Research studies indicate that only a fraction of the civil legal problems experienced by low-income Americans are addressed with the help of a private attorney or a legal aid lawyer. DWT partner Harry Korrell co-chaired a national task force this past year to try to address this worrisome problem.
Korrell is a board member of Legal Services Corporation, the organization created by Congress to disburse federal grants to legal aid groups. LSC-funded programs turn away half of those seeking help, and limited resources is one of the major reasons why.
In order to help fill this gap, an LSC Task Force was convened last year to identify and recommend innovative ways to enhance the availability of pro bono legal services— effectively and efficiently. Korrell was chosen to co-chair the task force, along with Martha L. Minow, the Dean of Harvard Law School.
On Oct. 12, Korrell was in Washington, D.C. at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, as the 60-member task force released the results of its many, many hours of research and discussion.
The task force presented a host of recommendations and requests—for LSC itself and other stakeholders. Among other things, LSC was asked to consider revising its rules on private attorney involvement, and to ensure that its grantees have a shared, online platform from which to recruit and manage volunteers. For bar leaders and the judiciary, the task force recommended, among other things, that conflicts-of-interest rules be relaxed for brief service models, such as hotlines and clinics, and that lawyers be allowed to take on pro bono matters in jurisdictions other than those in which they are licensed to practice. The report also called for “adequate funding” to LSC and its grantees in order to develop the infrastructure necessary in order to use pro bono lawyers to address the crisis in legal services.
Korrell was among the many speakers at the event. He noted the vast number of volunteer hours from the distinguished task force members that had gone into the making the report. “I view one of the primary functions of the board of directors as stewardship of the taxpayer money that Congress gives to the Legal Services Corporation,” he said. “I take that responsibility very seriously, as do my fellow board members. Part of that is doing as much as possible with the very limited resources that are available. I think this task force is an excellent example of that.”
Korrell noted that an implementation task force had already been convened, with many of the same members contributing. He added: "I am confident that, under their leadership, as a result of this report, we are going to increase, substantially and measurably, the amount of pro bono legal work that is done in America."