After more than nine years as President of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), James J. Sandman announced today that he will be stepping down from his position. He is the organization’s longest-serving president, and during his transformational tenure LSC improved the delivery of legal services to low-income Americans through innovations in pro bono and technology and new and better uses of data. His tireless public advocacy for LSC and its mission and his push for increased outreach to Congress helped expand and strengthen bipartisan support for LSC on Capitol Hill and raised awareness of the organization across the country. Under Sandman’s tenure, the annual congressional appropriation to LSC was increased to $440 million — the largest appropriation in LSC’s history.
“I have had nine wonderful years in a great job,” Sandman said, “and I think this is a good time for a transition, both for LSC and for me. LSC is in excellent shape. We have a strong board of directors that is united in its commitment to our mission. We have an outstanding management team that works well together. We have broad, bipartisan support in Congress and have seen a $55 million increase in our funding over the last three years. And we have a terrific network of innovative, entrepreneurial, and creative grantees working tirelessly and effectively to improve access to justice. For me, it’s time to move on to the next phase of my career. I’d like to teach. And I plan to continue to promote access to justice in new ways.”
Sandman’s departure will be effective February 19. The Board intends to appoint Ronald S. Flagg, LSC’s current Vice President for Legal Affairs, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary, as interim President. Flagg was previously Partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Sidley Austin LLP for more than twenty-five years. For more than a decade, he chaired the firm’s Committee on Pro Bono and Public Interest Law. Flagg served as President of the District of Columbia Bar in 2010-2011 and currently serves as Chair of the Bar’s Pro Bono Task Force. He presently is also Board Chair of the National Veterans Legal Services Program.
LSC will put together a Search Committee made up of LSC Board Members and external stakeholders. The committee will identify a firm to conduct a national search for the next LSC President.
In his role as LSC President, Sandman promoted LSC and its mission at a wide range of public forums. He visited 47 states and spoke often before varied audiences that included legislators, judges, community groups, and members of the business and legal communities.
During Sandman’s tenure, LSC established the Office of Data Governance and Analysis to coordinate legal aid data collection and analysis. In 2017, LSC released The Justice Gap: Measuring the Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans, a study of the “justice gap” in the U.S.—the difference between the civil legal needs of low-income Americans and the resources available to meet them. The report has been widely cited in media reports on access to justice issues.
Sandman’s tenure also saw a significant expansion of LSC’s support for pro bono efforts. LSC convened a national Pro Bono Task Force in 2011, which produced recommendations that have had far-reaching impacts. Among them was the creation of a Pro Bono Innovation Fund (PBIF) to support projects that develop replicable innovations in pro bono services for low-income clients. Congress approved the PBIF and appropriated $2.5 million for it in FY 2014, which has since been increased to $4.5 million. Since PBIF’s inception, LSC has awarded $23.5 million to 83 projects in 33 states and the District of Columbia.
Sandman also expanded LSC’s legal technology efforts. During his tenure, LSC convened a summit of leaders to explore how best to use technology to improve access to justice for low-income Americans. LSC released a report of the summit’s recommendations in 2013, providing a detailed blueprint for using technology to meet a compelling goal: providing all Americans with some form of effective assistance with their essential civil legal needs. This was adopted as an aspirational goal by the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators in 2015.
Congressional support of LSC’s grants Technology Initiative Grants (TIG) program also grew under Sandman’s leadership. These grants fund technology projects that provide greater access to high-quality legal assistance and information for low-income Americans.
LSC’s annual Innovations in Technology Conference, the largest event in the country dedicated to expanding access to justice through technological innovation, also expanded substantially. This year’s conference was the largest ever, with nearly 600 attendees, a 20 percent increase over last year’s record-setting attendance.
Sandman also strengthened fiscal oversight at LSC and created a new position, the Vice President for Grants Management, to more effectively oversee LSC’s day-to-day programmatic operations, competitive grant processes, and assessment and oversight of grantees.
“From the day Jim walked in the door, we at LSC have benefited from his extraordinary leadership,” said LSC Board Chair John Levi. “His passionate commitment to expanding access to justice and his zealous advocacy for our mission are unmatched. Jim crisscrossed the country traveling to nearly every state making speeches and public appearances to call attention to the crisis in civil legal aid. Jim brought to LSC headquarters a wonderful senior management team who we are confident will continue the progress we have made under his leadership. We are so pleased that Jim will continue to be an important voice in the civil legal aid community and, as LSC’s President Emeritus, will remain a tremendous resource for LSC and its grantees.”
Sandman came to LSC in 2011 with more than three decades of legal experience. He previously served as General Counsel for District of Columbia Public Schools after a 30-year career at Arnold & Porter LLP, an international law firm based in Washington, D.C. He served as the firm’s Managing Partner from 1995-2005. He served as President of the District of Columbia Bar from 2006-2007 and on the Bar’s Board of Governors from 2003-2008.
Sandman is Board Chair of the D.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and a member of the boards of Washington Performing Arts, the College of Saint Rose, Albany Law School, and the Tahirih Justice Center. He is a member of the District of Columbia Access to Justice Commission, the D.C. Public Charter School Board, the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Committee, the American Law Institute, the Advisory Council of the American Bar Association’s Center for Innovation, the Board of Advisors of the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Center on the Future of the Profession, and the Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Project Advisory Committee.
Sandman will become President Emeritus of the Legal Services Corporation and continue to advocate for access to justice for all Americans. LSC’s Board looks forward to working with him in this new role.
Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. The Corporation currently provides funding to 132 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.