Our market economy, which produces goods and services and jobs for billions around the world, is built on the foundation of a strong commercial law system – a foundation that promises “a deal is a deal”, that rights and obligations can be enforced through courts offering equal justice under law. For companies like mine, access to that system is easy – we have the resources to hire the lawyers we need, and to pay them. For many others, including those who feel the system is only for the powerful, and who voted for change last year, the promise of equal justice under law is illusory; unaffordability means that instead of being able to enforce their rights, their stronger contractual partner gets the benefit, while they get the short end of the stick.
The federally-created Legal Services Corporation plays a vital role in securing access to justice for those who can’t otherwise afford the costs that are unfortunately built into our current system. The LSC provides seed funding for local legal services organizations around the country that offer services themselves, and creates a multiplier effect by facilitating pro bono efforts by lawyers in law firms and companies. For this reason. I’m proud to have co-signed a letter with over 170 of my general counsel peers urging Congress to retain funding for the LSC this year, which is threatened in an age of tight and shifting budgetary priorities.
Last year, dozens of Cisco lawyers donated their time and sweat to working on pro bono cases. We were honored this February to receive the American Bar Association’s Corporate Counsel Committee Pro Bono Award because of the scope of the efforts of so many great people on our legal team. Our efforts, in many cities around the country, were only possible because of the structure and logistics provided by LSC-funded organizations, which allow our individual engagement to scale.
Two weeks ago, I and four other members of our team spent a morning volunteering at the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, offering pro bono assistance in landlord-tenant cases; we were supported by Cisco, which also makes a donation to charitable organizations where Cisco employees volunteer. My client that morning was a woman who works her heart out to support her family; her take-home pay is only $1600 per month, in a job she has held for over two years. Her landlord is unfairly seeking to evict her, which would effectively force her and her family to leave the area, since she has no money to obtain a new place to live in expensive Silicon Valley. I was proud to make sure she was able to navigate the system. The integrity of our country and its legal system depends on making sure all people can have a day in court. For that reason, I hope you too will ask your Congressional representatives to support funding for the Legal Services Corporation.