An Amazing Opportunity: ABA Day
Heather L. Hodges practices in the Washington, D.C., office of Arnold & Porter LLP
On April 18, 2007, I had the privilege of participating for the first time in ABA Day in Washington. Now in its eleventh year, ABA Day brings ABA leaders from across the nation to Washington to meet with members of Congress to discuss ABA public policy priorities and other issues important to the ABA. As a young lawyer, ABA Day provides an amazing opportunity to acquire hands-on training on how to lobby legislators about important administration of justice issues, and it also provides many opportunities to network with ABA leaders and other prominent members of the profession.
As a first-timer, learning how to navigate ABA Day could not have been easier thanks to the assistance of the leadership of the ABA YLD and the ABA’s Government Affairs Office. I first learned about ABA Day while attending the 2007 ABA Midyear Meeting in Miami. Excited by the possibility of learning how to lobby on administration of justice issues—a skill I believe is essential to be an effective advocate for all our clients—I immediately went back to my hotel room to register online for ABA Day. It was just that easy. I was immediately contacted by ABA leaders and provided with reams of helpful information on how to become involved. From this point, I was able to tailor all of the ABA Day program offerings into a unique and memorable ABA Day experience.
To start, the ABA posts a list of registered participants by state and by section. In reviewing the list to find other participants from the District of Columbia and YLD, I noticed that a number of YLD members were coming to ABA Day from out of town. I contacted ABA YLD Immediate Past Chair Christina Plum and volunteered to arrange a welcome dinner for participating YLD members. She agreed, and we ended up with a dinner guest list that included not just YLD leaders such as Christina and current ABA YLD Chair Jay Ray, but also included ABA staff members Jill Eckert McCall and Kristine Gregorio. It was a great opportunity for a new YLD member to learn more about the YLD.
In addition to the meetings with members of Congress, an added perk of ABA Day is the opportunity to be sworn in as a member of the bar of the United States Supreme Court. I recommend that all ABA members take advantage of this phenomenal opportunity to become part of one of our nation’s great judicial institutions. There is a minimal amount of paperwork involved: a two-page application and certificate of good standing from the highest court in the locale in which you are admitted are all that are required. On the date of our swearing-in ceremony, we convened in a beautiful conference room in the Court where we were served a delicious breakfast and were greeted personally by the Clerk of the Supreme Court William Suter (a fellow Tulane Law alumni!). Shortly before 10 a.m., we were seated in the Court Chamber just feet away from the raised bench where the Justices sit during sessions. If you have never been to the Supreme Court, this is an ideal way to experience it because not only are you a part of the morning’s proceedings (as your motion for admission is heard and granted by Chief Justice John Roberts), you also have one of the best seats in the house—just behind the lectern where the attorneys arguing their cases address the Justices.
Of course, central to the purpose of ABA Day is meeting with members of Congress. As a resident of the District of Columbia, I am represented by one member of Congress, Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton. I had never met Representative Norton, and when I was told by the ABA that no one had visited Representative Norton in conjunction with ABA Day in a number of years, I volunteered to organize a party of attorneys from the district to call on her. I was delighted when ABA leaders Carolyn Lamm and Rick Seymour agreed to accompany me, and even more thrilled when we were able to land a spot on the Congresswoman’s busy schedule. Before meeting with Representative Norton, I attended morning briefings on the ABA’s public policy priorities, including adequate funding for the Legal Services Corporation, improving judicial compensation, and repealing the policies of federal agencies that threaten attorney-client privilege for both corporations and individuals. Well-armed with detailed position papers, my District of Columbia colleagues and I headed for the Hill where we were greeted warmly by Representative Norton and her staff.
For a first-time and amateur “lobbyist,” I could not have had a more educational introduction to this endeavor. By observing my more experienced, fellow ABA members interact with the Congresswoman and her staff, I learned a great deal about how to effectively lobby a member of Congress and how important it is that all ABA members—especially young lawyers—become more proficient at lobbying to help the ABA to achieve its public policy goals pertaining to the administration of justice.
EDITOR’S NOTE : The 2008 ABA YLD Spring Conference, which will be held from April 16–19, 2008, will be held in conjunction with ABA Day in Washington 2008.