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A PAL OF THE PRESS Solo practitioner Robert Becker didn’t set out to be a lawyer, but when the Hartford Times folded in 1976 and he was out of a reporting job, he decided to take the Law School Admission Test. At first, he thought that his studies at the University of Connecticut School of Law would develop skills he would use as a reporter. But after he became a staff attorney and assistant director of publications in 1982 at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, he was hooked. “That’s really where I wanted to go, rather than find another reporting job.” Becker went into private practice in 1991 and serves a variety of clients, including criminal defendants in court-appointed cases. But it is his commitment to press freedom that earned him the 2003 Distinguished Service Award from the D.C. Society of Professional Journalists at its annual Dateline Awards dinner June 10. Becker serves on the organization’s board of directors and helped lobby Congress on press freedom issues. He is currently working with local media organizations on cases involving the arrest of student journalists at Washington, D.C. protests, and frequently provides training on legal matters in the developing world. His work, he feels, is even more pressing since Sept. 11. “I see a general attack on civil liberties in the guise of protecting us from terrorism . . . what [the events of September 11] succeeded in doing is making this a far less open society.” � Alicia Upano THE RIGHT CHEMISTRY James Aidala, the assistant administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances during the Bill Clinton administration, is the most recent hire at D.C.’s 11-lawyer Bergeson & Campbell. Aidala, who isn’t a lawyer, will be a senior government consultant for the firm and vice president of policy and government affairs for Bergeson & Campbell’s consulting spinoff, the Acta Group. “Jim is a well-known personality in the agribusiness and industrial chemical communities,” says name partner Lynn Bergeson, adding, “We believe that his policy and government affairs background are a perfect complement to the legal and science policy skills we now offer.” Before serving as the OPPTS assistant administrator, Aidala served as its associate assistant administrator. He has also worked for the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources. “I was given the opportunity to expand the consulting side of the business. That’s where my skills are value-added,” says Aidala, who brings a sense of humor to the job as well as a knowledge of chemicals. He is a founding member of the comedy troupe The Capital Steps, which currently has a new album, “Between Iraq and a Hard Place.” � Joel Chineson LICENSE KILLED? Although the D.C. Council voted earlier this month to repeal the legislation authorizing the District’s master business license, the vote was taken after the bill’s first reading and thus, according to D.C. Council rules, will have to be taken again. If the body again votes to kill the MBL, the repeal legislation must be signed by Mayor Anthony Williams and then be passed on to Capitol Hill for a 30-day review period. Speculating on the future of the MBL, D.C. solo practitioner Nicholas Cobbs, the point man on the MBL for the D.C. Bar’s Law Practice Management Section, says, “You’re fairly safe to say it’s history for the moment, but I don’t know that it’s history down the line.” Cobbs believes that the outcome of the second D.C. Council vote, which will come possibly as early as next month, will lead to the repeal of the MBL legislation. But, he says, “what happens next year, when everybody has licked their wounds, is anyone’s guess.” The D.C. Council voted to repeal by a tight, 7-6 vote. Pointing to this slim margin, Cobbs says he wouldn’t be surprised to see the MBL reintroduced next year. The license was intended to be required of all businesses, including law firms, in the District’s commercial zones, and some businesses obtained the now-unneeded license. “It seems to me that the District is not in a rush to return the fees,” says Cobbs, who wonders if some legal battles over this issue are in the offing. � Joel Chineson BOOK OF BUSINESS The latest edition of Chambers USA Guide to America’s Leading Business Lawyers, which ranks law firms and individual lawyers, became available last month. Compiled by the London-based publisher Chambers and Partners, the volume proves that you don’t necessarily have to be a large firm to make an impression. The publisher says the guide’s researchers conducted more than 4,500 interviews with private practitioners and in-house counsel before making their selections. Among the smaller District firms spotlighted for their excellence were Baptiste & Wilder; Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis; Kalijarvi, Chuzi & Newman; Lawler, Metzger & Milkman; Levine, Blaszak, Block & Boothby; Levine, Sullivan, Koch & Schultz; and Sprenger & Lang. � Joel Chineson

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