sessions did allow colleagues to interact. Session topics were relevant and tailored to address both global matters in the retail industry, but also more specific COVID-19 modifications.
One of the highlights was the presentation by Angelique Okeke, Senior Counsel and Roger Gousse, Assistant General Counsel at Nike, on the topic Diversity in Action: Turning this Moment into a Movement. They shared experiences that they have faced from the perspective of African American professionals in the real estate industry and how recent events in our country have impacted them and discussed the response from their company and colleagues. The message was optimistic but forced us to evaluate how we have approached a seemingly uncomfortable topic and to consider ways to improve going forward.
The 50th Anniversary Tribute served as a reminder of the importance of the conference and how far it has grown. Bill Hise, former chair of the Law Conference from 1990, reminisced about the first Law Conference that took place in 1970 in Safety Harbor, Florida with eighty-eight men and two women in attendance. Over 1,500 people attended last year’s conference and the number of women in attendance has certainly grown dramatically. The 2020 Conference chairs, which included Goulston and Storrs, David Rabinowtiz, as well as other attendees spoke of their experiences with the conference over the years. The various toasts were quite uplifting and a reminder of the importance of networking with peers and the impact of collaborating on industry trends.
While the allure of an in-person conference cannot be fully replaced, the virtual experience was fulfilling and inspirational. In a time where many are talking about the uncertainties of the retail world, we saw first-hand, how our industry leaders are adapting to maintain stability and future growth. I always leave the conference feeling exhilarated and this time was no different. I hope that we will be able to reconvene in person next year in San Francisco, California, but have left with assurances that no matter what the format, the conference will continue to be successful and make a strong impact on industry professionals.