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May 17, 2022

May Directors Column: Looking at the Scope of the Commission on Law and Aging

David Godfrey, JD

The PDF in which this article appears can be found in Bifocal, Vol. 43, Issue 5.

Please join us on June 15th at Noon Eastern Time for the release of a report on the Experience of Persons Living with Dementia and the Criminal Legal System.  The report contains findings and recommendations across the spectrum of contact with the legal system, from community-based interventions to law enforcement, the Courts, and correctional systems.  The research was made possible by the RRF Foundation, coordinated by the ABA Commission on Law and Aging in collaboration with an all-star research team.  Registration is required, but there is no cost.  Be among the first to hear the key findings and recommendations and how to leverage this research for change in your community.  Register at The program will be about 30 minutes.  After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the release event.

Every three years or so, all ABA entities are asked to complete a detailed questionnaire about the work they are doing, how the work fulfills the mission and core values of the ABA, and what sets each entity apart from other parts of the ABA. The reports are reviewed by the ABA Committee on Scope and Correlation, a report is made to the Board of Governors and ultimately recommendations for improvements or questions to ponder are returned to the entity.  This year is the first time that responsibility for the report has landed on my desk.  

I think our position is strong. The overall report is over 100 pages, it lists the 150-training and workshop presentations and 66 published articles by Commission Staff since the last review in 2019.  We have been busy.  A lot has happened since 2019.  Our two most experienced staff members have retired or as they describe it, refocused. Sadly, Lori Stiegel our long serving expert on adult abuse died in 2020.  I have moved into the hot seat as director, and we have two new experienced attorneys on staff.  For 2/3rds of the time since 2019 we have worked remotely, an arrangement that has worked extraordinarily well. We have returned to the office on a new flexible work plan, with most of us in office 2 or 3 days per week and working remotely the rest of the time.   

Looking back at the report from 2019, we have experienced a major changes in funding streams since then.  We are more reliant on outside funds, our overall budget is smaller, and our staff is down from 6.9 full time equivalent to 5. We have diversified our funding, including an increased emphasis on individual donors.  We have implemented a "Friends of the Commission"  club for individuals who support us at $300 per year or more who have access to advance copies of publications and insider information on our activities and plans.  

The Commission met in late April, to review our progress and brainstorm plans for the future.  The ABA fiscal year starts September 1st, and we anticipate five new commission members. Our fall meeting will focus on networking, brainstorming and strategic planning.  We are implementing a revised meeting schedule for 2022-2023 with shorter and more frequent meetings. 

The Commission’s funding comes from a variety of sources. For the 2021-2022 fiscal year, grants, contracts and paid consulting are our largest source of income at about 46% of our budget.  We are always looking for new opportunities to collaborate on funded projects.  Contributions such as honorariums, individual donations, and legacy gifts, fund about 27% of our operations.  The ABA contributes about 8% of our budget from ABA general revenue.  About 16% of our current budget is covered by administrative overheads. Revenue from CLE and publications make up about 3% of our current budget.  

It is easy to assume, that as a part of the ABA that the ABA underwrites all our costs, but the reality is we raise most of our budget from outside sources. I can’t imagine the Commission not being a part of the ABA. The ABA provides us with much needed infrastructure, and access to ABA members, several hundred thousand of the best attorneys in the World. But we need to pay our own way.  Our role can be as large as we can find funding for.    

The Commission on Law and Aging hosts a quarterly law and aging networking video call. The participants are members or staff of ABA Sections or Divisions.  The latest call was in April. At that time we compiled a list of 15 programs on issues in aging scheduled between April and June being produced or presented by the ABA. All but a couple of those are free to ABA members, and ABA members always get a discount on ABA programs where there is a charge.  Programs like this demonstrate the value of ABA membership, and at not more than $150 per year for public interest, non-profit, academic, government, solo and small firm lawyers there is a lot of value for a modest investment.   If you are an ABA member and want to join the calls quarterly networking calls, let me know. 

That kind of covers the scope of what we are doing right now.  There are some exciting new projects on the horizon. 

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David Godfrey, JD

Director of the Commission on Law and Aging