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News & Press: Tenth J.D. Bar

President Ashley Campbell's Closing Remarks

Friday, December 15, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Sarah Justice
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At the December annual meeting, President Ashley Campbell gave an impassioned plea to our membership to use their influence to help Legal Aid and those in poverty. Her closing remarks are below.

"Before I go, I would like to speak to you from the heart on an issue of great significance to me.

As all of you know who know me, I have committed a significant portion of my professional life to working with people living in poverty. 

It is because it is an issue that is deeply personal and important to me – my mother grew up in deep poverty.  She was a victim of child abuse and domestic violence by her husband.  It was only because of her extraordinary personal strength and the teachers and mentors that I had during my childhood that I went to college and became a lawyer. 

I know from my mother’s own experience that all poor people are not poor because of bad personal choices.   Some are – but not all.  I also know that many people in our society take advantage of people who are poor – from insurance salesman selling fake insurance policies to elderly people to landlords demanding sex from tenants unable to pay rent.

It is for this reason that I feel called to devote my time and influence to serving low income people. 

There is one legal aid attorney available for every 6,000 low-income people compared to 1 to 400 in the general population.   And federal and state funding for legal aid is shrinking, further widening this divide.

I believe that it is unacceptable that poor people cannot meaningfully access the courts.  And, I will continue to spend my time, my energy and my influence to impact this problem.

There are approximately 500 lawyers in this room today.  If we each contributed just one billable hour to Legal Aid, we would raise $150K. 

If the more than 5,000 members of our bar did the same, we would raise $1.5M.

We can no longer depend exclusively on public resources to fund Legal Aid programs.  So, today, I ask you make a commitment to Legal Aid, to poor people in our community and to our justice system, that you will contribute the value of one billable hour each year to Legal Aid or volunteer to take just one pro bono case.

Lawyers are uniquely positioned to address the problem of access to justice.  Poor people do not have the power to advocate meaningfully on this issue – but we do have that power.  And we must use it.

Thank you."

Click here to explore volunteer opportunities with Legal Aid.