It is my privilege on behalf of the Board of Directors of the Legal Services Corporation to welcome you all to this reception, where we will honor outstanding lawyers for their significant pro bono contributions to the clients of the LSC programs in Michigan. It is a pleasure to see so many leaders of the Michigan legal community in attendance.
And it is a distinct honor for all of us to be here with our distinguished speakers:
I also want to acknowledge two other members of Michigan’s legal community who have been here throughout the day: State Bar of Michigan Executive Director Janet Welch, and Michigan's State Court Administrator Chad Schmucker.
This reception comes at the end of an exciting and productive day highlighted by three forums exploring different aspects of civil legal assistance in America. This program is an outgrowth of a forum we held at the White House during the spring board meeting, and we intend to hold similar programs in upcoming board meetings as well. I want to thank all of the panelists for taking part.
And, finally, I would like to recognize LSC president Jim Sandman, his senior staff, and also take this opportunity to introduce the LSC Board, all of whom are performing far beyond what they expected when there were nominated for this post.
LSC is the single largest funder of civil legal assistance in the nation. Here in Michigan LSC provides about 44 percent of the funding for our six programs statewide. It has been a longstanding tradition of the LSC Board to hold three meetings each year in the states. At these meetings, we have asked each of the local LSC programs to nominate for special recognition those individuals or law firms that have been especially supportive of pro bono. And that is what we are doing here today, celebrating outstanding pro bono efforts by the bar.
Clearly, in this time of shrinking legal aid funding and skyrocketing demand, pro bono is more important than ever before. At LSC, we are dedicated to expanding pro bono and strengthening our public-private partnerships. Last year, the LSC Board created a Pro Bono Task Force led by board members Martha Minow and Harry Korrell, with nearly 60 outstanding members of the profession.
Their goal was to come up with innovative recommendations that can help increase pro bono in a measureable way. The task force is in the process of completing its work, and will present proposed recommendations at our board meeting tomorrow. We also must acknowledge, however, that pro bono will never be able, by itself, to meet the legal needs of low-income Americans. And pro bono is most effective when supported by robust legal aid programs that screen cases and support volunteer lawyers with training, materials and the expertise of staff attorneys.
As a nation, we simply cannot turn away from properly funding civil legal assistance and our civil justice system.
As lawyers and citizens, we owe an orderly civil justice system to future generations of Americans.
Just as we have benefited in the profession from what our predecessors gave to us, we in turn have a responsibility to those who will succeed us.
It is now my great privilege to introduce our host, the distinguished Evan Caminker, Dean of the University of Michigan Law School and the Branch Rickey Collegiate Professor of Law.