Former Fellows Speak on Need for Increased Legal Aid Funding

Former Skadden fellows Susan Pearlstein (‘98), Collen Cotter (‘91) and Jessica Rosenbaum (‘03) were quoted in The American Lawyer in an article that discusses how legal aid is in crisis, yet the percentage of law firm pro bono work aimed at helping the poor is declining (“Big Law and Legal Aid,” July 2015). The article details the struggle low-income people have due to a funding and staffing gap that has grown in recent years. Susan, who works with Philadelphia Legal Assistance, said her group is forced to turn away 95 percent of the 11,000 applicants she receives each year due to lack of resources. Collen, executive director of the Cleveland Legal Aid Society, says some simple changes wouldn’t cost much but could make a huge difference.  The D.C. Access to Justice Commission, for which Jessica serves as executive director, started a program to track law firm giving to local legal aid groups. “Firms were in the dark about what was a generous giving level,” Jessica said. After the information was out, she says, “it created a healthy competition among firms."

The article also spotlighted the success of the Skadden Foundation, stating that when Skadden started the program, “it hoped other firms would follow its lead, but none has come close to Skadden's commitment.”