Monday was a busy day with two special events: a visit from Chuck Goldner, the Dean at UALR Law School, and the Tenth Annual Event to Honor Special Women in Washington County. The latter was held at the Clarion, and one of our very special aluma, Ann Henry, was recognized.

It was great to see Chuck Goldner again. If you follow the blog, you know that he’s a good friend of mine. His work on the Access to Justice Commission has been phenomenal. The title of his lecture was “Equal Access to Justice: Mere Words or a Professional Obligation and Personal Commitment?” During his talk with the law school community, Dean Goldner gave us startling statistics. A few samples:

  • 1 out of 5 Arkansans live in poverty and qualify for legal aid
  • 16% of Arkansans live below the federal poverty level compared to 12.4% nationally
  • Arkansas is ranked 49th in dollars spent per poor person on civil legal aid
  • 550,000 Arkansans live 125% below the federal poverty level
  • There are only 42 attorneys in Arkansas’ two legal aid organizations, and they are trying to provide free legal services to over 500,000 low income citizens
  • The legal aid staff of 42 attorneys handled almost 14,000 cases, which is an astounding caseload of 333 files per attorney

In a study, the Legal Services Corporation found that for the general population, there is one private practice attorney for every 525 people. However, for low income Arkansans there is one legal aid attorney for every 15,000 low income persons. In 2007, 28,000 Arkansans asked for help, but more than 50% had to be turned away. On average, 1 out of 5 Arkansans is eligible for free legal aid, and 4 of every 5 dollars going to legal aid in Arkansas comes from the federal government.

Dean Goldner talked about our responsibility as attorneys to provide service to those who can’t afford it, and he noted Rule 6.1 of the Model Rules, which addresses voluntary pro bono publico service. It talk about how attorneys should strive to provide services for those who can least afford it. He emphasized the fact that assisting low-income citizens is not merely a matter of volunteering on committees, but involves providing direct legal services. He gave us statistics about the number of attorneys who provide pro bono representation, and it is clear that there’s still a very large gap in terms of those who need legal assistance and those who receive it.

His presentation gave all of us something to think about. Dean Goldner’s lecture was consistent with the law schools’ decision to expand the legal services we provide to underrepresented persons by creating the immigration law clinic. The Arkansas Access to Justice Commission 2007 Report found that Arkansas has one of the fastest growing immigrant populations in the United States. Between 1990 and 2000 the number of immigrants working in Arkansas industries grew an astounding 201%. This is taken directly from the Access to Justice Commission Report and, as you might imagine, this demographic shift has raised a number of issues for legal providers including immigration law and the need for translators.

Thank you very much, Dean Goldner, for raising our awareness of these issues, for challenging us to live up to our professional responsibility to address them, and for sharing the DVD about the services provided by Legal Services Corporation with us. We were able to gain a greater appreciation of the personal stories of those who benefit from Legal Services. Instead of merely sharing a bunch of statistics, you made the needs of the clients very real. Thank you again for such a fantastic lecture.

That evening was the Tenth Annual Event to Honor Special Women in Washington County, which was held at the Clarion. The Law School had a table, and many members of the law school community attended the event, including Dannelle Walker, Hope Jackson, Madra McAdoo, Chris Nebben, Jonathan Kwan and Ryan Younger. Honorees were Gay Harp, Ann Henry, Maurice Ash McClelland, Mary Alice Serafine and Ann Wiggins.

The program consisted of a brief recognition of the past ten years of honorees. But the highlight of the evening was recognizing this year’s honorees, one of which was our own Ann Henry. Ann was recognized for her service to the Washington County community as an Associate Dean of Walton College of Business, leader in her church, and as a member of local and state education boards and commissions. She was chair of the Capital Campaign for the Fayetteville Public Library and presently is co-chair of the Capital Campaign for KUAF. She was given the Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser Award in 2003 by the NWA chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and in 2005 she was honored as Girl Scout Woman of Distinction. We were proud to be present with her and to recognize her on this special evening, along with many others. (The Morning News Article)