Report from Governmental Affairs

Bar leaders at ABA Day spend a lot of time on the Hill—and that’s just how they want it


William Weisenberg was presented a Grassroots Advocacy Award by ABA President Laurel Bellows.

When leaders of the ABA and representatives of other bar associations from around the United States descend on Capitol Hill for a few days every spring, they are all business as they lobby members of Congress on issues of importance to the legal profession and the justice system.

The three-day lobbying event—held April 16-18 this year—helps bar leaders build important relationships with congressional delegations and lays the groundwork for advocacy of ABA policies on Capitol Hill, says Linda A. Klein of Atlanta, who chairs the ABA Day in Washington Planning Committee.

“Like members of Congress, lawyers strive to promote greater understanding of how proposed rules and legislation will affect everyday life,” says Klein, a past chair of the ABA House of Delegates and managing shareholder in the Georgia offices of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz. “That is why lawyers are in a unique position to offer assistance to their representatives.”

The Law Library of Congress offered a rare treat when it opened its collection of rare historical documents to the group for a private display and tour.

ABA Day in Washington is coordinated by the association’s Governmental Affairs Office and co-sponsored by the Section Officers Conference and the Young Lawyers Division, along with the National Conference of Bar Presidents and the National Association of Bar Executives. Now in its 17th year, the event drew more than 350 bar leaders from every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

In conjunction with ABA Day, the association presented the Congressional Justice Awards—recognizing support for issues of critical importance to the administration of justice—to Sens. Michael D. Crapo, R-Idaho, Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; and Reps. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., and Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y.

The ABA also presented its Grassroots Advocacy Awards for 2013 to William K. Weisenberg, the assistant executive director for public affairs for the Ohio State Bar Association, who serves on the Standing Committee on Governmental Affairs and the ABA Day Planning Committee; and Kevin L. Shepherd, a partner at the Venable law firm in Baltimore, who has worked to prevent money laundering while protecting the confidentiality of lawyer-client relationships. Shepherd chairs the Task Force on Gatekeeper Regulation and the Profession.

This report is written by the ABA Governmental Affairs Office and discusses advocacy efforts by the ABA relating to issues being addressed by Congress and the executive branch of the federal government. Rhonda McMillion is editor of ABA Washington Letter, a Governmental Affairs Office publication.

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