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ICSC U.S. Law Conference 2021

The 51st Annual International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) U.S. Law Conference was held earlier this month in San Francisco from November 3 – 5, 2021. Chaired by our own David Rabinowitz, the event hosted more than 700 members of the retail industry, including counsel from outside law firms, in-house counsel, and paralegals to name a few.

While attendance was down from pre-pandemic numbers, the engaged crowd brought great enthusiasm and excitement to an event that had not been held in person since 2019. It was an unfamiliar experience to reunite in one space after all of this time. That said, between careful guidelines imposed by the ICSC and San Francisco, the Conference felt safe as mask compliance was strong.

The Conference offered 63 sessions, 135 speakers, and about 40 breakfast roundtables, along with a Diversity Reception, First Timers’ Reception, Speakers’ Reception, and a Welcome Reception. 

Tom McGee, President and CEO of ICSC, shared remarks about the state of the industry, as well as the future direction of ICSC. Additionally, James Whittaker, Distinguished Engineer and Entrepreneur, was captivating in his keynote discussion about the evolution of technology over the past 30 years and the possibilities for the future.

Goulston & Storrs attorneys also made an impact at the Conference. Derek Domian provided an update on COVID litigation during a General Session, covering the history of the doctrines of impossibility and frustration of purpose to current force majeure provisions and interpretations. The room was full of practitioners trying to understand how best to protect their clients.

Additionally, Melissa Rivers, Co-Chair of the Goulston & Storrs Retail Industry Group, facilitated an interactive and well-received Peer to Peer session on Grocery Store leases. Focused on controversies and the impacts of the “new normal” on the grocery business, Melissa explored use provisions, commons area rights, exclusives, and restrictions.

All sessions were well attended, and there was a general buzz that those who made the trip to the Conference craved this in-person experience given their level of engagement in each session. 

Beyond the formal program, there were a number of informal gatherings. It was truly invigorating to see so many colleagues and contacts come back together and continue the tradition of this amazing in-person conference. While ICSC presented a fabulous virtual conference in 2020, it was clear that all of the attendees are hopeful we can return to “normal” and connect in person, put names and faces together, and discuss industry and deal issues live and face-to-face.