"Beauty confronts us with the requirement that we place ourselves among...the redeemers, the leaders in the protection of life. Once you have seen the bush on fire, you are not going to get out of the assignment unless you close your eyes to the beauty.... [You] either have to close your eyes or go back to Egypt and set the people free." - Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, "Rising to the Challenge of Our Times"

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Feeling stretched...like butter over too much bread...

Looks like we have a supply & demand problem here.

From a recent report by the California Commission on Access to Justice:

* In 2005, only 754 California lawyers worked as legal aid attorneys. That translates into one legal aid lawyer for every 8,361 low income Californians. On the other hand, there is one private attorney for every 250 Californians.
* Two of three eligible low-income clients with meritorious cases are turned away.
* IOLTA (Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts) funding, which serves as the underpinning for many legal aid programs, declined by $14.6 million between 1993 and 2005, a 59 percent drop.
* Although core funding for legal services (from IOLTA, the Legal Services Corp. and California's Equal Access Fund) increased by $7 million from 1993 to 2005, when adjusted for inflation, the 2005 money actually represented a decline in funding.
* Self-help centers are helping to fill the gap in county courthouses, but the courts need $44 million to fully achieve self-help assistance. Current funding provides $8.7 million statewide.


adam said...

It seems like that is a problem in a lot of fields. There is a huge need for special ed teachers but no one wants to do it. Would raising the salary do it for the legal service world?

Emily said...

No doubt that would help, the problem is what to raise the salary with. Over the years various unfriendly administrations have imposed new restrictions on legal aid programs (at least the programs that receive federal Legal Services Corp. funding), for example we are prohibited from collecting any attorney fees (as you can imagine, a significant source of income for your typical law firm) and from engaging in "complex litigation" (class action suits). It's very flattering to be viewed as such a threat to the status quo that people like Ronald Reagan would have liked to strangle us in our sleep.