Highlights from LSC's 40th Anniversary Conference

On “APPLAUDING LEGAL AID WORKERS”

Our country owes every single person in this organization, all of you before me and the thousands of others, a debt of gratitude for understanding that fundamental promise. What we owe to protect the rights of every single person, no matter who they are or where they are, to not be the victims of the rationing of justice.
It is the ultimate measure of who we are as a country the extent to which we guarantee every American access to the justice system. That’s what you do. That’s why I’m so proud to be associated with you. And I know you’ll keep it up.

Joe Biden
Vice President of United States

Were it not for those of you in this room and thousands and thousands of lawyers across this country over the last 40 years, the doors of the courtroom would have been too heavy for our neighbors to open.

William Hubbard
President, American Bar Association

The historic role of lawyers to give back to their societies. One of the things that you never hear about, and I tell this to my students all the time, is that for hundreds of years lawyers were considered to be good lawyers if, in addition to serving their clients, they found out a way to uplift the societies they were in.

Dean Blake D. Morant
The George Washington University Law School and Robert Kramer Research Professor of Law & President-elect of the Association of American Law Schools

You are the real heroes of the legal services movement. On the front lines, being asked to do ever more with very limited resources.

Alexander D. Forger
Former president of LSC/Partner and Chairman, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy

You perform this work because you understand that legal aid is nothing less than a professional responsibility, a moral obligation, and a national duty.

Eric Holder
United States Attorney General

As lawyers, we are the guardians of our legal system. We have professional responsibilities and we have moral responsibilities to make sure that equal justice under the law is reality.

Senator Ben Cardin
Maryland

I close with a salute, a real salute, to the incredible band of legal services lawyers and staff and board members and others, who have given their professional lives to make legal services a bulwark of justice.

Thomas Ehrlich
First president of LSC, Visiting Professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education

You as legal aid lawyers and as the Legal Services Corporation have undertaken to be a voice for the poor who have no other voice. Ironically, you need a voice because your efforts in lobbying are limited and someone needs to speak up for that.

Chief Justice Nathan Hecht
Texas Supreme Court

Civil legal aid provides people a range of services: legal assistance and representation, but also self-help centers and other court-based services, pro bono assistance, free legal clinics, and access to web-based information to guide them through complicated legal proceedings, to protect their livelihoods, their health, and their families.

Martha Bergmark
Executive Director, Voices for Civil Justice

On “ACCESS TO JUSTICE”

As a society, we do not do nearly as well as we ought to in enabling low-income, and for that matter middle-income, Americans to get the legal assistance that they need to vindicate their legal rights.
And all of those costs to the individual that come from not having a lawyer and not being able to access justice, all of those costs work their way back to ordinary taxpayers, the people who pay for the hospital emergency rooms, and the homeless shelters, and so forth. So that, in fact, studies show that the money spent on legal aid, on providing lawyers to poor people who need them, end up saving double, triple, quadruple the amount spent on those services. And just as important, the inability of low-income Americans to get legal aid, and in that way to vindicate their legal entitlements, undermines the legitimacy of courts, the legitimacy of our entire legal system, and runs counter to our national commitment to the rule of law.
Every judge in this country owes you a debt. Every lawyer in this country owes you a debt. Every citizen of this country owes you a debt. But it’s quite obvious that you need help. You need increased funding. You need partnerships with law schools, and law firms, and businesses. You need the very best ideas for using new technologies and for creating new service delivery models. You need simplified and streamlined legal processes so that your work can achieve the appropriate results. Did I say you need increased funding?

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan

From the profession’s perspective, the focus on guaranteeing more lawyers makes obvious sense. But from the standpoint of the public, the objective is more access to justice, not necessarily access to lawyers.

It makes no sense to post signs, as some courthouses do, advising law clerks that they cannot give legal advice. That’s after all the only question that law clerks are asked, other than “where’s the restroom?”

The Legal Services Corporation has long been in the forefront of efforts to secure access to legal services, and to make that now possible, it also needs to be in the forefront of demanding access to qualified non-lawyer providers.

Professor Deborah Rhode
Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law, Stanford Law School

On what NY has done to increase access to justice:

A recognition that civil legal services to stop people from falling off the cliff in difficult economic times is every bit as important to society as education and housing and hospitals and all the things we hold dear.
Reaching out to untapped parts of the profession that haven’t necessarily been utilized appropriately. Whether it be older lawyers (we call them the Lawyer Emeritus Program in NY) or reaching out to corporate counsel.
Two other areas, maybe that I think are relevant, one is the use of nonlawyers. I think it is an emerging trend with the theory that an expert nonlawyer in a particular area may give more service to a person in need then, let’s say, a lawyer whose more a generalist.

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman
New York Court of Appeals

But the American ideal is not for some justice, it is, as the pledge of allegiance says, “Liberty and justice for all” or as the Supreme Court pediment has it “equal justice.” I’ve always thought that’s somewhat redundant. Can there be justice if it is not equal, can there be a just society when some do not have justice? Equality, equal treatment is perhaps the most fundamental element of justice.
So, this organization pursues the most fundamental of American ideals and it pursues equal justice in those areas of life most important to the lives of our citizens.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

I really do believe that we should consider a new way of thinking about access to justice and the message we attempt to convey to other people.

Funding for access to justice should be a nondiscretionary issue. It is as important as anything in the federal budget that the federal Congress does.

When a person or a corporation or a business is able to use the power of the government to take the property or the liberty or compromise the rights of another person, then the right to fair and equal access to the courts becomes a constitutional right.

We need to tell the Congress and our legislators back in our states the truth about our needs and about what we believe that we do not need to wait for another Clarence Earl Gideon to come along to start pressing the cords.

Justice Jess H. Dickinson
Mississippi Supreme Court

What the Legal Services Corporation has done with the resources it has is try to make sure that people do have equal justice to the extent possible. We have a long way to go, and I think the 40th Anniversary really reminds us that we still have a long way to go compared to other countries in the world in terms of providing people who want access to the legal system good representation and fair representation and equal justice.

Although we are in the business world today, and we are designed to kind of make profits for our shareholders and investors, we are as concerned about the way our country operates as anyone who is not a businessperson.

I think we could help close the income inequality gap if we were to do something about the legal access gap.

[On developing metrics to gage the effectiveness of efforts to bridge the legal access gap]:

We need something that is relatively simple, that people can understand, that can say yes it’s getting better or no it’s not getting better. And we need some way to come up with a quotient that’s not unlike GDP that people can quickly grasp: yes, the access to the legal system is falling or getting better because of so many hours have been provided to people who need it, or by other measurements that people can come up with. But without a short, simple metric, I don’t think people, outside of the community that cares about this, will really feel we’ve made progress or we’re not making progress.

David Rubenstein
CEO, Carlyle Group

On “JUDICIAL LEADERSHIP IN INCREASING ACCESS TO JUSTICE”

I think the time has come when the judiciary in this country, particularly the judiciaries in each state and the chief justices in each of the states, take the leadership role in access to justice.

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman
New York Court of Appeals

All of us see the need for the chief justice of our state to be a leader in encouraging the legislature to provide adequate funds, to be working with our judges and with our courts to make sure they recognize that access to justice is simply what we do as a court system.

What a difference it would make if that same commitment to access to justice was shared by the United States Supreme Court. If they would be out with the Congress beginning to urge the Congress to provide the means to provide justice for all.

Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants
Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts

On “THE FUNDING GAP”

Those members that are opposed to LSC funding aren’t just opposed to LSC funding. They’re opposed to all extraneous spending, period. So, it’s not just you. So a lot of that just general opposition, those members that you’re never going to win over from a purely fiscal conservative perspective, it’s not just you.

Shannon Hutcherson Hines
Minority Clerk, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice & Science

I would encourage us and I would encourage all of you to reach out to corporations. You can look on their websites to see what their corporate missions and charitable givings are and what they are tied to, and begin a relationship because that’s critical.

Darryl Bradford
Senior Vice President & General Counsel, Exelon

While there I think is quite a bit of support on both sides of the aisle on the committee for LSC, you’re competing for increasingly scarce dollars. And what we’re going to continue to see, again perhaps depending on this election, is continued pressure on these allocations that the committees get each year that’s going to continue to squeeze our overall allocation, which filters down to all the agencies.

Thomas Culligan
Legislative Director, Representative Frank Wolf

In my opinion, one of the biggest untapped resources to support legal aid in the country is private donors outside the legal community.

Alex R. Gulotta
Executive Director, Bay Area Legal Aid

Alexander Hamilton said the first duty of society is justice. And when we begin to lose the values that have quintessentially defined us as Americans, and if we have to resort simply to economic arguments as to why our fellow citizens deserve justice, I think we’re going to actually have given up something very important.

I think the biggest problem we face as a society is the growing indifference that we have to the poor. I think that indifference grows when we lack direct and meaningful access to people who have problems that most of us can scarcely imagine.

Kenneth C. Frazier
CEO, Merck

On “THE NEED FOR LEGAL AID”

We hope that justice has few enemies. Most of what we struggle with, I don’t think is opposition to justice, but ignorance of what is going on.

It is important for us in our communications with legislators, who provide public support, and others to put a face on the problem. To say, as specifically as we can, this is what we are doing, these are the lives who were changed, this is why a difference is being made.

I think when you understand exactly what we do, and where the money goes, and what it’s used for, and how that makes a difference, then it’s much easier to find support for legal services.

You as legal aid lawyers and as the Legal Services Corporation have undertaken to be a voice for the poor who have no other voice, ironically you need a voice because your efforts in lobbying are limited and someone needs to speak up for that.

The courts, particularly the high courts of the United States can fill that void, and can be a voice for the mission of legal services.

Chief Justice Nathan Hecht
Texas Supreme Court

When I think about the underserved, I also think about the small business person. The woman, the vet, the senior that has no voice that is also looking to engage and to understand the rule of law, and how they can be successful in providing for their family. And so I think we have so much in common.

Maria Contreras-Sweet
Administrator of the Small Business Administration

Our courts are faced with language access challenges on a daily basis that includes not just our metropolitan areas, but also small towns in states like Nebraska.

Chief Justice Michael Heavican
Supreme Court of Nebraska and Immediate Past President of Conference of Chief Justices

On the legal problems of the poor:

There are many people who don’t even know the problems they are experiencing in life might be a legal problem in part. They may never even think, ‘Gee if I could talk to a lawyer I could get some help.’ These people tend to be invisible.

On the problems in the rise of pro se litigants and the need for representation:

If they try to go it alone, can they navigate the legal system without making a fatal mistake? Such as blowing a statute of limitations, failing to respond properly to a motion to dismiss, failing to include critical facts or documents in their filings, not realizing which court to go to and a host of other mistakes.

Is it possible for the court to decipher what the unrepresented is trying to communicate?

Whether the unrepresented person has overlooked other possible ways of solving a problem?

Civil legal assistance is a win-win-win proposition. And it should be entirely apolitical.

Chief Judge Diane Wood
United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

On “TECHNOLOGY & INNOVATION”

On partnering with the state library system to provide access to the interactive software:

We’ve, with a grant from the Legal Services Corporation, developed an interactive software program that sort of asks common sense questions that a self-represented litigant can answer and have that program generate forms for them which then work in our court system.

I think the librarians, this is what they do, they reach out to people, they give them information about issues they are not familiar with and it’s a perfect match for us because we have information to share. We have services that are available, and we need to get the word out to people about what those services are.

The Legal Services Corporation has long been in the forefront of efforts to secure access to legal services, and to make that now possible, it also needs to be in the forefront of demanding access to qualified non-lawyer providers.

I think we could help close the income inequality gap if we were to do something about the legal access gap.

[On developing metrics to gage the effectiveness of efforts to bridge the legal access gap]:

We need something that is relatively simple, that people can understand, that can say yes it’s getting better or no it’s not getting better. And we need some way to come up with a quotient that’s not unlike GDP that people can quickly grasp: yes, the access to the legal system is falling or getting better because of so many hours have been provided to people who need it, or by other measurements that people can come up with. But without a short, simple metric, I don’t think people, outside of the community that cares about this, will really feel we’ve made progress or we’re not making progress.

Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald
Hawaii Supreme Court

On LSC’s goal of providing legal aid services to 100% of the people who need them:
If we’re going to achieve this bold vision, we need to stop thinking that the only effective model for delivering legal services is the traditional one-on-one representation by an attorney.
On borrowing ideas from the way E-Bay resolves over 60 million online disputes a year:
Why does small claims court need to be so difficult? Why can’t we reinvent the small claims system, or really any other practice, so that we are diverting cases initially to an online mediation system, and then those that aren’t resolved can come back to a more streamlined court system that is easier and more transparent and people can navigate more easily?
I want to challenge you and encourage you to figure out how to adapt the good ideas, the good solutions, the technology that you use in your everyday life, and apply that to legal aid. If we can do that, I think that we will move the needle and we will push towards meeting that big goal of 100% access.

Lisa Colpoys
Chief Executive Officer, Illinois Legal Aid Online

On how LSC lawyers, just like corporate sector lawyers, must learn to provide more for less::

Now this is a lesson that the people in this room know well, because you live in a world of shrinking budgets, and rising expectations, and rising demand for your services. You have always had to figure out how to provide more for less. Maybe by looking carefully at what the people who have more resources are doing faced with that same challenge, maybe we can learn some lessons.
On thinking about legal needs not just based on the inputs, but measuring the value of outputs:
The more you know, the less you care about the input and the more you care about the output. What is the value to you, and what’s the most efficient way of producing it? What can we learn from that? The most expensive input in the world is a lawyer who’s gone through three years of law school, passed a bar exam and a character and fitness review. That’s an expensive asset. When do we need that asset to produce the value, and when could we use other assets? When could we use other kinds of professionals? When can we leverage technology? When can we do do-it-yourself?

Professor David Wilkins
Lester Kissel Professor of Law, Vice Dean for Global Initiatives on the Legal Profession, and faculty director of the Program on the Legal Profession and the Center for Lawyers and the Professional Services Industry, Harvard Law School

On building upon state websites used in legal aid to generate revenue from the for-profit world:

You might imagine a grand convergence that does the same thing we just started and drives maybe most of the public to a single triage site. A single information site where they can develop understanding of what their rights are and ways to deliver on those rights, and then delivers those leads, which is what they are, to legal aid or private practice as appropriate. And the folks that put the $400 million into this space expect a return, and so should we. Those leads are valuable.

Professor Ronald M. Staudt
Professor of law and Director of the Center for Access to Justice & Technology at Chicago-Kent College of Law

On “THE CREATION OF LSC”

The truth of the matter is, all of you involved in legal services know that it matters. It matters a lot whether you really feel passionate about what you’re doing. I briefly remember what it was like as a public defender when there was no Legal Services Corporation. I know how much this organization has done since then for so many, for so long. And I’m confident it will continue to do so.

Joe Biden
Vice President of United States

With the bipartisan passage – bipartisan passage – and signing of the Legal Services Corporation Act our country took a really crucial step to codify its commitment to justice for all.
This is not and it has never been a divisive or partisan issue. It is fundamentally an American issue. It’s about the values that unite us.

Eric Holder
United States Attorney General

The Legal Services Corporation embodies the greatest values of our legal system and of our society.

We had to convince skeptical Members of Congress, that using the law, creating access to legal services to help poor families was a just and necessary cause.

Hillary Clinton
Former Secretary of State/Former LSC Board Chair

When LSC was created and started, it was never a partisan division. It wasn’t even a philosophical division in our country over the basic core value of America, our rule of law and justice.

Senator Ben Cardin
Maryland

On “THE IMPACT OF LEGAL AID”

LSC has grown to become the single largest funder of civil legal aid for low income Americans, providing help and hope to countless individuals and families who are too often overlooked and too often underserved.
Everyday, everyday your efforts not only change lives, they transform entire communities.

Eric Holder
United States Attorney General

They’ve helped the ABA and lawyers throughout America understand the vital mission of our nation to establish justice for all.
There’s this intractable problem that continues to vex us and it is, despite all of the efforts of those of you in this room, despite pro bono efforts of corporations and big law firms and small law firms and solo practitioners, we haven’t really moved the needle very significantly on access to justice.
We are ranked 18th out of 24 countries in North America and Western Europe on access to justice. That’s not acceptable.
Were it not for those of you in this room and thousands and thousands of lawyers across this country over the last 40 years, the doors of the courtroom would have been too heavy for our neighbors to open.
We cannot accept the status quo. We must lead. As lawyers, we must lead – not follow.
The ABA and those of you here must lead the way. We must lead the way if we are to ensure that change will increase access to justice while broadening opportunities for lawyers, protecting the public, and preserving our professional independence.
We all know that Dr. King, when he talked about the presence of justice was not just talking about justice for some. He was talking about justice for all.

William Hubbard
President, American Bar Association

We’re not really in the business of knowing what the community needs are and we rely on our partners to help guide us to go where the needs are greatest or where we could have the greatest impact.

Ivan Fong
Senior Vice President & General Counsel, 3M

I got a good social worker and she got me in contact with Atlanta Legal Aid Society. And once I got on the phone with them, I knew I was getting out.

Harold Anderson
Client, Atlanta Legal Aid Society

For me, it has been a real mission to do what I could no matter where I happened to be to make the case on behalf of all of you, and with all of you, as to why what this Corporation represents is so essential as to who we are as Americans.
Your work, what you and your predecessors have done, has made the law a much more realistic tool to promote the rule of law and social justice.
The rule of law is one of the great arguments we able to make in so many different societies across the globe about what democracy should mean, about what freedom should mean, about what human dignity should mean. And I think those values, and the role of the Corporation, are as needed today as ever before.
It was the stories of our clients that really gripped me, and the ability to try to make a difference, to somewhat relieve the burdens that so many people came seeking our help were facing. That is critical for who we are as Americans. It’s who we have been. It’s who we must be in the future.
Guaranteeing legal services for all Americans makes us a better country and a fairer country and helps by empowering people to solve those problems. It helps to level the playing field.

Hillary Clinton
Former Secretary of State/Former LSC Board Chair

The failure to provide legal services has a cost. Yes, it has a cost in what we stand for and the values of the country. It has a cost because our social agencies will be more stressed if people do not get the legal services that they need. It will hurt in regards to mortgage foreclosures and losing homes that need not be lost, and it has a direct impact on our communities and the strength of our communities. It will have a direct impact on families, safety of children, and keeping family units together.

Senator Ben Cardin
Maryland

Beatrice [NMLA attorney] knew what to do and I just felt so comforted to know that this woman cared and that she was helping me.

Juliette White
Client, New Mexico Legal Aid

I am here to tell you what an incredible blessing each of you are to every client you fight for. How could a free attorney be any good? And I kept asking myself that. Well, that free attorney saved our lives.
He sat there and listened to me and he said ‘You are in a cycle of abuse. This is abuse. This is going to end and I’m going to end it.’ And he did.

He listened. He believed, not only in me, but my children who were nine years old at the time. He was passionate. He would not stop in court till every single detail was understood by everyone in that courtroom.

They are now happy teenagers who were saved by an attorney from Neighborhood Legal Services who used everything in his power to make sure they were safe and wouldn’t stop until they were. And for that I owe attorney Mark Kratchka and Neighborhood Legal Services my life.

Anonymous
Client, Pennsylvania

I would like to thank Legal Services Corporation and Cleveland Legal Aid Society for all of their work, because, really, without either one of those organizations I wouldn’t have had all the opportunities I’ve had in the last few years.
Time stopped, everything stopped. And in that moment, I knew, somehow, for the first time, everything was gonna be alright.
That’s the magic of these programs, folks. You guys deliver that moment of clarity for people like me when we’ve never had it, we don’t know what it is until it happens in your office.
That moment of clarity is powerful. And your ability to deliver that to people every day should not be forgotten.

They are now happy teenagers who were saved by an attorney from Neighborhood Legal Services who used everything in his power to make sure they were safe and wouldn’t stop until they were. And for that I owe attorney Mark Kratchka and Neighborhood Legal Services my life.

Ilah Adkins
Former Client/ Former Board President for the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland

On “BIPARTISAN SUPPORT”

I really thank those members of the Board who represent both political parties, but beyond really any kind of party identification, represent a commitment to legal services for serving and for those who served before.
Because of the great work that was done by our bipartisan board and by the dedication of those board members, everybody went to work to make the case to the new Reagan administration and to the Congress that the Legal Services Corporation should not only be protected but expanded.

Hillary Clinton
Former Secretary of State/Former LSC Board Chair

The importance of the Legal Services Corporation and the gravity of the issues faced by its clients can never be overestimated and should never be out of sight. Today, we have a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of Legal Services Corporation, to rededicate ourselves to providing a system of justice in this nation that serves the neediest among us, and to be increasingly innovative in providing access to justice for all in our society, not just the fortunate.
We’ve seen a dramatic turnaround—I hope you have—in the views of some who used to be opposed to legal services, but now because they have heard from and been approached by people that they trust, that they respect and admire, their views have changed. Legal Services, as we know, deserves nonpartisan and bipartisan support because it has proven itself, and LSC is consistent with the principles upon which this country was founded, just as Chairman Levi told us.

Harriett Miers
White House Counsel, 2005 – 2007

On “PRO BONO AND COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS”

I would say the other reason to have a pro bono program in an in-house environment is to remind lawyers that work in an in-house environment that they are connected to the justice system.

Lucy Lee Helm
Executive Vice President, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary, Starbucks

Most attorneys are very busy, they don’t have time to forge the relationships or do research on what kind of training to organize. And so we offer a small handful of, I wouldn’t call them signature projects, but where we do all the work, so that all you have to do is show up for the training and you’ve got the clients all lined up and ready to go.
To summarize again, it’s that culture of support that I think is the key to success; it’s the community collaboration. You have to work closely with community partners and law firms. It’s the choice – give people a range of choices so they can’t say, “well, I’m not interested in this, I’m not interested in that.” I want to remove that as an excuse. And then some kind of committee structure to set goals.

Ivan Fong
Senior Vice President & General Counsel, 3M