We are pleased to share a summary of the work conducted during the 2021-2022 Bar Year by a newly-formed Advocacy Committee. WBA President Bridget Bailey Lipscomb formed the Advocacy Committee to consider how the WBA can more consistently and effectively advocate on behalf of its members and the tenets established in the WBA mission statement. The Advocacy Committee is currently chaired by Immediate Past President Sadina Montani, and includes the following members across various levels of WBA leadership: Upnit Bhatti (Amicus Committee), Linda Goldwyn (Government Attorneys Forum), Kandis Gibson (Board Member), and Bridgette Stumpf (first-time committee member).

For the 2021-22 Bar Year, the newly-formed Advocacy Committee was tasked with providing recommendations for the structure and focus of the WBA’s advocacy work.

This post includes an overview of the Advocacy Committee’s proposed goals, describes what the Advocacy Committee views as hallmarks of a healthy advocacy process, and outlines certain specific structural and procedural recommendations.

At a high level, the Advocacy Committee has concluded that its primary role should be to focus on building and facilitating a structure of collaboration and interconnectedness within the WBA. The Advocacy Committee hopes to build on and complement the work of the Board’s Program Chairs to support committees and forums, with an eye toward shifting the WBA’s focus from somewhat siloed, individual committee program planning to a more cohesive, larger advancement of the WBA and its initiatives by enhanced and collaborative programming. This structure is not intended to duplicate the Board’s Program Chairs’ work.

Goals of the Advocacy Committee

Consistent with the goals of the WBA’s mission, the Advocacy Committee aims to create a structure that utilizes a collaborative systems approach to advocacy efforts across the various WBA committees, forums, stakeholders, and levels of WBA leadership and membership. The Advocacy Committee’s proposed umbrellaed structure seeks to ensure transparent and consistent strategies that leverage systems and partnerships to enhance advocacy outcomes among the WBA.

The overall goal of the Advocacy Committee is to ensure a process that creates effective synergy of advocacy channels to promote progress for women. This Committee intends to establish mechanisms that create alignment among WBA leadership, committees’ and forums’ efforts, outputs (e.g., statements in response to real-time events). Ultimately, this Committee seeks to create fidelity in how the WBA’s advocacy approaches align with the larger strategic plan and vision of the WBA.

Hallmarks of A Healthy Advocacy Process

The Advocacy Committee intends to monitor its progress and has identified certain hallmarks that it considers important to track the WBA’s progress in meeting its advocacy goals. As noted above, the Advocacy Committee’s overall goal is to shift the focus from individual committee programming to larger advancement of the WBA and its initiatives by enhanced and collaborative programming.

As an initial matter, the Committee will lead the effort to examine and identify the WBA’s priorities based on the issues and efforts that the WBA leadership decides to undertake on at least an annual basis. It will work closely with each committee to identify these priorities and work with them to strengthen the WBA’s work.

In the same vein, the Committee’s work will include instituting cross-committee collaboration, which will ensure that the entirety of the WBA works together and is involved in amplifying the efforts and results one committee may achieve in a WBA effort. For example, if the Amicus Committee works on and files an amicus brief with a court, the Advocacy Committee will work with the other committees to publicize and amplify the underlying cause that the WBA supported in the filing. This collaboration could lead to specific programming to highlight the specific brief or integration of the brief (and/or the issue to which it related) into other programming.

With this cross-collaboration, the Advocacy Committee will also be able to gauge and help increase the enthusiasm and engagement within the WBA. To determine and improve its work, the Committee will invite regular outside, along with internal, feedback about the WBA’s current and future work. The Committee will work on problem-solving any issues that are identified in its feedback and that may arise when working with various committees to enhance programming.

Specific Structural and Procedural Recommendations

With the foundational goals and outlook explained above, the Advocacy Committee proposes the following potential structures and processes.

  • Advocacy Committee Membership. The Advocacy Committee suggests that it be led by the immediate past president, that the incoming president serve on the committee, and that current Board members and co-chairs serve on the Committee.
  • Annual Strategy Session(s). The Advocacy Committee proffers that in addition to including advocacy strategy and focus for each year in the Board and Co-Chair retreats, the Board should consider a standalone session to ensure consistency from one year to the next, a thoughtfulness to the connection between advocacy focus areas and the Bar theme, and fidelity to the WBA’s mission and strategic plan. The Advocacy Committee would be tasked with organizing, leading, and directing these annual sessions – in addition to ensuring fidelity to the priorities identified during these sessions.
  • Consideration for Strategic Planning. With the WBA’s next strategic planning session beginning soon, the goals and structural recommendations established herein should be incorporated into strategic planning – and refined as necessary to ensure consistency with the new strategic plan.
  • Related Committees. To facilitate the focus on the three areas identified above (litigation, legislation, and external strategic partnerships), the Committee recommends that the Amicus Committee remain in place, and a new Legislation Committee be formed (ideally, led by one or more co-chairs with legislative branch experience). The incoming President typically participates in the DC Bar’s monthly voluntary Bar meetings, and thus the Advocacy Committee recommends that she oversee strategic partnerships, leaving open the possibility that an additional Strategic Partnerships Committee could be formed to support these efforts.
  • Collaboration with Programming/Governance Committee. To ensure that the work of the Advocacy Committee does not duplicate – but instead, complements – the work of the Programming/Governance Committee, the Incoming President may consider overlapping Board membership on those Committees, and/or asking the Committees to designate one or more liaisons to coordinate between the two.