LSC Awards Third Round of Pro Bono Innovation Fund Grants to Help Low-Income Families, Seniors, and Others

September 29, 2016

WASHINGTON – The Legal Services Corporation announced today that 11 legal aid organizations will receive grants to support innovations in pro bono legal services for low-income clients.

The grants from LSC’s Pro Bono Innovation Fund are intended to encourage new and robust pro bono efforts and partnerships to serve more low-income people.

“We are grateful to Congress for establishing the Pro Bono Innovation Fund to increase pro bono support for civil legal aid,” said LSC President Jim Sandman. “The grants we are funding will allow more pro bono lawyers to serve the elderly and the disabled, to help remove legal barriers to employment, and to increase legal services in rural areas.”

Many of the LSC-funded projects will use technology to connect low-income populations to the services they need and to train volunteers on how to provide legal information effectively. Other projects will focus on building partnerships between LSC-funded legal aid programs and the community, law schools, and other local service providers. The goal of all the projects is to engage pro bono lawyers and other volunteers to leverage LSC’s federal funding and increase the legal resources available to low-income Americans. They offer impactful, replicable solutions to persistent challenges in the current pro bono delivery system.

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN) congratulated Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services for receiving an award. “All Americans deserve equal access to justice, regardless of their background or income level,” Klobuchar said. “This grant from the Legal Services Corporation will help people across southern Minnesota receive the due process owed to them through our legal system.”  

U.S. Representative David Young (IA-3) also applauded a Pro Bono Innovation Fund award that will support the work of Iowa Legal Aid. “As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I work to ensure grant funding like this is available to communities across the country, and I’m pleased this in particular will benefit folks in Iowa communities who need it the most,” Young said.

The creation of the fund was recommended by LSC’s Pro Bono Task Force in 2012. Congress allocated $2.5 million for it in LSC’s FY 2014 appropriation and increased that allocation to $4 million in LSC’s FY 2015 appropriation. It remained at $4 million in LSC’s FY 2016 appropriation.

The recipients of 2016 Pro Bono Innovation Fund grants are:

Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles  $413,088, 24 months

Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles will provide greater access to legal assistance for limited-English proficient clients by creating an online language-access pro bono training tool. 

Legal Aid Society of San Diego – $371,497, 24 months

Legal Aid Society of San Diego will create an automated case placement system to refer cases to volunteer attorneys efficiently. These attorneys will provide advice and representation at administrative hearings to previously unrepresented elderly and disabled clients receiving In-Home Supportive Services.

Neighborhood Legal Services Program of the District of Columbia  $386,825, 24 months

 Neighborhood Legal Services Program of D.C. will provide free legal resources to job-seekers in the city's poorest, underserved neighborhoods by building on its current collaboration with the D.C. Public Library. Volunteer attorneys will provide information, advice, and extended representation to reduce or eliminate significant barriers to employment at free clinics held at community libraries.

Atlanta Legal Aid Society – $421,310, 24 months

Atlanta Legal Aid will enhance its numerous pro bono efforts by centralizing the administration and operations of its pro bono program. It will develop a strategic plan with the goal of streamlining and unifying its various pro bono projects; developing quality standards for staff and volunteers; and providing a common framework and point of contact for recruiting, training, and mentoring volunteers. 

Iowa Legal Aid – $364,709, 24 months

Iowa Legal Aid will create a strategic, efficient, and effective system of referring appropriate cases to pro bono attorneys throughout the state of Iowa, including in rural areas. The funded project will make it easier for lawyers to access and work on pro bono cases. 

Indiana Legal Services – $325,837, 24 months

Indiana Legal Services will integrate its services into the state's existing pro bono system, which consists of 12 independent non-profit "Pro Bono Districts.” The project will strengthen the capacity of two of the districts—those inclusive of and closest to Indianapolis—to match volunteer lawyers with Indiana Legal Services clients and provide more effective training, mentoring, and support. The project is designed as a pilot to determine whether this type of participation could be replicated in other Pro Bono Districts. It will initially focus on engaging the ten largest law firms in Indianapolis in pro bono cases.

Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services  $286,000, 24 months

Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services will expand its medical-legal partnership with Open Door Health Center to create clinics staffed by volunteer attorneys performing "legal check-ups." The project will help address the lack of legal services available in rural areas of Minnesota.

Legal Services Law Line of Vermont – $246,034, 24 months

Legal Services Law Line of Vermont will work to provide pro bono representation to clients at their first in-court appearance in both non-payment eviction cases and certain consumer debt cases. Law Line will expand its existing eviction pro bono clinic into three more counties and establish a similar pilot clinic for debt collection cases.

Virginia Legal Aid Society  $327,899, 24 months

Virginia Legal Aid Society will strengthen its pro bono program by forming strategic partnerships with judges and prominent attorneys in the organization’s service area. It will also work to create a new clinical program with the Liberty University School of Law and support the development and adoption of a new online case-management system throughout the state. 

Legal Aid of West Virginia  $279,028, 24 months

Legal Aid of West Virginia will create a school and community legal partnership with Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary School in Charleston. Attorneys will provide free onsite advice and assistance to individuals completing pro se pleadings. The project will also create a follow-up plan for every client to ensure that staff or pro bono attorneys can provide additional assistance if needed.

Legal Action of Wisconsin – $377,773, 24 months

Legal Action of Wisconsin will create clinics offering free legal assistance to tenants facing eviction cases in the high-volume Milwaukee County courthouse. Clinics, staffed by volunteer attorneys, will be held every afternoon at the court’s self-help center to provide advice and brief services to 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.