Earlier this week, LSC had its 40th anniversary shebang in DC.
As I understand it, the primary goal was to establish LSC and federal funding of community-based legal aid as a permanent bi-partisan commitment. It certainly moved us a long way toward this goal, with, for example, speeches by Bush counsel and Supreme Court putative nominee Harriet Miers, and actual Republican Supreme Court Associate Justice Scalia.
More surprising, and very encouraging, was a slowly building focus on innovation. Moreover, this focus was not just on technology and “efficiency” but also on ideas such as system change, and non-lawyer practice. Among the highlights for me:
- Professor Deborah Rhode, after analyzing the excessive lawyer market regulation, and the need for big change, summarizing it with something like: “We need less protection of lawyers and more protection of consumers,” a mantra I suggest we should all internalize
- Massachusetts Chief Justice Ralph Gants, in response to Scalia’s statements about the importance of equality of access to justice, urging that the US Supreme Court should become much more active in promoting access to justice. (I would add what a model for such a role Canada offers).
- Three of the law school deans (Georgetown, Yale and Chicago) who spoke acknowledging interest in helping in proving training for non-lawyer practice.
- Solicitor General Donald Verrilli talking about the corrosive effect on the bar of its integration with the countries economic inequality.
In the long term, I hope that LSC will be able to follow up with building a bipartisan agenda for access to justice innovation. There is nothing in the emerging consensus that is not bipartisan.
A final note of disappointment about the media. What a comment on the media, after such an important event, that the main media coverage seems to be entirely about VP Biden’s use of the word “shylock.” (This is what happens when you Google “Legal Services Corporation 40th).
But this will be forgotten, and an integrated consensus approach to access, for which this celebration laid the groundwork, will not, because it will touch millions of lives.