Aaron Silberman is a shareholder at Rogers Joseph O’Donnell in San Francisco, in its Government Contracts and Construction Practice Groups. He is the current chair of the American Bar Association Section of Public Contract Law and a past chair of its Construction and State & Local Procurement Divisions.
I just got a reminder email from my editor that my chair’s column is due in two weeks. That’s two days after I’m scheduled to start a jury trial (can’t count on it settling). I’m sure you could guess what my first reaction was (Hint: It began with “Oh.”).
My second reaction was that this gave me a great opportunity to think and write about how we all can and should fit the Section into our busy law practices and lives. It seems that technology has only expanded expectations for how much time we must spend on our “day jobs” — apparently the term now refers to 24 hours, as in being reachable and available 24/7. At law firms, billable hours requirements are not coming down, much less going away, and 9-to-5 corporate and government in-house jobs appear to be things of the past.
So, how can you fit the Section into your busy life, and why should you? It’s easy! By my math, if you work even 10 hours a day, and sleep a solid 8 hours, that still leaves 6 hours a day for the Section!
But seriously, it has never been easier to enjoy the benefits of the Section, even with demanding schedules in the rest of your work and non-work lives. We have 21 active substantive committees in our Procurement Division. Most have regular monthly meetings, with amazing presentations (by both members and guests) and discussions on the hottest of topics. Virtually all of these meetings have a dial-in option, many with informative slides or written materials distributed in advance. You can save a lot of time by staying up-to-date from your desk.
We are also producing more high-quality state barapproved CLE programs via webinars than ever before. We had government contracts IP and cybersecurity webinars in December, had bid protests and false claims webinars in January, and will have “The Most Important Government Contracts Related Decisions of 2017” and “Navigating Small Business and Disadvantaged Business Opportunities” in February. Most of us have CLE requirements to meet; all of us need to stay current on the latest legal developments in government contracts law and practice. Through the Section, you can do both — in your bathrobe at home, if need be.
Want to fit some Section benefits into those times you are on a train or plane or ships at sea — even when the Wi-Fi does not work as promised? (I’m thinking unkindly of a specific airline I will not name.) If so, you should know that we have really upped our game in publications. We have continued the Section’s great traditions of state-of-the-art legal pieces, both practical and scholarly, in both The Procurement Lawyer (my column notwithstanding) and The Public Contract Law Journal. On top of that, we have produced and continue producing must-have books on critical public contract law issues. Our newest book, The False Claims Act and Government Contracts: The Intersection of Federal Government Contracts, Administrative Law and Civil Fraud, is fantastic and now available for purchase, as is our recent new edition of Government Contract Law: The Deskbook for Procurement Professionals. We also have new titles on suspension and debarment, contract claims, and international government procurement coming soon, and book projects on supply contract flowdowns and small business programs underway. You can enjoy and benefit from the expertise of our great volunteer authors and editors almost anywhere and anytime (so long as the lighting’s good) by reading our periodicals and books. (And don’t forget the discounted book rates for Section members!)
Last but not least, I believe the greatest benefits of Section membership come from personal interaction with Section members. Remote access is great, and a necessity, but so is good, old- ashioned human contact. While it still takes a time commitment to attend our inperson Section programs and Council Meetings, we’ve taken steps to make it easier to fit those in, too. We are including technology issues, like the availability of Wi-Fi and electrical outlets, in our venue evaluation and selection process. As we schedule our programs, we are also keeping in mind travel times (central locations with nonstop flights, especially from areas with the highest Section member concentrations) and location desirability (so you can combine business with pleasure, even bring your partner or family along). In the Federal Procurement Institute, we already have one program and meeting regularly near D.C., and we are working on a federal construction contracting program in D.C. this May. Our programs are shaping up to be great for the State & Local Procurement Symposium and the ABA Annual Meeting, to be held in easy-to- get-to Detroit in April and Chicago in August, respectively. After reading a new Section publication on the plane when the Wi-Fi doesn’t work, you can get CLE, network, and meet over important legal, industry, and Section issues, all while dashing out to take a call on your cell phone or sneaking off for a quick email exchange with your unlucky colleague who did not get to attend.
In summary, fitting in the Section is doable and worth it. If I can write this column with days to go before trial (it hasn’t settled since I started writing), then you too can get the many benefits of Section membership while working your day job and, yes, even having a life.