On April 20 and 21, thousands joined the American Bar Association online during its annual advocacy event, ABA Day, to discuss the need for robust legal aid funding and increased judicial security.
While the pandemic restricted our ability to meet face-to-face, the ingenuity and determination of our participants enabled the ABA to host a virtual conference where hundreds of members of the legal profession met with congressional leaders remotely, sent their representative emails or even just called them, while thousands of others across the country communicated on social media about our issues.
ABA Day participants who tuned into the online conference gained access to a host of speakers and training sessions throughout the event. This virtual conference featured celebrity keynote speakers, videos from members of Congress, a tour of Washington, D.C., hosted by the ABA Governmental Affairs staff, and stories of attorneys and client champions in the legal aid space. We were honored to hear from Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; John Cornyn, R-Texas; and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., as well as House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., University of Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh and so many more.
Our top advocacy issues were about security for federal judges and funding for legal aid
Our speakers drove home the need for emergency funding for legal aid for low-income Americans—especially during this pandemic—and the need for increased security for our federal judges. We were also lucky to have a tour of the Law Library of Congress’s rare books collection led by curator Nathan Dorn.
This year, members of the legal profession focused their efforts on addressing the troubling spike in evictions and domestic violence by advocating for more legal aid funding. We know the pandemic has exacerbated the housing crisis and instances of domestic violence, and attorneys can help vastly improve the situations for those impacted by the spikes.
In addition, we advocated for increased security for our federal judges following recent attacks. We heard from U.S. District Judge Esther Salas about the tragic events that struck her family when a disgruntled attorney went to her home and shot her husband and son. Her son did not survive. This attack on the family of a federal judge and other examples made informing Congress about the critical need for a bill to better protect federal judges an obvious choice.
The numbers from ABA Day show a high level of engagement among our members
We are still analyzing the results and time will tell the ultimate impact of our collective advocacy, but early indications show ABA Day 2021 was a success. Here are a few highlights:
• Over 500 people registered for our second virtual ABA Day, which is more registrants than we have ever had for ABA Day.
• Seven members of Congress from both parties provided recordings for our participants highlighting the importance of enhancing security for our federal judges and of funding the Legal Services Corp. to help low-income Americans get more access to legal services.
• Bar leaders from across the country arranged meetings with their members of Congress, some of which are still occurring.
• Our efforts not only created attention for our issues on Capitol Hill but also on social media. In fact, there were more than 200,000 messages across social media platforms discussing legal aid the week after we placed social media ads about ABA Day and funding for legal aid. This was a significant increase over the week before, when there were only about 10,000 messages on the same topic.
You can get involved in the issues you care the most about that are impacting the legal profession
ABA Day 2021 may be over, but there are still many ways that you can advocate for these issues. If you would like to send letters directly to Congress or post on social media with the handles of your elected officials included, please visit us here. We are also very excited to announce that following the success of this event, we will soon be hosting an advocacy event focusing on student debt relief.
If you would like to hear more about ABA advocacy on behalf of the legal profession, gain access to in-depth legislative analysis and advocate for other issues, please visit our Grassroots Action Center.
This report is written by the ABA’s Governmental Affairs Office and discusses advocacy efforts by the ABA.