A Message from Martha Bergmark, Founding Executive Director

July 30, 2021 - 1:57 pm
by Martha Bergmark

Announces leadership transition at Voices for Civil Justice.

I write this post to announce news of two important changes at Voices for Civil Justice. The first change: a leadership transition. The second: a new model for how Voices can continue to serve your organizations and this network of advocates for people facing civil legal crises.

Leadership Announcement

On August 1, I will begin my retirement and step down as Voices’ founding executive director. It’s been a privilege and a delight to serve as executive director of Voices for Civil Justice since our launch in late 2013. With Elizabeth Arledge as founding deputy director, the Voices team built a 50-state network of legal aid and civil justice advocates that’s now 1,700 members strong. In partnership with you, we’ve generated a steady drumbeat of media coverage — more than 700 news and opinion pieces in dozens of outlets — about civil legal aid and civil justice reform. We’ve called attention to how civil justice reform can advance solutions for problems we all care about — from homelessness to domestic violence to the Covid-19 pandemic. We’ve advanced reform of America’s civil justice system so it works for everyone.

I am excited to pass the baton of leadership to the wonderful Sam Scarrow. To many of you, Sam needs no introduction — you already know him well as our director of media relations and strategic partnerships. For the benefit of others, Sam is a long-time member of the Voices team in two ways. For two years, he was a communications consultant at BerlinRosen, the national public affairs firm we retain to do our extensive national media outreach. As a member of our BR team, he was a master at pitching news and opinion pieces about legal aid and civil justice. In early 2019, we were fortunate to recruit him to our staff. During the pandemic, Sam has brilliantly and tirelessly capitalized on unprecedented national media interest in our civil justice issues while continuing to build this network’s capacity to do the same in local media. He has helped bring the voices of legal aid clients and attorneys into the coverage about the threat of mass evictions and the disparate burden of Covid-19 on our clients. I’m grateful to Sam for leading this ongoing effort, and for being the right person at the right time to take Voices to new heights.

A New Model for Voices

As executive director, Sam will preside over a change in our business model. For seven years, thanks to generous grants from several foundations, we were able to build our national JusticeVoices community and to offer you, free of charge, the communications tools and services you can use to grow as communicators and media advocates. With foundation funders moving to other priorities, Sam will now lead the effort to ensure a sustainable future for the mission of Voices by soliciting paid engagements for communications strategy consulting, communications trainings, direct media outreach, op-ed writing and other services. The Voices team will consist of Sam as sole staff member, our terrific team at BerlinRosen, and my help to Sam on a part-time, pro bono basis. We will be reaching out to you for help in building the new model.

My heartfelt thanks go out to all who have contributed to the realization of Mary McClymont’s original, inspiring vision for Voices — our generous funders and ever-helpful advisory committee, our staff and BerlinRosen team members, the legal aid and civil justice advocates willing to offer their expertise to reporters, and most especially the hundreds of legal aid clients willing to share their compelling personal stories. By connecting headline news to underlying civil justice challenges, together we are reshaping the public narrative, with results that include funding increases for civil legal aid and meaningful policy change. To all of you – thank you!

Onward and upward,