Legal Services Corporation
Provision For The Delivery Of Legal Services
Friday, November 21, 2003
City Bar Center for CLE
The Association of the Bar of the City of New York
42 West 44th Street
New York, New York 10036-6604
COMMITTEE MEMBERS PRESENT:
David Hall, Chair
Maria Luisa Mercado
Florentino A. Subia
Frank B. Strickland, ex-officio
BOARD MEMBERS PRESENT:
Robert J. Dieter
Herbert S. Garten
Thomas R. Meites
STAFF AND PUBLIC PRESENT:
Victor M. Fortuno, Vice President for Legal Affairs,
General Counsel & Corporate Secretary
Randi Youells, Vice President for Programs
John Eidleman, Acting Vice President for Compliance
Leonard Koczur, Acting Inspector General, Office of
the Inspector General
Laurie Tarantowicz, Assistant Inspector General and
David Maddox, Assistant Inspector General for
David Richardson, Treasurer & Comptroller
Patricia Hanrahan, Special Counsel to the VP for
Michael Genz, Director, Office of Program Performance (OPP)
Cynthia Schneider, Acting Deputy Director, OPP
Alice Dickerson, Director, Office of Human Resources
Lisa Rosenberg, Congressional Liaison
Elizabeth Cushing, Board Liaison
Eric Kleiman, Communications Director
Perry Wasserman, Special Assistant to the VP for Gov't
Relations & Public Affairs
Patricia Batie, FOIA Officer
Julie Clark, Vice President for Government Relations,
National Legal Aid and Defenders Association ("NLADA")
Don Saunders, Director for Civil Legal Services, NLADA
Linda Perle, Senior Attorney-Legal Services, Center for
Law and Social Policy ("CLASP")
Lillian Moy, Executive Director, Legal Aid Society of
Northeastern New York
Elizabeth Shearer, Sr. Legal Aid Consultant, Legal Aid
of Queensland, Australia
Bernice Phillips, Buffalo Prenatal Network (Nominee)
James Daley, Oversight Counsel for the Committee on
the Judiciary, U.S. House of Representatives
Andrew Scherer, Executive Director, Legal Services for
New York ("LSNY")
Edwina Francis Martin, Director of Communications, LSNY
Fern Fisher, Administrative Judge, Civil Court of the
City of New York
Juanita Bing Newton, Judge, New York State Courts
Helaine Barnett, Attorney in Charge, Civil Division,
Legal Aid Society of New York
Alexander Burstein, Executive Director, Legal Aid
Society of Rockland County
Ken Perri, Executive Director, Monroe County Legal
Anne Erickson, Executive Director, Greater Upstate Law
William Hawkes, Executive Director, Neighborhood Legal
Thomas Maligno, Director of Public Interest, Touro Law
Craig Siegel, Associate Counsel, Brennan Center
Bethany Li, Research Associate, Brennan Center
Michael Hertz, President, Pro Bono Net
Dianne Dixon, Executive Director, Access to Justice
Center/Office of Courts Administration
Amy Christensen, Executive Director, Southern Tier
Susan Sokol, Law Help, LSNY
John Kiernan, LSNY Chairman and Partner at Debevoise
Jeanne Perry, Chief of Operations, LSNY
Bill O. Whitehurst, Chairman, ABA's Standing Committee
for Legal Aid & Indigent Defendants ("SCLAID")
|C O N T E N T S|
|Approval of agenda||7|
|Approval of the minutes of the Committee's meeting of September 14, 2003||
|Presentation by Randi Youells, LSC Vice President for Programs, on the history and impact of LSC's five-year State Planning Initiative||
|Presentation by representatives of Legal Services of New York City on their recent efforts to restructure their operations||
|Presentation by representatives of the New York State justice community on state planning in New York||
|Discussion of the future direction of the Committee||
|Consider and act on other business||114|
|Consider and act on adjournment of meeting||115|
|MOTIONS:||Pages 7, 8, 116,|
P R O C E E D I N G S
CHAIRMAN HALL: Good afternoon. My name is David Hall and I am chair of the Provisions Committee, and I would now like to officially call to order the Provisions Committee of the Legal Services Corporation Board, and would like to welcome the members of the Committee and other Board members who are serving, or who are present and participating in the meeting.
We have a very full agenda, so we would like to go ahead and get started.
The Committee had some individual discussions about what would be a good focus for this particular meeting, and we felt that we needed to focus on state planning, which is a concept that has been very critical and important to the Legal Services Corporation for the last few years, and those of us who are new Board members have certainly heard about it, but didn't have a deep understanding of what was the general focus and what were some of the results.
So we felt that the Provisions Committee would be the appropriate place for us to gain a deeper understanding of what state planning has been about, and also to look at it as a kind of platform for our future direction, because if we fully understand what state planning has provided for the Corporation and the grantees, then I think we will better be able to begin to focus on some future agendas around quality delivery and around the assessment of quality delivery.
So our agenda for this meeting is to hear from those who have been involved in that process, both from the Corporation's perspective and from those who have worked on the city and state level of this initiative, which began a few years ago under the direction of then President John McKay, who we did invite to come and share what his regional vision was. He unfortunately had a conflict, but sent his regrets to us.
It is an initiative that we are wanting to, again, get a fuller understanding of its impact, so we are going to start the meeting by first hearing from the Corporation's perspective around this initiative.
Randi Youells, vice president for programs, is going to start us out in our discussion and understanding, and then we will begin to hear from some representatives from our grantee here in the city, and also those who are involved in the process from a statewide level, and we will hope to conclude by beginning to focus a little bit on some of the future directions for the committee and different topics that we are going to address.
So Randi, thank you for being with us, and I will now turn it over to you.
MS. YOUELLS: Thank you, Professor Hall. Thank you, members of the Committee.
I would first like to start by recognizing some key people in the audience.
State planning, although it has been a key initiative of LSC --
CHAIRMAN HALL: Excuse me just for a second. I unfortunately forgot to do a couple of administrative things that should be done before we launch off into this.
We need to approve the agenda that is before the Board members. Could I have a motion?
M O T I O N
MS. MERCADO: So moved.
CHAIRMAN HALL: Is there a second?
MR. STRICKLAND: Second.
CHAIRMAN HALL: Is there approval?
Also, on Page Number 2, there are the minutes of our last that meeting of September 14th.
If I could get a motion in regards to those minutes, if people have had a chance to look at them.
M O T I O N
MS. MERCADO: So moved.
CHAIRMAN HALL: Second?
MR. STRICKLAND: Second.
CHAIRMAN HALL: All in favor, aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
CHAIRMAN HALL: Any opposed?
CHAIRMAN HALL: Okay. Thank you.
Sorry for the interruption. We've gotten those out of the way, so we can now go into our presentation.
MS. YOUELLS: Last evening, we heard a lot about the legal services program here in New York City, and I think what may have been overlooked is that there also is a vibrant state justice community in what we refer to as Upstate New York, and I'd like to begin today by just redressing a wrong that may have been committed by LSC staff by not duly recognizing the important people from the New York State justice community.
And I'd like to start by recognizing the first co-chairs of state planning, Amy Christensen and Andy Scherer, who I believe are in the room.
The current co-chairs are Tom Widnow, Andy Scherer and Anne Erickson, and you'll be hearing from some of them later today.
And then there are some LSC-funded program directors here in the room -- Bill Hass, Ken Kerry, Amy Christensen, Lillian Moy, and Barbara Finkelstein.
And as I said, state planning would be nothing if it were not for all the partnerships that we have with our grantees, and other important people here in the United States, so I wanted to, as I launched this explanation of the first five years of the State Planning Initiative, recognize that some very important people helped us here in New York State.
The State Planning Initiative that I'm going to talk about today is, as you see on your screen, has been capsulized as a five-year plan, but in reality, state planning, and it's in your materials, actually started in 1995, when in the face of declining resources and restrictions on the work.
Eric has suggested that some of you are having trouble seeing the screen. There are some seats back here that you can sit in.
In 1995, John Hall, who is a respected LSC advocate, led an effort of LSC to involve our grantees in what was called state planning, and again, the focus of state planning in 1995 was much more narrow than it has come to be in the resulting years following 1995.
The etiology of state planning at that time was twofold. There were declining resources for federally funded legal services, and there were beginning to be restrictions on the types of cases that federally funded legal services could perform for clients.
So the Legal Services Corporation sent out a new program letter in 1995, and for those of you who are new to legal services, we often communicate important initiatives to the field by the use of program letters, and that program letter called upon grantees to all begin to work together in a state to address the service delivery problems that they were facing because of declining resources and growing numbers of clients who were going unserved.
One of the principal points of contention in that program letter was a requirement that programs who were very small -- and that program letter defined small programs -- began to look at whether or not there would be greater efficiencies of scale if they looked at merging with other legal services programs in a state, and I suppose as could be expected, that was a fairly shocking idea to grantees and was somewhat controversial in appeal.
And I say that as a person who actually has run two legal services programs, in Iowa and in Camden, New Jersey, and I know that programs had developed a way of functioning that they thought was important and worked for them, but the Legal Services Corporation was suddenly confronting them with the fact that LSC maybe thought that the delivery system was not as efficient and effective as it could be, and specifically said, "If you are a smaller program, you must begin to look at whether or not you are spending, for example, too many resources on administration and not on client services.
Response to the 1995 program letter was somewhat uneven. Some states actually took it very seriously, like Washington State and the State of New Jersey, the State of Colorado, and began to take a look at their delivery system to determine whether or not it was effective and efficient, but as we look back in time, most states really didn't do anything, and LSC pulled back from that program letter, kind of pulled it off the table, and very little then happened in terms of taking a look at what was going on in a particular state, until 1998.
In 1998, we had a new president, President John McKay, and Mr. McKay came from the private sector, and as a member of the private sector, he was not familiar with our delivery system and the first round of competition when he began to have to sign off on grants for our grantees -- and I wasn't at LSC at the time, but my staff had told me he was very upset by the fact that LSC was funding as many as 27 particular programs in a state, and he looked at states in which there were a large number of legal services programs, and he began to challenge the staff as to why this was. Why did LSC fund large numbers of programs in Ohio, large numbers of programs in Florida, large numbers of programs in California, and he sensed that, as an outsider looking at it, it didn't make a lot of sense.
President McKay was the person who actually called into being the second most important round of the State Planning Initiative, which comes into effect in 1998 through a program letter or a series of program letters.
The first program letter was 98.1, or 98-1, which meant it was issued in January of 1998, and that program letter called upon our grantees to begin to look at seven areas of concern, and among the seven areas of concern is they said: "You must take a look at how you reach and serve clients; you must begin to look at the delivery system through a statewide lens; you must, in the states where there are a large number of grantees, establish a collaborative approach; and we are going to begin to function as your equity partner and not just your funder."
I think he meant and we meant that a funder's role is sometimes somewhat passive. You write the grant checks, you send the money out, periodically you go and evaluate to make sure you're getting efficiency and effectiveness, but you're pretty silent in terms of what else is going on in the state.
And President McKay and the staff who were working at the time laid down this challenge to the various states and said, "Think of us as a person who is going to be your partner in this initiative," and they identified, as I said, seven areas in which they were going to look at how they were going to alter the delivery system.
98-1, Program Letter 98-1, just like the program letter in 1995, was somewhat controversial, and many grantees didn't understand it, so it was followed fairly rapidly by another program letter, 98.6 (sic), which again came out in June of 1998, which specifically set out what LSC wanted them to address in terms of a plan that they would be required to submit to LSC on October 1, 1998.
So all grantees, through these two program letters, are now told: "You must submit a plan, and in that plan, you must tell us what you are going to do about declining federal funds; you must tell us why the infrastructure of your state works and what you are going to do to change it, if it in fact is outmoded.
"You must tell us how you are going to deal with the federal restrictions on essential activities and change the manner in which you deliver services in order to comply with those regulations; you must tell us how you are going to use technology to serve clients; you must tell us how you are going to get new funds; you must tell us how you are going to address the emerging needs of the very diverse client communities that we are now being required to serve, who oftentimes didn't speak English; and you must begin to address the unequal quality of legal services programs nationally."
Something that those of us in legal services have known for a long time is that there were at that time in 1998 very high quality programs that did superb services for clients and client communities, as there were also some programs that did not meet the quality standards that had been set out much earlier by the ABA and by LSC in terms of performance.
So LSC, in these program letters, issued a call to the national community to begin to take responsibility for what was happening in the weaker programs, and President McKay and the staff went out and said, "It is no longer enough for you to say that the qualify of services your program offers are good if the adjacent programs' services are bad and you know that. We must all begin to take collective responsibility."
And so in 1998, all states were required, on October 1, to submit a state plan that focused on the items that are on the screen: cultivating new stakeholders, embracing statewide perspectives, planning to achieve a vision of a delivery system grounded in fundamental concepts of fairness and the rule of law, enhancing access, making sure.
We were talking about how only one out of five clients were being served, and the debate was that -- we were asked to change the debate. Let's stop talking about how we only serve one out of every five clients. Let's talk about how we're going to serve as many clients as possible.
Implementing new technology. If you'll remember, back about that time, and the staff will certainly tell you, I'm no technology whiz, so I have a distant memory that in fact technology was undergoing a fairly major revolution, and law firms and other people who provided services to clients were beginning to use technology to make themselves more efficient and effective, but that revolution was not occurring the legal services community.
So one thing that we asked in 1999 is, "Take a look, grantees in a state, at what's happening technologically in the United States and how you are going to use it to serve clients."
We asked them to tell us how they were going to promote client self-help, education, and advice, and that's recognizing that yes, indeed, we provide legal services to low-income people, but there are a number of people, a number of clients who come in through our doors who the only service they really need is some help in understanding how they're going to exercise their rights, and we said an efficient and effective legal services program provides multi-forum advocacy services to our clients.
We asked people how they were going to address legal mentoring and training across the state. We asked a plan, "How are you going to coordinate with the private bar; how are you going to raise more money for legal services; how are you going to meet current and future client needs; how are you going to ensure that no matter where you live in the State of Texas or Iowa you have relatively equal access to services; and how are you going to make sure there's relative equity in the investment of resources?"
So the plans in 1998 -- on October 1, the staff was confronted with 50 plans from 50 states and some of the territories that began to actually tell us some of the answers to those questions, and LSC began to engage with those states in response to those plans.
Every single one of those plans received a responsive letter, and at that time, I was actually working for LSC as a consultant, and one of the things that I did was draft many of those letters, and I can tell you that my responses -- and those of you who know me, this will not surprise you -- were very wordy.
I would look at a plan and I would write multi-page responses, either asking for more information, saying "Good job," or asking them to look at other things.
So we went on in that process for a while, taking a look at what was happening in the states, and LSC and its grantees were engaged in kind of an information and response mode.
During that time, there is no question that the most controversial state planning was one of the items contained in a program letter, 98-1 and 98-6, which said, "If you are in a state in which there are a large number of LSC grantees, or if you are in a state in which there are very small LSC grantees who receive, for example, $300,000 in federal funds, you must begin to look at whether or not it would be in the clients' best interests for you to merge with another legal services program in the state."
And it is true, as you look back in time, and I think at the end of five years you have the benefit of hindsight, it is certainly true that that was the most controversial aspect of the state planning requirement, the one that has caused the most dismay and grief, but the one that I think you will hear this afternoon that also has had some of the largest benefits for clients.
So as states began to reconfigure their delivery systems, they certainly had some pain and some agony in doing so, and we are certainly, I think, at a point in time, and we'll be talking about this in a little bit, where we are now putting those structure discussions behind us.
For all intents and purposes, the restructuring of the delivery system is coming to an end, and we are starting to look forward as to how we make those delivery systems as high in quality as we can.
In 2000, the LSC Board of Directors adopted a strategic plan. Now, there is some question, I can say this, we call it a strategic plan.
Since they never established outcome measures, they themselves, and they will agree, started backing away as to whether or not it was a plan or a statement of strategic direction.
But whichever term you use, they adopted a five-year strategic plan, and in that plan, they said that state planning embodies LSC's primary strategy for increasing access to it and availability of services throughout the United States.
So now we have Program Letter 9-1, Program Letter 98-6, now we have the LSC Board in its own strategic plan saying that it would become the highest priority of LSC.
And at that time, LSC then had to scramble to the staff somewhat to recognize that the Board had just laid down a blatant challenge in front of us which said, "You will put all of your staff energies, or as much as possible, into the State Planning Initiative, and you will help communities with aspects for planning, highlight best grantee practices to encourage replication, showcase exemplary planning, award extra money to states with planning challenges, integrate state planning into the competitive application process, and partner with national and state groups dedicated to equal justice."
And I think it's Number 5, awarding TA contracts to help states with common challenges, the Board actually established a line item of dollars that were available to LSC not through the competitive application process, that we could make available to various states on a contractual basis to help them with several aspects of planning.
And as you look back at the state planning technical assistance contracts, you'll see that we obligated almost $800,000 over the last several years, and it went for a wide variety of things.
The states told us what they needed, so in some situations, the state planning technical assistance contracts would be to build a designated state planning body or planning entity in a particular state.
In some, it was for legal needs planning; in some it was for enhanced pro bono activities, so there were quite a variety of things that these dollars were used for, and as I look back at it, it was very clear to me, and probably should have been clear at the beginning, but sometimes we miss those kinds of things, that that money was important not only because everybody needs money, but also it showed that LSC was willing to put its money where its mouth was.
So as they were encouraging states, mandating states, requiring states to change the way that they looked at the world, they were also giving them some extra dollars to help them adjust to that changing paradigm that we were insisting -- and I guess insisting is probably not even strong enough, we were mandating -- that they do, and we mandated it through the competitive application process.
The competitive application process, up until around 1995 or 1996, there was presumptive funding for our grantees.
I was in Iowa for many years, and you just, there was just a presumption that your legal services funding would continue. You just relied on it, year after year.
When the competitive grant process was mandated by Congress, from then on our grantees had to competitively compete for LSC dollars, and we then would review the application, award the grant to an applicant in a particular service area that we would draw , and we would award that grant for anywhere from one to two to three years.
And we began to tie state planning to competition by rewarding grantees in a state who had done a good job in planning with three-year grant awards, and using a hammer on other states who were not taking it seriously by granting one-year grant awards and seriously telling them that if they did not take a look at the structure of the legal services delivery system, we would have no choice but to substitute our judgment, and we would begin to reconfigure the service areas that we were funding.
Let me just say, before I go on to this, the other thing that happened then is at that time, when the Board said, "You must, LSC staff, calibrate your units to deliver state planning," we at that time set up a state planning team.
We took some staff out of the Office of Program Performance -- and the director, Mike Getz, is in the room -- and we said, "For the next several years, you will concentrate your efforts solely and exclusively on state planning in order to honor the Board's commitment in its strategic plan."
And some of you are aware that that commitment identified the staff to state planning just recently and these last several months, and we have now folded the staff back into the Office of Program Performance, and that's not to say that we are still not interested in state justice communities and in state planning, but it is to say that the first phase of state planning I think has ended, and we are now looking at the quality of the state justice community and the quality of the programs that comprise that state justice community, and that's something we'll be talking about, I think, more and more this coming year.
The indicators of state planning success are pretty obvious. In fact, I think it's safe to say, and most people in this room will agree, that despite some trepidation and concern that occurred several years ago, this initiative, which is only five years old, has in fact been, I think, extremely successful.
As your materials will indicate, five years ago there were only 10 states that had a group of people outside of the legal services project directors who looked at legal services delivery, and on their last count, 42 states had groups composed of law professors, the private bar, trial judges, appellate judges, and LSC staff whose job is to care for and nurture the delivery system within that state.
As your materials indicate, in the five years since state planning has been in effect, and not solely directed at state planning, we can't take all the credit for state planning, but there is no question that there has been increased resources for legal services, private resources, private contributions have multiplied threefold, and state contributions have multiplied fivefold, so there has been an increased effort for states to go out and diversify their funding so it is not as reliant on the federal funds for the delivery of legal services.
And there's no question that, largely because of state funding and the technology initiative grants, and the brilliant thinking of some people in this room, like Michael Hertz, who said, "I can show you how technology can make the delivery of services to clients better," there is now much more use of technology on a statewide basis to delivery legal services to clients.
There is more integration and coordination, and you'll hear about that this afternoon when the New York people talk, in terms of how programs work with each other to deliver services, and clearly, in the past couple years, we have paid heightened attention to developing leadership in supporting diversity.
And the supporting of diversity is to very necessary, because first of all, the legal services community itself is growing in its diversity, and certainly the clients that we serve are growing in their diversity and their languages, and we must be multiculturally competent.
I think the other indicator of state planning success has been how the support for legal services has improved and how many more people understand what legal services is and why it is so vital to our justice system.
As I said before, in 1998, there were 10 designated state planning bodies; in 2003, 45 and counting; in 2001, there was 68.5 million allocated by states to legal services, three times more than 1997; and private bar campaigns went up from 1997, a low of 5.3 million, to 2001, the last year for which we have figures, which is 23.6 million; and I think that's just indicative of the growing partnership.
Certainly, the number of LSC grantees has dropped. In 1997, we funded 261 basic field service areas. We now fund 138 basic service field areas. That does not include migrant and Native American service areas.
That is a change of almost 47 percent. That's a change of almost 47 percent in five years, and I think those of us in this room who love legal services and understand human psychology understand that 47 percent was a pretty marked decrease, and that has resulted in some shock.
Five years later, I think the benefits are, we are more capable in meeting the legal needs of clients; we are more efficient in using novel technologies to provide better client services; and I think we are certainly better poised to provide equal access.
That doesn't mean we're there, and in fact, I've come to believe in my 27 years that it is not a destination, it is a journey.
And the last thing I'll do is just highlight that in the materials that we presented to you in this book, State Planning: A Five-Year Overview, we went through some of what we think are the most significant state planning outcomes.
Those outcomes are not, those are just representative of things that have happened.
Certainly, we did not include all of the wonderful things that have happened, and certainly we probably omitted some of the more remarkable changes that have occurred, but there are some demonstrable outcomes that have come in just five years, and I won't go over this list, but it is in your materials and I will call that to your attention.
The last thing I guess I would like to conclude is that, although LSC is certainly one of the strongest proponents of state planning, as I say in the conclusion of the state planning book, we certainly did not do it alone, and we would never pretend that we do it alone.
The National Legal Aid and Defender Association, early on, came out in favor of the State Planning Initiative and put their weight behind our grantees' need to work with each other in what we call coordinated, concentrated, integrated delivery systems, They were aided by the ADA's various committees -- Pro Bono is the display committee -- who also put their weight and their bully pulpit, they used their bully pulpit to tell grantees that, yes, the time was now, that we needed to change the delivery system, because it was not working as efficiently and as effectively as it should.
And of course, CLASP, which is related to NLADA, was also very significant in helping us analyze the impact of the work that we were doing.
The State Planning Initiative is five years old. It is, I think, turning the corner. I was at a NLA meeting last week, and for lack of a better word, it's morphing.
I think any key initiative, once it has achieved some base goals, has to morph or it has to die, because the state of the country that we are looking at in 2003, as we go into 2004, no longer is what it looked like in 1995, '96, '97, so the State Planning Initiative, of its own, has got to become something different, or it risks being the dinosaur that we in fact were afraid that some of our programs would become in 1995 and '96.
CHAIRMAN HALL: Thank you very much. Excellent presentation.
Questions from any of the Board members or Committee members?
CHAIRMAN HALL: Just a couple. I'm certainly impressed by the end results and all of the successes that have come from this.
I still have a lingering question as to whether we lost anything in this process. From 261 to 138, the number of grantees, on one level, one can look at it as a positive, from the standpoint that maybe we have eliminated duplication, et cetera.
My query is, did we lose anything, and are there some things that state planning failed to accomplish that we need to be aware of and in particular focus on?
MS. YOUELLS: Yes. Whether I -- there are some things that I worry about. Whether or not they were caused by state planning, I'm not sure.
I think that although the mantra of the legal services community was that we were local providers serving local needs, in reality at the time the State Planning Initiative started, there already were large programs that were doing as good of a job or better as the smaller programs, because it's not just the size of the program, it's the intent of the commitment to serving people on the ground.
Now, I was at the Legal Services Corporation of Iowa for 14 years, five of it as its director. We served 98 counties. We certainly didn't serve them out of one office. We served them out of a multitude of offices.
As far as the clients knew, it was just the name on the door. They didn't know, really know, they were part of the Legal Services Corporation of Iowa.
They only knew what their local office was doing, and it was important for that statewide cooperation to ensure that whether or not you were in Sioux City or Ottumwa, you got the sake kinds of services that you got in any other area.
So I think that only time will probably tell us how much we've really lost. I don't think that state planning had the impact on client services negatively that people thought that it might have.
However, having said that, now that I look back on it, the one thing I think we failed to emphasize, and the one thing I worry about, and the one thing that I talk about is making sure to really stress access to justice. We didn't overstress access and understress justice.
And I think that sometimes when we talk about the benefits of state planning, which are remarkable, and we talk about hotlines, and we talk about kiosks, and we talk about advice clinics, and we talk about increased number of clients, for me, that is only good if the number of clients that we serve through extended service also continues to rise, and we do an equally good job training our lawyers, especially our younger and newer lawyers who are coming to legal services as the boomer generations begins to retire, to do the best damned job they can in providing high quality, aggressive legal services.
And while that was never our intent, and I certainly think we sounded that message, perhaps it got lost in the clutter, and so one of the things I hope we can do as we turn the corner is remind people that access to justice and real justice are not the same, and they should not be seen as in conflict.
MS. MERCADO: I think just that point that you made a moment ago reminded me of the conversation we had earlier at the Queens office of legal services, which basically, the New York program is very fortunate, I think, that they have this unit that trains legal services attorneys and staff, and unfortunately, most of the programs around the country don't have such things, because we did do away with national support centers and state support centers. Unfortunately, because of all the funding cuts, we didn't have anything to replace it.
And so the issue of quality, effective legal services is a big question. If we have a slew of young lawyers that are coming in, or new paralegals, new staff people that are coming in, what are we doing to train them, making sure that we make them confident to represent and advocate on behalf of our clients?
If we're not doing that, then in effect, are we actually doing effective and quality legal services?
And I don't know that there is a measurement that we have looked at or we have done. I know we've talked about the fact that for a lot of the programs, they have to pay their own ceiling.
There is no training in-house that provides that expertise that you sort of learn over the years in litigating.
I think that the program in New York would, I'm sure would be a good model for a lot of the programs.
I understand you have a lot of funding sources from other areas that perhaps other programs don't have, but I would still think that legal services as an entity needs to look at that as one of the issues that it needs to promote before Congress of what we do as lawyers and as a law firm of the people, poor people in this country, to make sure that we provide that quality service, and that ought to be some of the issues that we look at when we're looking at funding from Congress.
MS. YOUELLS: I agree, and I think what this Board may not know is, you played an instrumental role two years ago insisting that LSC free up dollars for new lawyer training through a contract with another entity, and that new lawyer training was very successful, and in fact, we then contracted through a technology initiative grant to put it on line, but on-line training isn't as effective as a person training.
One of the requirements of 98-6, 98-1 and 98-6 was, work together to develop training and leadership development, but it's also true that in the pressure to look at the structure of the delivery system, we probably didn't pay as much attention to what states were doing to meet those training needs, and that does scare me.
I came out of law school in 1975, and I joined legal services in 1978, and I remember a very, some would say rigorous, some would say Draconian training period, but then at the time, when you come out of law school, you feel, you know, that you can conquer the world, and I didn't think I needed that training.
I look back now and realize that, thank goodness I did, I worked in an organization that said, you know, "This is how you plead a case, this is how you make an appearance," and I worry that that's not being done as effectively, so I share that with you, and I certainly hope we'll look at it.
CHAIRMAN HALL: Thank you very much, and we'll bring you back up as we begin to focus on further issues.
Now, we would ask the representatives for the Legal Services of New York City to come forward and introduce themselves and share with us.
MS. HANRAHAN: Good afternoon to the chair and members of the Committee and the Board.
We're looking forward to a presentation this afternoon that is going to be quite exciting, but we'll be brief.
And so what I propose is that we have 20 minutes to present, and then we'll hold questions until the presentation is over, if that's okay, and then you all can pose questions to our panelists.
Today we have three major architects, the New York City Planning Effort and the Extraordinary Justice Community that has come from that, or been catalyzed into action because of that, and I wanted to introduce them to you.
John Kiernan, who is the chair of Business Forward, and has been a director since 1993. He was the host last night at our wonderful party.
This year has been one of the hardest working years. And he's not only host to our party, but I understand from last night was host to many, many lengthy planning meetings.
Also with us is Judge Fern Fisher, who is the administrative judge of the Civil Court of the City of New York, and she began as a legal services attorney with Harlem Legal Services and was director there and then became a judge with the Civil Court, and then moved on to deputy supervising judge, and then was elected to the Supreme Court in 1993.
In 1998, she was appointed administrative judge of the Civil Court and has also been very, very involved in the planning and the executing and the aftermath of all of that.
So we're really delighted to have you and John here.
Andy Scherer is here, and he is the director of LSNY, and has arranged this wonderful event for us last night and today, and has been director for the past couple of years, but i's certainly not new to legal services.
He's been involved in legal services as an attorney since 1978, and through that, developed special expertise in addition to his other talents, in housing law, and is actually the author of a highly respected treatise on residential landlord-tenant law in New York City, or New York, I guess.
So I would like to welcome our panel and ask you to please talk about the extraordinary successes you've had and the bright future that you're looking forward to.
MR. SCHERER: Thank you very much, Pat.
We're actually going to ask Judge Fisher to speak firs t. She's got another engagement, and she's going to have to walk out after she speaks.
I just want to say that we do promise to be brief. I can't promise i'll be exciting, though.
JUDGE FISHER-BRANDVEEN: Thank you very much for having me. I apologize in advance, but my children have a very important medical appointment today.
Let me start off with saying that it's my background of being a legal services attorney that keeps me grounded in helps me run my court, and it's my pleasure to be part of this process, when Andy asked me.
I run a court that includes a housing court. We have 350,000 filings every year. Ninety percent of the tenants are not represented there. We have 23,000 evictions every year.
There's way too many in this society, and our population has gone to an all-time high in New York City, so I'm keenly aware of the need for civil legal services.
I want to speak a little bit about why I thought that the discussion that I became part of and the process are so important, at the time that Andy gave me that important call.
You know, given some of the real and perceived weaknesses of some of the local programs, and historical fierce independence of some of the offices, in my opinion that has always diluted the impact of LSNY in New York City, and I think this process gave us the ability to address that concern that I have.
I think the process was extremely interesting, although contentious at times, I may say, and had a lot of validity, and brought all of the stakeholders to the table.
That included union members and directors and project directors, and included the outside community, including the justice system, and I think including myself and Justice Juanita Bing Newton at the table was a brilliant stroke for Andy, because we had a lot to say, as well.
And I think what came as a result was a stronger LSNY, which allowed for some of the traditional LSNY aspects, which build on New York as unique in the country, and that makes us New York, which is a good thing.
I think what we've come up with is a more unified LSNY with more common goals and focus, better control and oversight, which has been, in my opinion, a bit of a weakness in the past, and I think we can look forward to the future, to a more focused, more unified LSNY, with more impact on the communities that it serves, with the new LSNY board and with Andy Scherer.
I know you wanted to ask questions afterwards, but since I'm not going to be here, any questions for me?
MR. MEITES: Does your court have any funds to assist Legal Services New York?
JUDGE FISHER-BRANDVEEN: No, my court does not get funds from Legal Services Corporation or anything similar to that. We have a state budget, obviously, for the court system.
We count on legal services to work as a partner with the court system, and in fact, we actually have offices in some of our buildings for legal services offices, so they actually provide services right at the court system.
There's LSNY attorneys that train. My judges all sit as LSNY attorneys that provide training for my lawyer project, there's LSNY attorneys that provide guardian ad litems, and we work together on an ongoing basis.
CHAIRMAN HALL: You seem to have hinted at the fact that having judges on this board was essentially because you were able to bring the unique perspective that the attorneys needed to hear.
Could you just say a little bit more about what that perspective was that evidently got through and allowed you to get through some of those --
JUDGE FISHER-BRANDVEEN: Since I'm in charge of the entire city, the Civil Court, I can bring the perspective of all the different burroughs to the table, and I was able, I think, to point out that there was a disparity in the programs. Some of the programs were better at providing services, and some were weaker.
I believe that there was a common goal that needed to be had to attack, for example, homelessness, and that with more of a unified force, they could have more impact if they worked in more of a unified way to attack that particular problem; and sometimes being a judge has something --
CHAIRMAN HALL: Sure. Any other questions?
MR. GARTEN: In Maryland, we've been successful in getting a common fee surcharge for legal services. In your court, you could raise millions of dollars. What's preventing that being followed through here in New York State?
JUDGE FISHER-BRANDVEEN: Well, it's New York, and we have a very interesting legislature, but the chief judge has legal services in mind at all times and she has a proposal to come up with more funding for civil legal services, but it takes the legislature to handle it.
CHAIRMAN HALL: Thank you for --
JUDGE FISHER-BRANDVEEN: Thank you very much. I apologize for having to go now.
CHAIRMAN HALL: That's fine. Thank you for your time.
MR. SCHERER: I want to give you a little bit of a background of what LSNY was prior to our planning process, and I'll talk about a bit about the impact of the planning process, and then John will speak.
LSNY was actually formed in the late '60s as a confederation of what were pre-existing neighborhood-based community legal services programs funded through the Office of Economic Opportunity, rooted in the communities with members on the boards as well as attorneys.
They confederated and were in a kind of a mutual support network. We were called Community Action for Legal Services initially. The name was changed to LSNY in 1989, Legal Services New York City in 1989.
And the primary function of LSNY as the umbrella to this network of legal services programs, the functions were fiscal management training, support, some of the things you heard about this morning about things that are done by the support unit, and generally trying to bring in money from primarily government sources, and some amount of oversight.
But it was fairly -- the connection between LSNY and the neighborhood programs was through a subcontract agreement, and there was a lot of separateness between the programs.
We evolved over a period of many years without a whole lot of sort of concentrated thought about where we're going, what we're doing, why we're doing it, as I think happens with most institutions like this.
We did some, I think, important adaptations to it. The world was changing around us in the early 1980s. Until the early 1980s, we were almost exclusively funded by Legal Services Corporation, when there was a huge drop in funding and a real threat to the existence of the legal services program.
One of the responses of ours, as well as other programs around the country, one of the adaptations was to look for other sources of funding.
What happened in New York as well as in other states is that we had what's called the IOLA Fund, and there were other sources of funding that were developed in order to foster legal assistance. So that was one adaptation.
Another adaptation, which I think has been remarkably effective for the justice community, was the change in culture in my 25 years that I've seen around pro bono assistance, the effort to provide legal assistance to the poor, and actually in some ways that was a consequence, I think, of that fight in the early '80s for the survival of legal services.
I think it went a long way towards building an alliance between the legal services providers and the private bar, because the Bar Association has, you know, really weighed in strongly, got to know us better, and that spawned a lot of pro bono projects.
So that changing culture of the private bar to be more oriented towards pro bono assistance is something that we were able, as well as our colleagues around the state and country, to take advantage of.
The third trend, which is something that I think we were working on even more intensely in these years, was to move from just looking at what we do in isolation and trying to work more collaboratively with our colleagues in what we now call the justice community.
And so we've always had a pretty collaborative relationship or collegial relationship with people outside of LSNY, as well -- I mean, in some ways, you know, we talk about collaboration and collegial relationships even within LSNY, but that's gotten more so in recent years.
I think you'll be hearing, I think, tomorrow about what we do with the City Bar Association, but the Law Help Project I think is a great example of collaboration that really got spawned right after the initial stages of the state planning discussion in New York, and we isolated a couple of important needs of our broader community that could be addressed by technology, and we teamed up at LSNY with the City Bar Association and a couple of other organizations to develop the web site that some of you saw this morning that's provides both referral information and community education material, which has now evolved into a statewide project.
When the LSC began to promote state planning in the late '90s, which Randi was talking about a bit ago, LSNY became involved in that after I personally had been, in recent years, been involved as one of the co-chairs of the statewide effort.
Anne Erickson, Lillian Moy, and Judge Juanita Bing Newton will be talking after we do about that statewide effort.
But we really have been working closely over quite a number of years now about the issues that affect New York State, and more and more are looking for ways in which we can gain efficiencies by working more collaboratively and cooperatively with one another.
And although we've been active in the statewide effort, it was made very clear to us as the state planning effort was gathering steam, in I think it was the summer of 2000, Randy and John McKay basically said to us in New York City, you know, they thought we really needed to have a separate discussion for ourselves about what we were doing, and we had always been the single grantee, so the issues for LSC weren't about consolidating us into a single grant, but I think they were about, you know, what is this kind of hybrid animal? And people didn't understand what we were, why we were the way we were, and there was frankly mixed reputation about different pieces of our operation.
I was told from the broader community at LSNY that there were things that we needed to work on as an organization to be as effective as we could.
And, you know, after all, the poor population of the City of New York is larger than the poor population of most states in the country, so that the collective size of our program is really quite large, and we had our own issues to try to address.
So we were pushed, and I'd have to say that, you know, when you're on the receiving end of a push, the initial reaction is to go, "What are you talking about? We're fine here, go away, you know, back off."
But I think we recognize that, you know, we could have treated it like a crisis, but we treated it like an opportunity, and enough of us within the LSNY world recognize that this is a good moment for us to step back, take a look at what we're doing, how we're doing it, and see what works for us, what we're about as a collective community, what are our common values, what are the things about that community that really work for clients, what are the things about the community that don't work for clients.
In many ways there are enormous strengths, some nationally recognized community economic development out of this program, and I think as good or better in that area than those are anywhere in the country, pilot projects around domestic violence, around foreclosure prevention, and our CLE program.
We're, you know, in many ways ahead of the curve, but there are also lots of things that we wanted to work on, so we embarked on a serious strategic planning process.
We got some of the technical assistance funds from LSC, we got some additional funding from the United Way and from the New York Community Trust to help us pay for consultants. Debevoise graciously hosted the series of meetings.
We retained Community Resource Exchange, which actually is a very good consulting outfit.
It really kind of understood the community issues we were dealing with and also the organizational issues, the kinds of things that we really hadn't taken the time to think through before, and they were very disciplined with us and kept us on schedule, and they certainly kept us moving forward and proceeding with the discussion.
We pulled together a planning committee of about 24 members and then an advisory committee of another 50 members from the broader community of New York City, State, and nationally, because we wanted people to be looking at what we were doing and weighing in what we were doing and getting some sense of the perspective of the rest of the world on what it was that we were doing.
And I think sort of, I think of it as like the sunshine laws that require you to have open meetings. Anytime an institution sort of makes itself, you know, open to the world, I think you benefit from that, because you can get too cloistered and closed off and not get enough perspective on what you're doing and whether or not it works.
So, outcome. I mean, we had intense discussions over several months. We came up with, I think, a real common sense of why we were all doing this and what kind of community we wanted to have, and there were a lot of things actually that were very uncontroversial in this discussion.
We wanted to work more effectively with technology. We wanted to have a more coordinated approach to advocacy. We wanted to do a better job with training in supervision and management skills.
But when it came to government, which I think is what LSC experienced with the rest of the country as well, there were issues.
here were some contentious issues about people giving up their separateness as a corporate entity, and we grappled with that, and we had people on one end saying, "Everything is fine, let's not change the government structure at all," and then we had other people saying, "Let's just do away with the separate corporate status and just have one single corporation, and we'll just have a lot of branch offices." We operate out of 17 locations in New York City, 10 separate programs.
And after much soul searching and, you know, some contentious discussion, we ended up settling on what I think is a really workable plan, which was to have, I guess the easiest way to look at it is sort of like a subsidiary corporation structure.
So we've retained the local corporate structures, they retained their names, they retained their community boards of directors, and yet the LSNY board of directors is the sole member of each of those corporations, which gives it, under corporate law, a fair amount of ultimate power that it could exercise should it be needed, plus a lot of day-to-day oversight that it didn't have before.
But on the other hand, we really retained a great deal of local autonomy, decision making, control over the services, and what comes with that, I think, is a sense of ownership over the program and a willingness to experiment, take initiative, get involved in the community, bring in people to their boards of directors who care, and keep those programs vital and vibrant, in a way that I think from one central office we wouldn't be able to do as effectively.
So for us, I think this has been a very productive process. There was some contention in the process, and we also had two of the prior subgrantees break away in the course of implementing the new government structure, so as of January 1st, two sub-grantees left.
That left us with setting up some new offices, actually. We set up two new offices in the Bronx and one in Manhattan. We did it all really very quickly, but so far it's worked fairly well.
There's certainly some residual, you know, cleanup around the separation that I won't bore you with now, but on the whole, I think we've moved forward pretty effectively, and we -- I guess I'm really kind of running out of time, and I want to give John time to speak.
But just quickly, some of the things that we've done, in addition to changing the government structure, we've now got a communications director, who you've met, working on communications issues.
We've been able to raise money to work with fund-raising consultants. We created a chief technology officer position, and we're implementing a technology integration plan with substantial help from LSC, which is waking up our office's both telephone and computer.
We've created a chief of litigation and advocacy position and filled it with an excellent, experienced attorney, and we've moved to more collaborative approaches to our advocacy within the LSNY family.
I'm going to turn it over to John, and hopefully we'll still have a couple of minutes for questions.
MS. HANRAHAN: We have about five minutes.
MR. KIERNAN: I want to make sure that there's plenty of time for you to ask questions, so I'll foreshorten my remarks and focus on one particular component of this process, which is how did we come up with this particular animal we came up with, and what exactly is that animal -- which may, particularly relating to the geographic concentration of our poor people in our legal services program, may have some teaching for structures that are going on elsewhere, particularly how to address the question you asked, Professor Hall, how can you make sure that you don't lose anything in this process, which is so important to us.
We did start with a few points of what almost appeared to be consensus among this multi-part group.
We all knew and understood from the outset, for example, that the lifeblood of any legal services program is the delivery, direct delivery of legal services to people of extremely limited means, and that when you start talking about structure or management, any structure for any allocation of extremely limited resources to management has to be justified against any a heavy that what you want to do is devote your resources to the direct delivery, and it has to be justified on the basis that it will improve the direct delivery of legal services.
We also, I think, recognized from the beginning that the vitality of programs like ours is inextricably linked to its presence in the community, and that was an important consideration for thinking about whether we were going to put all these programs together, because it goes beyond just the importance of having community offices, which we could satisfy by having our 17 offices.
It goes to the clients, the staff, the managers, but it also goes to the board members and to the funders, the important links to the community.
And that was a piece of the equation where we wanted to make sure there was no loss in the process, and we didn't lose that incredibly important community piece.
On the other hand, we saw the tremendous advantage in having a well-run, effective central citywide organization.
Those advantages start with logistical advantages, mechanical ones, like having a central entity for such group activities as negotiated with unions, communicating to the LSC and other major providers, running the financial function, achieving temporary allocations or reallocations in times of cash flow in the form of tightness, in the form of borrowings from banks, or even reallocations temporarily between one program and the other to make sure everything keeps sailing.
But the purposes of the central function go far beyond that. They include the creation of a communications network, organizations of informational exchange, having the overview and broader perspective that Randi Youells talked about as critical in her remarks, the ability to affect resource allocations so that you can have an expert in one narrow area and one propped up program that's available for all the city where there's another expert in another program, and there isn't really room enough for two experts in the citywide program, and most importantly, as both Judge Fisher and Andy mentioned, and something that was very important to me as a director who considered myself responsible ultimately for the performance of the of the dollars that were coming in to us from LSC and other places, we had that mechanism centrally to ensure, to make our central organization an outside effective guardian of quality and of the useful expenditure of these funds, and that meant accountability and that meant strain, because organizations must be accountable and that's always going to cause strain.
So once we had decided that this program would be best off with a combination that would protect this local identity that was so important and have the central function, the critical issue became how to structure it, and once again, some themes emerged.
The local programs and their boards needed, from our perspective, to feel like first movers, they needed to feel personally responsible. If the board does not feel responsible, lesser things are accomplished than could be.
They must feel like trusted colleagues, which is part of why, while Andy likes the parent-subsidiary analogy, I keep coming back to using the term "federalism" to describe this, and within this federalism, they must feel like they are central, integrated participants in the process.
Meanwhile, the central organization needed to have the local programs accountable to it and feeling accountable to it, to accomplish the improvements they wanted to accomplish in quality, and to ensure that when there were initiatives that were taking place, there was a sense of participation in those initiatives, both as a matter of discretion or voluntariness of something that was going to be done by this community as a unit.
Andy has described to you the formal structure of the membership corporation by which this balance was sought to be achieved as a matter of structuring, but there were many other components of the operation and structure that go with this.
For example, we've implemented a liaison function in which members of the LSNY board are assigned to each of the individual projects and linked much more closely with them.
We also have an executive council, where the project directors all get together to meet with each other; we have meetings between the board members of the individual projects and our boards twice a year.
Most of all, we effectuate the collaboration that is so essential to make this federalism work with the critical piece of having an executive director who is uniformly trusted believes the collaboration and has the tremendous deftness to make each of the interested constituencies feel like it is being listened to and trusted and that he believes in them, while still being able to make tough decisions and manage them, and we're tremendously glad to have him in that role.
CHAIRMAN HALL: Thank you. Questions for Andy or John?
MR. MEITES: Listening to your organization, it strikes me that LSNY's relationship to separate offices is similar now to our relationship to various legal services bodies throughout the country, for better or worse, and I can tell you from our service on the Board, it's a two-way street, that you will not always be seen as "I've come to help you." There are times when there will be distrust of what your agenda is.
And you're new at this, and I wonder in five years from now, what your report would be. I'm sure we all wish you look, but it's a difficult relationship, and I hope that you're prepared for the bad days as well as the good days.
MR. KIERNAN: Well, we've even had a few of them.
MR. KIERNAN: I think that you -- I accept the parallel that you've suggested, and you, like I mentioned in my reports, probably feel a haunting sense of the accountability for each of the programs over which you have this umbrella of responsibility, the sense that it's a difficult thing to have that ultimate "buck stops here" accountability, that it requires a combination of setting the right structures in place and making sure that you have people who you trust who are running the thing and reporting to you, some pretty tireless devotion of energy to attacking places where you detect weakness, some toughness in that area, and a high degree of motivation, and I think that's what -- we have a highly energized board that has the advantage of having a somewhat smaller platform that it has to supervise than the one that your board does.
MR. SCHERER: Actually, I have to say that I think there are some analogies, but we're really a very different kind of an animal than you are in the sense that we have many more of the attributes of a single organization than you could possibly have just given where you are and how many different entities you have to deal with.
We meet, I meet every two weeks with the directors of each of the programs. The housing advocates meet every month at our office. We talk to each other every day.
It really is a sense, there's much more of a sense of a single organization in that way, and I think that's part of what we were trying to accomplish, as well.
I think actually what we used to be is more like LSC. I think there was a little bit more of a distance between, you know, LSNY and the neighborhood programs. I think there has been a shift in that culture.
CHAIRMAN HALL: I have a two-pronged question for Andy.
You mentioned in the opening remarks about some of the strengths that you had substantively in regards to particular areas.
Did this process lead you to decide that there were some areas where you weren't strong and therefore you were not going to do it any more, or you were going to do it very differently?
MR. SCHERER: Yeah, it has changed things about our culture, and I think, you know, this morning we talking about the September 11th project, and we began that project in the course, right around the time we were beginning these discussions, and what we did in undertaking that work is we broke down what were historic individual of divisions, geographic divisions, program divisions, and substance matter divisions, and said, "Okay, we're going to focus on the client and what the client needs, and if we can serve that client out of our lower Manhattan office, fine, but if there's somebody in a program office who has the expertise -- because these were also problems that you people were presenting us with.
It wasn't the traditional -- not all of them, but the traditional service problems, and I think, you know that was the place where we began a shift in the culture to focusing on not talking about, "Hey, that's not my cachement area," you know, or, you know, telling the client, "Well, you know, we don't handle unemployment insurance cases; why don't you try calling" -- you know, we didn't do that.
We said, "Well, we don't have somebody on staff here, but we'll get back to you; we're going to put you in -- you know, we're going to find you an attorney at one of our other offices."
And so those kinds of cultural shifts, I think, are important in terms of our ability to address the needs of the clients.
CHAIRMAN HALL: The second one is, and it may be a difficult question to answer, but I've heard this notion of resistance on both sides.
Certainly from the staff of the Corporation, there's this notion that when this process started that there was a lot of resistance, and certainly I think you've hinted to that, as well, that there's this notion that do we really want to do this; but clearly, we're now at a point where both sides are saying this really worked out for the better.
And I guess my question is, are there some lessons for us to learn about how the Corporation needs to interface with the field in such a way where we get to a better place even when there is suspicion, mistrust, and doubts on both sides as we begin -- or maybe on one side -- as we go down these processes.
MR. SCHERER: Yeah, that raises a good point.
I think, you know, that it's human nature not to want to change, period, right? Whenever any of us has -- you know, change doesn't come easy, so that's a natural consequence of somebody from the outside saying, you know, "We need you to change."
I think what LSC did very well with us, and frankly, I think, also we responded in kind, was they said, "You know, you really should take a look at what you're doing and see if there are ways to do it better," and I think hinted that they had some ideas about what we should be doing better, but they didn't say, "This is what we think you should become."
They said, "We're going to let you, you know, do your own home-grown whatever, analysis of your program, and come up with your own solutions," and we didn't know whether they really meant that, because the word I was reading around the country was, you know, all they want to see is consolidation, but they really did mean it.
And when we came back to them with a different kind of a governance structure than other people came back to them with, you know, they -- the counsel's office looked at it very carefully, you know, studied it, talked to our attorneys at Cleary, Gottlieb, who had been the architects of the nuts and bolts of it, and in the end, they concluded that, you know, this was a workable plan for New York City.
And so if there's any lesson to be learned from that, if you're going to move on to talking about quality, I'd say be very careful of defining quality too narrowly and then say, you know, "Here we are in Washington and we're going to tell you what quality legal services are."
Frankly, I don't want to take that approach to, you know, the Bronx or Brooklyn. I mean, I think it's very, very important to me that we have a quality program, but quality can manifest itself in different ways.
What you can't do is not serve the clients well, but what you can do is maybe be creative, do it a little bit differently, your priorities or your approach doesn't have to be in lockstep with everybody else's, but we expect you to show us that the money that we're spending on serving clients really works and really accomplishes the kinds of goals that Randi was just talking about in the community.
So the lesson I would say is, I think it's a great discussion to generate, and try to do it in a way that, you know, isn't too dogmatic, isn't to rigid, but really gets people thinking of the things that count.
MR. KIERNAN: If I could just add one thing to that, I thought that the process showed a nice combination of quite strong official statements in the forms of 98-1 and 98-2, and really quite effective indications of flexibility, although with rigor, and effective communications and listening on a personal -- that is, for example, very early in the process, the talk was of this process being a New York Statewide process, and while we had a New York State planning process with John McKay, of the informal communications, they had agreed with us relatively early on in the process that we could focus on New York City as a separate entity, and also, as we became immersed in the process, that we were likely not going to come to the LSC and say that we're going to put all these programs into one program. We're coming up with kind of our own special animal.
Cynthia Schneider and Randi Youells listened carefully, probed effectively, but I thought through the process communicated to us that they were impressed by the processes, the inclusive process that Randi and Judge Fisher explained, but also that they were prepared to listen with very open minds, so long as we were addressing the concerns that prompted the inquiry.
So I thought that combination of sternness and firmness and formal communications and very thoughtful reflectiveness on an individualized basis of interpersonal communications was terrific.
MS. MERCADO: I just have a question about, just that some of the different programs that we've been into, I don't get a sense from your presentations, that there was any closing of offices or not parts of communities that were not serviced.
I mean, I didn't get a sense that that's what occurred. You, in fact, sort of physically had the same entities intact, only under a different governance, maybe not as much -- different roles that people play.
I'm just assuming that because, as we've traveled nationally, looking at different programs of state planning, many offices close, many people were either shifted or out of client services communities, they were not necessarily servicing what we think of, community legal services programs like they once were talking about, that that was important to the community program, but that's not necessarily what I've heard all across the country, so I didn't want to assume that --
MR. SCHERER: We didn't close any offices as a result of our planning process.
We did have, as I explained before, we had two of our sub-grantees didn't want to go along with the new governance structure.
As of January 1st, they left the program, and as a result of that, we basically -- we hired virtually all the staff that had left, so the corporate shell, the staff came with us.
We had to go open up two physical new locations, because they didn't turn over the buildings to us that they should have, something that you're at least vaguely aware of.
But we opened up two visible locations to serve that community, and we also -- we opened up another office just to serve the Harlem south, I mean Manhattan south of Harlem.
And then the other thing we're doing is we're opening up an office in Staten Island, which was one city that we actually didn't have a location.
So no, we've actually opened offices, we haven't closed offices.
MR. STRICKLAND: First, I wanted to state so it gets on the record that the Board very much appreciates the warm hospitality that has been extended to us during our brief stay in New York City. We've been delighted.
We learned a lot this morning, and we visited Queens, and based on that snapshot, it would appear that you're doing an excellent job on serving your clients. There's nothing better than a client testimonial to bring that into focus.
I wanted to ask you a couple questions.
In looking at your chart and your own sources of funding, I was wondering if the -- maybe it's too soon in the structure to respond to this, but what might be your comments relative to whether this new structure will help you our fund raising?
I'm speaking of private fund raising, or maybe the category you call here "Other." I presume that includes private fund raising, and whether you think that will be enhanced by the new structure.
MR. KIERNAN: Let me answer this in a couple ways.
New York is kind of a funny example for private fund raising from firms, because the Legal Aid Society is separate, and no one, including LSC, is and has historically been the absolutely dominant private fund raiser for legal services in New York, and has a longstanding tithing arrangement that makes it dominant, and all others come in behind it.
That said, one of our ambitions is to in fact improve our private fund raising, and the structure I think, the new structure was designed to accomplish that in two ways.
One is that some of our individual programs are in fact pretty effective fund raisers. Unfortunately, one of the ones that was very effective is one of the ones that broke off.
But for example, one of our Brooklyn programs has a terrific separate fund raising operation, and the connections to the community provide for local fund raising within the community. We didn't want to lose that, and we certainly don't want to compete with that.
But it's very much one of our goals to increase the public profile of LSNY and we think that strengthening the power and profile of the central organization once this new structure is done will facilitate that, and one of the things that is very much in the planning stages and actually in the implementation stage to do is to take advantage of that increased profile of finding more fund raising.
We've already seen significant success with that from the foundation -- the next stop is diversity.
MR. STRICKLAND: Shifting to just a different tack, again, related to the new structure, you mentioned the concept, within federalism, of structures, and you described accountability.
In terms of assuring that your various offices are complying with statutes, regulations, or restrictions and so on, do you do that now in this structure, do you envision yourselves doing that centrally or through your Queens legal services, or how do you anticipate doing this?
MR. SCHERER: It depends on the issue and the requirement.
I will tell you that what I think has changed in a very positive way as a result of the new structure, I think one of the things that we would historically have done -- we get a certain amount of government contracts other than LSC.
We historically have distributed that money to the communities served, so far on the basis of the per-person population, and as this changes, we change the allocations to the different communities that we serve.
But it doesn't always really work all that well like that, because some offices, for whatever reasons, haven't been able to perform, let's say, on a contract, so what we've been doing lately is, we will presumptively give money based on the poverty allocation, but also we have performance measures to meet for the contracts.
So if an office or a program is just unable to meet its share, then we'll allow another office to make up for it and then, so it's sort of the carrot instead of the stick, to some degree, but, you know, if you're not performing the way you need to perform under the contract, then we're going to just have to move the money over to another office. We don't have to do that much, but that's, again, the approach.
And almost all that goes so -- for all of our various contracts, so we see right away whether or not -- you know, we know how money is being spent, we know what data is being collected on all the things that we do, and we'll deal with it if there's something that comes to our attention that needs to be done, and it's pretty likely to come to our attention, because of the way we interact with one another.
MR. STRICKLAND: I guess what you're saying is you are monitoring that type of thing at the LSNY level, at let's call it the corporate level?
MR. SCHERER: Yes. Yes.
MR. STRICKLAND: That covers all my questions.
MR. GARTEN: They each have financial independent financial statements, and then you have a consolidated statement?
MR. SCHERER: Yes.
MR. GARTEN: And what about on the budget?
MR. SCHERER: Each we budget separately.
The LSNY Board Budget Allocations Committee makes allocations of citywide dollars often following the poor person formula we use for the LSC funds, but not exclusively with hands on funding.
And then I think the really nice thing about our system is that it fosters independent fund raising at the local level, so if people have an idea that they want to run with, like they have a great foreclosure prevention project, and it's gotten a lot of foundation money, they raise that money, they budget that money, and depending on the kind of funding, we'll ask for 5 percent of it to come to LSNY for the administrative end, because all of the administration of the program really is handled at LSNY.
But we have a certain amount of flexibility and we're constantly kind of, you know, reevaluating, depending on the particular contract.
MR. GARTEN: One final question. How have you utilized your past board members of these entities?
MR. SCHERER: They continue to be board members.
I mean, these are still, you know, separate corporate entities. They meet on a regular basis. They deal with oversight of their local program.
In fact, we have a system now. The board goes onto the LSNY board, to the local board, to the local boards, and we'll have, you know, one or two board members attend the local board meetings, and if there are some corporate issues that have to be dealt with, with the local corporations, then John will call up the board chair of the local corporation, and that would be the place we would start if it's not a staff issue, in which case I would deal with it, so we relate to each other through that mechanism.
MR. GARTEN: Thank you.
CHAIRMAN HALL: Only because we want to make sure we have enough time to have our other presenters on board, we want to stop here, but thank you very much for the presentations and thank you both for the tremendous work that you are doing in this area.
MR. SCHERER: For the record, I also want to say how pleased we are to have, as I said last night at the reception, that we're extremely pleased that you chose to come to New York so that we had an opportunity to get to know you personally and that you got a chance to get to know the city and will get to see the presentation next, and we very much enjoy having you here.
MR. STRICKLAND: The feeling is definitely mutual.
CHAIRMAN HALL: We would now ask that the representatives from the New York State justice community on state planning come forward, and we'll begin this process.
MS. SCHNEIDER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'm Cynthia Schneider with LSC's Office of Program Performance, and I have the pleasure of introducing the next panel, but first I'd like to recognize another one of our directors of our grantee programs from New York State that sneaked into the room, I think as Randi was recognizing some of the other directors that are here today.
That is Alex Birchstein, who is -- Alex, raise your hand, thank you -- who is with Legal Aid, Rockland County.
But we do have grantee directors here from all over the state -- Buffalo; Bath; Geneva, New York; White Plains; New City; as well as Albany -- who are on this panel.
So I'm glad that they got an opportunity to be here today, as well.
This panel is on state planning, and the work that is going on throughout New York State and the partnership among many of the stakeholders in the legal services, the justice community, in working together to improve access to services, to improve the delivery of services to our clients.
This panel will consist of Judge Juanita Bing Newton, who is the deputy chief administrative judge for the Justice Initiative's Office of Court Administration. She was appointed to her position by Chief Judge Judith Kay, who is the chief judge of the New York State court system.
Also presenting this afternoon is Anne Erickson, who is the executive director of the Greater Upstate Law Project.
GULP is not an LSC grantee. Anne is one of the co-chairs of the state planning steering committee for New York State.
Finally, Lillian Moy, who is seated to my left, is the executive director of one of our grantees, the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, and she is based -- the main office for that program is based in Albany.
So I thank all these people for coming today to join us.
MS. ERICKSON: I, too, would like to both thank you for coming to New York and welcome you both to New York City and to New York State.
I know it's been a very long and full couple of days-and-a-half, so we will do our best to be brief, but we do really want to share with you some of the stuff that has gone on around the whole State of New York and around state planning, the building of the justice community in the state.
When Randi talked about the impetus for state planning being some of the cuts and the restrictions that came down from the federal level in '95 and '96, I'm with the Greater Upstate Law Project, and until then, we were a federally funded state support center.
I've been with the Greater Upstate Law Project for 14 years, 15 in March, and we've really had to very quickly regroup and reorganize, and the entire state was with us as we did that.
We have never felt that any of us New Yorkers acted in a vacuum, whether we were LSC or non-LSC, the state bar, IOLA, OCA, and so that was very gratifying, and the fact that we're still here today is testament to the fact that New York has acted as a community for many, many years, and hopefully will continue to do so through these tough times.
One of the LSC staff members was saying, "Well, then, you must be so happy that you're not LSC funded. You missed all this."
And I said, "Not by a long shot. I've been right in the thick of it, and very happily, with my colleagues," because, as I said, New York has a tremendous history and commitment to legal services in this state, whether it's the chief judge of our highest court and the Office of Court Administration, state and local bar associations, the IOLA fund, the broader LSC and non-LSC provider community, we have a long and deep history of working together to secure meaningful access to justice and to strengthen and improve the delivery of legal services.
The provider community, again both LSC and non-LSC, has long worked together.
Greater Upstate Law Project, LSNY, and the Legal Aid Society have led the efforts to secure state funding, for instance, and we've been successful since 1993 in getting a state appropriation in the budget in response to some of the cuts, just this past year, successfully having the legislature override the Governor's veto of that funding.
And we have, in asking about filing fees, for the first time we have on the books of New York State a legal services assistance fund. Unfortunately, there's no money in it yet, but we have a foothold there, and we are working forward.
Lifetime training, we still have, albeit somewhat of a lesser training infrastructure, but it is there, and we'll talk about that.
I want to talk a little bit about our stakeholders.
You've been hearing a lot about the LSC component of this, but I think to get a bigger picture of what we're trying to build in terms of the justice community, it's worth noting some of the activities of the other stakeholders.
Chief Judge Kay, and with her the Office of Court Administration, has worked hard in recent years to bring the civil legal needs of the poor to the forefront by naming Judge Newton, by creating the Center for Access to Justice, by naming a blue ribbon panel that looked at how can we create a permanent funding infrastructure in New York State?
And in creating that panel, Judge Kay reached beyond, you know, the usual suspects and pulled in the business community, and pulled in the private bar, and really tried to look at what can we do to move forward collectively.
OCA oversaw the first access to justice conference that we held, in fact, here in New York State. It was held in Albany on September 9th, or September 11, 2001.
It was a devastating day, but it also, I think, when Judge Kay spoke to us that night, really urged us to recommit ourselves and to reaffirm our collective work on behalf of the Board.
So the judiciary has certainly shown its commitment.
Judge Newton has been part of the state planning process with us, and when LSC sought nominations for the committee to oversee the evaluation of state justice efforts, we nominated Judge Newton, and in your collective wisdom, you took that nomination, so she's been part and parcel of this community.
Likewise, the State Bar Association has a long and deep history in legal services and working with us collectively to plan, maybe not as formally as the LSC planning has forced us to work, but Andy talked about in the early '80s, with the declining support from the federal government, it was the state bar that stepped forward and helped create IOLA.
It was the state bar of the Greater Upstate Law Project that help;ed create the disability advocacy program that puts about $6 million into the legal services system every year.
The state bar undertook the early legal needs study to say, what is it that we'll be looking at in New York State in terms of an unmet need, and how can we better fulfill that need?
The state bar has created The President's Committee on Access to Justice, and this all of the state bar workers in a state.
Every incoming president in the state bar must sit on that committee for a year before he or she could become president, so that they're exposed to the issues of legal services and they're exposed to the need for access to justice.
This state bar worked with us to develop the legal services partnership conference, and we've been holding these conferences for over 10 or 15 years now, where we come together as a state bar, as a legal services community, as a judicial community.
We're planning right now for the June '04 one that will be held in Albany. The last go-around it was 400 participants, so that' testament, I think, to the bar's commitment.
They have just recently announced a loan forgiveness program. They have reached into their own bar foundation and created a loan forgiveness program for attorneys that enter public service, specifically legal services, so that's been critical.
The role of IOLA in shaping the early delivery of legal services, in detecting and responding to emerging needs, IOLA was one of the first funders that really identified the legal needs of people living with HIV and AIDS, that these were unique legal needs and we needed to meet them.
IOLA has been in the forefront of funding legal services for immigrants who are trying to navigate the complexity of our judicial system, and they've funded not just New York City immigration needs, but they've reached outside of New York City, recognizing that in some of our upstate areas, we have very intense immigrant populations in desperate need of assistance.
It was IOLA that helped us staff and support the early planning efforts in 1995 in response to the first LSC letter and brought us together, again both as LSC and non-LSC providers around the state.
What they tried to do is say to the community, "We need you to think regionally, but we need you to also be acting collaboratively around the state," and so that started some of the early discussions around shared projects with technology, around looking at our intake systems and how they're working or not working around the state.
We held an intake conference here in New York City to begin to look at some of those things.
Clearly, the formal planning urged by LSC took these efforts to a new level, and whether we were mandated to go there, forced to go there, encouraged to go there, there we went.
And the steering committee which, up until that point in time had been supported by IOLA, really took it on itself to say, "We need to step up to the plate," and at that point the steering committee assessed itself in terms of its membership, we expanded ourselves, we invited OCA to join us, we invited the state bar to join us, we invited client and community groups to come on board, so that it was now just providers looking at how are we going to provide, but then it really expanded well beyond that.
We began doing some joint work. We now hold an annual -- well, actually, the steering committee at this point is meeting pretty much monthly, and we have gone through a tremendous amount of processes.
I'll touch on some of them, and then we'll hear a little bit more in depth on two of those efforts.
But we now have annual meetings that are held at and sponsored by the State Bar Association, and we were thrilled at our inaugural meeting in January of '02 to have Sargent Shriver come and speak, and he was just phenomenal and inspiring in, again, getting us to step back for a minute from all this merger discussion and how are we going to configure ourselves, and where are the boundaries going to be, and to kind of re-energize ourselves about what the real mission is, not to say that the hard work and detail isn't needed and necessary, but we do need to pause momentarily on occasion and reaffirm why we're there.
Judge Kay spoke last year. Again, over 100 people gathered for the state bar meeting, and plans are underway now for a meeting in June, or January, at which point the steering committee is again reassessing its own self, and looking at how do we go forward as a formal body to continue building this justice community.
The state planning has been a long, and as I'm sure you understand, a sometimes painful process.
A lot of what we're required to do is to redesign and realign the delivery, and as Andy said, you know, change never comes easily.
I think having LSC there saying, "You must do it," but also saying, "We're not going to tell you how to do it, we're just going to tell you you really need to get it done," and I think that was very helpful.
We have gone from 14 programs outside of New York City to five in the upstate areas and New York City and one on Long Island, so there will be seven.
We will have a Buffalo-Niagara region. We will have a Legal Aid of the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier region; a Mid-New York region; the Northeastern New York, which will now go up to the Canadian border; and we will have a Hudson Valley program.
So I think we have kind of taken on that role of trying to make those tough decisions, both collectively, but then at times when the Steering Committee needed to make the decision, we took the vote and we made the decision and we informed the community, and to their credit, the community took those decisions.
We really had no formal authority, other than, I don't want to call it the threat, but, you know, that LSC was standing there saying, "Something has to happen, and if you're not going to do it yourselves as a community, we will."
And we said, "We need to do it as a community," and so I think that helped people coalesce.
We do believe we'll have full and deep coverage throughout all of these regions.
I think Andy and New York City is kind of ahead of the rest of the state in terms of really getting their mergers in place and their governance in place.
The rest of the state is very close to finalizing a lot of those plans, and there are different places, but they are working long and hard, I can assure you.
The planning grants from LSC were critical to helping make that happen. It allowed us to hire some outside consultants to really get us over some pretty tough humps that we were under, but I think it also showed the commitment of LSC, that they really were partners.
We had a lot of non-LSC providers on our steering committee, not providers, but players on our steering committee, and there's a point at which you have to say, "Why am I spending my organization's resources when I'm not an LSC provider, to try to make all this happen," and I think having LSC come forward and saying, "We'll help out a little bit financially" was just very nice; to be able to pay for the travel for people coming from Syracuse and Buffalo, who are not LSC-funded programs was really, not just symbolically, but financially important.
We've done a lot of great work together. There's a lot more we can and will be doing.
We're working on technology. We now have very active service in a number of substantive areas. We're expanding law help to Upstate New York.
We have vibrant web sites that are helping connect people. And we've worked hard to diversify budgets over the years.
I'm going to give you a very few statistics, and these come from the IOLA grantee report, which I will share with you.
And IOLA, when I talk about IOLA grantees, it's more than just LSC, but it pretty much is the infrastructure and the delivery of legal services in New York, and the bulk of it is the LSC-funded programs.
In 2001, LSC funding represented 17 percent of program funding. State funding was approximately 21 percent.
City and county funding, where people were able to get local grants and contracts was about 13 percent, and IOLA represented about 10 percent of program funding.
I want to just make note that it's been very difficult to work with the uncertainties, as I'm sure you know, of funding changes that have been constantly beyond our control.
In other words, the state funding or federal funding I think we're at a moment where the LSC funding is somewhat stabilized, but in New York just in the last month or two, we've gotten the decisions from the Department of Justice on the Violence Against Women Act, and well over $1 million is going to be pulled out of New York State. That's very difficult to try to respond to, to refill.
And to the extent that you can learn with your federal colleagues, with the notion of stability -- I know we want to get into this notion of competition, but we also need to have some sense of stability in the delivery of these services.
They are too critical to be turning them over every couple of years and trying to have new programs start up, shut down, start up, shut down. It's very disruptive to the client community.
Even with those challenges, in calendar year 2001, IOLA grants and programs benefitted over 450,000 people with direct legal services. 450,000 people in the State of New York received direct legal representation.
Almost $300 million in benefits were pulled into client communities, whether it was federal benefits, unemployment benefits, child support, tax credit, $300 million was generated as a result of the work of legal services providers.
In fact, what IOLA has found is that for every dollar invested in the provision of civil legal services, we show a return of $2.44. It's a very cost-effective program.
IOLA grantees around the state employ over 1,600 people. These are lawyers, paralegals, managers, support people, who are employed in the community, who are keeping those communities alive and vibrant.
And their work is cost-effective. IOLA-funded programs in New York State completed 19.8 cases for every $10,000 invested, which compares very well with the 18 cases closed per $10,000 invested throughout the rest of the country.
So I think the LSC planning effort came at a time when New York had had an historic way of working together between the judiciary and the state bar, the LSC community and the non-LSC community, but it certainly pushed us to a new level, and I think we're going to start to see over the next year how that plays out outside of New York City.
Again, I think the city was just, you know, that one step ahead of us, and I think when we come back again in a year or two and re-look at where we are, hopefully, we have done much to improve access to justice.
I want to now just briefly turn it over to Lillian, who will talk.
The steering committee has a number of working groups that are very active.
Lillian coordinates our training, leadership, and diversity group, and she was very insistent that we combine training, leadership, and diversity, and that we don't just have a training group over here and a leadership, but she really saw that as coming together and part and parcel of building the strength of the community in many areas.
MS. MOY: Thanks.
I know that most of you know how much we love acronyms, so I just want to say that when I say "TLD," I'm talking about training, leadership, and diversity work.
Building on a long history of successful diversity work here in New York State, and with that hand at our back, we pay particular attention to the issues of leadership and diversity in our state planning process, and I'm pleased to tell you that the state planning process has facilitated substantial progress in each of these three important areas.
The reconfiguration process itself led to new leaders, people who had never previously served as project directors.
Of your seven grantees next year, two are led by women, one of us a woman of color, and there is one new project director, a person who had never served as a director prior to this time.
More important, each region is supported by regional leadership teams, and those teams are themselves diverse in terms of race, gender, disability, and rural and urban issues, and each program also now has a training responsible person and a leadership and diversity responsible person, and those are acronyms even I haven't figured out to say.
So in the last year, our diversity coalition has put on some new training events, and our work has been enhanced by membership from TLD work group members, so that our training events have addressed language access issues, based on our clients in particular.
We have offered a training event for staff who are bilingual and serve as interpreters to improve and enhance their interpreting skills, and also a training that addressed gender identity issues amongst the client community.
Our next projects include a training for attorneys, so that they can work more effectively with interpreters, and enhancing intake and interview skills with other diverse populations.
And as to other training, I'm happy to report that really for the first time we have a truly statewide team of volunteers, including representatives from New York City and upstate and from LSC and independent, non-LSC providers, putting together what looks to be a great training on administrative hearing skills, and that training will be held in December in Upstate New York, and it's really the first skills training the community has been able to offer its employees in about 10 years in Upstate New York, and so we're very, very happy to be able to do it.
The TLD work group has decided to really emphasize this training as a model for the successes of collaboration, and to motivate everyone in our community to participate in what we hope will become an upstate training consortium.
Our commitment and goal is to rebuild and to enhance the training infrastructure upstate and out of New York City.
We have a commitment from your grantees upstate already to begin to support this effort, and we hope that our efforts will lead into an expansion of the delivery of substantive law and skills type training in Upstate New York and Long Island.
So I agree with Randi that we're all on a journey involving state planning, and as to the training, leadership, and diversity work here in New York State, I think that you can see some of the outcome indicators of success that Randi mentioned -- a commitment to leadership and diversity; a commitment to collaboration on a statewide basis, enhanced coordination of legal work and training, and the belief that we should do these things in order to truly improve the quality of services that we can deliver to our clients.
So thanks for this opportunity. I also want to acknowledge the efforts of Anne, in particular, an independent provider, and without her Herculean efforts, we would not be here today .
JUDGE BING NEWTON: Thank you and good afternoon to everyone. It's a pleasure to be here.
I suspect that a few years ago if we had a meeting like this, a representative from the judiciary would not be an integral party to the discussion, and I can tell you that would be a mistake.
Working on your design team, one of the things that we talked about a lot in developing that instrument to measure state planning, what would be the role of the judiciary, and we had some very lively discussion, and sometimes I found myself in a defensive posture.
In New York State, we are part of a team, and that's the theme of my presentation.
It will focus mostly on pro bono efforts, because everyone in the room is awaiting our pro bono report, since the chief judge and our presiding board, administrative board, has control, by virtue of admitting people to the bar, has control of the issue of pro bono.
I just want to take a few seconds to talk about the amazing collaboration in New York State, and as you were invited to come to Queens this morning, as a diehard New York City born and bred person, I want to extend an invitation that was extended to me to come to Geneva sometime.
New York is a wonderful -- and I don't mean Geneva, Switzerland -- beautiful Geneva, New York.
The thing that has measured all the work that these wonderful people do is client-centered justice, and in 1999, the chief judge agreed that the judiciary had to step up to the plate and focus on the issues that affect low-income New Yorkers, and we concentrated on five areas, but it was apparent to me upon my appointment in 1999 that a most important issue would be for the court to become partners and collaborators with the civil justice community.
I am pleased and humbled that they accepted us. You know, they didn't have to. I think they accepted us because they understood that they wanted to be a partner in the planning process.
To look at adequate funding, to answer your question, we have had some funding challenges on both the criminal and the civil side. We focused, quite frankly, first on the criminal, because we had had some very serious issues.
We got a raise for those attorneys after 17 years of no raises, and I have promised my partners on the civil side that we will do for the civil community what we've done successfully on the criminal side, and that's to get the state to agree to pick up some of the desperately needed funding for those who come to our courts largely unrepresented.
We have the fund. Now, we have to get some money into the fund. But we were able to agree that there needed to be a statewide permanent source of funding.
Second, we focused on provision, and together we received a grant to try to do some joint work on provision of computer-generated information proposed by litigants, and we collaborate in every area.
We collaborate on better education and outreach to the community to explain what it is we do and how we do it, because quite frankly, we'd like the community to know the needs so they can put greater pressure on those in government who sometimes view us as interested parties, but the more we do for the least among us, we provide for greater public trust and confidence in our system. The public supports the work that legal services providers do.
Lastly we wanted to look at pro bono. How can we together provide more assistance through pro bono planning?
And indeed, I think the first strategic pro bono discussion happened on that fateful day, September 11, 2001, when we all gathered in Albany to talk about a strategic plan for improving civil legal services provision, improving attorney participation, improving judiciary response to these issues.
In fact, as we decided whether to proceed, attorneys gathered together with us to come up with plans for how to address the needs of those families and survivors of the attack on our country.
But since that time, the judiciary has held four planning projects that we call pro bono convocations. We held four -- one in New York City, one in Albany, one in Buffalo, and one in Geneva, New York.
We invited to attend these programs representatives from the judiciary, from academia, from the private bar, from bar associations, both local and state, of course those intimately involved in the provision of legal services for the poor, and we put on the plate of those who attended the strategic responsibility of coming up with a plan for New York State that would ensure that pro bono hours, although significant -- 47 percent of the attorneys in New York do provide pro bono services to the poor -- that all attorneys would do pro bono and they would provide pro bono for those least among us.
We received information from input from other states, including Maryland and other states that haven't recently moved on pro bono, and we are in the process of issuing a report and it will come out within the next few weeks.
In fact, I tried very hard to get my staff to get on the ball so we could present it to you today. Unfortunately, we were not able to do that because of some other commitments.
But I will tell you this, that the plan for pro bono in New York State, that we believe will be supported by our chief judge and supported by administrative board, will have as its focus a collaborative effort, local and regional, that will set rules and standards and goals, that will put the legal services community at the forefront of organizing with the Office of Court Administration to develop local aspirations and methods of providing pro bono opportunities for courts.
We are taking the approach much similar to the legal services design team, that if we can all look at this strategically and together, we'll have an instrument that will, in fact, continue to be client centered; and again, we invite you to join us in Geneva when we come back next year.
CHAIRMAN HALL: Thank you for planning our schedule for us.
CHAIRMAN HALL: And thanks to all three of you for a wonderful presentation.
Just based on time, we don't have enough time for a lot of questions, but if there are a few questions --
MR. MEITES: Ms. Moy, we heard this morning that the New York City Legal Services still gives CLE credit for strength. Are your --
MS. MOY: Well, we do rely on the tightness of the Greater Upstate Law Project in this regard, which is an improved CLE provider, and I think of the upstate grantees, they are the only one right now who is accredited.
We are accredited in New York to give CLE credits to our pro bono providers, and all of the LSC grantees have gone that step, but we are working with GULP and the Women's Bar Association of New York State to get CLE for our attorneys, and that's certainly part of the plan for training in the future.
Programs say, "We can chip in and support enhancing the training infrastructure if you can ensure that our attorneys are going to get the CLE they need in areas that are relevant to a poverty law practice," and that's exactly what we're going to do --
MR. MEITES: -- you did it, and not have to pay someone else to do it.
MS. MOY: Keep it in the house.
MS. ERICKSON: Well, we consider ourselves to be part of the house.
JUDGE BING NEWTON: Plus, my office is the one that approves the CLE providers, and we have to have certain criteria in order to have CLE providers accredited -- but we, you know, we have time, we can look into that.
For example, we did a CLE program in Buffalo with a quid pro quo, that anyone who attended this free program -- they would pick up a certain number of pro bono, give us back certain numbers of pro bono hours. We're doing a lot of that.
MS. ERICKSON: And one of the things that we've done as the state support center is we continue to host all the substantive task forces upstate.
We go out and do specialized training. My staff are on the road right now doing the work rules training, and those are all CLE accredited.
We've tried to do as best we can to build them into meetings that people are going to be at anyway, and to make them as effective as possible so that when welfare reform changes came down, changes in domestic violence, we tried to get out there as quickly as possible with the CLE accredited training.
We also have made ourselves available, and just recently we sponsored a training that we've been on, that the local programs themselves pulled together a bankruptcy training.
We kind of hosted it as the CLE provider, similar to what we're doing with the administrative skills training.
But it is an infrastructure that needs to be built back up, so it hasn't been a complete void, but it's tough.
CHAIRMAN HALL: One final question that you can answer quickly for me, and it's kind of the same one I asked before.
You mentioned that you went from 14 programs down to five or seven through this process, and you felt you had full and deep coverage throughout the various areas.
What gives you that confidence? Because I assume that going from the 14 programs to the five or seven, that there was some retraction.
MS. ERICKSON: A lot of it is still shaking out, and what gives me that confidence is just the incredible trust I have in my colleagues and the people that are doing this work. They are so deeply committed.
It is going to be disruptive for a while, no doubt about it. The loss of our funding, particularly, has been an extremely tough hit upstate where, you know programs lost two and three hundred thousand dollars, and you cannot replace that quickly.
They have all made a commitment to maintain service levels, to keep offices open, to not lay off staff, to keep full coverage.
The finances are going to be very tough, I think, in the short term, but I think there is a commitment throughout the community that we're going to make this work, because we have to for our clients.
I don't think any offices have closed at this point. I don't think staff have been let go.
Having said that, I just have to keep cautioning you, our cuts are going to be dramatically felt upstate, and so we may see some loss of service not due to merger and consolidation, not due to reorganizing, but simply forces beyond our control.
JUDGE BING NEWTON: I think the other answer to that is that, to their credit, the people who voted for the final plan didn't just say, "This is a plan, let's vote for it." There was a lot of discussion over a long period of time, and looking at various options, and discussing, "If you move this, how will that affect that?"
So it wasn't, while it was stated quite eloquently and simply, the advocacy, it was certainly a much more complex and difficult task.
CHAIRMAN HALL: Again, thanks to all three of you for a wonderful presentation and for being here with us and for giving us an invitation --
CHAIRMAN HALL: Thank you very much.
We have about three other agenda items to cover in three minutes, so I will not be able to deal with them as fully as I anticipated.
But the next item was a discussion of future directions.
What I'd like to do is, I've circulated a letter to the members of the Provision Committee about issues that we have heard from our last meeting, or issues that different Board members had suggested to me that they felt we needed to look at.
That was a future agenda for the Provisions Committee and various members of the committee felt comfortable with these issues.
I wanted to just, for the record, indicate what we feel are some of the issues that we are going to move forward on.
The first one is quality issues, which we had hoped to spend a little bit more time today fleshing out and I was going to ask Randi to come back and have us begin that discussion, but based on the amount of time we have, I think that will definitely be our main issue at the next meeting of the Provisions Committee.
So we touched on it a little bit today, and certainly got some advice about how we need to proceed in this discussion around quality, but we will probably be asking Randi to come back again at the next meeting and begin that discussion for us in a more in-depth way than what we have.
Technology issues, including the question of how we can appropriately use technology to improve access to diversity and leadership issues.
Service delivery issues defined by groups of clients that have special needs in regards to delivery, such as Native Americans, farm workers, disabled clients, et cetera.
Issues relating to the use of the private bar to deliver services to low-income clients, which has been the theme that has come up.
The impact of the legal services restrictions upon legal service delivery.
And finally, loan forgiveness and retirement of claims.
Those were the issues that had been shared and discussed. It's clear that this is a very full agenda that could keep us busy for some time to come, but as I said, we will not necessarily deal with them in the order that they are listed.
However, we will definitely deal with the first one that I mentioned, which is the quality issue, as being the next major focus for this particular committee.
We wanted to have some time for public comment on our agenda. If there aren't any pressing remarks that someone from the public would like to make in an abbreviated period of time, we would try to create an opportunity for that.
CHAIRMAN HALL: Good.
CHAIRMAN HALL: We would consider any other acts of business to come before the committee by any of the committee members that they would like to raise at this time.
CHAIRMAN HALL: Hearing none, I would consider and act on adjournment, and I guess before that motion is made, I just again want to thank Randi for her presentation that gave us, I think, a very deep background of what has gone on, and for the reps from New York City and those from the state, I think it has certainly enriched our understanding of this whole process.
Maybe I'm being naive, but the collaborative spirit between the central office and folks in the field that has been expressed continuously here today is something that's really been impressive to me, and I think it's a challenge and a hallmark for the Board as we go forward in trying to work with individual grantees.
So I want to thank all of you for the tremendous time and effort that you've put into this.
So I still will entertain an act of adjournment.
M O T I O N
MS. MERCADO: So moved.
CHAIRMAN HALL: The Provisions Committee is now adjourned.
(Whereupon, the Legal Services Corporation Provisions Committee meeting was adjourned.)
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