CLEVELAND, Ohio, Dec. 9--Erwin N. Griswold, Dean of the Harvard Law School, decried the public's opinion of the legal profession here tonight and then proceeded to outline a four point proposal to strengthen the Bar Association and its standing in the community.
Speaking before a meeting of the Cleveland Bar Association, Griswold referred to a report which claimed the public considers the ethics and honesty of lawyers considerably below that of doctors and dentists.
Then, admitting that his was an ambitious proposal which would take a long time, Griswold outlined his plans.
He called for local bar associations to establish insurance funds which would guarantee as a professional rule that no client of an association member would lose a case through the default of his lawyer. Griswold, asserting that the exact scope of the risks covered would have to be worked out later, asked for an insurance coverage limit of approximately $100,000.
"I would like to see the time when lawyers would be clamoring to get into such an insurance system, and when clients would be careful not to give their business to a lawyer unless he was covered," Griswold said.
For his second point, the Law School Dean charged that lawyers should not merely provide legal service at a profit, but should also have an obligation to "see that the legitimate needs of the public for legal services are fairly met."
He then called for a Legal Aid Service under the auspices of the Bar Association, with lawyers contributing either their time or money--up to ten percent before taxes.
Inadequate Legal Defense
He asked for lawyers to take criminal cases more willingly, blasting the current hands-off policy and admitting that he himself had not taken one criminal case in 25 years. He asserted that the community and the lawyers have failed to provide adequate defense for people accused of crime.
Griswold told the Bar Association to hold itself responsible for the "systematic provision of defense of those accused." Under his plan this would be done in part through volunteered services, but actually by a hired staff with Association funds.
Griswold's fourth point dealt with legal ethics. He claimed that a course in law school on ethics would not sufficiently cover the subject, but that a strengthening of the disciplinary standards would be the most beneficial improvement.