I’ve just returned from a quick trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico. I travelled there to deliver a three-hour presentation on e-discovery as part of a day of education commemorating the 50th anniversary of Article III federal courts on the island. It’s a trip that’s been in the works for some time, and an event about which I was more than usually anxious and discreet. Part of my anxiety stemmed from three hours being a LOOOONG time for an audience to listen to one voice, especially when the topic is somewhat esoteric and technical. My time slot was the three hour block smack in the middle of the day. Too, there were more than 500 people in attendance, and I wanted it to be the performance of a lifetime.
But the principle reasons for my anxiety weren’t the numbers in attendance or the fact that the luminaries attending were a constellation of island leaders, including, the entire federal bench, several justices of the Puerto Rican Supreme Court, the Attorney General and a huge chunk of the federal bar–really the cream of the profession in any jurisdiction.
I was keyed up because of the other out-of-town speakers flanking my talk. It was the most “rock star” program of my life–and I’ve done almost 1,800 presentations at programs of this nature. The speaker immediately preceding me was James Comey, the Director of the FBI and the speakers following me were U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and First Circuit Chief Judge Jeffrey Howard. My solo time at the podium was as much as all of their times put together. Yikes!
I didn’t tell many people of my role in advance of the event. I was conscious of the security implications, and I didn’t want to be left with egg on my face if I boasted that I was going to be hanging with Jimmy, Jeff and Sonia and it turned out they didn’t show up. After all, it’s a long flight, it’s hurricane season and this Monday is the First Monday in October, the start of the U.S. Supreme Court’s term.
Happily, they all did show up, and they brought their “A” games. Justice Sotomayor was a genius at working the room. She began her remarks from the stage, but quickly gravitated to the ballroom floor of the Ritz Carlton, walking among the tables responding to questions from the crowd. She shifted fluidly between English and Puerto Rican Spanish (though a native New Yorker from Washington Heights, both of Justice Sotomayor’s parents were Puerto Rican). Justice Sotomayor was warm, funny and inspiring. The pride and affection of every attendee was palpable. She wasn’t just a rock star; she was the Rolling Stones, Beyoncé and José Feliciano in one feisty, friendly lady.
My own admiration was further stoked by Justice Sotomayor graciously posing for photos with me and by her generous comments about my presentation. I didn’t even realize she’d listened! I haven’t experienced anything quite so elating since my then 12-year-old son, Madison, became a Jeopardy champ ten years ago and, before that, in law school in 1981 when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron White presented my moot court partner and I with the award for Best Brief and signed it for us.
It was a fantastic crowd. They remained attentive through 361 slides of my PowerPoint and laughed in all the right places. Afterward, many took the time to approach me to heap praise on my talk, more than one effusively calling it, ‘the best CLE presentation [they’d] ever seen.” I think my most gratifying review came from a young busboy who very timidly approached me at a break to express his joy and astonishment that, listening from the wings, he could understand the technical topics I covered. That took some moxie on his part, especially considering the place was teeming with stony-faced guys with concealed weapons and curly earpieces.
Thanks for letting me brag. It’s unbecoming to toot my horn this way, but it was a unique opportunity, and a milestone. I don’t know how anything that follows could equal it, unless Hillary Clinton seeks a White House briefing on electronic evidence. Madame President, if you’ve got the time, I’ve got the slides!