The Refreshing Sound Of Failure

At the annual Legal Services Corporation (LSC) Innovations in Technology Conference last week, the dismal state of the legal system was front and center in conference discussions. This isn’t particularly surprising given the unique perspective of the legal aid community — a community that, by its very existence, draws attention to the inaccessibility that permeates our justice system.

Pointed and passionate, and unabashedly radicalized, LSC President Jim Sandman spoke of the problem in no uncertain terms.

“The system is failing. Failing. We just need to acknowledge that.”

It wasn’t a hard sell for me. (He had me at “hello.”)

It also wasn’t the first time I’ve heard President Sandman or others say something to this effect. And the reality of the message is, of course, infuriating. But the public and no-frills acknowledgement of the state in which we find ourselves, by leaders in the legal community, is nothing but refreshing.

The Honest Truth About Our Collective Failure

Finally. We can be honest. With one another, and ourselves. In public.

For many years, I’ve tiptoed around this acknowledgement, trying to be diplomatic about the message. I’ve been a bit more outspoken in the last two years, but coming out of the LSC conference, the flood gates are officially off their hinges.

Not only can and should we be honest about the total collapse of the legal system for all but a very small subset of the population, we can and should also be honest about the validity of some of the proposals that have been put forth for pulling the legal system out of its orbital decay.

Peddle your pro bono suggestion somewhere else

Coming out of the Innovations in Technology Conference, I finally feel like I have the permission to laugh next to Jim Sandman and others when someone suggests that increasing pro bono hours is the way to bridge the justice gap.

During our closing panel at ITC on regulatory reform, President Sandman cited Gillian Hadfield’s estimate that every licensed lawyer in this country would need to do 180 hours of pro bono work to give one hour of assistance to every household for each legal problem they face.

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