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What happens when you put thousands of lawyers in one place? San Francisco is finding out, as the city plays host to the American Bar Association’s annual meeting. Lawyers from around the country are still converging on San Francisco to vote on various ABA resolutions, attend legal seminars and network at the after-hours parties that will take place over the next several days. On Thursday morning, the first day of the conference, there was just a hint of the imminent onslaught of attorneys. The bulk of the convention kicks off today. Small groups of lawyers, dressed in everything from seersucker to Armani, gradually shuffled into the Moscone Center to register for the conference. A diverse group of vendors had already set up shop in tidy rows of stalls a few feet away from the check-in area. Alongside booths for Lexis, WestLaw and the American Arbitration Association, cell phone vendors and luggage merchants greeted the incoming lawyers. “It’s very nice to leave 105-degree weather” and emerge in San Francisco’s cooler climate, said John Clark, an attorney and municipal court judge from Dallas who had taken off his shoes to try out an electric foot massager. “The kooky people on the streets are fun,” he added with a chuckle. Hafiz Rehman, a law professor and senior advocate in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, said he traveled to the United States for the ABA conference and to take a vacation. Looking over the schedule of events with a colleague, he flagged seminars on dispute resolution and family law as being of particular interest. “These programs will be very beneficial,” said Rehman. The ABA meeting, the first in San Francisco since 1997, is expected to have 12,000 to 14,000 attendees this year, according to Mark Theis, the vice president of the convention division of the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau. It’s hardly the largest convention in San Francisco. That distinction belongs to MacWorld, which draws between 70,000 and 90,000 people every January. In fact, the legal gathering is outnumbered by several other professional conventions, including the American Dental Association, which boasts close to 40,000 attendees, and the National Association of Realtors, which has a little more than 20,000 people. But lawyers, who often have expense accounts, have a much bigger impact on the local economy than visitors from some of the other conventions. The ABA meeting is expected to add $26 million to the San Francisco economy, accounting for a total of nearly 40,000 hotel room nights in the city, Theis said. At the ABA Expo, there was no shortage of entrepreneurs looking to get a piece of the action. The Men’s Wearhouse was on hand, with a handful of sharply dressed mannequins and a representative armed with 10 percent discount cards for ABA members. A company called GeneTree distributed free DNA specimen collection kits to show-goers. Because ABA convention rules prohibit the use of microphones and loudspeaker equipment, the show floor lacked some the over-the-top, carnivalesque atmosphere that characterizes other conventions, where thumping music and scantily clad “booth babes” are standard features. But at least three mini putt-putt golf holes — another convention staple — of varying difficulty were on hand at different companies’ booths, and the standard trade-show currency of free pens and trinkets were ubiquitous. One of the most popular attractions at the ABA Expo appeared to be Neal Portnoy, a wise-cracking caricature artist working out of the Iron Mountain booth. A slew of celebrities, including former 49ers quarterback Joe Montana and Golden State Warrior Adonal Foyle, are scheduled to appear at the conference. Famed O.J. Simpson-trial attorney Robert Shapiro was scheduled to make an appearance Thursday afternoon for the launch of his new company, ProxiLaw, which also has a booth at the show.

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