Tuesday, December 3, 2002
USC Associate Dean to Join East Coast Public Interest Group
By ALLISON LOMAS, Staf Writer
USC law school Associate Dean Karen A. Lash will leave the school in January to join Equal Justice Works, formerly known as the National Association for Public Interest Law, she told the MetNews yesterday.
Lash said she will become vice president of programs at the Washington D.C. nonprofit organization focused on expanding and supporting public interest programs.
Lash has been involved with the group since her days as a USC student, when the organization was focused exclusively on grass root organizing of law students on school campuses.
Since that time, Equal Justice Works has expanded its reach to every part of the legal system as reflected by its board of directors, which includes Lash, the general counsels of Fortune 500 companies, partners from some of the country’s largest law firms and two federal judges, Lash said.
Law school Dean Mathew L. Spitzer said that he is very sorry to lose a woman he described as “talented,” “beloved” and “blessed.” But, he said, “sometimes you have to follow your heart.”
Lash’s departure will leave a “big hole in the fabric of the law school” he said, pointing out that she will be difficult to replace because of her disparate responsibilities, including dealing with students, professors and the media.
Lash has dedicated most of her career and free time to public interest law, focusing on improving access to the courts for the poor.
While studying at USC Lash co-founded the school’s chapter of the Public Interest Law Foundation—an organization that specializes in creating public interest summer jobs for law students. She has served on the PILF board of directors since 1987 and said that she does not want to sever her relationship with that organization but does foresee that the distance will pose a challenge.
After being admitted to the bar in 1987, Lash clerked for Ninth U.S. Circuit Court Judge Warren J. Ferguson before joining Public Counsel.
Then following a short stint in private practice as an associate at Tuttle & Taylor, Lash returned to the law school in 1991.
In addition to her administrative duties at the school she has taught a seminar entitled “Access to Justice,” which asks students to consider whose responsibility it is to ensure that people have access to the civil justice system whether or not they have the ability to pay.
“It’s my firm belief that the government’s responsibility doesn’t end with paying for the court and judges and passing laws,” Lash said. “In our justice system you must have a lawyer to navigate your way through.”
Lash’s strong feelings on this topic lead to her involvement in the California Commission on Access to Justice, which develops systems and strategies to meet the goal of meaningful access to civil justice for all in California.
She holds the position of co-chair on the commission until her term expires at the end of the month, and will continue to serve as commissioner for another year.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company