Join ABA Day 2022: Celebrating 25 years of advocacy on the Hill
ABA Day is the association’s largest lobbying event of the year. It’s when the ABA, state and local bar leaders, and members from across the country meet with members of Congress to advocate for access to justice and other issues of great importance to the legal profession. This annual event brings the collective voice of the legal profession to Washington, D.C., to help shape legislators’ opinions on developing policy issues.
This year, we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of this event during the week of April 4. The ongoing pandemic has restricted our ability to meet face-to-face in Washington, but we have adjusted our advocacy strategy and techniques. As in 2020 and 2021, ABA Day 2022 will be held virtually.
Fortunately, the ingenuity and determination of our participants have enabled the ABA to host highly successful virtual events through its Governmental Affairs Office. In 2020 and 2021, hundreds of participants communicated with congressional leaders and staff while thousands of others used social media to discuss the issues.
“For the last 25 years, ABA Day has been a major force in advocacy on the Hill,” ABA President Reginald M. Turner says. “ABA members, along with state and local bar leaders, have led the way in engaging with elected officials on issues of critical importance to our profession and access to justice in our communities.”
ABA Day started in 1997 on the recommendation of the ABA Task Force on Congressional and Governmental Relations, a group of distinguished lawyers knowledgeable about federal policymaking. The group urged the ABA to convene a regular gathering in the District of Columbia for in-person discussions between key government policymakers and ABA groups.
Since its inception, ABA Day has grown significantly. In 2019, our most recent in-person event, more than 340 attendees from all 50 states and the Virgin Islands conducted meetings in hundreds of Hill offices. Deborah Enix-Ross, now ABA president-elect, served as the 2019 ABA Day chair.
In April 2021, ABA member Bill Bay served as chair of our fully virtual ABA Day event, during which seven members of Congress from both parties joined us to discuss our two primary issues: strengthening federal judicial security and funding for the Legal Services Corp.
Highlighting the need for adequate LSC funding to help low-income Americans access legal services has been our main recurring issue. Over the years, ABA Day advocacy has helped ward off numerous efforts to defund the program and helped increase funding to the fiscal year 2021 amount of $465 million.
The success of the virtual 2020 and 2021 ABA Days helped inspire the Student Debt Week of Action, an additional virtual advocacy event that occurred in September. Collaborating with other professional groups with members who also graduate with vast amounts of student debt, the event culminated in thousands of messages sent to Congress, over 100,000 interactions on social media and significant improvements in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
ABA Day advocacy also has resulted in other notable successes. For example, a key issue at ABA Day in 2014, 2015 and 2016 was burdensome tax legislation affecting law firms. The ABA ultimately prevailed on the issue with the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 when congressional leaders decided not to include ABA-opposed mandatory accrual accounting proposals in the final bill. Those proposals would have required many law firms and other professional service businesses to pay taxes on their work in progress, accounts receivable and other “phantom income” long before it was received from clients.
On the immigration front, ABA Day attendees in 2018 successfully advocated against the Department of Justice’s abrupt suspension of funding for the Legal Orientation Program for detained immigrants. Preservation of the program was added as a last-minute issue, and soon after the ABA’s advocacy effort, along with those of other partners, the DOJ reversed its decision.
Because elected officials are most influenced by concerns expressed by their own constituents, state and local bar association member involvement nationwide has been instrumental to ABA Day achievements.
“The foundation of ABA Day’s success is the effective collaboration between the ABA, state and local bars and law firms,” says William K. Weisenberg, a member of the ABA’s Board of Governors and the Ohio State Bar Association who has been involved with ABA Day since its inception. “Our meetings with local members of Congress and their staffs yield benefits and long-lasting relationships that get things done.”
This report is written by the ABA's Governmental Affairs Office and discusses advocacy efforts by the ABA relating to issues being addressed by Congress and the executive branch of the U.S. government.