by Lucinda Bromfield, BPP University Law School
The title is slightly facetious, but the conference really is what I did on my holidays. Shielding during covid, then continuing to work from home meant I’ve not been out much for a few years. Going to London felt like a far bigger undertaking than it was when I used to do it a few times a week. But I packed my semi-smart clothes, climbed into the Megabus and then fretted for two and a half hours. I’d not been to a conference for five years and I’d only ever been to one small one. What if I’d forgotten how to do social interactions? Was it ok to wear trainers? What if I couldn’t work the tech? What if what if what if…
Of course, getting to the conference did not go as planned. A gas leak meant I needed to get off the bus and walk the rest of the way. I swear the 30 minute walk took about 300 years as I got very lost and dragged my way uphill to the venue. I arrived hot, sweaty and very thankful for the kind welcome from the students running the reception table. As I got my label I was greeted by other arrivals. Everyone seemed both cheerful and nice, and nobody looked surprised at my disheveled state – we’re either the most polite or the most unobservant bunch.
A couple of coffees and some chat later I was feeling much more the thing, but still so nervous I couldn’t take advantage of the offered breakfast. My nerves were partly because I hadn’t spoken live in public for a long time, but also because this was my first time sharing my results. As A. A. Milne has Winnie-the-Pooh remark “…you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”. Maybe my results weren’t as Thingish as I thought they were.
Dr. Emma Jones’ introductory remarks about her first ALT conference pretty much nailed how I was feeling. Her assurance that the atmosphere was supportive, and that it was joyous meeting people interested in the same things was immensely reassuring. Luckily, I was in the first batch of speakers so didn’t have to be nervous for long. In fact, I got so caught up in the presentation before mine that I forgot my nerves, though they returned when I got up to speak. I needn’t have worried. A very competent student called Zoe was on hand to help with tech, and the audience was one of the most forgiving and engaged I have ever experienced.
A nice thing about giving a paper is that people come and talk to you about it. Several attendees shared their experiences with me, which was brilliant. I had many useful discussions that added, and continue to add, to my work and made connections that I hope to stay in touch with and perhaps even collaborate with at some point.
Legal education can be tiring and isolating. Fundamentally, teaching and research are mainly solo pursuits and the daily grind of academic life can make you lose track of what teaching is really about. I cannot recommend attending the ALT conference highly enough as a counter-balance. You get to try out your ideas, explore new ideas and meet kindred spirits with the result that you return to the day job reinvigorated. So next year, go on, propose a paper or just go to the ball. If your organisation won’t fund you, the ALT could act as your fairy godmother – there may be grants available depending on your circumstances. Oh, and it’s completely ok to wear trainers.