ABA grants will promote innovations in legal service

The American Bar Association has announced a program of start-up grants to be awarded to bar associations, courts, law schools or other groups that propose to employ new lawyers in innovative ways to address the legal needs of poor or moderate-income individuals.

The grants, to be given through the Legal Access Job Corps initiative established by ABA President James R. Silkenat, will range from $5,000 to $15,000. The grants are not intended to be an ongoing source of funding but are meant to start projects that can be sustained by other resources.

"Our nation is facing a paradox involving access to justice," Silkenat said in explaining the reason for the grant program. "On the one hand, too many people with low and moderate incomes cannot find or afford a lawyer to defend their legal interests, no matter how urgent the issue. On the other hand, too many law graduates in recent years have found it difficult to gain the practical experience they need in order to enter practice effectively.

“The ABA's catalyst grants will help nurture innovative programs that bridge the unmet legal needs of our society and the unmet employment needs of our young lawyers,” Silkenat said.

The grants are intended to foster initiatives that achieve objectives similar to those of existing programs that employ new lawyers to serve the legal needs of poor and moderate-income individuals. As part of the Legal Access Job Corps initiative, the ABA has created a comprehensive catalog of such programs, which include legal incubators that provide resources for new lawyers who start their own practices to serve moderate-income clients, postgraduate fellowships, and initiatives to ensure the availability of legal services in rural and other underserved communities. An ABA short video – “Be the Change” –highlights how such programs help employ underutilized lawyers while serving those who need a lawyer's help.

Information on the Legal Access Job Corps and the catalyst grant program, including a detailed request for proposals, is available at www.ambar.org/legalaccessjobcorps. The application deadline is May 15, 2014.

 

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