ABA advocacy event goes all digital during pandemic
ABA Day will have a different twist this year. The ABA’s annual advocacy conference that brings members of the Association together with state and local bars to present the message of lawyers to Congress has been forced by the COVID-19 pandemic to adapt.
ABA Day Digital, which will be held April 22-23, will feature an extensive, coordinated online effort to advocate for ABA issues related to the coronavirus pandemic, instead of the usual event which had hundreds of ABA members from all 50 states meeting in person with their congressional representatives on Capitol Hill.
“The ABA is fortunate that we already have the technology, skills and planning in place to quickly change our annual ABA Day event from an in-person Hill event into a completely online advocacy effort, and we are excited to do so,” said Holly Cook, associate executive director of the ABA Governmental Affairs Office (GAO).
GAO and the ABA Day Planning Committee, chaired by Deborah Enix-Ross, have planned online conferences with panel discussions, Twitter takeovers (an expert post on a topic in your account), online chats and Twitterstorms (sudden surge in posts on a specific topic), and online meetings conducted with Google Hangouts at specific times to focus on ABA issues. The ABA will also try to get people to send emails (which can be personalized), social media posts or make phone calls, all of which can be done through an ABA portal.
While ABA Day has generally focused on two or three issues, this year the planning committee chose four topics related to the pandemic:
- Legal Services Corporation funding.The LSC is critical to the country’s civil legal aid and pro bono system. During the pandemic, the needs for low-income Americans will rise as legal help will be needed for evictions and unemployment, lack of access to health care, scams aimed at the elderly and temporary restraining orders needed to protect survivors of domestic violence.
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness.The program, which provides student loan forgiveness for those who make a 10-year career commitment to public service, is especially important at this time. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to keep the program intact to ensure that the thousands of public servants needed in a crisis continue to follow those job paths.
- Veterans Affairs access to legal assistance. The Legal Services for Homeless Veterans Act would allow the secretary of Veterans Affairs to partner with public and private entities to provide legal services to homeless veterans and veterans at risk of homelessness. The bill passed the House for the first time after eight years and the ABA is working for Senate passage.
- Rural broadband internet access.Without adequate high-speed internet, attorneys and self-represented litigants in rural areas face high barriers, and these communities cannot attract new lawyers.