When the Access to Justice Commission was created in 2005 to help meet some of the legal needs among the District’s low-income residents, the organization had a three-year life span. But in October the D.C. Court of Appeals extended the commission’s term indefinitely.
The organization is now reaching out to law firms in town to fund its next term, aiming to raise $300,000 in the next few months. So far, four firms—Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Steptoe & Johnson, WilmerHale, and Covington & Burling (take a bow, folks)—have pledged $25,000 to the commission. Venable also stepped up by providing the commission with office space, and attorneys at DLA Piper are providing pro bono research assistance as well.
Currently, the commission is working to increase the $3.2 million appropriation for civil legal services authorized by the D.C. City Council earlier this year and has several projects to improve and coordinate the city’s legal aid. “I think there are a number of the law firms in the community who thought that more coordination was a good thing to ensure adequate legal representation for low-income people,” says R. Bruce McLean, the chairman of Akin Gump. “Of course, there’s still quite a gap between the need and the supply.”