"It will be a long time before the need for a legal aid comes to an end," Roscoe Pound, dean of the Harvard Law School told members of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau in an address delivered last night. "One may wonder why a legal aid should be necessary in this great republic of the poor, famous over the world for helping the underdog, but there are three reasons to answer him," Dean Pound declared. "First is the condition of our legal and political institutions; second is our legal and political thinking, and the third is the economic condition under which our lawyers practice.
Recent Problems Arison
"Our legal and political institutions were made for rural, pioneer, agricultural societies," the Dean said. "Formerly there were justices of the peace in every town to give advice and administer justice to parties they probably already knew personally. It was a perfectly possible system for a farming community. But during only a generation, problems of very recent date have arisen with the growth of our cities. And although municipal court systems, as in Chicago, have been established to meet them and have been partially successful, still they have been only partially so because (1) they work so well that people crowd them with big cases; (2) attorneys of bigger business bring in the atmosphere of superior courts which is not suitable for small claims administration: (3) the courts get mixed up sooner or later in politics, and the standard of the judges decreases.
We Think on Old Basis
"Moreover, we have been thinking in terms of a rural, pioneer, and agricultural society. We have not realized that there are other alternatives for society than absolute individualism or absolute socialism. In the pioneer days everybody was ultra individualistic, with a disrespect for order and obedience because he did not want to be thus limited and saw no necessity for that supervision. The pioneer was independent, self-reliant, and versatile: we can be neither. Yet we continue to think on that old basis and say. 'Let everybody look out for themselves.' But a change has taken place from the system of high competition. We have come into a situation of interdependence, of cooperation between neighborhoods and individuals. People are not now so concerned with mere local affairs as they may be with conditions thousands of miles away. Hence a great deal of difficulty is that people think in terms of a competitive system instead of a cooperative one. Actually this is not an era of free competition. Most of our people are on salaries and are forced by our urban civilization to cooperate for some large Corporation.
"Lastly, the economic condition under which our lawyers practice makes it impossible for them to individually give the legal aid they wish. Formerly there were good lawyers living in the country who knew and could help their poor neighbors in legal difficulties. Now good lawyers are concentrated in the cities, maintaining large offices.
"Still the out-look is not discouraging," the Dean maintained, "for we have everywhere awakened to the need of overhauling our legal system. The Bar is organizing and desirous that justice reach the poor. Law is being practiced more and more as a 'public calling.'