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April 16, 2010

Making Their Voices Heard: Bar Leaders Ready to Come to Washington

2010 ABA Day congressional awardee Sen. Olympia Snowe (left) greets 2009 ABA Day participants.

2010 ABA Day congressional awardee Sen. Olympia Snowe (left) greets 2009 ABA Day participants.

Each year, hundreds of state, local and specialty bar leaders gather in Washington, D.C., on ABA Day to lobby on behalf of the legal profession.  This year’s event is being held April 20 – 22, and is sponsored by the ABA Governmental Affairs Office and cosponsored by the National Conference of Bar Presidents, National Association of Bar Executives, the ABA Section Officers Conference and the ABAYoung Lawyers Division.

Congressional Hill visits, legislative training and other events compose ABA Day.  Prior to scheduled Hill visits with members of Congress on April 21 – 22, attendees receive legislative training and an issues briefing on the topics on which they will lobby:  Legal Services Corporation reauthorization and funding, fair tax treatments for victims of employment discrimination and pay equity for women.

Although ABA Day has a very targeted focus on certain issues, the association — through its Governmental Affairs Office — actively works with Congress and the executive branch on many other issues on daily basis, year round.  The ABA Grassroots Advocacy Center has more information on these issues and encourages ABA members to join the grassroots action team.

In addition, this year participants as well as section officers, who are not able to take part in ABA Day activities, were invited to listen to free webinars in advance of ABA Day, during which they learned about becoming “citizen advocates.”  The Governmental Affairs Office expects to extend this opportunity to a wider group of association members in the future.

As chair of the ABA Day in Washington Planning Committee, Laurel Bellows, wrote in her letter to bar leaders, “The Obama administration and the 111th Congress are considering legislation that directly impacts you, your bar entity, your clients, the legal profession and the administration of justice.  Your active participation is vital to our successfully educating the administration and Congress on issues of importance to lawyers.”

On April 20, ABA Day attendees may participate in a welcome dinner and congressional awards ceremony.  ABA President Carolyn Lamm will present congressional awards to four members of Congress in appreciation for their efforts to improve the American justice system.  Honorees include:  Sens. Olympia Snowe and Richard Lugar and Reps. Steve Cohen and John Lewis. In addition, as part of the ABA Day programming, ABA Grassroots Advocacy Awards will be presented to:  Howard Dana, retired associate justice on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court; Judge Jodi Levine; the Illinois State Bar Association; and the Tennessee Bar Association.

Other programming of the three-day event include: a U.S. Supreme Court admission ceremony for 12 participants, with ABA President Carolyn Lamm moving their admission; a free continuing legal ethics education program; as well as a reception to honor the 2010 Grassroots Advocacy Award winners.

Learn More About:  ABA OfficersAccess to JusticeYoung Lawyers