Happy Friday, ladies and gents. This week’s bulletin brings you two weeks of news (read: your author dropped the ball last week). A legal education update before that. This New York Times story suggests that law schools will face smaller student bodies and decreased revenue in the near future. A National Law Journal piece focuses on the recent enrollment decline.
On to the public interest and access to justice news. In very, very brief:
- the poor job market in civil legal aid;
- profiles of pro bono champions;
- $1 million in Sandy relief funding to LSC;
- Massachusetts lawyers march for more legal aid funding;
- family law pro bono in the Bay Area;
- controversy over Nebraska’s indigent defense system;
- ditto, Washington State;
- pro bono’s growth in Charm City;
- indigent defense hits the silver screen;
- a recap of two events promoting technology as an ATJ tool;
- the work of Iowa Legal Aid
- MN practice rule change could result in more in-house pro bono;
- New York’s top jurist is intrigued by proposal to allow bar exam after 2 years of law school.
- I just wrote about recently collected data on the civil legal aid job market: “As has been well documented, the Great Recession led to a great diminution in the funding that supports the civil legal aid community. Federal funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) has been slashed. Interest on lawyers trust account (IOLTA) funding, which supports LSC-funded providers and legal aid providers that don’t receive LSC funds, has bottomed out. Foremost on the minds of all legal aid stakeholders is the impact that this funding shortage will have on clients, of whom there are recently many more— also a consequence of the recession. One facet of the legal aid funding crisis is the limitation that providers suffer in hiring and retaining attorneys to serve clients. Data compiled separately by LSC and NALP in 2012 shows that strains on funding are drastically limiting the legal aid community’s hiring capacity.” Here’s the full piece, which reviews the new data, in the February edition of NALP’s Bulletin.
- Speaking of February editions, the cover story of this month’s ABA Journal is entitled “Working for free: Lawyers incorporating pro bono into their lives talk about its rewards, challenges.” The piece notes the increasing sophistication of pro bono programs in law firms, and profiles a handful of lawyers who maintain pro bono practices. “Once perceived and defined as ‘charity work’ governed solely by personal conscience, pro bono has evolved into a professional responsibility and a powerful force inside the practice of law.”
- 1.29.13 – an announcement from LSC: “The Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Bill (H.R. 152), which passed the U.S. Senate last night on a 62-36 vote, includes $1 million for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) to provide assistance to low-income people in areas significantly affected by the super storm. The House passed an identical version of the bill on January 15th. President Obama is expected to sign the bill this week.”
- 1.28.13 – “Lawyers are planning an event to urge Massachusetts lawmakers to increase state funding for civil legal aid for children and adults living in poverty. ‘Walk to the Hill,’ scheduled for Wednesday, is sponsored by the Equal Justice Coalition, the Boston Bar Association, the Massachusetts Bar Association and other bar associations throughout the state.” (Short report from the AP.)
- 1.27.12 – from the Bay Area, an Oakland Press story looks at the work of the Family Law Assistance Project, a pro bono clearinghouse through which “more than 150 volunteer attorneys offering their services to low-income Oakland County residents.”
- 1.25.13 – a battle over how county-generated funds are used by Nebraska’s state indigent defense program. “Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh has renewed his quest to let Douglas County quit contributing to a state commission that defends indigent people in criminal matters. That’s because Douglas County rarely uses the commission, most often opting instead for private, court-appointed lawyers to augment its county public defender’s office…. ‘We (in Douglas County) have our own defense bar we retain for indigent defense when our public defender has conflicts,’ Lautenbaugh said. ‘We don’t need the commission, and shouldn’t have to fund such a large portion of it.’ The commission, which has six lawyers and two administrative staffers, has an annual budget of some $1.1 million — all paid for by a $3 surcharge on all state court cases. Douglas County sends some $385,000 to the commission each year, or 35 percent of the commission’s budget.” (Story from the Lincoln Journal Star.)
- 1.25.13 – from Washington State: “The state Attorney General’s office is trying to put the brakes on a legal settlement that would give public defenders access to the same state pension benefits as prosecutors and other court employees. In a letter earlier this month to attorneys for the plaintiff and King County, AG senior counsel Anne Hall said the settlement appears to violate state law and could be “catastrophic” for the pension plan’s financial health. Meanwhile, public disclosure documents recently obtained offer new–and some say, troubling–information about a related plan to make public defenders county employees.” (Story from a Seattle Weekly blog.)
- 1.25.13 – a password-protected Baltimore Business Journal story looks at the growth and sophistication of law firm pro bono programs.
- 1.23.12 – the director/producer of “Gideon’s Army”, a new documentary focusing on public defenders and the country’s indigent defense framework, talks about her film in a New York Times video piece.
- 1.22.13 – LSC’s newly appointed Chief Information Office, Peter Campbell, recounts his experience at two LSC-sponsored events which focused on technology’s role in promoting access to justice.
- 1.20.13 – a local paper highlights the work of Iowa Legal Aid, which has staff of 50 attorneys and coordinates the work of 2,500 volunteer attorneys [who provide] more than $2 million worth of pro bono service each year.” (Story from the Times-Republican.)
- 1.18.13 – a practice rule amendment in Minnesota makes it easier for in-house counsel to do pro bono work. (Short story from the Minnesota Lawyer.)
- 1.18.13 – “A proposal to allow students to take the New York Bar Exam after two years of law school has piqued the interest of the state’s top judge. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman stopped short of formally endorsing the idea when it was taken out for a public airing on January 18 at New York University School of Law. But he told the more than 100 gathered legal educators, practitioners and judges that the concept deserves serious study.” (Story from the National Law Journal.)
- Super Music Bonus: let’s hear a new song from Benjamin Gibbard, with an assist from Aimee Mann. Here’s a live version of “Bigger Than Love.“