I straddle a number of very different work environments every day all of which give me a very different perspective on many things. Some readers find this refreshing, others find it annoying or threatening.
As a writer hanging out with many different types of writers, discussions often crop up about getting paid for services rendered. Of concern to many writers is that more and more writers are willing to write for free, which drives down the value of writing – which in turn, drives down the already low living standard for most writers.
Harlan Ellison, well-known for his rants on many subjects, very deftly addresses this issue here.
The same applies to those of us who make a living through speaking engagements.
The legal profession is notorious for not paying speakers at speaking events – or for giving them a “token gift”. And with the Ontario CPD requirement, the number of speaking events will only increase. Many speakers are happy to speak without a fee at academic events, or at not-for-profit events, or at events that are free for spectators. However, many CPD and non-CPD events are revenue-generating events created by paid event planners.
So the questions become:
“Why should event planners be paid and speakers should not?”
"Why should anyone make money from a speaker who speaks for free?"
I don't believe that spectators pay event fees – in some cases huge fees – for event planning expertise. They are willing to pay these fees because the true value of the event is in the speakers they come to hear. Keep in mind that at many conferences speakers are also asked to prepare a paper! Again for no fee!
Legal event planners make a living by asking speakers to work for free – and no one raises a fuss.
And surprisingly, lawyers who otherwise meticulously bill clients for every second they spend on a file, no matter how trivial, readily prepare papers and speak for no fee.
Have we all gone mad?
Of course, many will say that law firms indirectly subsidize their lawyers who speak at these events. These lawyers still get their salary or draw, as the firm sees some promotional benefit, so there is little personal cost to the lawyers.
However this has a trickle-down effect to those of us who make a living by speaking – we are now expected to speak for free because the market no longer places any value on the information that we prepare and disseminate.
And I’m not alone. Kung Fu Grippe has a far more aggressive post on this matter here.
So I ask you, as you write cheques for events that you must go to for CPD credits, or for events that promise to make you smarter and better lawyers, think about where that money is going – are you paying for event-planning or for information?