In response to the news that Jim Sandman is retiring as President of the Legal Services Corporation, current and former Chairs of the Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service reflect on their experiences working with him.
Mary Ryan, ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service Past Chair, 2013-2016
I have met some of the most remarkable people I’ve ever known because of bar work and Jim Sandman is one of them. My years as member and then chair of the ABA’s Pro Bono and Public Service Committee coincided with the beginning of Jim’s years as President of LSC and, most happily, with the LSC’s new focus on pro bono as a critical tool in filling the justice gap.
I represented the Committee on LSC’s Pro Bono Task Force. Jim played a key role in LSC’s implementation of the Task Force recommendations, which led to the Pro Bono Innovation Grants and their tremendous impact on utilizing pro bono attorneys to address legal needs of the poor. At every LSC Board meeting around the country, there is always recognition of outstanding pro bono lawyers and programs in the local community where the LSC meets.
Under Jim’s leadership, the ties between LSC and the ABA deepened. LSC had historically worked closely with the ABA’s Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defense (SCLAID) but now developed a close working relationship with the Pro Bono Committee as well – we met jointly once a year, Jim publicized the ABA Pro Bono awards and was very supportive of the introduction of Free Legal Answers, an on-line pro se resource utilizing pro bono attorneys, a topic I’m sure my successor Buck Lewis will mention in more detail.
Personally, I think Jim is a model for the citizen lawyer, as well as for every senior lawyer who has ever asked herself what comes next. He achieved the pinnacle of success in private law practice as managing partner of Arnold & Porter LLP. And when he was done with that, he dedicated his time and talents to public service, first as General Counsel to the District of Columbia public schools and then as President of the LSC. In his own words, he become a “radicalized” defender of the poor and the need to provide life-altering legal services to them. In addition to his passion for pro bono, he was an enthusiastic supporter for building alliances with LSC supporters from the private bar and in-house legal departments, innovation, technology and the value of empirical data.
I’ve seen Jim in many different settings – in small conversations, at meetings, and giving speeches at ABA and LSC events. Jim’s heartfelt sincerity – and ability to speak without notes – made him a compelling advocate, educating everyone who listened to him about the significance of the work LSC and its partners do to make the promise of “justice for all” real for everyone. I’m so happy to have been one of those partners for at least a while, and like many other friends and fans, can’t wait to see what Jim does next.
Buck Lewis, ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service Past Chair, 2016-2019
Jim Sandman’s life has been a model of servant leadership and selflessness. He has a big heart and a passion for helping those in need. His mind is tack sharp and his judgement is infallible. His oratory skills are off the charts. To say we have been lucky to have him at the helm of LSC since 2011 is a gross understatement.
Jim has been a wonderful partner in so many efforts. He has zealously supported the ABA’s pro bono web site, Freelegalanswers.org. He has worked tirelessly with state and local bars. He has guided the Legal Navigator Access to Justice portal project. He has been involved in LSC’s task forces on fighting the opioid epidemic and disaster response. And, in his spare time, he has worked to prevent teen pregnancy, support the arts, improve education and many other good causes.
Jim Sandman has already built a beautiful legacy, but don’t think for a minute that he is even close to being finished.
David Bienvenu, ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service Chair, 2019-2022
During his tenure as President of LSC, Jim brought his talent and passion to advance its mission and produce concrete progress on so many fronts. He will be greatly missed by everyone in the legal services community who responded so enthusiastically to his leadership. I am sure he will bring that same talent and passion to his next pursuits and wish him all the best.
The ABA Standing Committee wishes Jim Sandman the best of luck on his future endeavors. Thank you for all that you have done and will continue to do to achieve access to justice for all.