AILA’s Annual Conference – #AILAAC18 – is almost upon us.  In June, about 4,000 immigration law practitioners and experts will converge in beautiful downtown San Francisco to present, discuss, and learn the most effective ways to practice immigration law in these unprecedented and turbulent times.

Writing this piece as AILA AC Conference Chair brings back memories of my first AC, back in 2000 in Chicago. At the time, I was a solo practitioner with a very limited budget to attend conferences.  I wanted to go, but I had to go small.  I opted to stay at a motel, which was a metro ride away from the conference hotel.  I didn’t splurge on anything and basically had a very low dollar footprint. I had to rush back and forth, and while I regretted not staying at the conference hotel many times, the experience was so worth it.

For me, the Chicago AC had a remarkable return on my investment (ROI).  Aside from helping me improve on my skill sets as an immigration lawyer, I met colleagues from all over the country and the far corners of the world.  Some of those people have now been my friends for years.  We collaborate regularly on legal issues as well as serve as each other’s source for referrals in our local jurisdictions.  That fateful Chicago trip, in a way, infused the concept of “economies of scale” I had learned in business school into my solo immigration practice.  I instantly felt like a bigger fish!

Eighteen years later, our current AILA President, Annaluisa Padilla, provided me with the opportunity to organize this year’s conference, which I immediately accepted.  The 2018 AC Committee had its first meeting as soon as it was created – during the Annual Conference last year in New Orleans.  As a committee, we set out two top priorities: Maximize the ROI for the small or solo practitioner and celebrate AILA’s inherent diverse demographics.

I am proud that our committee succeeded in achieving both goals.  The conference program contains more than 150 sessions from Wednesday through Saturday (no one said you wouldn’t be busy when you attend!).  The conference presenters are diverse, not only geographically, but also in many other ways.  Finally, as a first for AILA, we look forward to celebrating the Muslim holiday of Eit-al-Fitr, which this year, falls during the conference.

Here’s a sneak preview of what’s in store for you in San Francisco:

  • The conference will start earlier than ever. All substantive panels on every track will commence promptly at 12 PM on Wednesday June 13th;
  • We enhanced networking opportunities by allowing more time in between sessions;
  • Healthy minds and bodies are conducive to healthier law practices, so we’ve scheduled dance and yoga classes each day before the morning panels.
  • “AILA Inspires Series” debuts at the 2018 AC. These are “Ted-Talk”-type lectures by industry giants with the goal of energizing our community into becoming better and more zealous advocates;
  • AILA will provide a designated prayer room, refreshments to break the daily fast, and the option of a halal food menu at Thursday evening’s Presidents Reception at AT&T Park for your entire family to celebrate Eit-al-Fitr.

So whether you work as a solo practitioner, in a small office (as I do), or are venturing from larger law firms, register to attend #AILAAC18 this June. The ROI on this conference will impress you, and San Francisco will amaze you.  See you in June!