Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the ABA transformed the 24th annual ABA Day in Washington into ABA Day Digital 2020 -- our first fully online lobby event and digital conference. Normally, approximately 350 bar leaders from across the country join the ABA annually to storm Capitol Hill in person. Organized under state captains, each team meets with its congressional delegation to advocate for issues of great importance to the legal profession. While many participants were disappointed that they did not get to mingle with colleagues in person this year, legal professionals made time to engage with us and their congressional delegations online. This required many to venture from their comfort zone and become proficient in using technology to advocate in powerful and different ways.
ABA Day Digital included live panels, TED talk style presentations, Twitter takeovers, Tweetstorms, and more, punctuated with requests for taking specific advocacy actions throughout the two days of the event. Participants advocated for issues of particular importance during this pandemic by sending letters, making calls, and posting tweets directly to their legislators. Through these tools, we were able to effectively advocate for robust Legal Services Corporation funding, preserving the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, authorizing the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide legal aid to homeless veterans, and increasing rural America’s access to broadband/high speed internet.
The ABA challenged advocates to let their legislators know how important these core issues are during the pandemic, and they did not disappoint. ABA Day participants submitted about 1,500 advocacy actions to congressional offices, including about 1,300 emails and over 200 tweets. By issue, that’s over 700 actions for LSC, over 200 for PSLF, over 180 for rural broadband, about 250 for homeless veterans’ legal aid, and over 100 for our internet only issues.
In addition to facilitating direct advocacy actions, ABA Day also included a digital conference on Twitter, where our followers were able to learn more about our core issues through panel discussions, live videos, written materials, and more. From ABA President Judy Perry Martinez’s kick-off message to ABA President-Elect Trish Refo’s closing message, we had almost 6,000 combined views on the videos we showed throughout the day. Over 900 people watched President Martinez’s opening statement alone.
Our digital participants were extremely engaged on Twitter, and many retweeted ABA Day posts to their networks. The @ABAGrassroots Twitter account had over 1,100 interactions, including about 400 retweets and about 700 likes. The promotion leading up to ABA Day Digital through the end of the event also yielded 115,000 impressions, which means that the tweets appeared and were seen 115,000 times.
What do all these numbers mean?
This year, under less than ideal circumstances, the ABA pivoted from a traditionally in-person event to the association’s first fully digital advocacy event. We encouraged advocates, including many young lawyers who have never participated before, to reach out digitally to their legislators, and we provided the online tools and information they needed to make an impact. As a result, we were able to help them successfully engage with their congressional delegations by taking about 1,500 advocacy actions from the safety of their own homes.
The ABA Day Planning Committee and Governmental Affairs Office are extremely proud of this year’s ABA Day advocates, old and new, for being so active and engaged during such an unprecedented time. Thank you for making time to join us to amplify the voice of the legal profession, improve access to justice, and advance the rule of law.
If you have any questions about ABA advocacy or would like to get involved visit ambar.org/grassroots for more information.