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Eye-popping cost of gathering lawyers from around the globe for a legal conference

A profile of Kellye Walker, North American general counsel of beverage-giant Diageo, in Legal Times, Vol. 30, Aug. 20, 2007, mentions that entire law department held its legal conference in Shanghai. Diageo’s legal department totals approximately 80 lawyers.

The cost of that gathering, which I presume to have been for at least two days, had to have been huge. My point is not at all to criticize Diageo, because I strongly support bringing lawyers together to meet each other and to share information (See my post of Feb. 12, 2008: retreats and conferences with 8 references.). That objective becomes even more important for wide-spread departments.

Rather, I point out the obvious: costs mount. Might 70-some lawyers flying to China average $5,000 per ticket ($350,000)? Might three nights in a Western hotel in Shanghai exceed $1,000 per person ($70,000)? Might the fully-loaded cost of these lawyers be around $200 an hour, so the opportunity cost was on the order of eight hours a day times four days – assuming the conference ran two days and travel days are included ($512,100)? Might incidentals add at least another $500 per lawyer ($40,000) (See my post of April 17, 2006: schwag, trinkets and give-aways at retreats.). Takes your breath away to think that pulling together a global legal team of 80 lawyers might run up a tab of a million dollars!