In an effort to better equip the lawyers serving low-income residents of the nation’s capital, Bloomberg BNA announced on Thursday it’s offering free Bloomberg Law services to the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia.
The legal services organization, also known as D.C. Legal Aid, provides advice to low-income residents in housing, family law, public benefits, and consumer law matters, in addition to maintaining an appellate advocacy project.
“It’s going to be really useful for legal research,” Eric Angel, the group’s executive director, said of the Bloomberg Law subscription. “We’re trying to make sure people living in poverty have the same quality of lawyering. That means lawyers being able to do high quality legal research.”
In addition to offering a searchable database of case law and statutes, Bloomberg Law offers users access to court dockets, business intelligence, and practice tools, such as checklists, sample client letters, and forms.
“Given D.C. Legal Aid’s reputation and established role in D.C., the organization was a natural fit as we looked for the most effective way to assist those offering pro bono legal services to the vulnerable members of our local community,” Melanie Heller, Vice President and General Manager of Bloomberg Law, said in a statement.
D.C. Legal Aid is the oldest such group in Washington, with a history dating back to the Great Depression.
Although the “justice gap” — the difference between the legal needs of low-income citizens and the legal services available to service them — is a nationwide concern, the problem is particularly acute in Washington D.C. “It’s approaching crisis levels,” Angel said. “Most studies indicate that 80 to 90 percent of civil legal needs are not taken care of.”
D.C.’s justice gap is peculiar for another reason, too: the city has an unusually high number of attorneys who could help. “We have more lawyers per capita, we believe, than any city in the world,” Angel said.
Asked about proposals in places like Washington state to license non-lawyers where attorneys aren’t meeting the community’s legal needs, Angel, who serves on the city’s 21-member Access to Justice Commission, said “everything is on the table,” but bar leaders in D.C. have been more focused on mobilizing the city’s small army of lawyers.
“We’re trying to figure out methods for getting more lawyers, either funded, or to do the work pro bono,” he said.
Bloomberg BNA’s partnership with D.C. Legal Aid is the company’s second commitment in the capital city in as many months: in December Bloomberg BNA announced a similar gift to the D.C. Affordable Law Firm, another legal aid organization.
Bloomberg BNA, which owns Bloomberg Law, is also the publisher of Big Law Business.