“Equal justice under law is not merely a caption on the facade of the Supreme Court building. It is perhaps the most inspiring ideal of our society . . . it is fundamental that justice should be the same, in substance and availability, without regard to economic status.”
— Justice Lewis Powell, Jr.
WHO WE ARE
Lawyers for America, Inc. (LfA) is a California nonprofit corporation that has been granted IRS 501(c)(3) status. LfA was founded by UC Hastings College of the Law Professors David Faigman and Marsha Cohen in 2011. LfA’s mission is to improve the practical skills of new lawyers, to expand the availability of legal services for those who cannot afford lawyers, and to increase the ability of government and nonprofit legal offices to render such services. To accomplish these goals, we work with law schools, governmental organizations, and legal nonprofits to create two-year fellowships encompassing law students’ final year of law school and their first year as new attorneys. Our first pilot class of fellows is serving in the San Francisco Bay Area, in partnership with UC Hastings, but the program is available to law schools and their government and nonprofit partners throughout the country. We hope that you find this website informative.
WHAT WE DO (AND WHY)
It’s no secret that society suffers from a justice gap: that is, a large unmet need for the assistance of lawyers. The lack of an entitlement to an attorney in civil cases leaves many people without legal help when facing serious legal challenges. For example, an astonishing 70 percent of Californians who go to family court don’t have a lawyer. Lack of legal representation is a burden both to those without counsel and to the courts. Legal aid organizations try to bridge this justice gap, but lack the finances to build the bridge to completion. Even without considering the reduced government funding of recent times, public law offices, prosecutors, city attorneys, the attorney general, and public defenders often struggle to assure adequate legal services.
At LfA, we seek to create the framework and support to enable legal nonprofits and public law offices to increase their legal manpower while simultaneously providing new attorneys with practical training and valuable exposure to society’s unmet legal needs. In doing this, our program implements a new model for legal education and enables an expanded affordable pool of legal manpower to meet critical societal needs.
HOW WE DO IT
LfA provides a two-year fellowship program that comprises law students’ last year of law school and first post-graduate year. While most law students start their third year of law school sitting in the classroom, LfA 3L Fellows work at a partner law office essentially full time and attend a classroom component at their law schools. Our Fellows are supervised by faculty and by the attorneys at the partner sites. After nine months of work with one of our partners, and after graduation, Fellows have a three-month break to take the bar exam and enjoy a vacation before returning to their fellowship placement for a full year.
The LfA model fits comfortably with ABA law school accreditation requirements concerning minimum classroom training.