Guest Blog by Charles L. Friedman: Eighth Circuit NELA, One-Of-A-Kind

By Karen Maoki posted 02-13-2013 03:43 PM

We are pleased to present the following guest blog from Eighth Circuit NELA. This blog is a brief look at the development of the Affiliate and its amazing bi-annual conference. The complete article will be published in an upcoming issue of The Employee Advocate. For more information about Eighth Circuit NELA, please contact Charles L. Friedman.

We are one-of-a-kind, the only NELA Affiliate formally organized as a “circuit” Affiliate to protect the rights of employees against the greater resources of their employers and the defense bar. We cover a wide geographic area, over 1,200 miles north to south and over 700 miles east to west. We are seven states strong, proud, and committed. Plaintiff employment lawyers from Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota all know that in April of every even-numbered year, all day on a Friday and a Saturday morning, they will have an opportunity to gather and learn from the best and brightest among us.

From the beginning, we decided that each of our established Affiliates would play host to the bi-annual conference. By the time we hold our next 2014 bi-annual conference we will have made the rotation twice through the circuit: twice in Kansas City, twice in Minneapolis, twice in St. Louis, and twice in Des Moines. We do not have individual members in the organization; rather, our membership is based on local Affiliate recognition. Nearly from its inception, Eighth Circuit NELA sought recognition as an Affiliate from our national organization.

Finding a keynote voice to guide us through each of our seven conferences has been a hallmark of our success. At our first conference, the speaker was Christine Craft, the Kansas City newswoman who was fired because she was, among other things, “not deferential to men.”  Since then, we have invited a number of political stalwarts. In addition to Senator Paul Wellstone, our speakers have included Iowa Senator Tom Harkin and U.S. Missouri Congressman Emanuel Cleaver. Our keynote speaker in 2012 was EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum.

Each of our Affiliates has reported growth in numbers since that first conference in 2000. Minnesota and Kansas City membership has swollen to nearly 100, while St. Louis is over the 60 mark, and Iowa is now about 30 strong. Recently, Nebraska NELA has regrouped under new board leadership, and Arkansas NELA is working to rebuild its numbers. When those organizations have grown more substantially, we look forward to a future bi-annual conference site in Little Rock or Omaha.
While we are organized around the Eighth Circuit, we recognize that not everyone in the circuit practices heavily in federal court. As such, we add content to the seminars that is not specific to federal court practice, and we include break-out sessions for state law practitioners. For future conferences we will make more scholarships available to new attorneys who want to attend, and we are looking at other ways in which we can benefit our own Affiliates who have launched us on this path.

If there are other Affiliate leaders who are interested in organizing a circuit group or conference, you may contact Chuck Friedman
for more information. In the meantime, the Eighth Circuit NELA Board extends a “thank you” to all of our supporters, and may we strive for continued success and opportunity for all of our Affiliate members.