LSC Awards Fifth Round of Pro Bono Innovation Grants to Assist Low-Income Americans
WASHINGTON – The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) announced today that 15 legal aid organizations will receive Pro Bono Innovation Grants to expand pro bono legal services for low-income clients.
The funded projects will engage pro bono lawyers and other volunteers to better meet the civil legal needs of low-income Americans. The projects offer effective, replicable solutions to persistent challenges in current pro bono delivery systems.
Five of the projects focus on providing representation to tenants in eviction cases. Legal aid organizations in Florida, New York, Vermont, and Wisconsin will recruit and train private attorneys to provide assistance and full representation to clients facing eviction.
Several of the funded projects seek to partner with schools, bar associations, and other community organizations to better reach and serve clients. Other projects focus on streamlining administrative processes and improving volunteer training.
For example, Montana Legal Services Association will use its grant to create a statewide network of retired attorneys to provide advice to low-income clients throughout the state. These volunteers will also mentor and offer litigation support to Montana Legal Services Association attorneys.
Legal Services of Greater Miami will use its grant to enhance its case management system and develop client intake and referral processes in cooperation with a local bar association. A grant to Alaska Legal Services Corporation will help the program recruit and train local community leaders and enlist the support of Indian Child Welfare Act workers, health aides, tribal employees, and law and paralegal students to help expand services to rural areas throughout the state. increased funding for the Pro Bono Innovation Fund to $4 million.
“We are grateful to Congress for establishing the Pro Bono Innovation Fund and for increasing funding by $500,000 this year,” said Jim Sandman, President of LSC. “These grants stimulate more volunteer participation by the private bar, leverage the federal investment in civil legal aid, and allow our grantees to reach more people in need of civil legal assistance.”
LSC awarded these grants from its $4.5 million Pro Bono Innovation Fund. The creation of the fund was recommended by LSC’s Pro Bono Task Force in 2012.
The recipients of this year’s Pro Bono Innovation Fund grants are:
Alaska Legal Services Corporation
Alaska Legal Services will use its grant to expand available legal services for rural residents by increasing the types and number of pro bono providers. The grant will support the creation of legal training modules for advocates in specific subject areas where there is the most need. Alaska Legal Services will recruit and train local rural community leaders, such as Indian Child Welfare Act workers, health aides, tribal employees, and law and paralegal students to expand the program’s outreach efforts.
Bay Area Legal Aid
Bay Area Legal Aid will use its grant to partner with pro bono attorneys to protect low-income consumers with its Fair Bargain project, which will focus on helping clients with consumer issues and training pro bono volunteers to assist in consumer rights clinics.
Legal Aid Society of Orange County
Legal Aid Society of Orange County will use its grant to develop written guidelines to ensure the use of pro bono best practices throughout the organization and create a system to evaluate the efficacy of their pro bono work. The goal is to focus first on “legal deserts”—areas where there are significant poverty rates and few available legal resources.
Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County
Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles Countywill use its grant to support its Antelope Valley Online Community Assistance Team. The project employs technology to connect private attorneys in Los Angeles to rural clients in the Antelope Valley. Pro bono volunteers will assist low-income clients on a variety of legal issues, but particularly focus on helping remove barriers to employment.
Legal Services of Greater Miami
Legal Services of Greater Miami will use its grant to recruit more pro bono attorneys and volunteers to address low-income clients’ critical legal problems. The grant will allow the organization to implement enhancements to its case management system and develop client-centered intake and referral processes with Dade County Bar Association Legal Aid’s Put Something Back Pro Bono Project. It will also develop a pilot pro bono eviction defense project in a Miami-Dade County courtroom.
Atlanta Legal Aid Society
Atlanta Legal Aid Society will use its grant to respond to client needs by linking volunteer, staff, and client data. Atlanta Legal Aid will develop online tools that match and track client needs with volunteer availability and interests in real time. It will also create an online library for pro bono volunteers and a pro bono project management toolkit with information for volunteers and staff to propagate best practices and coordinate pro bono project management.
Iowa Legal Aid
Iowa Legal Aid will use its grant to create an asset-mapping process to better understand the needs and resources of the community. This will allow Iowa Legal Aid to determine which pro bono projects will build on existing resources, increase the participation of pro bono volunteers, and provide more civil legal services to low-income clients in need.
Lakeshore Legal Aid
Lakeshore Legal Aid will use its grant to improve pro bono operations by developing a case management system to expand offsite volunteer-led clinics, reduce case assignment times, increase pro bono case placements, and reduce staff time on administrative tasks. The goal is to increase efficiency in key pro bono processes by as much as 50%, allowing the program to use more volunteers more effectively in removing the legal barriers to employment, a key strategic priority for Lakeshore Legal Aid.
Montana Legal Services
Montana Legal Services will use its grant to develop and support a statewide network of retired attorneys to provide advice and limited-scope services to low-income clients throughout the state. Volunteers will provide legal advice through the Montana Pro Bono Connect Phone Advice Program. They will also mentor and provide litigation support to Montana Legal Services Association attorneys.
Legal Assistance of Western New York
Legal Assistance of Western New York (LawNY) will use its grant to create a new pro bono team that will be led by a director, regional pro bono coordinators, and staff in every office throughout the program’s service area. The program’s first goal will be to integrate current volunteer attorneys into LawNY’s newest practice areas—the consumer unit and community economic development project.
Legal Services of the Hudson Valley
Legal Services of the Hudson Valley will use its grant to expand its Pro Bono Housing Project. The grant will allow the program to recruit and train pro bono volunteers from law firms to provide full representation to clients facing evictions.
Legal Services Law Line of Vermont
Legal Services Law Line of Vermont will use its grant to expand its successful Pro Bono Eviction Clinic. Launched last year, the clinic has worked to help low-income clients avoid evictions by increasing the number of active pro bono attorneys available to help them. The program will use the grant to increase pro bono attorney recruitment and offer volunteer-led information and educational sessions to clients.
Central Virginia Legal Aid Society
Central Virginia Legal Aid Society will use its grant to better serve the diverse needs of low-income clients through its Triage Project Partnership. The project will recruit volunteer private attorneys and organize them into substantive teams focused on 10 underserved areas of law. Central Virginia Legal Aid staff will arrange and administer volunteer training, schedule clinics for clients, refer cases to volunteers, and monitor the progress of cases.
Legal Aid of West Virginia
Legal Aid of West Virginia will use its grant to expand its Lawyer in the School Project. The project assists students at Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary in the west side neighborhood of Charleston, home to many of Charleston’s low-income residents. Trained volunteer lawyers provide on-site legal assistance to families. Legal Aid of West Virginia will use the grant to enhance the program to improve data collection, engage more volunteers, and expand to Grandview Elementary, which serves students from the same neighborhood
Legal Action of Wisconsin
Legal Action of Wisconsin will use its grant to expand the work of its Eviction Defense Project. Launched in January 2017, the project is a court-based pro bono program that has more than quadrupled representation for tenants in eviction cases. The project helps clients defend against evictions, minimizing the harmful impact of eviction filings on their long-term housing stability. Almost 100 volunteer attorneys and 25 students have already partnered with the Eviction Defense Project, providing help to nearly 700 low-income clients. The grant will allow the project to increase service hours.
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 132 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.