Current Grants

Pro Bono Innovation Fund

In 2016, we awarded the Pro Bono Innovation Fund grants to 11 organizations to support innovations in pro bono legal services. In 2015, we funded 15 organizations 

Alaska

Alaska Legal Services Corporation

  • Project Term: 24 months (October 2015-October 2017)
  • Grant Amount: $187,566

Rural Alaska Natives have unique and complex legal issues. Alaska Legal Services Corporation will build a Pro Bono Training Academy for volunteer lawyers who lack relevant expertise to represent low-income Alaskans, particularly Alaska Natives, who live in extremely remote locations throughout the state.

Alaska has no law school, so Alaska Legal Services will partner with the University of Washington School of Law, which recently opened an extension office in Anchorage. The law school is considered an expert in distance learning and will consult in the development of a free online training curriculum for pro bono attorneys.

The training curriculum will focus on five practice areas of need. Law professors and project staff will also develop the distance learning curricula and will engage law students in summer externships and in school-year clinics to help develop pro se materials for clients. The project will also create additional online resources, including forms, manuals, pleadings, and brief banks, for volunteers.

California

Bay Area Legal Aid

  • Project Term: 24 months (October 2015-October 2017)
  • Grant Amount: $280,111

Bay Area Legal Aid's project proposes to permanently changes the structure of its pro bono efforts in the San Francisco Bay Area by replacing the one-by-one case placement model with technology that streamlines and automates routine case placement and processing work and requires significantly less staff intervention. 

The project will engage Bay Area Legal Aid's pro bono team and litigation director to develop specialized pro bono opportunities for firm partners that involve complex litigation. This will not only benefit a large number of low-income people but also broaden and deepen relationships with law firm partners that have expressed a desire to work on more complex and far-reaching issues for low-income communities.

Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles

  • Project Term: 24 months (October 2016-October 2018)
  • Grant Amount: $413,088

California is one of the most linguistically diverse states in the United States with over 220 languages and 43% of Californians speaking a language other than English in their homes.  For Californians with limited English proficiency, access to justice is a particular challenge in that they “cannot access the courts without significant language assistance, cannot understand pleadings, forms or other legal documents and cannot participate meaningfully. . . without a qualified interpreter.”  Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles’ 2016 Pro Bono Innovation Funded project, The Pro Bono Training Institute (PBTI) Language Access Project, focuses on addressing the needs of limited English proficient clients by providing volunteer interpreters and volunteer attorneys online language access training.  The trainings will provide guidance to legal services organizations, volunteer attorneys and volunteer interpreters on specific language access topics.  The PBTI Language Access Project will also connect volunteer interpreters with volunteer attorneys.  The PBTI Language Access Project will better serve limited English proficient individuals in communities across the state by improving and sharing volunteer resources online.  As the technology at the center of this project can be replicated and easily shared, this project may also serve as a model for other legal service organizations serving linguistically diverse client populations. 

Legal Aid Society of San Diego, Inc.

  • Project Term: 24 months (October 2016-October 2018)
  • Grant Amount: $371,497

Legal Aid Society of San Diego is a recognized leader in advocacy on health law issues and is committed to supporting their client’s health law legal needs.  As part of this commitment, Legal Aid of San Diego has identified an area that is underserved and which, through its Pro Bono Innovation Funded project, In-Home Supportive Services Pro Bono Project, it hopes to address with the help of volunteer attorneys.  In-Home Supportive Services is a statewide program which provides low-income disabled individuals, many of whom are elderly, with in-home care serves.  The program allows disabled individuals to stay in their homes safely and not be forced into more expensive settings such as nursing homes or board and care facilities.  Despite the immense institutional and community interest to keep the elderly and disabled in their home and integrated into their community, the overwhelming majority of clients do not have an attorney to represent them at the In-Home Supportive Services hearing.  Legal Aid of San Diego will use volunteer attorneys to provide advice and representation to clients seeking In-Home Supportive services.  This new pro bono program will also pilot the use of a new case referral and placement system that will increase the efficiency of the process, hopefully resulting in more clients being provided services.  The use of volunteer attorneys to serve a previously underserved need, made more efficient through the use of technology, may serve as a model for other legal services organizations. 

District of Columbia

Neighborhood Legal Services Program of the District of Columbia

  • Project Term: 24 months (October 2016-October 2018)
  • Grant Amount: $386,825

Low-income residents of the District of Columbia struggle with both intermittent and long-term unemployment.  High levels of stubborn unemployment are concentrated in historically underserved, economically underdeveloped and predominantly African-American neighborhoods that lie east of the Anacostia River in Wards 7 and 8.  While many factors contribute to these residents’ inability to obtain or retain employment, some factors can be overcome with the assistance of legal counsel.  Among these factors are poor credit histories, criminal records, student loan debts, suspended driver’s licenses, employer discrimination, unstable housing or wrongful inclusion on neglect registries.  However, DC’s legal aid and pro bono resources are concentrated on the other side of the city.  The lack of local sources of information about legal rights, coupled with the cost and difficulty of transportation from east of the River to downtown DC, means that many unemployed residents in Wards 7 and 8 do not have access to the legal counsel that would enable them to resolve these problems.  Neighborhood Legal Services Program of the District of Columbia’s 2016 Pro Bono Innovation Fund funded project, Unlocking Unemployment, will address this gap by bringing volunteer attorneys to walk-in legal clinics embedded in the east of the River public library branches that are readily accessible to community members and where residents routinely go to find assistance and computer access for their job searches.  The Unlocking Unemployment clinics will efficiently provide in-person information, advice, and referrals to jobseekers in their neighborhoods as well as provide an opportunity for those who need a higher level of legal service to connect with a legal services organization.  Through the provision of such legal assistance, Neighborhood Legal Services Program of the District of Columbia hopes to clear a pathway to meaningful, sustained employment and provide a model for other cities dealing with unemployment in their communities. 

Georgia

Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Inc.

  • Project Term: 24 months (October 2016-October 2018)
  • Grant Amount: $421,310

Atlanta Legal Aid Society is adept at creating new programs that incorporate volunteer attorneys into the provision of legal services to clients in need.  Atlanta Legal Aid has twelve pro bono projects in Atlanta and Cobb County with attorneys, law firms, law schools and corporate legal partners working with different staff for a specific client population or on a specific type of legal matter.  Building on a strong foundation for creative pro bono programming, Atlanta Legal Aid Society’s 2016 Pro Bono Innovation Fund project is focused on creating web-based resources and a centralized structure for all existing and future pro bono so that there can be coordination of resources, volunteer experience, learnings, and collaboration.  By focusing on how pro bono is administered, Atlanta Legal Aid’s project will not only enhance pro bono in Atlanta but will provide best practices and a model for other legal service organizations that are trying to create an effective and efficient pro bono program.  

Georgia Legal Services Program

  • Project Term: 24 months (October 2015-October 2017)
  • Grant Amount: $197,813

Lawyers for Equal Justice is a new, freestanding non-profit incubator program that was established by the State Bar of Georgia, the Access to Justice Commission, and the five Georgia law schools. The incubator is designed to support recent law graduates in establishing practices that use technology, alternative fee arrangements, new models of practice, and enhanced pro bono to serve the large population of underserved low-income clients.

Georgia Legal Services will create a pro bono learning lab within this incubator to develop and create a structure and accountability for the pro bono promise of incubators. The project will coordinate pro bono opportunities to the incubator, will oversee and track pro bono cases and case outcomes, and will coordinate trainings and mentoring of incubator attorneys with legal aid advocates.

The incubator attorneys will handle basic poverty law cases, including family, consumer, administrative law, simple wills and advance directives, and housing with an emphasis on cases in rural areas. It will also seek to incorporate policies for pro bono into the business plans for a solo or small firm practice. The project will develop two toolkits on incubator-pro bono best practices for law schools and legal aid.

Idaho

Idaho Legal Aid Services, Inc.

Subgrantee: Idaho Volunteer Lawyers Program

  • Project Term: 24 months (October 2015-October 2017)
  • Grant Amount: $276,000

Idaho Legal Aid Services, in partnership with the Idaho Volunteer Lawyers Program, will create the Pro Bono Opportunities website. This portal will create a searchable online space where Idaho attorneys who wish to volunteer for a case can find statewide case opportunities.

Currently, the Idaho Volunteer Lawyers Program relies on a telephone-based system for placing clients with attorneys. With this project, the Pro Bono Opportunities web portal will allow attorneys to search case opportunities by legal issue and geographic area in addition to whether the client is a veteran and other factors. If no case opportunity meets the attorney's search criteria, the system will be able to automatically notify the attorney when similar cases are posted.

While many case opportunities will be posted by the Idaho Volunteer Lawyers Program, the portal will allow Idaho Legal Aid staff to forward opportunities for consenting clients who need services beyond what Idaho Legal Aid attorneys can provide.

The project will make pro bono services a more robust part of Idaho's low-income legal service delivery system by increasing pro bono representation, increasing the number of low-income Idaho residents who receive legal representation, and expanding the cases and services for which attorneys can volunteer.

Illinois

LAF (formerly Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago)

  • Project Term: 24 months (October 2015-October 2017)
  • Grant Amount: $239,207

One of the most important legal services that can be provided to seniors is planning for incapacity through advance directives, including durable powers of attorney for health care and property, living wills, and transfer on death instruments.

While the senior population grows, local legal resources dedicated to providing these services remain inadequate. LAF in Chicago proposes to offer a legal checkup for advance directives for every low-income senior who contacts LAF for assistance on any legal matter.

LAF will partner with the Center for Disability and Elder Law to adapt a successful pro bono workshop model into LAF's intake and scheduling system, so trained volunteer lawyers can provide these services to clients. The project includes critical supports to ensure clients are able to access and follow-through on services and training for volunteers and staff to help seniors.

Client documents will be automated and integrated into LAF's case management system to simplify and streamline the work of the volunteer attorneys. In collaboration with Illinois Legal Aid Online, the project will also create an e-learning curricula that will be available to any volunteer attorney statewide.

Indiana

Indiana Legal Services, Inc.

  • Project Term: 24 months (October 2016-October 2018)
  • Grant Amount: $325,837

In 2015, Indiana Legal Services had to turn away 4,000 applicants for services because it lacked the resources and capacity to serve them.  Recognizing that establishing a pro bono program connecting volunteer attorneys to clients in need would be a good way to address the resource and capacity gap, Indiana Legal Services 2016 Pro Bono Innovation Fund pilot project, Indiana Pro Bono Integration, will integrate Indiana Legal Services into the state of Indiana’s existing pro bono program, which has been in existence since 1999.  By integrating itself into the existing robust pro bono structure, Indiana Legal Services will expand the current pro bono system; Indiana Legal Services’ existing community contacts and partnerships expand the number of applicants for services and the pool of volunteer lawyers.  By creating a joint approach to pro bono this project will ensure that Indiana’s communities in need will have resources to assist them.  

Iowa

Iowa Legal Aid

  • Project Term: 24 months (October 2016-October 2018)
  • Grant Amount: $364,709

In 2015, Iowa Legal Aid closed 16,203 cases that helped approximately 38,000 people.  Despite these high numbers, Iowa Legal Aid turns away or underserves approximately 10,000 people every year.  Volunteer attorneys can help address this justice gap, but Iowa Legal Aid has found its current pro bono model outdated and unable to meet the challenges of recruiting volunteer attorneys and placing a sufficient number of cases to serve the needs of low-income Iowans, especially in rural Iowa.  Iowa Legal Aid’s 2016 Pro Bono Innovation Fund Project, the Pro Bono Revitalization Project, will focus on creating a pro bono program, with the help of outside consultants, that will make Iowa’s pro bono program more strategic, efficient and effective in referring appropriate cases to pro bono attorneys.  The project will also work to enlist the help of judges and attorneys to educate volunteer attorneys about the benefits of pro bono services.  Through a structured and targeted approach, Iowa Legal Aid will be creating a well-supported and long-lasting pro bono program that will assist in serving clients in need and serve as a model for other legal services organizations looking to establish an effective pro bono program. 

Kentucky

Legal Aid Society, Inc.

  • Project Term: 18 months (October 2015-April 2017)
  • Grant Amount: $333,982

Legal Aid Society, Legal Aid of the Bluegrass, Kentucky Legal Aid, and Appalachian Research and Defense Fund will create a statewide pro bono program for eligible military veterans, so they receive the legal help that they need.

The four legal aid organizations in Kentucky will coordinate to recruit and train volunteer lawyers in addition to creating uniform and streamlined intake protocols and case acceptance policies for eligible veterans.

The project will use existing technology to create a statewide hotline to connect any veteran to trained legal aid staff. Staff will triage legal issues before referring the client to pro bono volunteers. By building on the KY Justice Online system, veterans will have access to more content, and volunteer lawyers will have the opportunity to provide assistance through the pro bono portal.

Louisiana

Southeast Louisiana Legal Services Corporation

  • Project Term: 24 months (October 2015-October 2017)
  • Grant Amount: $290,520

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans' health care delivery system, a new model of community health clinics has emerged to serve the city's most vulnerable populations.

Through partnerships with Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, The Pro Bono Project based in New Orleans, and the Daughters of Charity Services of New Orleans, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services will launch a medical-legal partnership to integrate legal aid with healthcare at eight community-based health clinics.

The partnership will remove access barriers for low-income clients through new and expanded pro bono services provided by volunteer lawyers, paralegals, and law students. The project will provide services on critical disability, Medicaid, and housing issues and will measure improved health and legal outcomes of clients served through the clinics.

Massachusetts

Community Legal Aid, Inc.

  • Project Term: 24 months (October 2015-October 2017)
  • Grant Amount: $209,524

Unmet legal needs negatively impact the health of low-income and minority communities. Unmet legal needs also interfere with the ability of health care providers trying to improve the health of their most vulnerable patients.

Community Legal Aid will develop a medical-legal partnership to provide legal help to patients participating in a new primary care model at the UMass Memorial Medical Center, the fourth largest safety net health provider in the state.

The new primary care model seeks better health outcomes for some of the most vulnerable families in central Massachusetts. Using a community health framework, it integrates care coordination and behavioral health into the primary care setting.

In partnership with the Medical Center's General Counsel's office and Office of Community Benefits, this project will recruit private attorneys in central Massachusetts to conduct full assessments of patients' legal needs and partner with a Community Legal Aid attorney to integrate legal services into the new primary care model. The project will include a rigorous evaluation to measure the impact of the medical-legal partnership intervention on the new primary care model.

Minnesota

Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, Inc.

  • Project Term: 24 months (October 2016-October 2018)
  • Grant Amount: $286,000

As with many legal service organizations across the country, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services is challenged in the delivery of legal assistance to low-income persons in the rural parts of its service area.  Coupled with the geographic barriers, the significant and growing immigrant and refugee populations in southern Minnesota present additional barriers to delivery.  Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services 2016 PBIF project –  a pro bono component for its “Lawyers Advancing Wellness” medical legal partnership with Open Door Health Center – will address these challenges by now including volunteer attorneys performing "legal check-ups." Through "legal check-ups" volunteer attorneys will provide advice and brief services; cases requiring extended representation will be referred to other volunteer attorneys or staff. The clinics will be located in and around the city of Mankato, which has one of the highest poverty rates in the state.  With the Lawyers Advancing Wellness project, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services hopes to take its legal services to a level that will be a replicable model for collaboration around rural access and healthy outcomes through legal interventions affecting the social determinates of health.  

Missouri

Legal Services of Eastern Missouri

  • Project Term: 24 months (October 2015-October 2017)
  • Grant Amount: $160,000

Community economic development activities, including small business development, are critical to breaking the cycle of poverty and revitalizing low-income areas.

Legal Services of Eastern Missouri's project will leverage the resources and skills of volunteer business attorneys to provide free business legal assistance and education to low-income entrepreneurs starting or expanding community businesses with an emphasis on minority and women entrepreneurs who have limited access to capital to afford legal resources.

The project will increase pro bono opportunities for transactional attorneys and recruit new volunteers, meet the legal needs of a larger number of disadvantaged entrepreneurs, and produce online pro bono training materials. The project will also conduct a national survey of existing transactional pro bono projects for micro-entrepreneurs and will develop a manual of best practices that can be shared with other legal aid programs interested in launching a similar effort.

Legal Aid of Western Missouri

  • Project Term: 24 months (October 2015-October 2017)
  • Grant Amount: $257,441

In the urban core of Kansas City, the lack of access to legal assistance often means that issues ranging from the lack of access to healthy food to the causes of blighted property never get addressed.

The Adopt-a-Neighborhood project seeks to expand Legal Aid of Western Missouri's efforts to bring large law firm resources to the urban core and improve neighborhood conditions. Based on a successful six-year partnership formed between a major law firm and the Marlborough neighborhood in Kansas City, the project will expand opportunities for large- and mid-sized firms to form long-term pro bono partnerships in low-income communities. It will also be an excellent way to provide training for newer attorneys and get positive publicity for pro bono work.

The project will work with community partners to conduct need and asset assessments in five urban core neighborhoods to determine the best role for law firm and pro bono volunteers. Pro bono opportunities will include the simple negotiation of documents and contracts for small community non-profits, litigating clear title and abandoned property issues, and large projects like assisting with negotiations to bring a grocery store to the neighborhood or converting an abandoned warehouse into a community center.

New Mexico

New Mexico Legal Aid

  • Project Term: 24 months (October 2015-October 2017)
  • Grant Amount: $272,718

New Mexico Legal Aid will create a web-linked statewide coalition of pro bono attorneys, law students, and paralegals to assist low-income families in some of the highest poverty rate communities in the country. Using the organization's DirectLaw pro bono web portal, attorneys who are concentrated in urban areas will access web-based resources and communicate securely online and via videoconferencing with clients, giving priority to underserved rural families and single-parent households.

The project will train law students and paralegals to use the DirectLaw system to provide remote research and other support for pro bono attorneys. New Mexico Legal Aid will also partner with the Southwest Women's Law Center and the New Mexico Women's Bar Association to build the statewide coalition by conducting a One Woman, One Case campaign to expand the number of attorneys who can handle family law matters and other legal issues that address persistent poverty.

New York

Legal Aid Society of Northeastern NY

  • Project Term: 18 months (October 2015-April 2017)
  • Grant Amount: $362,559

The need for legal assistance is acute in rural New York. Low-income tenants or debtors face significant odds when appearing in court without an attorney. Legal Aid Society of Northeastern NW, Legal Assistance of Western NY, and the Volunteer Legal Services Project of Monroe County will collaborate to close the urban-rural service gap by creating a virtual platform to connect rural clients with online interviews, shared documents, and urban volunteer attorneys who will help review and prepare pro se pleadings for housing and consumer law matters.

The project includes an active campaign to recruit, support, and sustain volunteers and clients in using the new system. The project will create a scalable technology infrastructure that creates efficiencies, expands services, and lowers the cost of serving rural areas.

Legal Services NYC

  • Project Term: 24 months (October 2015-October 2017)
  • Grant Amount: $346,738

Low-income people are targeted by predatory, for-profit trade schools that make misleading promises about the training offered and job prospects post-graduation. Students at these schools often take out tens of thousands of dollars in federal student debt to attend but are left without much to show for it — and without the means to repay their loans. Other low-income people attend legitimate schools but fall on hard times because of disability or unemployment. Legal Services NYC will engage pro bono attorneys to obtain relief for these individuals.

The project will enlist volunteers who are transactional lawyers at large firms and corporations as well as law students and other professionals. Volunteers will secure debt discharges, consolidation, and income-related relief for low-income people.

To strengthen the effectiveness and coordination of pro bono student debt advocates across the country, the project will also create a national database of FOIA materials on predatory for-profit schools in partnership with ProBono.net. Legal Services NYC will also create comprehensive training manuals and videos for volunteers that will be available on ProBono.net for other legal aid organizations.

Ohio

Legal Aid Society of Cleveland

  • Project Term: 24 months (October 2015-October 2017)
  • Grant Amount: $214,566

Of the active attorneys in greater Cleveland, 29 percent are aged 60 or older and this percentage will grow to over 30 percent in the next 10 years. The ACT 2 Project will create well-structured and supported pro bono opportunities to meaningfully engage late career and retired attorneys to serve more low-income clients.

ACT 2 attorneys will have different roles at Cleveland Legal Aid that range from most engaged to less time intensive. ACT 2 attorneys can serve as in-house volunteers handling extended representation cases as part of a practice group. They can also participate as in-house volunteers who are responsible for a specific pro bono project. As a third option, these volunteers can engage in traditional pro bono service through any of the organization's existing efforts.

The project will provide space, administrative, and paralegal support for the volunteers in addition to the traditional supports for volunteers. It will also match senior lawyers with law students and new lawyers so these early-career attorneys can be mentored and introduced to pro bono by their more experienced colleagues.

Vermont

Legal Services Law Line of Vermont, Inc.

  • Project Term: 24 months (October 2016- October 2018)
  • Grant Amount: $246,034

Affordable housing is increasingly scarce in Vermont and preventing evictions is an important priority for Legal Services Law Line of Vermont.  In 2015, evictions made up 27% of the total caseload in Vermont’s Civil Division court, the highest percentage of any type of case.  Court statistics report that more than 85% of tenants facing eviction are unrepresented while almost 90% of landlords have attorneys.  Similar to eviction cases, in consumer debt collection cases very few defendants are represented.  Unrepresented defendants are often unable to represent themselves effectively against attorneys who try hundreds of such cases every year, with the ultimate result being a low-income family burdened with repayment orders or wage garnishments they cannot afford.  To address this gross imbalance, Legal Service Law Line of Vermont, working with the Civil Division court, piloted a clinic, staffed with volunteer attorneys, that provides representation to tenants facing eviction.  Now, through the 2016 Pro Bono Innovation Fund project, Legal Services Law Line of Vermont will expand the clinic to three more counties, ensuring that tenants in need throughout Vermont will receive representation.  The 2016 Pro Bono Innovation Fund project will also pilot a clinic that will provide representation to consumers in debt collection cases.  The creation of these new clinics will allow Legal Services Law Line of Vermont, and their partner organizations, to provide services that could have profound long term effects to support clients’ housing and income.

Virginia

Blue Ridge Legal Services, Inc.

  • Project Term: 24 months (October 2015-October 2017)
  • Grant Amount: $171,255

The 25th Judicial Circuit in Virginia includes some of the most rural counties in Virginia with more than 250,000 people living below the poverty line according to the 2013 census data. Most of the counties have no history of organized pro bono engagement by the private bar. Blue Ridge Legal Services proposes to achieve universal pro bono participation by attorneys in the 25th Judicial Circuit by working with the Circuit's 12 judges as well as the leadership of the various bar associations in the Circuit.

The project is a pilot of the Virginia Access to Justice Commission, which seeks to test the effectiveness of engaging the judiciary in encouraging the private bar to undertake pro bono to meet the civil legal needs of the region's low-income clients.

The project envisions the creation of a pro bono planning committee composed of the local judiciary, bar leaders, and legal aid representatives to develop and implement a plan for expanding pro bono participation among the Circuit's rural bar associations. The project will also seek to engage the only law school in the Circuit, Washington & Lee Law School, in a collaborative effort to identify the best ways to incorporate law students into the new pro bono efforts.

Virginia Legal Aid Society, Inc.

  • Project Term: 24 months (October 2016-October 2018)
  • Grant Amount: $327,899

Virginia Legal Aid Society serves twenty counties, six small cities and an eligible population of more than 140,000 low-income individuals with a staff of just 14 attorneys and 7.5 paralegals. While Virginia Legal Aid is able to provide legal advice to all income eligible persons who contact them with these resources, almost half of those clients in need of extended service are turned away.  The 2016 Pro Bono Innovation Fund project, Building Pro Bono Capacity, is focused on addressing this justice gap through volunteer attorneys and community partnerships.  The project seeks to build on Virginia Legal Aid Society's pro bono success in Lynchburg.  The expanded pro bono program, under the direction of a new pro bono director, will be focused on strategic partnerships with judges and prominent attorneys in the remainder of the VLAS service area, creating a new clinical program with the Liberty University School of Law in which law students would provide services to clients in need, and support the development of a statewide system that would allow attorneys located all over Virginia to provide pro bono representation to clients in need through an online pro bono portal.  By focusing on ways to grow pro bono statewide, Virginia Legal Aid Society’s project could serve as a model for other legal services organizations working to deliver services to their communities in need.

West Virginia

Legal Aid of West Virginia, Inc.

  • Project Term: 24 months (October 2016-October 2018)
  • Grant Amount: $279,028

The West Side Neighborhood of Charleston is home to many of West Virginia’s low-income families.  Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary School, located in the West Side Neighborhood, is located in one of the most crime-ridden parts of the city.  Nearly 500 children attend Mary C. Snow and, based on school data, over 75% of the students experience domestic violence, are exposed to adult substance abuse or suffer child abuse and 20% are homeless or living in shared homes.  School officials, community leaders, and government officials agree that the children and families living on the West Side have serious unmet civil legal needs; they face eviction, domestic violence and custody concerns at a higher level than children in most West Virginia communities.  Creating meaningful access to legal help for families living on the West Side is difficult when 14% of the population does not have access to a car and there is limited public transportation.  Even with access, the legal needs of the families at Mary C. Snow cannot be effectively met by Legal Aid of West Virginia’s Charleston Office.  The 2016 Pro Bono Innovation Fund project – School and Community Legal Partnership – addresses both of these challenges by creating a school and community legal partnership in which Legal Aid of West Virginia (LAWV) will use pro bono attorneys, backed by LAWV staff and technology based support, to provide onsite advice, brief services and assistance in completing pro se pleadings at clinics at the Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary School. The project is working with Handle With Care, a nationally-recognized collaboration between the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of West Virginia, school staff and surrounding community to support neighborhood families.  By working with the United States Attorney’s Office and the school itself, Legal Aid of West Virginia can serve as a model for other legal services organizations working to deliver services in areas of great need.  

Wisconsin

Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc.

  • Project Term: 24 months (October 2016-October 2018)
  • Grant Amount: $377,773

In Milwaukee County, evictions are the most pressing problem for low-income people.  While Professor Matthew Desmond, recipient of a MacArthur “Genius Grant,” has brought attention to the eviction problem nationally, Legal Action of Wisconsin and its community partners have been working to solve it for decades.  During the past two years, Legal Action and its partners have been planning a project that will leverage each partner’s expertise and resources to address Milwaukee County’s pressing problem with evictions and prevent the collateral damages it causes.  The result of that planning is the 2016 Pro Bono Innovation Fund Project – “Lawyer for a Day” – which will harness the resources of Milwaukee’s private bar to provide advice, brief services, and representation at evidentiary hearings when low-income people face eviction.  With the Lawyer for a Day project, Legal Action and its partners will use pro bono attorneys to decrease evictions and will accomplish other goals – legal and social justice in housing law, supporting county-wide initiatives to eliminate homelessness, and avoiding the long-term consequences and costs of eviction for tenants and landlords.