A time to re-energize, revitalize and rally

We live in edgy times.

The 2017 Access to Justice (ATJ) Conference June 2-4 in Yakima, WA. This is your time to reflect, find your place, and pick your path forward to meet the challenges of ensuring civil equal justice in the Evergreen State. Learn more and register now.

In the current climate, immigration and health care are like surround sound to the intellectual senses of the civil legal aid community. They’re omni-present as you click on your web browser, receive a tweet, turn-on the TV or thumb through the newspaper.

There is no mystery about those being impacted the most.  Experience and research show that those most at risk are those with the least means. They are the disadvantaged, underrepresented and underserved that are the background threads to the fabric of our society. They are the marginalized ones that the civil legal aid community aims to represent.

The broader question is how to respond. Conference co-chairs Ishbel Dickens and Beth Leonard embrace the conference as an inflection point for those conversations. As the conference only happens every other year, they see the timing of meeting this June as particularly good and welcome.

Said Ishbel, “This is a time to reenergize and remind each other that the work we do does make a difference. Particularly given the tone and actions from national leadership, the conference gives likeminded advocates a chance to breathe and reflect.” Continued Beth, “It’s a time to keep our heads high, revitalize the movement and support building the next wave of leadership and social justice.”

For a movement to build and be effective, they see it as needing participation from all parts of the state and all types of case work. “The conference provides that,” said Beth. “We’re lucky. Our roots go back to 1994 when the Washington State Supreme Court established the ATJ. Our state is working from a foundation others don’t have.”

Both note that while ATJ issues ebb and flow over the years, meeting the needs of the poor as an unprotected class does not. “What you get at the conference,” said Ishbel “is the opportunity to learn and network across a range of topics and issues. Right now, we’re in the process of selecting from a wide variety of session proposals. It’s exciting to see the diversity, and the commitment of people to share. The energy is very apparent.”

“As someone who’s been a student and young lawyer at previous ATJ conferences, that’s gold,” commented Beth. “Being encouraged and mentored is foundational to keeping the movement going.”

What they describe is community renewal. Those in the movement for years welcome those who are new; a wave of thought and bodies emerge to take on immigration, health care and other challenges; and the tools to find one’s place and be successful come into focus.

Said Ishbel, “Now more than ever we need new solutions for old problems. This is our time to rally, break-down silos and evolve.”