Please set value(s) for component.

Digital privacy, DOMA ruling, state of legal profession among highlights at ABA meeting in Chicago


Search ABA News

  • Media

  • ABA News Sections

  • Key Issues

Digital privacy, DOMA ruling, state of legal profession among highlights at ABA meeting in Chicago

By John Glynn

CHICAGO, Jan. 23, 2014 — Legal experts will discuss a myriad of hot topics — including privacy in the digital age, the effects of the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling and the state of the legal profession — during the American Bar Association Midyear Meeting Feb. 5-10 in Chicago.


High-profile panelists at the meeting include Olympic gold medalist and lawyer Nancy Hogshead-Makar, who will discuss Russia’s anti-gay legislation and the free speech rights of athletes and spectators at international sporting events such as the Olympics.

Other subject-matter experts include Kathryn J. Kennedy, director for the Center for Tax Law and Employee Benefits at the John Marshall Law School, who will discuss the implications of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act.

In addition to the nearly 750 events at this premier gathering of legal professionals, the ABA House of Delegates — the association’s policymaking body — will gather at 9 a.m. Feb. 10 at the meeting headquarters, the Hyatt Regency Chicago, in the Grand Ballroom, Gold Level, East Tower. For details on the proposals for debate and vote during the one-day session, click here

Randall T. Shepard, chair of the ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education, will present the task force’s final report to the House of Delegates. The report calls on law schools, bar associations, regulators and others to develop ways to reduce the cost and improve the value of a law degree, enable greater experimentation and innovation in law schools and expand opportunities for delivery of legal services.

Online registration for news reporters is easier than ever. Credential guidelines are at

Program highlights include:

Thursday, Feb. 6

“Privacy in the Digital Age: Is There Even a Barn Door Left to Close?” — This session will focus on consumers’ right to be informed of whether and how they are tracked on the Internet, including disclosure of what information is being collected and how it is being used. Government regulators and panelists from the industry and public interest groups will also discuss how consumers can protect their privacy.

1 – 2:30 p.m., Zurich E, 1st Floor, Event Centre, Swissotel

Friday, Feb. 7

“DOMA Overruled: Implications for Health Care Plans and Other Employee Benefits” — As a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling in U.S. v. Windsor, same-sex couples who are legally married in any state are required to be recognized as “spouses” for purposes of federal law. This panel will examine the immediate implications of this ruling for employers maintaining health and welfare plans, retirement plans and other benefit programs.

9:15 – 10:15 a.m., Zurich B, 1st Floor, Event Centre, Swissotel

“Public Interest Jobs: A 10-Year Path to Being Debt Free and Feeling Fulfilled” — Panelists will provide a comprehensive overview of the benefits of public interest jobs — from work/life balance to student loan forgiveness.

9:15 – 10:15 a.m., Zurich A, 1st Floor, Event Centre, Swissotel

“Virtual Currencies: Bitcoin and the Role of New Currency in Criminal Enterprise” — This panel will explore the uses of “virtual currencies” in both white-collar and street crime operations, with a focus on money laundering, tax and other potential violations and implications.

10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m., Montreux 1, 2nd Floor, Event Centre, Swissotel

“Olympian Troubles: Responses to Russia’s Anti-Gay Legislation During the Sochi Winter Olympics” — This panel will discuss Russia’s anti-gay legislation, the treatment of LGBT people in other countries and how the international community can work to minimize violence against LGBT people around the world. Panelists, including Olympic gold medal champion Nancy Hogshead-Makar, will also consider the free speech rights of athletes and spectators at international sporting events.

2-3:30 PM, Plaza Ballroom A, Lobby Level, East Tower, Hyatt Regency Chicago

“Air Force Special Victims’ Counsel Program: One Year Later” — The Special Victims’ Counsel program trains Air Force lawyers to advise sexual assault victims and help them navigate the criminal justice system. Panelists include Col. Dawn D. Hankins, chief of the Air Force Special Victims’ Counsel Division, and Capt. Amanda K. Snipes, special victims counsel at Scott Air Force Base and 375th Air Mobility Wing general law chief.

2:30 – 4:30 p.m., Montreux 3, 2nd Floor, Event Centre, Swissotel

Saturday, Feb. 8

Ninth Annual Summit on Indigent Defense Improvement — This all-day conference will review national developments in indigent defense, such as new court decisions, legislation, funding and federal actions. In one program, lawyers from the Northwestern University Center on Wrongful Convictions and exoneree Terrill Swift will recount the critical need for effective assistance of counsel (3 – 4:30 p.m.). Also at the summit, presenters will introduce a new study that will help public defender offices develop maximum workload standards and staffing requirements.

7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., 321 N. Clark St., ABA headquarters

“A Profession in Crisis? New Results From the After the JD Study of Lawyer Careers” — The After the JD Study has been following a national sample of lawyers who passed the bar in 2000 and has interviewed them in 2003, 2007 and 2012. The study’s research team will present some of the first results from the 2012 survey, including data on what these lawyers are doing 12 years into their careers, whether they are still satisfied with their decision to become a lawyer and whether women and minorities are achieving professional success and satisfaction at the same rate as their peers. Commentators from the worlds of practice and legal education will discuss the implications of the results.

2 – 4:30 p.m., Columbus Hall EF, Gold Level, East Tower, Hyatt Regency Chicago

Sunday, Feb. 9

Task Force on Legal Access Job Corps Open Forum — The Legal Access Job Corps Task Force, created by ABA President James R. Silkenat, is charged with finding ways to match unemployed or underemployed new lawyers with the significant unmet legal needs of people of low and moderate incomes. Learn how bar associations, law schools, law firms, courts, nonprofit organizations and other stakeholders are employing creative solutions to address this mission.

2 – 4 p.m., Skyway Suite 272, Blue Level, East Tower, Hyatt Regency Chicago

* The National Conference of Bar Presidents is holding a related program, “Win-Win: Matching Unmet Legal Needs With Available Legal Talent,” from 10:10 to 11:10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 7.

During the Midyear Meeting, accredited journalists should register on-site at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, Grand Ballroom (Gold Level, East Tower), beginning at 2 p.m. Feb. 5. A press room for accredited reporters will be provided in the hotel’s Riverside Center (Purple Level, East Tower), starting at 9 a.m. Feb. 6. The room will be open daily thereafter from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will close one hour after the adjournment of the House of Delegates on Feb. 10.

With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on Twitter @ABANews.