Legal aid cuts: attorneys need to step up

April 6, 2011
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A U.S. Republican representative has suggested that attorneys in large law firms - and other private attorneys - need to come to the aid of Legal Services Corp. and other legal aid services if their budgets are reduced.

Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., suggested during a budget hearing that LSC and other groups should ask for help from large law firms, state bar dues, and law schools to make up for any large budget cuts for the current fiscal year. The House Appropriations subcommittee is also in the process of determining how much money LSC would get for the 2012 fiscal year.

One problem with Wolf’s suggestion is that many times, the people who need civil legal aid live in rural areas where there aren’t many attorneys. Would lawyers be willing to make a long commute to help those in outlying areas when they know they won’t be paid (or paid much) for their services?

Is it up to attorneys to make up this shortfall? Do all attorneys, regardless of where they work (unless of course, there are conflicts of interest), need to step up and perform more pro bono work? There have yet to be requirements on the number of hours attorneys should volunteer, and many people are resistant to that kind of requirement.

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