Advocacy, Lobbying, and The Grateful Dead


Updated: Friday, February 21, 2020

by Nathan Willner

NCBA Government Affairs Officer

What does The Grateful Dead have to do with advocacy? More on that later.

I am happy to report that 2020 has started off with NCBA’s advocacy effort running on all cylinders. To organize all of the Association’s advocacy efforts and initiatives, advocacy now has its own pillar with multiple sub-committees focusing on those areas that are of primary importance. This pillar is being Co-Chaired by the very capable Brit Suttell and Chip Stacy. As we monitor and engage members of congress on both pending legislation and our own legislative initiatives NCBA will be establishing an annual Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. All members interested in meeting with members of the U.S. Congress and their staff members please save the date of April 20-21, 2020. More information on this exciting event will be coming soon.

Another exciting new initiative is the State Creditors Bar Association Leadership Forum. This Forum, led by Adam Cleveland and Brian Cloud, will meet via conference call monthly and have a dedicate lunch reception at our bi-annual conferences. We already had our first monthly call that was extremely well attended. Besides hearing from multiple state leaders on what legislative issues they are dealing with in their local legislatures, we heard a presentation on testifying effectively before your state legislative committee. We intend to blend information sharing and short informative presentations on these calls to support and promote our State Creditors Bar Associations leaders.

Our desire is to make sure that our practice area’s story of professionalism and compliance is properly told to the general public; we are in the process of developing clear forward-facing policy priorities for 2020 as well. Part of an effective advocacy strategy is to have a PAC to be able to support and engage legislators. To that end we are taking a deep dive look at our PAC and, under the leadership of Scott Morris, we are doing just that. Stay tuned for more information on PAC activities as we review this important segment of NCBA’s advocacy.

Another segment of our advocacy efforts is to build and maintain coalitions with other industry and legal organization participants. To that end NCBA participated in multiple coalition calls including federal legislation and state-focused groups. States that have already established coalitions include Florida, Massachusetts, Washington, and Maryland, among others in formation.

NCBA is also fortunate to have a robust Amicus Brief Committee, led by Crystal Duplay and Ron Miller. The committee was fortunate to be able to engage veteran attorney Ron Canter to draft an amicus brief on behalf of NCBA and the Florida State Creditors Bar Association in the case of Ham and Foxall v. PRA, now pending before the Supreme Court of Florida. Filing an amicus in cases that have potential national ramifications and affect our members is a key segment of both promoting and advocating for NCBA practitioners.

Finally, as we await the CFPB’s final rule on debt collection and the release of a supplemental proposed rule on time-barred debt, we continue to develop NCBA’s strategy of CFPB engagement. Planning educational sessions and post rule strategy is a primary focus of NCBA leadership. Meetings with key members of the CFPB’s staff are also being scheduled as part of this critical engagement.

So now back to The Grateful Dead. These poignant lyrics of Jerry Garcia always bring home what makes an advocate effective:

“The story teller makes no choice,

soon you will not hear his voice,

his job is to shed light, and not to master.”

As we craft our message both in the media, the halls of Congress and state legislatures throughout the country, our task is to shed light, make the story bigger than just one issue or circumstance, and present a message that places our members and practice area on the highest professional and ethical levels of the practice of law. Together, NCBA will continue to be recognized as the premier advocate for attorneys practicing creditors rights law.

It is going to be a productive year ahead.