- Greater Access to Justice, Not Wall Street, Will Solve US Problems, Ben Stein Says in Keynote
Greater Access to Justice, Not Wall Street, Will Solve US Problems, Ben Stein Says in Keynote
Posted Mar 30, 2012 2:20 PM CST
By Rachel M. Zahorsky
ABA Techshow keynote speaker Ben Stein applauded technological advances that enable U.S. (and Canadian) lawyers to increase access to justice for their fellow citizens in a Friday session titled “The Life of Law is Not Logic But Experience.”
Referring to the Constitution and the legal system it fosters as “the heritage of Americans and a national treasure,” Stein urged members of the legal profession to strive to put the needs of others before their own in a wide-ranging, anecdote-filled speech that covered issues ranging from letting Lehman Brothers fail to the importance of skilled and unskilled immigrant workers to economic recovery and a nation facing what he predicts will be an inevitable debt default.
Stein also acknowledged the many Canadian attendees throughout the program, although his words were geared toward U.S. politics, culture and economy.
“We all have rights, but it can be staggeringly expensive to possess those rights,” Stein said, “Unless you can get access to a lawyer, there’s a greatly diminished chance of getting access.”
“This makes [lawyers] and their clients richer in material and emotional ways, more powerful as human beings and citizens,” Stein said to a packed audience. “U.S. and Canadian lawyers take their greatest national inheritances and they share it with everyone else who is not necessarily rich. They let everyone all over North America know they have legal rights and what those legal rights are and what they aren’t.”
Stein applauded the technology and products used by the legal profession that narrow the gap for Americans who have problems getting access to justice, particularly among manufacturing and agricultural workers, immigrants, public servants and those in the general population who he says will provide the solutions that will repair the unemployment and financial distress facing the country today.
Stein also said he hoped the proliferation of the Internet will enable future law courses on basic legal principles and rights—such as torts, contracts and criminal law—to be taught at universities, community colleges, adult education courses and even high schools.
While Stein praised medical workers, engineers and laborers, he had few positive remarks for Wall Street (which he said would only look out for itself) and the millennial generation (whom he not-so-jokingly poked fun at for a lack of motivation, knowledge and job skills).
"[Solutions] aren’t going to come from Wall Street ... they won’t come from sports stars or movie stars,” Stein said, shaking his head. “They will come from people who put other people’s interests ahead of their own, largely through the invention of machine intelligence that connects people with their heritage.”