President's Message

ABA offers leadership, advocacy on important issues of policy and law practice

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Photo of James R. Silkenat by Marc Hauser.

The American Bar Association Board of Governors recently responded quickly and effectively to an important issue for American lawyers and law firms. At its November meeting, the board voted to have the ABA fight proposed federal tax legislation that would force many law firms to adopt new, costly accounting practices.

The board authorized the ABA Governmental Affairs Office in Washington, D.C., to oppose bills in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives requiring 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 legislation, which was pending when this column went to press, would force law firms to pay tax on income they have not yet been paid and may never receive. The bills would unnecessarily complicate the tax law and increase compliance costs.

Although the ABA helped to defeat a similar proposal in the mid-1980s, the board updated our policy so that our association can effectively work with state and local bar associations, and other interested groups, to defeat the most recent legislation. We are grateful to the ABA Section of Business Law for drafting the policy and to the numerous other ABA co-sponsors, including the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division.

Our advocacy on this issue demonstrates the breadth and strength of the ABA’s national voice of the legal profession. This month we look forward to showcasing our prominent role in the profession at the ABA Midyear Meeting, bringing together more than 3,500 attendees Feb. 5-11 in Chicago. In August, our annual meeting in Boston will attract approximately 10,000 registrants.

In Chicago and Boston, hundreds of top-quality continuing legal education programs, with leading legal experts and speakers, will help you build your skills and practice on topics including technology, legal ethics and career development. Social gatherings will help you build lasting connections among colleagues and make new contacts. Award ceremonies will inspire you as they honor lawyers who reflect the highest ideals of our profession.

Also during each annual and midyear meeting, the ABA House of Delegates meets. Its 550 members, representing all state bars and other lawyer constituencies throughout the country and the ABA, consider policies that set a blueprint for the profession and our justice system.

At the midyear meeting in February, the House will consider a variety of important proposals. Among those scheduled is a recommendation to approve a modest ABA membership dues increase for the first time in seven years. Wise stewardship of the association’s finances—coupled with our desire to maintain the high quality of our advocacy, programs and services to the profession and the public—requires us to consider such action as we aggressively continue to reduce costs, make effective use of our reserves and tap additional nondues revenue sources.

Also up for consideration are the recommendations of the ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education, commissioned by the ABA Board of Governors in August 2012. The task force, under the leadership of former Indiana Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard, is proposing how the bench, bar and legal education community can work together to provide meaningful education and careers for law students and graduates, while reducing law school costs and expanding access to justice. The bar has a duty to carefully examine these proposals and conduct a productive discussion about how best to meet the profound changes facing law schools and the profession.

Only through your support can the ABA continue to advocate for lawyers, help our members improve services to their clients, and promote equal justice under law as the national voice of the legal profession. I encourage you to follow the activities of the ABA Midyear Meeting, the work of our House of Delegates, and the advocacy of our Governmental Affairs Office in the ABA Journal and at

This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of the ABA Journal with this headline: “Our National Voice: ABA offers leadership, advocacy on important issues of policy and law practice.”

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