President Donald Trump routinely has sought corporate America’s voice on a range of issues, but will he and members of Congress listen to the 185 in-house counsel who are opposed to his zero budget for the Legal Services Corp.?
Leaders of corporate legal departments—representing technology, pharmaceutical, media, entertainment, retail and manufacturing, among other industries— urged Congress in a letter on Tuesday to preserve the LSC at a funding level of $450 million, essentially the same amount it received in fiscal year 2010 adjusted for inflation. The LSC’s fiscal 2017 budget request was $502 million.
Top in-house lawyers said the “minimal investment in LSC generates a significant positive return for business and the health of individuals and communities across the nation.” And they said the agency creates a “level playing field” for many lower- and moderate-income families who cannot afford a lawyer.
The LSC’s national framework, they said, provides the basic structure for civil legal services and “supports the countless hours of pro bono representation provided by corporate legal departments and in-house attorneys.” From their letter:
Without the structure and dedicated resources of LSC, many of these volunteer hours would not be possible. Pro bono assistance is an essential part of the representation that is available to people who would otherwise go unrepresented and is increasingly recognized as good for business.
Although difficult decisions about federal spending must be made, the general counsel said in their letter, “just as investing in America’s roads and bridges are vital to our transportation infrastructure, LSC is a vital part of the infrastructure that undergirds our justice system, ensuring that fair treatment is not dependent on a person’s ability to pay for it.”
The corporate counsel who signed the letter represented companies that included: Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Comcast Corp., Microsoft Corp., General Motors Co., 3M Co., General Electric Co., Twitter Inc., Facebook Inc. and the Walt Disney Co. The full letter is posted below.
“LSC programs provide support to working families, allowing them to create significant positive impacts on our businesses and communities,” John Schultz, general to Hewlett Packard Enterprise, said. “LSC also provides the structure for corporations and in-house legal departments, like ours here at HPE, to provide pro bono legal services and make a real difference in the lives of people around us.”
The corporate lawyers join the leaders of more than 150 law firms who sent a March 9 letter to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget urging the continued funding of the LSC.
Like the corporate counsel, the law firm heads said their ability to provide pro bono legal aid is dependent on legal aid organizations that screen cases for eligibility and train and mentor their attorneys.
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