On April 20th and 21st, thousands joined the ABA online during its annual association-wide advocacy event known as “ABA Day” to discuss the need for robust legal aid funding and increased judicial security. While the pandemic restricted our ability to meet face-to-face, the ingenuity and determination of our participants enabled the ABA to host a virtual conference where hundreds of members of the legal profession met with congressional leaders using programs like Zoom, sent them emails or even just called them, while thousands of others from across the country communicated on social media about our issues.
ABA Day participants who tuned into the online conference gained access to a host of speakers and training sessions throughout the event. This virtual conference comprised of celebrity keynote speakers, videos from Members of Congress and Senators, a tour of DC hosted by the ABA Governmental Affairs staff, and stories of attorneys and client champions in the legal aid space. We were honored to hear from Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ); House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC); University of Michigan Football Coach Jim Harbaugh, and so many more. Our speakers drove home the need for emergency funding for legal aid for low income Americans especially during this pandemic and the need for increased security for our federal judges. We were also lucky to have a rare books tour from the Law Library of Congress.
This year, members of the legal profession focused their efforts on addressing the troubling spike in evictions and domestic violence by advocating for more legal aid funding, as well as the need for increased security for our federal judges following recent attacks. We know the pandemic has exacerbated the housing crisis and instances of domestic violence, and that the attorneys can help vastly improve the situations for those impacted by the spikes. In addition, we heard from U.S. District Judge Esther Salas about the tragic events that struck her family. A disgruntled attorney went to her home and shot her husband and son. Her son did not survive. This attack on the family of a federal judge, as well as other examples, made encouraging Congress about the critical need for a bill to better protect federal judges this Congress an obvious choice.
We are still analyzing the results and time will tell the ultimate impact of our collective advocacy, but early indications show ABA Day 2021 was a huge success. Here are a few highlights:
• Over 500 people registered for our second virtual ABA Day, which is more registrants than ever for ABA Day.
• Three Senators and four Members of Congress from both parties provided recordings for our participants highlighting the importance of funding for the Legal Services Corporation to help low-income Americans get more access to legal services or enhancing security for our federal judges.
• Bar leaders from across the country arranged meetings with their Members of Congress, some of which are still occurring.
• Our efforts created not only attention for our issues on Capitol Hill, but also on social media. In fact, there were over 200,000 messages across social media platforms discussing “legal aid” during the week after we placed social media ads about ABA Day and funding for legal aid, which is a significant jump from the week before when there were only about 10,000 messages on the same topic.
ABA Day 2021 may be over, but there are still many ways that you can advocate on these issues. If you would like to send letters directly to Congress, or even post on social media with the handles of your elected officials included, please visit us here. We are also very excited to announce that following the success of this event, we will soon be hosting an advocacy event that will focus on student debt relief.
If you would like to hear more about ABA advocacy on behalf of the legal profession, gain access to in-depth legislative analysis, and advocate on other issues, please visit here.