Every year on May 1, Americans mark Law Day by celebrating our country’s commitment to the rule of law and to equal justice under the law.
The dedicated lawyers at the 134 programs funded by the Legal Services Corporation across the country uphold this commitment every day by providing civil legal assistance to low-income Americans. Members of the bar in every state also honor and advance this principle through countless hours of pro bono service they provide to our nation’s most vulnerable citizens.
Fifty years ago, then-Attorney General Bobby Kennedy recognized Law Day 1964 with a speech at the University of Chicago Law School in which he powerfully observed on behalf of the nation’s poor that “unasserted, unknown, unavailable rights are no rights at all.” He called for a sustained commitment to expand pro bono service for the poor, which he proclaimed to be a fundamental responsibility of the legal profession:
“Only…when we have created in fact a system of equal justice for all — a system which recognizes in fact the dignity of all men — will our profession have lived up to its responsibilities. That job is not going to be done by simply writing a check for $100 — or $1,000 — to the legal aid society. These are jobs that will take the combined commitment of our intellectual and ethical energies — a sustained commitment — a pledge to donate not once or twice but continuously the resources of our profession and our legal system.”
As LSC prepares to mark the 40th anniversary of its founding later this year, it continues to heed Kennedy’s call with a new project — the Pro Bono Innovation Fund, a $2.5-million dollar initiative to support innovative projects by our grantees to promote and enhance pro bono efforts throughout the country.