The Power of Persuasion: ABA Day amplifies collective voice for lawyers in Washington
The American Bar Association can accomplish great things with the leverage and strength of our 400,000 members. Our attorney members have sworn an oath to the Constitution and the rights it guarantees. Our law school members are the future guardians of these protections. Together, we are a formidable presence. One voice is a whisper; many voices is a roar.
Making a difference together is the goal of an inspiring annual event in Washington, D.C. On ABA Day April 25-27, we will marshal our forces on Capitol Hill to make our voices heard on topics of concern to lawyers. I hope you can join us for this hallmark ABA event, which our members find especially meaningful and exhilarating.
Organized by the ABA’s Governmental Affairs Office, ABA Day enables lawyers to join together and educate their members of Congress on issues vital to the legal profession and justice system.
Every ABA Day, lawyers advocate for adequate funding for the Legal Services Corporation, which provides civil legal assistance to the most vulnerable Americans, including veterans, domestic violence victims, disaster victims and lower income people. LSC promotes equal access to justice by providing funding to 134 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state.
Demand for LSC’s services is rising. Over the past decade, the number of people qualifying for assistance has increased about 25 percent. As many as 80 percent of clients are turned away due to a lack of resources.
While a new federal budget has yet to be implemented, ensuring LSC has robust funding to serve all the people who need its services is always a top ABA priority.
The ABA has created a set of web pages at www.helplegalaid.org as a guide for lawyers on how to help support the Legal Services Corporation. The pages include information on how to lobby your elected representative, how to provide financial support and how to volunteer.
Veterans’ benefits, criminal justice reform and blocking proposed mandatory accrual accounting rules for law firms are other issues that our lawyers and lobbyists may address.
ABA Day also includes events recognizing members of Congress and grassroots advocates for their support of the legal profession and justice system. This year, we are presenting awards to Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) for his efforts to increase LSC funding and his work to preserve the attorney-client privilege; Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) for her immigration reform efforts and her work as a champion for access to justice with her sponsorship of the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act of 2016, to make counsel available for unaccompanied minors; Representative Mac Thornberry (R-TX) for reforming the Uniform Code of Military Justice, making it more efficient and transparent; and Representative Joe Kennedy (D-MA) for his dedication to legal services and equal rights for all.
Also this year, we will give grassroots advocacy awards to Edwin A. Harnden, co-managing partner at Barran Liebman and former Oregon Bar Association president, for his work getting lawyers to support the Campaign for Equal Justice and his efforts with political and community leaders to address legal aid funding shortfalls and seek long term solutions. The organizational grassroots award will be presented to Kids In Need Of Defense for increasing awareness among policymakers and the public about the rights and needs of unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children and its facilitation of pro bono representation in deportation hearings.
If you can join us in Washington in April, I assure you that you’ll come away energized and recommitted to accomplishing great things on behalf of justice and our legal system. You can register at no charge until March 24 at www.ambar.org/abaday. If you cannot come to Washington in April, you can still be involved. Call or visit your state and local representatives. Become a voice and organize in your communities. Get the tools you need at ambar.org/grassroots.
In our system with three independent and co-equal branches of government, we must ensure that access to justice for all is a core issue that unites our great nation. As stewards of the Constitution, we must get involved, today more than ever.