Remarks of  Elizabeth Solar at Memorial Celebration

Gary was my boss, mentor and friend. My name is Liz Solar and I am an attorney and clinical instructor at the Legal Services Center.   I first came to the Center years ago as my first job out of law school.  I confess that when I accepted the position I did not know who Jeanne and Gary were. It did not take me long, however, to realize that I was in the presence of greatness and that being directly trained and supervised by Gary was an exquisite opportunity.   Exquisite because of how I was trained to practice and because I quickly realized that I was in the presence of someone who as an attorney and law professor did more than publish law review articles or teach in the classroom.  He created a place and an intricate program (with the help of Jeanne and many others) that tested and challenged many of the ideas he wrote and taught about.   

Gary was deeply passionate that poor people deserved not just representation but excellent representation and he argued that this work was hard because it involved people who had complicated lives and were up against monumental institutions, like welfare beauracracies, and systemic racism and classism.  

One of Gary’s pervasive themes was that poor people are entitled to excellent legal representation and that the delivery of legal services to the poor should not merely be a charitable enterprise.  He believed it was the duty of the bar, academia, and legal services organizations to come together to create as many models as necessary to provide an array of legal services needed for poor people. Gary argued that there would likely never be more than a fixed number of legal services staff attorneys’ nation wide but that in any given year approximately 40,000 law students graduate.  It was a major mistake, Gary said, to have not seized the moment during a time that the law school clinical programs were expanding and combine forces to create many many law school clinics that would both represent poor people and train law students. Gary believed that effectively training law students through clinical programs not only increased the numbers of low-income people who could be served by clinics; it also served the purpose of improving what he saw as mediocre practice, in particularly our part of the bar.  At the Center we sometimes have up to 80 students each semester, in addition to our staff of thirty, which allows us to represent many more clients than would otherwise be possible. 

Gary had a particular concern to establish a model that afforded respect and responsibility to people with valuable life experience and education, other than law degrees.  Paralegals who work at the Center function in the same way as attorney where agency rules permit such representation.  They work up cases, investigate claims and supervise law students.  We are a staff of thirty people comprised of attorneys, paralegals, former community organizers, immigrants, self-identified Latinos, African-Americans, gays and lesbians, whites, Jews, some who live in Boston neighborhoods, some who have left and remained close friends of the Center and some who have returned to the Center, and other staff who sadly have since passed away. 

Gary was concerned that law students graduate knowing very little about what it means to be an advocate.  He said that representing the poor was hard work, it is hard to do it well, hard to do it thoughtfully and hard to do it over time. Thus, doing this work could actually teach law students about the nuances and complexities of individual representation better than any lecture, law book or law firm setting.  

I don’t want to give the impression that this model and our program have not been without their problems.  We are teachers and practitioners and juggling both roles is demanding.  The Center is a unique institution and Gary was constantly challenging us as individuals and as a group to push further, work harder and think of new ways to address old problems.  He was sometimes discouraged and frustrated by any sign of complacency or lack of energy in Legal Services in general and in our office in particular.  But he was never defeated and kept pushing us to do more cases and get better outcomes.

Like any great master, Gary had a way of making lawyering look easy, and when I and others tried to emulate his amazing skill, and would fall short, he would say in his Gary way, looking at you with genuine intensity, “Liz, this is hard work, let’s talk about how we can do this differently and better next time” And on to the next client.   

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