President's Message

ABA Day is a chance to lobby Capitol Hill for support on key legal issues

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Photo of James Silkenat by Marc Hauser

Every April, the ABA hosts an influential and inspirational three-day event in Washington, D.C., known as ABA Day. In a coordinated effort, members of national, state and local bar associations give voice to America’s lawyers through personal visits to congressional offices.

Now in its 18th year, ABA Day mobilizes lawyers to discuss the value of an independent legal profession and convey to lawmakers how issues of justice affect their constituents.

A priority at this year’s ABA Day held April 8-10 will be to urge members of Congress to reject a proposed tax reform that would impose unnecessary burdens on law firms, as I discussed in my February President’s Message.

This legislation, as proposed in the Senate Finance Committee and the House Committee on Ways and Means, would require many law firms and other personal service businesses to use the accrual method of accounting rather than the traditional cash-receipts-and-disbursements method. The draft legislation would require tax payments on income that firms have not yet received or may never receive. If enacted, the proposals would unnecessarily complicate the tax law, increase compliance costs, discourage growth and impose substantial financial costs on affected law firms.

We need your help to stop this harmful legislation from advancing. Please see our Legislative Action Alert (PDF) for information you can provide to members of Congress on this critical matter.

During ABA Day, lawyers will again urge members of Congress to support funding for the Legal Services Corp., a long-standing priority for the organized bar. Legal aid organizations help people in every congressional district with civil legal problems involving housing, family law, consumer protection and many other areas.

Last year, more than 350 lawyers from every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico sought funding increases for legal aid and for federal courts, which have seen drastic budget cuts in recent years.

The efforts of ABA Day participants—in addition to ongoing advocacy throughout the year—were successful. With passage of Congress’ bipartisan spending bill in December, the federal judiciary’s fiscal 2014 budget increased discretionary funds by $316 million. The LSC received a $24 million increase.

Such results were victories for America’s courts and a demonstration of both parties’ commitment to justice. They also illustrate the value of the ABA’s long-standing, bipartisan and authoritative voice on Capitol Hill.

ABA legislative advocacy reaches out to both sides of the congressional aisle. Our headquarters on the Hill will be the Cannon Caucus Room, provided through the support of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and the Ohio State Bar Association. We will hear from key leaders through the efforts of Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and the New York State Bar Association.

Also at ABA Day, the association’s Justice Award—which recognizes members of Congress who champion the causes of lawyers and justice—will be presented to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., and Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill.

ABA Day is organized by the association’s Govern-mental Affairs Office with valuable leadership from a planning committee chaired by former ABA House of Delegates Chair Linda Klein. We are grateful for the support of the event’s co-sponsors: the ABA Section Officers Conference, the ABA Young Lawyers Division, the National Conference of Bar Presidents and the National Association of Bar Executives.

To learn more about the ABA’s legislative advocacy and to sign up for our grassroots network and updates, please visit With your support, the ABA will continue to work with policymakers to strengthen our justice system and independent profession, which are models for the world.

This article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of the ABA Journal with this headline: “Bipartisan Outreach: On ABA Day, lawyers lobby Capitol Hill for support on important legal issues.”

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