Guest Editorial – from The Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association

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Carter Strang, Esq.

One of our predecessors – Newton D. Baker – stated in 1925 “But for the aid given by the [Legal Aid] Society, the law itself would fail to be an equal shield for rich and poor alike, as it ought to be.” When Mr. Baker served as president of the bar association, The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland was celebrating its 20th year of service to Northeast Ohio. Today, as Legal Aid celebrates its 107th year of service, it faces some considerable challenges.

The recent budget cut from the Legal Services Corporation – coupled with the $2.6 million drop in income derived from interest on lawyers trust and escrow accounts (known as “IOLTA accounts”) – means Legal Aid must serve fewer people moving forward. As it is, the organization – at 51 staff attorneys, 1,600 pro bono volunteers and one of the largest law firms in Northeast Ohio – can meet only half the demand for its services.

The recent cuts are like canaries in a mineshaft, signs pointing to inexorably deepening family and personal calamities among Northeast Ohio’s poor.

For 107 years in Northeast Ohio, Legal Aid has used the power of the law to make lives better far beyond the particulars of a legal case. Last year our local Legal Aid attorneys helped 26,000 low-income people in Northeast Ohio fend off the travails of poverty: foreclosures, domestic abuse, denials of disability, education and other benefits, slumlords, bankruptcy, and hopelessness.

Despite the recent budget news, we know Legal Aid is still in the field, still taking cases, still pursuing justice every day. But, fewer people will be helped. More injustices will go uncontested.

We are honored to continue Mr. Baker’s legacy at the bar association, and believe we must use our cooperative spirit and stand with Legal Aid to ensure justice is a priority for our community.

Barbara K. Roman: Partner – Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis, 2011-12 President of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association

Carter Strang: Partner – Tucker Ellis LLP, 2012-13 President of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association

*Image of Barbara K. Roman is the property of    Keith Berr Productions, Inc.

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