The American Lawyer hosted its annual Industry Awards on November 10, 2022, to honor a select group of lawyers, professionals, law firms, and organizations that are “elevating the profession to new heights.” Among the honorees was Distinguished Lecturer and Senior Consultant to the Future of the Profession Initiative Jim Sandman L’76, who was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
“I’m very honored and deeply humbled to receive this award. I don’t deserve it,” said Sandman, accepting the award. “I spent 30 comfortable years in a big law firm before I belatedly found a second career in public service and public interest work. I can’t hold a candle to the lawyers…who devote the entirety of their careers, full-time, to the service of others.”
He added, “I accept this award as a challenge to earn it — to work harder and longer to improve the civil justice system in the United States. In my first career, I saw how the American legal system works for the wealthy. For them, it works pretty well. In my second career, I’ve come to believe that that same legal system is failing — flat out failing — not only low-income people, but the middle class as well.”
From 2011-2020, Sandman served as the President of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), the largest funder of civil legal aid in the United States. LSC supports 132 independent legal aid programs with more than 850 offices serving every state and territory. Prior to his role with LSC, Sandman worked for the Washington, D.C.-based law firm Arnold & Porter for 30 years, ultimately serving as its Managing Partner. He has also served as President of the 100,000-member District of Columbia Bar and as General Counsel to the District of Columbia Public Schools.
At the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, Sandman serves as a Senior Consultant to the Future of the Profession Initiative (FPI), where he works with colleagues to strengthen FPI’s work to transform the legal sector to better meet the needs of individuals and communities nationwide. Through FPI, Penn Carey Law and collaborators from across the industry strive to introduce innovative ideas that will both increase access to justice for individuals and organizations of all income levels and promote greater workplace equity for the next generation of lawyers.
FPI recently announced the launch of the Future of the Profession Lab, a multi-disciplinary project that will surface opportunities to develop and apply innovative approaches that make the legal system more accessible. Sandman will lead the new Lab.
“Jim’s contributions to the legal field are immeasurable. We are extraordinarily proud of his accomplishments and eager to continue to work alongside him as he leads the Future of the Profession Lab in discovering and implementing innovative solutions for a more equitable legal world,” said Dean and Bernard G. Segal Professor of Law Ted Ruger.
As a Distinguished Lecturer at the Law School, Sandman teaches “Leadership in Law,” a course developed to teach law students how to intentionally develop essential leadership skills applicable to a range of legal sectors and institutions. In the course, Sandman works closely with students to identify and approach their individual goals and encourages broad, cross-disciplinary discussions about topics such as moral leadership and self-awareness.
In accepting his Lifetime Achievement Award, Sandman emphasized that he aims to continue working to help transform America’s legal system into one that truly centers and provides justice for all of its people — not just the wealthy.
“It is not justice to compel people who can’t afford a lawyer to play by the rules of a system designed only for those who can. These are not traffic ticket cases. They are cases about shelter, the roof over your head, protection against an abuser, custody of your own children,” said Sandman. “We have a duty to make America’s solemn pledge of justice for all a reality for all and not the cruel illusion it is for so many people in our society today. That is now my life’s work. I wish it had been so sooner. But better late than never.”