Omicron wave upends ABA's plan for an in-person midyear meeting

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Signage is seen outside of the American Bar Association (ABA) in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 10, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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  • Next month's American Bar Association meeting in Seattle was to be the ABA's first large, in-person meeting since the pandemic began
  • It will now take place online

(Reuters) - It’s back to virtual meetings for the American Bar Association.

The ABA’s Board of Governors on Thursday voted to move the organization’s midyear meeting online amid a drastic increase in COVID-19 cases nationwide. The meeting was to be held in Seattle Feb. 9-14 and would have been the organization’s first large-scale in-person gathering since the pandemic began in March 2020. Smaller meetings for specific ABA sections or entities have be held in person.

The ABA’s 2021 annual meeting in August was a hybrid format, with some sessions happening online and some in person in Chicago. The previous two meetings — in February 2021 and August 2020 — were completely virtual.

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The ABA committee that handles meetings and travel last week surveyed members about their plans and preferences for the meeting format. Daniel Schwartz, a partner at midsized law firm Shipman & Goodwin, on Twitter called the change “sad but understandable.”

“Was really hoping to see friends in person,” he wrote. “It's been far too long.”

COVID-19 cases have risen rapidly in the Seattle area in recent weeks. As of Thursday, both the number of new COVID-19 cases and the number of people hospitalized had more than doubled from the previous week, according to data from the Seattle and King County Department of Public Health.

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at karen.sloan@thomsonreuters.com