Why Access to Justice

Why Access to Justice is Floundering, Per Tom O: Legal Trends

Editor’s Note: Mea culpa on my part! Someone shared this article with me a couple of days ago and I missed that this happened in a Relativity Fest six years ago! Oops! Look for an update based on what happened this year ASAP!

Leave it to Tom O’Connor through his most recent blog post to illustrate why access to justice, or at least interest in it, is floundering.

Tom’s post in his terrific Techno Gumbo blog (The Best Presentation at Relativity Fest That Nobody Heard, available here) discusses how, last week, David Horrigan, ‎E-Discovery Counsel and Legal Content Director at Relativity moderated a panel called The Future of Pro Bono and Public Service for the Legal Community. The speakers were Monica Bay, a fellow at CodeX: The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics and James Sandman, the Director of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC).


As Tom put it: “Mr. Sandman gave the best speech on the current state of our profession that I have ever heard.”

Hey, and he stayed awake too! See what I did there? 😉

Seriously, though, “Mr. Sandman” has been with the LSC since 2011 and before that practiced law with Arnold & Porter LLP for 30 years, serving as the firm’s managing partner for a decade. He was named one of the “90 Greatest Washington Lawyers of the Last 30 Years” by the Legal Times in 2008 and The University of Pennsylvania Law School has honored him with its Alumni Award of Merit and its Howard Lesnick Pro Bono Award. As Tom says, “He understands the law and lawyers”.

Sandman discussed what he called “the invisible issue in American society”, which is the underrepresentation of people in civil litigation. He said that 15% of Americans live below poverty level and are thus dependent on legal aid for their representation. Yet, 2/3 of all people appearing in a domestic case in the US have no attorney.  And in housing court cases, 90% of tenants appear with no attorney.

Why? Certainly, low funding and program concentration in urban areas are issues, but “Mr. Sandman” set out what he said were ten key barriers to adoption of more pro bono and public service opportunities. Here are the first two:

  1. Lawyers administer the system: a self-governing system is rarely innovative.
  2. 50 different state authorities decentralizes any attempt to standardize.

I won’t steal all of Tom’s thunder, check out his post here for the other eight barriers to adoption.

So, how many attended this terrific session? A whopping ten attendees. According to Tom, this is why access to justice is floundering. Tom said: “It’s not technology, it’s indifference.”

Couldn’t agree more, Tom.

So, what do you think? Do you think indifference is why access to justice is floundering? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

P.S.: Stock image at the top, not Tom’s actual session.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by my employer, my partners or my clients. eDiscovery Today is made available solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Today should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

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