There are many different ways to ensure access to justice for the poor. Every so often we highlight an interesting model in hopes that similar initiatives will spread throughout the country. This happened recently when I read about two law schools creating “Incubator” law programs to improve access to justice. California Western School of Law offers recent graduates who are interested in solo practice a mechanism to establish their practice and provide much needed services to communities and individuals who may not qualify for legal aid assistance.
Community Legal Resource Networks (CLRN), around since the late 1990’s, is a network of entities that provide support to solo and small firm attorneys to assist low to moderate income individuals. The entities also advance the viability of solo and small firm practice by providing a support network for the practitioners. California Western recently undertook their own CLRN program by launching the Access to Law Initiative. This initiative, modeled after CUNY Law’s CLRN project, houses its incubator law program in downtown San Diego’s SymphonyTowers. Eight attorneys operate their own practice and pledge to provide 100 hours of pro bono, public service and “sliding scale” fee legal service. In return for this service the attorneys benefit from mentoring and networking opportunities that will assist them in growing their practice.
This program is interesting not only because it provides a means for more low and moderate income individuals to obtain services but also plants a “pro bono seed” in a group of lawyers who will, hopefully, carry on a tradition of service for the remainder of their legal careers.
How would a similar program be useful in your area? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
~ Adrienne Packard