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Albany Law School announced today that James J. Sandman, outgoing president of the Legal Services Corporation, will deliver the 169th Commencement address at Saratoga Performing Arts Center on May 15, 2020.
In addition, Sandman will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Since 2016 he has served as a trustee of Albany Law School, the alma mater of his father, Edgar Sandman '46.
Sandman recently announced his plans to step down from the Legal Services Corporation, the nation's largest funder of civil legal aid for low-income individuals. An outspoken proponent of improving access to civil justice for low-income people, Sandman pushed for technological and data-driven innovations to narrow the justice gap.
During his near-decade at the helm, Sandman visited 47 states, generated broad bipartisan support for LSC, which is funded by an annual Congressional appropriation, and significantly expanded the organization's support for pro bono services. LSC established the Office of Data Governance and Analysis, convened a national Pro Bono Task Force, and released the widely cited study "The Justice Gap: Measuring the Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans," among numerous other initiatives with far-reaching effects. His public advocacy also contributed to LSC receiving $440 million in annual funding from Congress for the current fiscal year—the largest appropriation in the organization's 45-year history.
"I am grateful to have had the opportunity to shine a spotlight on a largely unknown crisis in our justice system—the fact that 75 percent of civil cases in the United States today involve unrepresented parties—and to have been able to do something to improve the situation," Sandman said. "I hope to help send the Class of 2020 out into practice inspired about their enormous potential for impact."
"This is a full-circle moment in so many ways. Jim Sandman gave one of the most heartfelt speeches I have ever seen in August, when he addressed the incoming class. Now our graduating class will benefit from his wit and wisdom. And through his service he continues the legacy of Edgar Sandman, who received an honorary doctorate on the same stage," said President and Dean Alicia Ouellette. "We are fortunate to have Jim as a member of the Albany Law School family. I know his Commencement address will inspire the Class of 2020 to change our world for the better."
Sandman was named president of the Legal Services Corporation in 2011. He practiced law with the international law firm of Arnold & Porter LLP for 30 years and served as the firm's managing partner for a decade. He is a past president of the 100,000-member District of Columbia Bar and a former general counsel for the District of Columbia Public Schools.
He is chair of the board 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 District of Columbia Public Charter School Board, the District of Columbia 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 previously served as chair of the District of Columbia Circuit Judicial Conference Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services and as a member of the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, as chair of the boards of the Meyer Foundation and of Whitman-Walker Health, and as a member of the boards of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, the Neighborhood Legal Services Program of the District of Columbia, the International Senior Lawyers Project, the NALP Foundation for Law Career Research and Education, and Wilkes University.
Sandman was named one of the "90 Greatest Washington Lawyers of the Last 30 Years" by the Legal Times in 2008. The University of Pennsylvania Law School has honored him with its Alumni Award of Merit and its Howard Lesnick Pro Bono Award. He has also received the District of Columbia Bar's highest honor, the Justice William J. Brennan Jr. Award, the Wiley A. Branton Award from the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Legal Rights and Urban Affairs, the Hugh A. Johnson Jr. Memorial Award from the Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia, the D.C. Commission on Human Rights' Cornelius R. Alexander Humanitarian Award, D.C. Law Students in Court's Celebration of Service Award, the Washington Council of Lawyers' Presidents' Award, the Council for Court's Excellence's Justice Potter Steward Award, Tahirih Justice Center's Wings of Justice Award, and Legal Aid Society of Cleveland's Louis Stokes Paragon Award. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree by the College of Saint Rose and has received Villanova University's Medallion Award. He has given commencement addresses at the College of Saint Rose, Villanova Law School, Rutgers Law School, and the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law.
Sandman is a summa cum laude graduate of Boston College, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and received his law degree cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, where he served as executive editor of the law review and was elected to the Order of the Coif. He began his legal career as a law clerk to Judge Max Rosenn of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
Sandman's father, Edgar, graduated from Albany Law School in 1946. Edgar Sandman was a longtime board member, board chair, and recipient of several accolades, including the Trustees Gold Medal in 1987 and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1991. The following year, the Sandman family established the Edgar '46 and Margaret Sandman Fellowship in Aging and Health Law and Policy, the most prestigious fellowship awarded to an Albany Law School student.