October 20th marks the beginning of the American Bar Association's annual celebration of pro bono work, a week dedicated to recognizing the work attorneys, law firms, and legal organizations do for the public good—and to get more to join their ranks.
Now in its eleventh year, the week-long celebration sees more than 7,000 pro bono events offered, with nearly 70 percent of them being direct service clinics, volunteer training, recruitment events, or new initiative launches.
Such work couldn't be more necessary. Here’s why it matters and what Logikcull is doing to support pro bono representation and public interest work.
Eighty-six percent of low-income Americans have civil legal needs that go unaddressed by the legal profession, according to a 2017 survey by the Legal Services Corporation. These unmet legal needs are not insignificant, covering everything from health issues, custody disputes, financial matters, and disability benefits.
And when it comes to access to justice, the most vulnerable are the most likely to go unrepresented. The LSC reports that individuals with disabilities, families with children, and people in rural areas were least likely to obtain legal representation, while households with survivors of domestic abuse or sexual assault were the most likely to experience civil legal issues—with 67 percent having six or more such issues.
In many ways, the legal system is leaving America's most vulnerable citizens behind.
Given the high cost of legal services and the existing strain on the nation's legal aid organizations, it's no wonder that so many people go without much-needed legal services. And cost doesn't just mean hourly rates. As many legal professionals know, the expenses associated with simply reviewing and producing documents in discovery can oftentimes quickly surpass the median annual household income (about $60,000 in 2019).
As Judge John M. Facciola of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia put it in an interview with Logikcull a few years back, "probably no greater challenge has been faced in terms of administration of justice in this country."
The costs of discovery may, in the long run, drive an entire economic class out of the federal court for lack of means to engage. It's all well and good when monumental companies go after each other with their extraordinary resources, but if we get used to those big bills as being typical of what can be expected in cases involving electronic discovery, obviously those costs will overwhelm smaller cases involving smaller entities.
Despite these hurdles, the legal industry is not unmoved by or unresponsive to these unmet needs. On the discovery front, the growth of cloud computing has allowed drastic reductions in the costs of eDiscovery software and eliminating some cost drivers, like hosting fees, altogether. And throughout the nation, law firms regularly participate in pro bono representation. The American Bar Association's Model Rule 6.1, for example, states that "Every lawyer, regardless of professional prominence or professional workload, has a responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay." The ABA further urges lawyers to provide a minimum of 50 hours of pro bono services annually—though surveys show that, while more than 50 percent of attorneys offer services pro bono every year, only a small minority get to 50 hours.
Given the challenge to be met, it's incredibly important to celebrate attorneys who are dedicating their time and efforts to representing underserved populations, often at their own expense.
It's equally important, too, to make sure they are armed with tools that allow them to deliver legal services efficiently and effectively. That's why Logikcull has long supported pro bono work with free or discounted accounts.
After all, access to information shouldn't be a barrier to justice. Yet far too often, it is, with growing data volumes making it increasingly difficult to find the most important documents without the right tools. For individuals and organizations providing pro bono representation or working in the public interest—indeed, for everyone—information should not become a disadvantage.
That's why public interest groups like UnCommon Law use Logikcull to help deliver essential legal services.
A small non-profit law office in Oakland, California, focused on representing individuals in parole hearings and habeas petitions, UnCommon Law's work combines legal advocacy, targeted litigation, and mental health and legal counseling. It's work that UnCommon Law founder Keith Wattley tells Logikcull is "closer to therapy than lawyering," but it also involves a fair amount of quasi-discovery, as attorneys sift through extensive electronic files.
Through that work, UnCommon Law has seen more than 200 individuals released through the California parole system. In 2018, Wattley was selected as one of 20 inaugural Obama Foundation Fellows for his work "transforming the lives of young people convicted of serious crimes, equipping them to become valuable members of the community."
As the amount of digital information involved in all types of legal work grows, having the tools necessary to get through that data is becoming increasingly important. Logikcull is proud to help make them available and to support those dedicating their work to the public good.