CUNY School of Law Dean Michelle J. Anderson spoke with the Wall Street Journal about a new report from the New York City Bar Association’s Task Force on New Lawyers in a Changing Profession, where she is chair of the Committee on Unmet Legal Needs.
The report “urges a stronger effort to match the perceived oversupply of lawyers with the unmet legal needs of the middle class, identifies ‘impediments to innovation’ in the legal industry, and announces the launch of four pilot programs to help prepare new lawyers for a changing legal landscape,” including the creation of a new law firm for people of moderate means.
Dean Anderson told the Wall Street Journal that the potential pool of clients is vast for the New York task force’s proposed law firm, where young lawyers could gain experience by helping people who need legal representation but cannot afford to pay full price for it.
The big question, Ms. Anderson said, is whether young lawyers participating in the initiative could charge enough to make a living while keeping costs low enough to serve a stream of moderate-income clients. The bar group has hired a nonprofit consultant to research the project and is looking for leaders to head it up
Such a firm could help working people with custody disputes or small business issues to individuals with complex immigration cases, said Ms. Anderson. One national survey from the 1990s estimated that about 60% of middle-class legal needs are handled without lawyers, she said, and “about 95% of people in housing court in New York are self-represented.”
Dean Anderson, who has served as dean of CUNY School of Law since 2006, is a leading scholar on rape law. Her articles have been published in the Boston University Law Review, George Washington Law Review, Hastings Law Journal, Rutgers Law Review, Southern California Law Review, and University of Illinois Law Review, among others. Her article redefining what rape should be legally, “Negotiating Sex,” was selected as the core text on rape law in Criminal Law Conversations, published by Oxford University Press in 2009.