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Karen A. Lash is a senior fellow at American Progress. Lash previously served in the Obama administration in leadership positions at the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office for Access to Justice and as the first executive director of the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (LAIR). Lash conceptualized, implemented, and led LAIR, a first-of-its-kind executive branch policymaking model for civil legal aid, that brought together 22 federal agencies to identify programs, policies, and initiatives that could work more effectively and efficiently by incorporating legal aid.
After leaving the DOJ, Lash joined American University’s School of Public Affairs Justice Programs Office as a practitioner-in-residence and director of The Justice in Government Project. With funding from the Open Society Foundations, Public Welfare Foundation, and The Kresge Foundation, Lash is applying the lessons learned from LAIR to state agencies in order to similarly ensure that scarce resources are effectively used to achieve state goals regarding low-income and other underserved populations by adding legal aid partners. She also serves as a consultant for civil justice organizations and philanthropic foundations.
Before joining the Obama administration, Lash consulted with various U.S. law schools and advocacy organizations, including the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA), the American Constitution Society, the Mississippi Center for Justice (MCJ), the University of California law schools at Berkeley and Irvine, and helped advance university legal clinics in Moldova, Ukraine, Slovakia, Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan, and Macedonia. She served as a co-chair of the California Access to Justice Commission, as associate dean at the University of Southern California Law School, and as vice president of programs at Equal Justice Works. She practiced law at Tuttle & Taylor and Public Counsel and clerked for Judge Warren J. Ferguson, 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Her recent honors include former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s John Marshall Award for Outstanding Legal Achievement for Participation in Litigation, recognition from former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch for her work at LAIR, the MCJ’s Champion of Justice Award, and the NLADA’s Innovation Award.
Lash is a frequent conference keynote and presenter, and her work has appeared in publications such as Daedalus, TalkPoverty, the DePaul Journal for Social Justice, the Mississippi Law Journal, and the South Carolina Law Review Lash currently serves on the advisory boards of the University of California Irvine and Berkeley Law Schools’ Civil Justice Research Institute, Voices for Civil Justice, and Tzedek DC.