Posted Feb 14, 2009, 06:47 pm CST
Emboldened by the fact that there is not just one, but two lawyers at the
executive branch helm, ABA President H. Thomas Wells Jr. headed to the White
House to see if he could make some progress on
The economic crisis had already nearly completely overtaken Wells' term as president as priority number one, not only for the nation, but for lawyers scrambling to help clients and to stay in business themselves.
So three days after President Barack Obama's historic inauguration, Wells was ready with a way that lawyers could be of help: The creation of a 1,000-lawyer Legal Corps to represent the needs of those without the means to hire private counsel.
During a break in activity at the 2009 ABA
Midyear Meeting in
“It’s a rare
Wells, however, is optimistic that the Obama
administration will be receptive to the
“We have a lawyer in the White House—actually two,” said Wells, referring to Michelle Obama, who with her husband is a Harvard law school graduate, “and a lawyer as vice president. So we have a different level of understanding about the issues.”
Wells said economic issues were part of the discussions
“It’s fair to say we did not get any negative signals, not that they said
they would support everything we’re calling for,” said Wells, a partner in the
One initiative Wells raised is the creation of Legal Corps, which would direct more lawyers into efforts to represent a broad segment of working people in matters arising out of the economic crisis, such as foreclosures. Legal Corps lawyers would bolster services already being provided by lawyers in local offices supported by federal funding channeled through the Legal Services Corp. and lawyers working on a pro bono basis.
Legal assistance can be crucial to help families facing foreclosure to keep
their homes, Wells said. He cited statistics indicating that a homeowner
represented by a lawyer is 50 percent more likely to keep his or her property
rather than lose it to foreclosure. (On Friday, at a program about the housing
crisis, one speaker said foreclosures occur
every 13 seconds in the
According to Wells, administration officials were “interested but
Wells, whose term ends at the ABA Annual Meeting in
“Trying to make a case for adequate funding for the third branch of government is particularly hard in these tough economic times,” said Wells, “but without adequate funding you can’t have fair and impartial courts, and without fair and impartial courts, you can’t have the rule of law.”
Wells said the
Nevertheless, Wells acknowledged that the current economic challenges are daunting. “One of the things we have the least control over is the economy,” he said.