THE CHAIRS’ CORNER: Thanks for Being a Member

Vol. 29 No. 4


Benes Z. Aldana is 2012–2013 Chair of the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division and is a Captain in the U.S. Coast Guard, currently serving as the Chief of Legal Engagements for United States Africa Command in Stuttgart, Germany.

Thank you for choosing the American Bar Association General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division. As we move forward in the new Bar Year, we will continue (as my predecessor, Laura V. Farber, did in so many ways) to focus on making your membership in a 30,000-strong network valuable to you and your practice.

One initiative that has proven to be of great value to our members over the past six years is the National Solo & Small Firm Conference (NSSFC)—it has truly become the premier gathering of solo and small firm practitioners in the nation. At this annual conference, we bring together lawyers from across the country for some of the best programming, networking, and public service available.

This year will be no exception—but it will be special. We are proud to be hosting the 2012 NSSFC to coincide with the Division’s Fall Meeting, October 11 to 13, in my home city of Seattle, Washington. The Emerald City is nestled amid one of nature’s most beautiful settings, abutting the great Puget Sound (which gives way to the largest ferry system in the United States) and surrounded by snow-capped mountains, including majestic Mt. Rainier. Seattle is known as a futuristic city, with its iconic World’s Fair Space Needle (also celebrating its 50th anniversary), but it is grounded in the past, celebrating its rich Native American history and remaining today, as during the nineteenth-century Gold Rush, the launching point for exploration of the Alaskan frontier. (Of course, instead of launching rickety ships filled with prospectors, Seattle’s docks now host exotic cruise liners filled with Floridians.)

The second and most important reason why 2012 is so special is because it marks the 50th anniversary of our great Division. That’s right, 50 years of serving solo and small firm lawyers and being the voice of those lawyers in the ABA and across the nation.

That’s why this year, with your help, we plan to make the NSSFC the grandest and most well attended, fun, relevant, and memorable conference we’ve ever had. From Thursday’s welcome reception in the Space Needle (wait until you see the view!), to some 24 credit hours of CLE programming on Friday and Saturday, to the spectacular 50th Anniversary Gala on Friday night, I am as excited about this conference as any I’ve ever attended.

The CLE and practice development programming at the NSSFC will be split into three separate tracks: Professional Development (including “Building Your Own Firm” and “Marketing Yourself Through Social Media”), Technology (including “60 Tips in 60 Minutes” and a tutorial on how to use your iPad in court to select a jury), and Basic Skills 101–201 (including “Bankruptcy for the Non-Lawyer” and “The Killer Cross-Examination” by renown Washington state litigator Jack Connelly Jr.). You’ll be able to move back and forth between rooms, picking particular sessions among the three different tracks—or choose all the sessions in a single track without concern that one program will conflict with another. Full programming information is available at

Pricing for GPSolo members for the Fall Meeting and National Solo & Small Firm Conference is only $275—which will give you one and one-half days of programming, as well as networking, a welcome reception at the Space Needle, the 50th Anniversary Gala dinner, two breakfasts, and one lunch.

One other item of great importance to the Division is the public service project that we work on each year. In the 2011–2012 Bar Year, Laura Farber helped initiate and steer the Division’s involvement with Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). My commitment as Chair for 2012–2013 is to carry that KIND torch, expanding the program from the context of immigration defense to include work to end the domestic trafficking of women and children (under the ABA Rule of Law Initiative’s Anti–Human Trafficking Program). For our meeting in Seattle, we are coordinating a multipronged informational and training session to address this very serious domestic problem, which some view as an epidemic and which all agree must be eradicated. We expect members of the local, state, and federal enforcement community along with the members of the bar and the judiciary to attend and help shed light on the growing problem and difficulties in identification and enforcement.

As a Washingtonian and Seattleite, I am proud of my diverse and eclectic home state and city. And as incoming Chair of the Division, I am proud of our membership and its commitment to public service and am hopeful that we will have record attendance at our Fall Meeting so that we can continue to serve your needs, hear your voice, and be reflective of your energy in the community.


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