Resolutions set the policy position that the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (ABA YLD) takes on various issues. They represent the ABA YLD’s collective voice and also represent where the Division stands on a multitude of issues facing the nation.
The ABA YLD Assembly is the principal policy-making body of the ABA YLD. Young lawyer issues and resolutions are debated and voted on during Assembly meetings. In general, a resolution is a document requesting the ABA YLD to adopt new policies, support a policy or practice already in place, or oppose a policy or practice already in place. Resolutions can be introduced by any Division officer, constitutional representative, liaison, board, committee, affiliate, or delegate. The individual introducing the Resolution, which is accompanied by a report, must introduce the resolution for the Assembly to consider by providing written notice to the Speaker. A board, committee, or affiliate introducing a resolution must name one member to manage the resolution on its behalf.
According to section 4.4(b) of the ABA YLD Bylaws:
Each resolution shall consist of a concise recommendation accompanied by a written report that supports the recommendation. The report shall state the relevant facts, authority, and argument with reasonable candor and objectivity. The report shall not imply a policy that is not evident from the recommendation. If the resolution amends something previously adopted, it suffices for the recommendation to identify the document and provision thereof to be amended and refer to the report, which shall set forth or append the text being amended together with the proposed amendment, which shall be subject to amendment in the same manner as the recommendation itself. The report shall clearly, within the first or last two paragraphs or under a principal subheading, estimate any cost that the recommendation may entail.
The Resolution Process
The true gist of the process is best explained by a veteran drafter such as Ross A. Feldmann, former ABA YLD District Representative for District 1, who has proposed several resolutions to the ABA YLD Assembly. Feldmann, who has also served on the Resolutions Team for several years, has been very involved in the life cycles of at least three different resolutions.
As a starting point, Feldmann recommends using the Resolutions Proposal Form provided on the ABA YLD website. “It is a pretty solid form and easy to understand,” explained Feldmann. “The resolution itself is usually just one paragraph, which is very simple to understand.” As a rule, Feldmann said that he likes to keep the resolution direct and easy to follow.
“There is also a report appended to the resolution that can be pretty involved,” said Feldmann, who recalls drafting reports that were between 10 to 15 pages long. Even though it is not always easy to do when you are drafting a report on a topic close to your heart, Feldman recommends that “the report should propose a balanced view of the policy. You really need to present the opposing side thoroughly and fairly.”
Once Feldmann has completed drafting a resolution, he usually asks several people to review it. As a member of the Resolutions Team, he receives feedback from several members of the group before finalizing a resolution. “It is extremely helpful to get feedback from your peers because it’s a great sanity check,” advises Feldmann. “You think that you’ve got it all down in the report and then someone who reads through it finds a glaring deficiency that you would have never thought of by yourself.”
Feldmann’s next step is to find someone who will oppose the resolution on the floor of the Assembly. “Usually the person who drafts the resolution will take the pro position because it makes the most sense. They usually support their resolution and they are usually the best equipped to answer detailed questions because they’ve done all the research,” said Feldmann. “However, finding someone to oppose a resolution can sometimes be tough, especially when it is a pretty straightforward resolution.”
Let the Debate Begin
Once you find people to propose and oppose the resolution on the floor of the Assembly, the fun can really begin. “My primary goal is to have a healthy debate in the Assembly even if it is a fairly straightforward policy,” said Feldmann. “I send all the information that I have to the people who are going to speak in opposition to my resolution. I’m not going up there for any sort of gamesmanship. I just want to make a great debate out of it so that each resolution that I propose is thoroughly vetted.”
Occasionally, a resolution’s author will lobby behind the scenes but Feldmann said that he has never really done so himself. “Lobbying can be done with varying degrees of success and the advantage, of course, is that you go into Assembly knowing that you have more people on your side.”
“I have fun drafting and shepherding resolutions through Assembly,” said Feldmann. “I like everyone in the ABA YLD, and the Assembly is a special part of that experience. I’m especially happy that there has been an increase in the number of resolutions that are introduced and debated on the Assembly floor during my time with the ABA YLD.”
The ABA YLD Assembly
Feldmann describes the ABA YLD Assembly as a microcosm of the ABA House of Delegates. A resolution must be passed by the ABA YLD Assembly before the Division can take a position on it before the ABA House of Delegates. Therefore, after the ABA YLD Assembly adopts a resolution, the resolution’s drafter will often work with an ABA YLD Delegation and the ABA YLD Speaker to introduce the resolution in the House of Delegates. “As an ultimate goal we should hope that the resolution goes to the ABA House of Delegates,” said Feldmann. “We draft and pass resolutions that we believe are important and we want them to go to the House of Delegates because the lobbying arm of the ABA cannot do anything unless the House of Delegates has given it express permission to do so.”
Role of the Assembly Speaker
For her part, ABA YLD Assembly Speaker Latanishia D. Watters said that she looks for the following characteristics when considering submitted resolutions and generating ideas for future resolutions:
a novel and current issue,
- an issue that will motivate great debate,
- an issue that has not been addressed in the last few years and for which there is a need for substantive change,
- an issue that is of importance to young lawyers and for which young lawyers should be at the forefront, and
- an issue that will garner support from the ABA House of Delegates.
Feldmann put it best when he said, “It’s good to see the ABA YLD thinking about policy and being proactive because we are the voice of young lawyers and it is the largest constituency of the ABA, so it is important that we get out in front of some of these large issues and debate them and demonstrate that we are meeting these issues head on.”
For more information on how to get involved with drafting or debating resolutions for Assembly, contact the Assembly Speaker Latanishia Watters at email@example.com.