The American Bar Association returned to an in-person ABA Day March 27-29 for the first time since 2019 with 170 lawyers coming to Washington, D.C. to advocate for issues important to the legal profession in meetings with their elected officials.
ABA Day 2023 focused on building relationships with the nearly 90 new House and Senate members, along with the new committee and party leaders. It also prioritized lobbying for greater funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), continuing the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program and speaking out against the ENABLERS Act, which could force lawyers to disclose attorney-client privileged information and undermine state supreme courts’ authority to regulate the legal profession.
The major focus of ABA Day 2023 was once again LSC funding. LSC provides financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans and currently provides funding to 132 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state.
LSC attempts to narrow the great justice gap in America, but even with its efforts and current funding, low-income Americans received insufficient legal help for 92% of their civil legal problems, including housing issues, family safety, disaster relief, veteran benefits and bankruptcies. Last year, LSC was forced to turn away 49% of people who came to them for help due to inadequate resources.
In the 2023 budget, LSC was allocated $560 million. For 2024, President Biden’s proposed budget asks for $800 million, but LSC is requesting $1.576 billion to meet the demand for services.
LSC kicked off ABA Day events March 27 with a forum on increasing access to justice at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. Speakers included Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mi.), Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Ct.), Rep. Mary Scanlon (D-Pa.) and Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Director of the Department of Justice Office for Access to Justice Rachel Rossi and best-selling author and lawyer John Grisham. ABA President Deborah Enix-Ross also made remarks.
The ABA’s Governmental Affairs Office, which organizes ABA Day, presented achievement awards to Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) and retired Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa).
During the Opening Session breakfast, ABA Day Chair Barbara Howard presented the 2023 Grassroots Award to the Preserve PSLF Coalition, which represents 97 nonprofits and public service organizations committed to supporting Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
In addition to the in-person events, the ABA encouraged lawyers around the country to engage with their lawmakers electronically or through local office visits.
All lawyers are encouraged to mark their calendars to attend ABA Day 2024, which will be April 9-11, 2024.