53 Judges J. 1 (2014)

handle is hein.journals/judgej53 and id is 1 raw text is: LegA Access Job Corps

By ABA President James R. Silkenat

ne of my top priorities as pres-
ident of the American Bar
Association (ABA) is to mobi-
lize our efforts to help solve one of the
most vexing problems facing the legal
profession: too many low- and moderate-
income people either cannot afford or do
not have practical access to legal repre-
sentation. At the same time, too many
recent law graduates are without good jobs
or the practical experience they need to
be effective lawyers.
As the national voice for the legal pro-
fession, the ABA is committed to finding
ways to resolve this paradox. In August
2013, we established the Legal Access Job
Corps Task Force, which is identifying ways
to provide meaningful work experience for
new lawyers while serving the legal needs
of low- and moderate-income clients.
The Task Force is co-chaired by Dis-
trict of Columbia Court of Appeals Chief
Judge Eric Washington, a former presi-
dent of the Conference of Chief Justices;
Patricia White, dean of the University of
Miami School of Law; and Allan Tanen-
baum, a longtime bar leader from Atlanta.
The access-to-justice paradox is far
from new, and the ABA is not the first to
seek solutions, but I believe that the ABA,
which can leverage its national network
of judges and lawyers, is well-prepared to
address the complex issues involved. We
are committed to looking at the dearth of
legal jobs and the large number of unmet
legal needs as one problem, instead of keep-
ing the two issues isolated in separate silos.

We are seeking the ideas and involvement
of the judiciary, the organized bar, and oth-
ers who can help identify solutions.
While the problem of access to justice
exists globally, the United States still falls far
short. The World Justice Project ranks the
United States as No. 66 out of 98 countries
in terms of access to affordable civil legal
services. According to the Legal Services
Corporation, only a small fraction-per-
haps as few as one in five-of the legal
problems experienced by low-income peo-
ple are addressed. The demand is so great
that, nationally, only one legal aid lawyer is
available for every 6,415 low-income people.
There are also significant regions
where the lawyer population is scant or
nonexistent and where the local popula-
tion, for all practical purposes, does not
have timely or proximate access to a law-
yer. For example, as the New York Times
reported last year, when a lawyer in Ben-
nett County, South Dakota, retired after
64 years in practice, no attorney was avail-
able to take his place. The closest working
lawyer lived 120 miles away.
In a country founded on the promise
of justice for all, Americans without law-
yers go without justice. Judges know too
well the many examples of monumental
life issues that could be alleviated with the
help of a lawyer-a tenant facing evic-
tion from a foreclosed home, a domestic
violence survivor who needs a restraining
order from an abusive spouse, or a home-
less veteran who needs help accessing
military benefits.

And newly minted lawyers are waiting
for the chance to help. In 2012, only 56
percent of nearly 46,000 law school grad-
uates had a job requiring bar passage nine
months after graduation. One lawyer in
California posted an ad on Craigslist that
read: Quite frankly, I am quite desperate
and willing to learn and dedicate myself to
any area of the law. Last year, 50 job appli-
cants applied to a Boston law firm for new
associate positions that paid just $10,000.
What our legal system needs is a match-
maker that connects individuals in need of
justice with recent law graduates who seek
opportunities to gain practical experience.
The Legal Access Job Corps Task Force
is looking at the range of programs that
help new, struggling lawyers meet the
legal needs of the underserved. Initiatives
include rural outreach programs, residency
and incubator programs, and nonprofit fel-
lowships. The Task Force has compiled a
detailed list of such activities at http://
www.ambar.org/newlab. We want to foster
continued on page 36

Winter 2014 - -Judges' ournal


Published in The Judges' Journal, Volume 53, Number 1, Winter 2014. @ 2014 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof
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