Judge David Tatel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit made an impassioned plea yesterday for law firms to take more responsibility for the welfare of civil legal services groups, lamenting the small percentage of the legal industry's billion-dollar revenues that go to financially-strapped providers.
Tatel spoke at an event honoring 36 law firms that contributed $3.6 million last year to local civil legal services through the D.C. Access to Justice Commission's second annual Raising the Bar in D.C. Campaign. Firms were honored based on the percentage of annual D.C. office revenues donated to legal services; the number of participating firms in 2012 was up from the 23 that participated in 2011.
Tatel praised the private bar's efforts to assist their colleagues in civil legal services, but warned the challenges facing individuals who can't afford a lawyer "is only getting worse." In the District of Columbia, for instance, he noted that more than 90 percent of litigants are unrepresented in certain types of civil cases.