What the Poor Really Need Is Legal Aid

Susan Beck
June 24, 2016


Pro bono leaders across the state agree, “pro bono is not the solution,” says Steven Schulman, who leads the pro bono practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and is a former president of the Association of Pro Bono Counsel. Pro bono work is widely acknowledged as an insufficient way of handling the varying legal needs of a large and diverse indigent community. What the community really needs is legal aid.

“As every lawyer should know, groups that provide legal services to the poor are desperately underfunded, and most have to turn away more than half of the people who seek their help.” This leads to masses of people who have to try and seek help and go to court without and legal representation. “It’s a crisis that goes beyond legal issues and exacerbates the cycle of poverty and the burgeoning income inequality gap.”

While many big law firms have a pro bono department and tout legal aid, there are still few that actively speak up for and/ or give to legal aid programs. “For this movement to get going, it will need the leaders of Big Law—chairmen and chairwomen and managing partners—to raise their voices. “We need to harness the power of large law firm leadership,” says current president of the Association of Pro Bono Counsel, Benjamin Weinberg.”

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Organizations mentioned/involved: Bet Tzedek Legal Services