Karen Lash is a non-resident fellow at the Tech Institute and a Senior Fellow at the Georgetown Justice Lab.
Karen A. Lash’s consulting practice helps organizations and foundations working to close the justice gap. It builds on her experience working within government, universities, and nonprofits.
Her federal government work includes the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Office for Access to Justice (ATJ). As a political appointee in the Obama Administration (2010 – 2017) Lash held leadership positions including Acting Director and founding Executive Director of the Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (LAIR). She 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. Lash’s work with LAIR, together with other collaborations while at DOJ, resulted in more than half-a-billion dollars to support legal aid, new research, and civil justice system collaborations that facilitated civil rights enforcement actions.
Lash joined the Biden Administration’s efforts in 2021, helping to implement President Biden’s May 2021 Memorandum regarding relaunching DOJ ATJ which had been shuttered by the prior Administration and reinvigorating LAIR.
Between government stints, Lash served for four years as Practitioner-in-Residence and Director of The Justice in Government Project (JGP) she launched at American University where, with foundation support, she worked with state government agencies to further their policy priorities regarding low-income and other underserved populations by integrating legal aid partners. While at JGP she provided training and technical assistance resulting in more than $200 million in new state administered federal funds for legal aid and a toolkit now hosted by NLADA to support on-going government-justice community collaboration in more than two dozen states.
Karen has also served as Equal Justice Works VP of Programs, University of Southern California Gould School of Law Associate Dean, Public Counsel’s Child Care Law Project Director, Tuttle & Taylor associate, and clerk to US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Warren J. Ferguson. A wide range of consulting clients include the Office of American Possibilities, The Pew Charitable Trusts, NLADA Mutual Insurance program, Casey Family Programs, Booz Allen Hamilton, The JPB Foundation, Mississippi Center for Justice, and the University of California law schools at Irvine and Berkeley. She has helped establish legal clinics and court programs in Moldova, Ukraine, Slovakia, Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan, Serbia, Macedonia, and Bahrain.
A frequent conference keynote and presenter, Karen’s published work has appeared in publications including Daedalus, TalkPoverty, MIE Journal, the DePaul Journal for Social Justice, the Mississippi Law Journal, and the South Carolina Law Review. Recent honors include Attorney General Eric Holder’s John Marshall Award for Outstanding Legal Achievement for Participation in Litigation (2014), recognition from Attorney General Loretta Lynch for her LAIR work (2016), Mississippi Center for Justice’s Champions award (2017), NLADA’s Innovation Award (2017), and Public Justice Center’s Outstanding Partner Award (2022). She is a Center for American Progress Senior Fellow.
Her extracurricular justice project (described here) educates and badgers friends, family, and anyone who will listen to kick the habit of single-use plastic.