University of Detroit Mercy School of Law is one of seven law establishments around the country to receive a $15,000 project grant from The American Bar Association. Grants are given through the Legal Access Job Corps initiative established by ABA President James R. Silkenat and are available to bar associations, courts, law schools or other groups that propose to employ new lawyers in innovative ways to address the legal needs of poor or moderate-income individuals.
Beginning October 1, 2014, the School of Law will launch the Solo and Small Firm Incubator Program, which will provide a supportive environment for select new law graduates who are committed to beginning a solo or small firm practice. This program is aligned with the ABA's commitment to closing the justice gap in America and to developing new avenues of employment and practice for unemployed and underemployed lawyers.
"The ABA's catalyst grants will help nurture innovative programs that bridge the unmet legal needs of our society and the unmet employment needs of our young lawyers," Silkenat said. "We are working on ways to get young lawyers to open new avenues to justice through programs that also give them practical experience."
To address the dual problems of the lack of adequate legal representation for disadvantaged communities and the significant number of unemployed and underemployed lawyers, the ABA formed the Legal Access Job Corps Task Force to study the issue.
"So many of our citizens have never even met a lawyer or can't afford a lawyer," Silkenat said. "It would seem natural to put those two together and find the funding to make that work."
The Task Force, co-chaired by Chief Judge Eric Washington of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, Allan Tanenbaum, managing partner at Equicorp Partners, and Patricia White, dean of the University of Miami School of Law, studied various projects and initiatives and chose the grant winners from a group of 96 proposals.