Each year, CLM’s annual conference offers a panoply of educational sessions across all lines and coverages, addressing evergreen topics with new strategies while gamely adding breakouts that address emerging trends that have unfolded over the past year.
The process is spearheaded by CLM’s committee and community leaders, who work together with their committee members to select the best topics to represent their areas of focus. Helping make the final decisions on which sessions made the cut this year is Education Committee’s Brenda Radmacher (Gordon & Rees) and Ian Stewart (Wilson Elser).
Planning Year Round
When it came to planning, the process began the moment last year’s annual conference ended. “We really listened to a lot of the feedback that we received from the attendees last year,” says Radmacher. “It’s always an interesting process to cull through so many different submissions and find what’s going to be the most interesting and educational for all of the attendees and their different segments.”
Radmacher says one specific challenge of selecting topics is hitting on those areas that remain important year after year, but finding ways to keep them fresh. “We’re very aware of making sure topics aren’t delivering something attendees have heard before,” she says. “We really look for different angles on the issues that we’re dealing with, aiming to continue being at the forefront of the industry.”
When it comes to addressing new and emerging topics, Stewart says the list is long this year. “We saw a lot of session proposals addressing artificial intelligence and the next generation of litigation management technology,” he says. “There were also topics pitched on wildfires and other natural disasters that are becoming more expensive and more common; active shooter situations; transportation trends related not just to self-driving vehicles but also fully automated truck fleets; and the #MeToo movement, which really didn’t exist a year ago.”
In addition to these topics, Stewart says the evolving cyber landscape—which is considered “new” every year because it changes so quickly—and issues related to the opioid crisis are areas that continue to draw interest from potential speakers and offer appeal to attendees. Both Stewart and Radmacher also noticed a lot of topic proposals that addressed generational issues, an area that includes both recurring and new areas of focus.
“There was a continued progression of topics not only about new generations coming into the claims and litigation industries, but also some of the liability and claims issues that may arise out of having multiple generations working side by side,” says Radmacher.
“Millennials have always been a hot topic, but I think what we’re seeing now is a focus on the next generation, Generation Z, which is entering the work force now, and how they will affect the employment picture over the next decade,” adds Stewart.
In all, Stewart and Radmacher were encouraged not only by the variety and quality of submissions received, but also the diversity of speakers.
“In the past, I think there was an occasional problem with submissions that didn’t have rounded out panels, but that really wasn’t a problem this year,” says Stewart. “In fact, the problem we had this year was there were so many qualified people who wanted to speak on topics that we were finding ourselves combining groups more so than in the past.”
“We also had a lot of submissions from members who are new to CLM and haven’t spoken before at other events,” adds Radmacher. “There is a really good cross-section of the membership represented, both fellows and members.”
Both Radmacher and Stewart also plan on serving as presenters for their own areas of individual expertise, too.
“My session is focused on construction, and it’s entitled, ‘Timber! Wood-Frame Construction Claims and How They Come Crashing Down,’” says Radmacher. “We’re seeing a substantial shift in the construction industry in which commercial buildings or other large structures that traditionally have been built with steel are using wood framing and manufactured or engineered wood products instead.”
Co-presenting with Radmacher is Chantell Cornett (The Ward Group); Rose Hoyle (AXA XL); Drew Rothman (RT Specialty); and Franklin Turner (Rogers Townsend & Thomas).
Stewart, meanwhile, plans to address cannabis claims with his topic “Cannabis, CBD, and Hemp Go Global – Opportunities for Insurance and Legal Professionals.”
“Cannabis is an area that is quickly evolving, but instead of talking about the well-worn federal issues of legality and what is happening in the states and banking, we are going to take it to next level,” he says. “It’s no longer a question of ‘if’ cannabis is going to be federally legal, it’s ‘when’ and it’s probably going to be within the next year. Hemp, CBD, and cannabis are emerging global brands and there is already cross border trade, so the question is, where is the U.S. going to fit into this changing social fabric?”
To answer that last question in particular, Stewart says his roundtable team consists of underwriters and carriers who already are doing cross-border work. They include Michael Aberle (Next Wave Insurance Services LLC); TJ Frost (HUB International); Steve Lokus (Navigators); and David McKnight (Alexander Holburn LLP).
“Frost is the lead for HUB International’s North American cannabis team, and Next Wave is the largest MGA in the cannabis space, which Aberle will discuss,” says Stewart. “Canadian law firm Alexander Holburn’s McKnight will give the Canadian perspective, and Navigators’ Lokus will share his perspective on how a traditional commercial carrier enters the space.”
Both Radmacher and Stewart say that the roundtable approach offers huge benefits to attendees because its purpose is to create dialogue instead of just relying on one-way presentations.
“The roundtables are more inclusive, allowing everybody to participate,” says Stewart. “You never know where they are going to go. If the presenters do their jobs by starting a discussion, then usually halfway through the whole room is talking.”
“I think the roundtable format allows people with different levels of experience to engage,” adds Radmacher. “You have some people who are new in the industry who appreciate the foundational information provided in each session, but for someone who has been in the industry for 25 years, there is the opportunity to bring questions and have exchanges with others in the industry.”
To learn more about CLM’s biggest annual event, go to www.theclm.org.