(Posted September 21, 2018) After months of planning and preparation, the Virginia Appellate Summit came off seamlessly yesterday. Generously hosted by the Richmond office of McGuireWoods, this is the year’s largest gathering of Virginia’s appellate bar. And it’ll be the largest of next year, too, because this program generally only runs once every three years or so.

A quick word about the history of the summit: The first one was in 2008. We expected perhaps two dozen attendees back then, and were pleasantly surprised to get about 60. The second, in 2011, attracted a little over 70, and as word spread of what a terrific program it is, the 2015 edition drew over 80. Yesterday, 92 attendees assembled for the most advanced appellate programming offered in the Commonwealth. Since the capacity of the room was, I’m told, 94, I regard that as basically a sellout crowd.

The summit offers advanced-level programming. (This is not Appeals 101; for that, Virginia CLE offers a terrific introductory program, also on roughly a triennial cycle.) Panelists included some of the finest appellate practitioners in Virginia and Washington, DC, plus jurists from all three appellate courts that sit in Richmond. The program offered fascinating insight, a few new ideas, and plenty of laughter.

We had one new feature this year: three roundtable discussions over lunch. Chief Staff Attorneys Lori Lord and Alice Armstrong briefed one section on finality issues, something that’s particularly timely with the new rule changes. Rosemary Bourne and Dave Hargett discussed criminal appeals, and Norman Thomas and I talked to a packed conference room on how to build and develop an appellate practice of your own.

The title to this essay identifies yesterday’s program as “the Virginia one,” because there’s another one coming up: The ABA Appellate Summit looms in November, and there’s plenty of time to register. It’ll convene in Atlanta, and offers the best appellate training there is in America. This, too, is advanced programming; they assume that you already know what an appeal is and how to drive one. My best guess is that the Virginia MCLE Board will approve it for somewhere between 12 and 14 hours of credit – a full year’s obligation in one weekend.

One customary summit feature is an optional tour Friday afternoon. Some of these tours are can’t-miss, such as the one in Dallas in 2015 where a handful of lucky guests got a reception and guided tour of Brian Garner’s private library. In Philly the next year, I signed up for a walking tour of the historic area – got to pay up-close respects to Ben and Betsy and all the signers of the Declaration. This year’s excursions include a visit to the College Football Hall of Fame, the High Museum of Art, or the Tom Houck Civil Rights Tour.

This will be – oh, I dunno, about my seventh or eighth ABA Summit, and each one has fully justified the time and cost. Treat yourself to an unparalleled experience, and go.