The American Society for Legal History’s Committee on the Annual Meeting solicits volunteers from the Society’s friends to serve as Local Arrangements Chairs for the Society’s future Annual Meetings. Interesting venues, affordable hotel rates and reasonable funding support for meeting events are highly favored in site selection.
Contact the committee’s chair, Craig Joyce of the University of Houston Law Center, at email. Be assured, despite the information that follows, that the great bulk of the work of selecting hotels, negotiation contracts and conducting the meeting itself falls to the Committee on the Annual Meeting but then, ultimately, the Treasurer as the Society’s chief financial officer. If you accept the challenge of hosting an annual meeting, you will not be alone!
As a national society, ASLH likes to rotate the location of Annual Meeting sites around North America. See the list of prior sites to gain a sense of where we have been in recent years. In addition to geographical diversity, the Society attempts to pick interestingly different sites, e.g., Miami in 2013, Denver in 2014, Washington, D.C. in 2015, and Toronto in 2016. Meetings typically are scheduled between the middle of October and the middle of November, when hotel availability and rates tend to be optimal for the Society.
Whatever the location of the Annual Meeting, the Society has certain hotel sleeping room requirements that must be met. In addition to “room share” arrangements and occasionally a secondary, less expensive hotel to hold down members’ costs in attending the meeting, all ASLH Annual Meetings require a principal hotel with the following features (and, ideally, room rates under $175 per night):
Wednesday 27 rooms (prior to start of meeting)
Thursday 197 rooms
Friday 197 rooms
Saturday 187 rooms
Panel Session Rooms
We need five rooms (8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday) for program panels. One of these rooms should accommodate an audience of 125 persons (theater style), with a long table and podium for speakers/panelists at the front of the room. The other four rooms should accommodate audiences of between 50 and 100 persons (theater style), with a long table and podium for speakers/panelists at the front of the room.
Business Meeting Rooms
The Society needs one room, which can accommodate upwards of 50 people for committee meetings and the Board of Directors meeting on the Thursday from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. If possible, three rooms are preferred – one for 35 people from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., one for 12 people from 6:00 p.m. to 7:15 p.m., and one for 50 people from 7:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. All the rooms should be set up boardroom style and the room for 50 also needs to have room for a buffet dinner.
On Friday and Saturday, rooms are need for two breakfast and lunch business meetings with capacity ranging from 8 to 35 people each. The breakfast meetings take place from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and lunch meetings take place from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. If hotel staff can clear and reset the rooms quickly, the Panel Session Rooms can also be used for these meetings. If not, separate meeting rooms will be needed.
Symposium and Workshop Rooms
The Society needs two meeting rooms (one for 12 people and one for 25 people) between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on the Thursday of the meeting to accommodate a symposium and a workshop.
Event Rooms and Other Hotel Requirements
- A room near the meeting rooms for continental breakfast, mid-morning breaks and book exhibits. The room needs to accommodate at least 250 persons and 12 six-foot tables for the book exhibits. It also must be lockable overnight to ensure that the books do not go astray. Another option is to have a large lobby area where continental breakfast and mid-morning breaks can take place and an adjoining lockable room for book exhibits.
- A lobby area where we can set up two six-foot tables for registration, and hopefully where meeting attendees can mingle.
- A room for an opening night reception (5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. on Thursday) that accommodates 150-175 persons. This reception may be held off-site, but should we want to have it in the hotel, we like to make sure that we have the space available.
- A large room for our Saturday luncheon that will accommodate 250 persons at round tables set for 8 or 10 persons.
- A large room (6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. on Saturday) that will accommodate 200 persons for a Closing Reception.
More on the Various Receptions
As noted above, the Welcome Reception on Thursday evening can be held in the host hotel, where the room charge is usually waived, or at a venue within walking distance of the hotel. The Welcome Reception, funded by the host institution or sponsors it has arranged, typically offers lighter food and drink options than the Plenary Reception on Friday. In Philadelphia in 2010, for example, Drexel University Earle Mack School of Law sponsored the Welcome Reception at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania near the meeting hotel, serving wine and cheese for two hours from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. (reserving the larger “spread” for the Plenary Reception the following evening). By contrast, at St. Louis in 2012 the Local Arrangements Committee arranged an outside sponsor, the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals Historical Society, to both host and pay for the Welcome Reception (an arrangement which, however, required members to be bused to the Circuit Courthouse from the hotel). The idea of the Welcome Reception is that people will mingle at the reception after their arrival in the meeting city but then go out to dinner on their own afterwards.
The Plenary Lecture and Reception (along with the Annual Luncheon) is a key feature of the Annual Meeting. The Plenary Events are paid for by the host institution(s) and often are held at the (or one of the) host institution’s venue(s). Other arrangements, still paid for by the host institution(s), also may be viable, as in Denver in 2014, where both Plenary events were held at the Colorado Judicial Center, or at Washington, D.C., in 2015, where the Lecture is expected to be held at the meeting hotel while the Reception will be at the Supreme Court of the United States. Mechanically, the requirements for the two events include: an auditorium with seating for approximately 400 people (just to be on the safe side) and a PA system, plus a reception room with food and drink for the guests. The amount of food and drink varies from substantial hors d’oeuvres to a buffet dinner and from wine and beer to an open bar, depending on the wishes of the host institution(s).
Other than the Welcome Reception and the Plenary Lecture and Reception, the ASLH takes care of all other meetings and events, including the Closing Reception at the meeting hotel. The annual meeting sessions and Society business meetings are all held at the hotel. The only other thing that we ask the host institution to help with is to provide some students to stuff registration packets and man the registration desk.
In recent years, ASLH Annual Meetings have drawn as many as 400 attendees. Where possible, local arrangements committees are welcome to plan for outings to local legal historical sites (e.g., John Marshall’s home in Richmond in 1996), either for receptions or as optional trips for attendees.
The costs of Local Arrangements at the Society’s Annual Meetings have varied from meeting to meeting, generally within the range of $30,000 for modest arrangements and $50,000 for the most lavish affairs but usually somewhere in the middle. The host institution (or a consortium of institutions) secures the funding, although not necessarily all from internal sources. A modest amount of local fundraising, sometimes from local historical societies and/or law firms, generally assists in enhancing Annual Meeting quality while relieving the burden on the host institution(s).
Once final note regarding financial impacts of the Society itself: Beyond raising and expending funds for all of the events not assigned above to the Local Arrangements Committee as well as many “hidden” meeting obligations such as hotel food-and-beverage guarantees, hotel meeting room rentals, the annual meeting program, etc., the ASLH recently has faced a new challenge brought on by apparent funding crunches in certain jurisdictions. In a search for new tax revenues, many states are making it difficult for foreign non-profit organizations to secure exemptions from sales tax when hosting their annual meetings. For the Society, the sales tax can amount to between $5,000 and $10,000. Consequently, in considering venues for future meetings the Committee on the Annual Meeting will take into account the tax implications of hosting a meeting in a particular location and may ask the assistance of host institutions in finding appropriate ways to obviate these new charges.
Lastly . . .
Altogether, hosting an ASLH Annual Meeting is both challenging, as demonstrated above, and hugely rewarding, as all past Local Arrangements Committee Chairs (who remain available to advise and assist their successors) will testify. Let us hear from you if you are interested!