Based on past numbers, will SBM’s 2013 Lansing meeting be a bust or a blowout?

In two days, the State Bar of Michigan will open the doors at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids for its Annual Meeting and Solo & Small Firm Institute. And in looking at the below numbers for the past 10 years’ attendance, it’s apparent that Furniture City has been a popular destination for the event. So far, this year looks no different.

Now, it could be because the West Michigan legal delegation doesn’t have to drive so far, or maybe it’s that out-of-town attendees get a chance to take a working vacation (there’s some little thing called ArtPrize going on out there).

When the meeting’s been in Dearborn, at the now-in-limbo Hyatt Regency, the numbers have been healthy, too. Last year, in fact, was the State Bar’s strongest turnout in 10 years.

But what’s telling is that when the meeting was held in Lansing in 2003-05, attendance didn’t even break the 1,000 mark. Take a gander:

• 2002 — 1,362, Grand Rapids

• 2003 — 907, Lansing

• 2004 — 935, Lansing

• 2005 — 843, Lansing

• 2006 — 1,107, Ypsilanti

• 2007 — 1,351, Grand Rapids

• 2008 — 1,326, Dearborn

• 2009 — 1,387, Dearborn

• 2010 — 1,289, Grand Rapids

• 2011 — 1,467, Dearborn

• 2012 — 1,060 registered as of Sept. 17, with an estimated 1,300-1500 total registration, Grand Rapids

And guess where it’s taking place next year? Yep. Our capital city.

Logistically, meeting its members halfway, so to speak, isn’t a bad idea. It’s only about an hour’s drive from either Grand Rapids or Dearborn, and as the membership numbers show, the majority of members are practicing in either Kent County or the metro Detroit area.

Though there’s no concrete data explaining why turnout in Lansing was so low last decade (even Ypsilanti got better numbers in its 2006 stint), State Bar spokeswoman Samantha Meinke has a sunny disposition on next year. In the eight years since the last Lansing meeting, she said that downtown’s Lansing Center, where the 2013 meeting will be, has undergone a major structural transformation.

“We’re hoping that’s going to make a big difference in our numbers,” she said.

As it’s looking now, incoming State Bar President Bruce Courtade has a sizeable audience once he takes the oath Thursday. We’ll just have to wait and see if Brian Einhorn can say the same when he’s sworn in as 2013-14 president.

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