The Procurement Lawyer

News from the Chair

by Aaron P. Silberman

Aaron P. 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.


For my last Chair’s column, I’ve decided to follow Jack Torrence’s advice from The Shining (played by Jack Nicholson): “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” My previous columns have been about serious topics (politics and the Section, time management, and membership). This one’s going to be about serious fun. Think of this as the summer Hollywood blockbuster of Chair’s columns — perhaps not worthy of a “Pachter” (the Section equivalent of an Oscar), but a fun diversion.

While this year has been a lot of work for me as Section Chair, it has also been a lot of fun. This is no surprise. Over my years being involved with the Section, I’ve found many opportunities to have a great time, while still getting serious work done. Sometimes we forget how important it is that the Section is fun. It’s what keeps our members, attendees, and readers coming back. You may be able to get great government contract law content and useful networking in other places, but where else do you get to groan at Stu Nibley’s jokes, sight see all across North America with Herman Levy, or listen to Jennifer Dauer and Paul Pompeo sing songs about procurement? Nowhere else, that’s where.

The first Section program I attended was at the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco at the turn of the millennium. While my memory (and the papyrus scrolls) regarding that meeting have faded, I sensed even then that this was “the beginning of a beautiful friendship” (Casablanca). I attended my first committee meeting (Procurement Fraud) and met many Section leaders and members I still see and count as friends.

While the only arduous travel for that meeting was walking up Nob Hill from my office to the hotel, I’ve had a great time at all the Annual Meetings we’ve hosted in my adopted home. Filling up on dim sum, then eating the same amount at least two more times, is a tradition of that meeting. One year, after a great Section reception at the City Club, I led an adventurous group (yes, I understated the walk) through North Beach to my favorite Belgian beer bar, where Paul Van Maldeghem — who was stationed for years in Belgium — gave me a guided tour through the beer menu (a binder!). I’m excited to have the Section back here in 2019. Rochefort 10 anyone?

Of course, one of the great things about Section meetings is all the interesting places we go: “Staying Weird” with Cheryl Burtzel in Austin, TX; “Laissez les bon temps rouler” with Gerard Wimberly in New Orleans; trying to keep up with the wily Wiley gang in Toronto; going “aloha-style” in Honolulu (why not every meeting?); and many more.

In this past year, I’ve had fun at four Section programs. First, we had our Fall Program in Louisville, KY. New location, lots of new friends, including Carrie Willett, who gave me a taste of her family’s excellent bourbon (a sure way to get mentioned in this column, by the way). The trip started quite well, as I got to watch LA lose game 7 of the World Series, sitting right next to Rick Ostiller, a life-long Dodgers fan. A large group of us went bourbon tasting and another group went out for “hot browns” — a sandwich that, in my expert medical opinion, surely undid all the health benefits of the fine bourbon.

Next, it was our Section’s annual visit to colonial Annapolis for the Federal Procurement Institute. I’ve had so many great times there over the years — visiting the Naval Academy, skipping the ethics panel for espresso with Dave and Chris Ehrhart (while never claiming CLE hours, which I know would be unethical, even though I skipped the session), no-host dinners, sneaking a peak at NCAA tournament scores (I’m happy for Michael Mutek every few years or so when Dayton gets in). Thanks to Alan Peterson, Greg Bingham, and Cheryl (“Gollie Gee”) LeeVan, and their generous firms, I’m always sure to get awesome lump-meat crab cakes, and this year was no exception.

In April, I was in Detroit for our State and Local Procurement Symposium. That town is really starting to come back! Although my baseball plans were thwarted due to rain for the second year in a row (last year, it was St. Louis), we had a great night out in Greektown – ouzo, saganki, Opa!, repeat. I also doubled down, with a taste test of “coneys” between Lafayette and American; I vote Lafayette (and do not recommend doing both in the same calendar year).

In May (yes, that was three Section programs for me in three consecutive months), I was in the DC area for our first ever public construction program at the AGC Federal Contractors Conference. Another great event, with lots of familiar faces and new people. Great Indian food in Dupont Circle with Susan Eccles, Eric Nelson, and more.

And, finally, coming up, my last meeting as Chair — the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago. I’m so grateful for the many opportunities the Section has given me to visit that town. The Cubs at Wrigley, deep dish pizza, Italian beef sandwiches, blues clubs, the Art Institute, Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, architecture boat tour, and on it goes. I know I’ll have another memorable visit this August (especially after I hand over the gavel!). I’m looking forward to seeing many of you, and meeting some more, then.

Thanks for a great year.
Aaron P. Silberman, Chair