LSC Awards Second Round of Pro Bono Innovation Fund Grants to Help Vets, Seniors, Students, and Others

September 18, 2015

LSC announced today that 15 legal aid organizations will receive grants to support innovations in pro bono legal services for low-income clients.

Many of the projects will use technology to connect low-income populations to resources and services, while others aim to increase efficiency and effectiveness through partnerships with law schools, community organizations, and in-house corporate attorneys. Some projects will address issues affecting specific populations such as seniors, veterans, and low-income students.

All the projects seek to engage and recruit pro bono lawyers and other volunteers to leverage LSC’s federal funding and increase the resources available to low-income clients.

“We are grateful to Congress for establishing our Pro Bono Innovation Fund to increase pro bono support for civil legal aid,” said LSC President Jim Sandman. “The grants we are funding will expand the resources available to serve low-income people and engage more private lawyers and law students in rewarding pro bono work.”

The creation of the fund was recommended by LSC’s Pro Bono Task Force in 2012. Congress allocated $2.5 million for it in its FY 2014 budget and increased that allocation to $4 million in its FY 2015 budget.

The recipients of the 2015 Pro Bono Innovation Fund are:

Alaska Legal Services Corporation - $187,566 - 24 months 

Alaska Legal Services Corporation will build a Pro Bono Training Academy for volunteer lawyers who currently lack the relevant expertise to represent low-income Alaskans and will partner with the University of Washington School of Law to develop a free online training curriculum for pro bono attorneys. 

Bay Area Legal Aid - $280,111 - 24 months

Bay Area Legal Aid (California) will restructure its pro bono case placement process to require less staff intervention. It will use technology that streamlines and automates processing to help place specialized pro bono opportunities with law firms.

Blue Ridge Legal Services, Inc. - $171,255 - 24 months

Blue Ridge Legal Services (Virginia), working with the Virginia Access to Justice Commission, will test the effectiveness of engaging the judiciary in encouraging the private bar to undertake pro bono to meet the civil legal needs of low-income clients.

Community Legal Aid, Inc. - $209,524 - 24 months

Community Legal Aid, in Massachusetts, will develop a partnership with UMass Memorial Medical Center to provide help to patients participating in a new primary care model. The model will address legal needs that can negatively impact the health of low-income and minority communities and interfere with health care providers’ ability to improve the health of these patients.

Georgia Legal Services Program - $197,813 - 24 months

Georgia Legal Services Program will create a learning lab within a new nonprofit legal incubator established by the State Bar of Georgia, the Georgia Access to Justice Commission, and the five Georgia law schools, to help recent graduates establish practices that use technology, alternative fee arrangements, new models of practice, and enhanced pro bono. 

Idaho Legal Aid Services, Inc. - $276,000 - 24 months

Idaho Legal Aid Services, in partnership with the Idaho Volunteer Lawyers Program, will create a website to provide attorneys with a broad range of statewide pro bono opportunities

LAF, Chicago, Illinois - $239,207 - 24 months

LAF (formerly Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago), in partnership with the Center for Disability and Elder Law, will develop a system for volunteer lawyers to help low-income seniors access important services like powers of attorney for health care and property, living wills, and transfer on death instruments.

Legal Aid Society of Cleveland - $214,566 - 24 months

Legal Aid Society of Cleveland will engage late-career and retired attorneys to serve more low-income clients through a variety of options, and help match senior lawyers with law students and early-career lawyers to provide mentorship and an introduction to pro bono work.

Legal Aid Society, Louisville, Kentucky - $333,982 - 18 months

Legal Aid Society, in partnership with Legal Aid of the Bluegrass, Kentucky Legal Aid, and Appalachian Research and Defense Fund, will create a statewide program and hotline for eligible military veterans to receive the legal assistance they need, both in person and remotely.

Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York - $362,559 - 18 months

Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, in partnership with Legal Assistance of Western New York and the Volunteer Legal Services Project of Monroe County, will work to expand service to low-income people in rural areas by creating a virtual platform that connects rural clients, particularly low-income tenants or debtors, to urban volunteer attorneys.

Legal Aid of Western Missouri - $257,441 - 24 months

Legal Aid of Western Missouri will work with community partners to conduct need and asset assessments in five core neighborhoods to determine how law firm and pro bono volunteers can best help to tackle urban community needs that rarely get addressed.

Legal Services of Eastern Missouri - $160,000 - 24 months

Legal Services of Eastern Missouri will provide free business legal assistance and education to low-income minority and women entrepreneurs starting or expanding community businesses to help to spur community economic development activities and revitalize low-income areas.

Legal Services NYC - $346,738 - 24 months

Legal Services NYC will address student debt issues for low-income individuals by enlisting transactional lawyers to help secure appropriate debt discharges, consolidation, and income-related relief, and creating a national database of materials on predatory for-profit schools in partnership with probono.net.

New Mexico Legal Aid - $272,718 - 24 months

New Mexico Legal Aid will create a statewide coalition of pro bono attorneys, law students, and paralegals to assist rural and single-parent households through a portal that allows attorneys in urban areas to access web-based resources and to communicate securely online and via videoconferencing with clients.

Southeast Louisiana Legal Services Corporation - $290,520 - 24 months

Southeast Louisiana Legal Services Corporation, in partnership with New Orleans’ Pro Bono Project and the Daughters of Charity Services of New Orleans, will launch a medical-legal partnership to integrate legal aid into eight community-based health clinics in order to help remove access barriers for low-income clients.

Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. The Corporation currently provides funding to 133 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.