ABA President and W&L Law Alum Linda Klein Visits School

By: Jesse Stephens, 1L

Online Editor

Over thirty years after graduating from Washington and Lee University School of Law, ABA President Linda Klein says, “one of the best choices I’ve made was to come to law school here.”
Over the past three decades, Klein, ‘83L, has had many accomplishments, including becoming the first female president of the State Bar of Georgia and the 140th president of the American Bar Association. She recently returned to speak at W&L Law and introduced the Lawyer’s Without Rights exhibit currently on display in Sydney Lewis Hall.

Linda Klein standing at a podium

Current ABA President and W&L Law Alumna Linda Klein also became the first female president of the State Bar of Georgia in 1997. | Source: http://www.americanbar.org/

During the event, Klein emphasized the importance of pro bono work both to lawyers and their clients.  For lawyers, she said, the benefit is professional and personal—both career and soul. While pro bono work offers lawyers the opportunity of experience, they also make a difference in the lives of the clients they serve.
Klein highlighted a lawyer’s ability to make a difference by sharing a few instances in which she provided live-changing assistance to a client in need like the time she helped  a widow with Alzheimer’s Disease obtain her deceased husband’s benefits. Klein stressed that lawyers often have an enormous impact in relatively short periods of time,  sharing that in about 20 minutes, she was able to assist veterans experiencing homelessness with obtaining the necessary identification to qualify for medical care with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
She also spoke about the current uncertainty of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Signed into law in 2007, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program forgives the remaining balance on student loans for individuals working in public service who have made 120 monthly payments. The first wave of people to benefit from the program should be coming up later this year, but some people began to receive concerning letters claiming that they were no longer eligible. In response, the ABA filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education to challenge agency revocations. The upcoming answer could have a major impact upon lawyers and law students working or intending to pursue public interest law.

Linda Klein spoke first in a series of lectures held in conjunction with the American Bar Association’s “Lawyers without Rights” exhibit. | Source: http://www.americanbar.org

Linda Klein spoke first in a series of lectures held in conjunction with the American Bar Association’s “Lawyers Without Rights” exhibit. | Source: http://www.americanbar.org

When asked about a recent statement she made in support of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), the largest provider of civil legal aid services in the country, Klein began discussing the crisis that Trump’s recent budget proposal has created by allocating zero dollars in funding to the nonprofit. To qualify for legal services with LSC, a family of four has to make less than $26,000. Last year, LSC received $386 million in funding disbursed among 812 grantees across the country. To put that amount in context, it is “less than Americans spent on Halloween costumes for their pets.”
Introducing the Lawyers Without Rights exhibit, Klein reminded the audience of the incredible value of such an exhibit. Not only does it provide insight into a particularly dark period of history, when Jewish lawyers were stripped of their rights and persecuted, but it also serves as an ongoing lesson about the importance of those in the legal profession, as defenders of the law. According to Klein, “those in the legal profession must stand united behind the rule of law.”
For lawyers and future lawyers alike, defense of the law and access to justice are key principles, and there is “never a wrong time to defend the Constitution and rule of law,” says Klein.
“Justice for all is not just a pretty phrase or pledge but a promise.”

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