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January 13, 2021

GAO at ABA Annual

Policy team in full force at the Annual Meeting in San Francisco

The conversation around federal policies has never been more compelling, so when members of the ABA Governmental Affairs Office (GAO) began planning their strategy for this year’s Annual Meeting in San Francisco, they turned to some unique approaches to make the most impact. 

“In addition to actively participating in numerous entity events and CLE, the annual and midyear meetings have become the perfect place for GAO to coordinate with ABA members in-person, especially on potential policy issues and current advocacy campaigns” said Holly Cook, Director of the Governmental Affairs Office. “Being able to address a full committee on the issues moving in Congress leads to incredible advancements in a short period of time.”         

With that in mind, the entire GAO policy team spread throughout the conference to address as many issues as possible. Discussions were wide ranging, like Senior Legislative Counsel, Kristi Gaines’ report to the Commission on Immigration that touched on several relevant topics moving in Congress. Other updates were provided to specific groups of niche professionals, including the Council of the Dispute Resolution Section, Task Force on Cybersecurity, and Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants.

The GAO team was also involved with the ABA’s “CLE in the City” initiative. Here, different law firms hosted CLE programs in their offices around the downtown area. “Nothing is more powerful than an educated and engaged membership,” Kenneth Goldsmith, the Legislative Counsel and Director of State Legislation, said after wrapping up his presentation on legislative research strategies and advocacy. “We have a tremendous number of resources available to members, and leading CLE programs gives us the chance to not only educate professionals about these tools, but also to show how to best implement them.”

As a new initiative, the GAO introduced an Advocacy Pop-up Booth to recruit members for the ABA’s Grassroots Action Team and show them how they can make a difference by engaging in campaigns designed to amplify the ABA’s voice on behalf of the legal profession. An innovative approach to conference tables, GAO’s Director of Digital and Grassroots Advocacy Eric Storey staffed our Pop-Up Booth, mainly outside the assemblies for the Young Lawyers and Law Student Divisions. The booth featured a bank of iPads loaded with several actions members could take on the spot, including sending a letter or social media post directly to their elected officials, registering to vote for the 2020 elections, or even signing up to receive curated content on the issues they care about most. Over 150 ABA members sent letters to the Hill over the course of one weekend on issues like immigration, funding for Legal Services Corporation, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness, with even more signing up to take action in the future.  

The GAO’s policy team was also on hand when the House of Delegates met to monitor ABA policy resolutions. Since the GAO advocates for policies adopted by Association, issues considered by the House of Delegates are of particular interest to our team.  

If you have questions about getting involved in the ABA’s advocacy efforts, please contact GAO at [email protected]. Resources showcased at the GAO Pop-up Booth can be found here. Want to learn more about legislative developments of interest to the ABA as they happen? Follow us on Twitter @ABAGrassroots.