LSC’s 2017-2020 Strategic Plan outlines the three strategic goals identified by the Board of Directors that will guide it for the next four years.
Part I: Executive Summary
The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is an independent, non-profit organization established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. LSC was founded on the shared American ideal of access to justice regardless of one’s economic status. LSC is the largest single funder of civil legal services to the poor in the United States. LSC is a grant-making organization, distributing nearly 94% of its federal appropriation to eligible, nonprofit organizations delivering civil legal aid. LSC grantees handle the basic civil legal needs of the poor, addressing matters involving safety, subsistence, and family stability. Most legal aid practices focus on family law, including domestic violence, child support and custody, and on housing matters, including evictions and foreclosures.
The LSC Mission
The United States Congress, in the declaration of purpose of the Legal Services Corporation Act, found that “there is a need to provide equal access to the system of justice in our Nation for individuals who seek redress of grievances,” that “there is a need to provide high quality legal assistance to those who would be otherwise unable to afford adequate legal counsel,” and that “providing legal assistance to those who face an economic barrier to adequate legal counsel will serve best the ends of justice and assist in improving opportunities for low-income persons.” In keeping with this mandate, LSC has established these Strategic Goals to support implementing its mission:
To promote equal access to justice in our nation and to provide high-quality civil legal assistance to low-income persons.
The Current Landscape
Over the last decade, the United States has been slowly recovering from an economic recession that has had a significant double impact on LSC and its grantees. First, millions of Americans sank into poverty resulting in more people qualified for LSC’s services. Second, the financial resources available to LSC to provide for this increased demand have decreased since 2010. In this environment, LSC is working with
LSC’s 2017 – 2020 Strategic Plan outlines the three strategic goals identified by the Board of Directors that will guide it for the next four years.
Implementing this Strategic Plan
LSC will hold itself accountable for results, just as it holds its grantees accountable. Each strategic goal includes specific initiatives that will be implemented to make progress against each goal and the Strategic Plan as a whole. Annually, LSC will publish actions taken towards implementing this 2017-2020 Strategic Plan.
Part II: Introduction
History: About the Creation of the Legal Services Corporation
The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) was created on July 25, 1974, when President Richard Nixon signed the Legal Services Corporation Act. The statute passed both houses of Congress with bipartisan support. LSC was the successor to the Legal Services Program, which was part of the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) created by President Lyndon Johnson as a part of his War on Poverty.
About the Legal Services Corporation
LSC is an independent non-profit organization established by Congress to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. LSC is the largest single funder of civil legal services to the poor in the United States. LSC is a grant-making organization, distributing nearly 94% of its federal appropriation to eligible, nonprofit organizations delivering civil legal aid. LSC awards grants through a competitive process and currently funds 133 independent legal aid organizations.
With 800 offices nationwide, these organizations serve thousands of low-income individuals, children, families, seniors, and veterans in every congressional district. LSC grantees handle the basic civil legal needs of the poor, addressing matters involving safety, subsistence, and family stability. Most legal aid practices focus on family law, including domestic violence, child support and custody, and on housing matters, including evictions and foreclosures.
Legal Services Corporation Leadership
An eleven-member Board of Directors governs LSC. Each Board member is appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate to serve a three-year term. By law the Board is bipartisan; no more than six members may be of the same political party. The current Board includes leaders from across the country with a wealth of professional experience at major law firms, law schools, and civil legal aid providers; two Board members are client-eligible representatives. The Board is responsible for hiring the President of the Corporation. The President oversees LSC’s staff and is responsible for the final approval of all awards made to the Corporation’s grantees. LSC’s current senior management has considerable experience in both the public and private sectors. Since 1988, LSC has been overseen by its own Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The OIG’s primary goals are to assist management in identifying ways to promote efficiency and effectiveness in the activities and operations of LSC and its grantees and to prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse.
The Shared Values of the Legal Services Corporation
LSC was founded on a shared American ideal: access to justice regardless of one’s economic status. In the Preamble to the United States Constitution, the Framers recognized that to “establish justice” was a primary goal of the new Republic. As James Madison explained in Federalist 51: “Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.” America’s promise of liberty is rooted in the availability of justice for all, which can only be realized when all have access to the system that administers justice.
Congress recognized this in its finding and declaration of purpose in the Legal Services Corporation Act: “…for many of our citizens, the availability of legal services has reaffirmed faith in our government of laws.” In his address at the LSC’s 40th Anniversary, the late Justice Antonin Scalia reminded us of the full meaning of this promise: “The American ideal is not for some justice, it is as the Pledge of Allegiance says, ‘Liberty and justice for all,’ or as the Supreme Court pediment has it, ‘equal justice.’ … Equality, equal treatment, is perhaps the most fundamental element of justice.”
Part III: Strategic Goals
LSC’s 2017 – 2020 Strategic Plan outlines the three strategic goals that will guide it for the next four years:
- Maximize the availability, quality, and effectiveness of the services its grantees provide to eligible low-income individuals.
- Expand the role of LSC as a convener and leading voice for civil legal services for eligible persons living in poverty in the United States.
- Continue to achieve the highest standards of management for LSC and its grantees to sustain a capable, responsive, and accountable organization.
This section includes an overview of each strategic goal and the initiatives identified to implement each strategic goal.
Strategic Goal One: Maximize the availability, quality, and effectiveness of the services its grantees provide to eligible low-income individuals.
Maintenance of the rule of law is, and always has been, a central purpose of the American Republic. The rule of law requires an opportunity to vindicate one’s legal rights, which often requires legal assistance to those who need it the most. To achieve this goal, LSC must work to afford its grantees the resources, tools, and management expertise to reach and assist their clients most effectively.
- Identify, validate, and share best practices regarding the use of technology to support client intake, delivery of services, and management.
- Identify systematic ways in which organizations outside of the traditional legal aid world may provide more efficient service to clients in addressing civil legal needs.
- Continue to update the Performance Criteria to ensure they reflect the changing service delivery models for legal aid.
- Track grantees’ implementation of the Performance Criteria nationally to identify best practices and to support grantees better.
- Continue the development and analysis of outcome measures, needs measures, and efficiency measures across LSC-funded programs to identify and support the most effective delivery of services.
- Conduct a gap analysis to identify aspects of grantee operations that need appropriate training resources, especially in the area of grants and financial management. If no appropriate training resource exists, LSC will support the development of training modules to support grantees in these areas.
- Evaluate the current system of peer support and collaboration among grantees and update it as necessary to serve grantees better in such areas as non-profit governance, succession planning, fundraising, hiring, retention, financial management, practice management, case management, and operations.
- Continue to support the development and strategic use of innovative technology for delivering professional development programs.
- Continue to foster private attorney involvement through support of the implementation of the recommendations of the Pro Bono Task Force. As part of this effort, periodically consider and assess the effects of recent changes to the private attorney involvement (PAI) rule.
- Evaluate the circumstances of populations traditionally undeserved by law and also those eligible for but not utilizing LSC-funded services.
- Develop guidelines as part of the Performance Criteria to provide appropriate language that supports awareness of the diverse cultural and other contexts in which clients and potential clients live and work.
- Identify and work to overcome difficulties related to access to legal services experienced by eligible clients, including populations such as veterans and residents of rural communities, and work to ensure that their legal needs are adequately addressed.
Strategic Goal Two: Expand the role of LSC as a convener and leading voice for civil legal services for eligible persons living in poverty in the United States.
The nation needs greater and more focused leadership in addressing the civil legal needs of the poor. As the only federally-created, national legal services organization, as the largest single funder of civil legal services in the United States, and with its detailed knowledge of the activities of 133 legal services organizations serving every state and the territories, LSC has the opportunity and obligation to expand its leadership and organizational role as a convener and leading voice in raising awareness of the need for civil legal services and securing access to civil justice for the poor.
Continue to broaden and build bipartisan support for LSC’s primary goal of improving access to justice as well as the funding resources necessary to reach that goal.
- Identify the core audiences to reach as part of the program, to include new Members of Congress and every new Presidential administration.
- Expand outreach to Members of Congress and congressional staff.
- Continue to use outcomes data from LSC grantees to develop and share a compelling narrative with key messages focused on explaining what LSC is, its role in civil legal aid, and the benefits resulting from civil legal services on the everyday lives of individuals, families, and communities.
- Continue to present to core audiences key messages and stories demonstrating the effect of LSC-funded legal aid programs using social media and other appropriate mechanisms.
- Provide a voice for clients in national discussions on access to justice.
- Continue collaborating with the administration and the efforts of the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable to coordinate federal programs that support the populations served by LSC grantees and to identify opportunities for funding, service integration, and administrative effectiveness.
- Collaborate with other funders, legal services providers, bar associations, state judicial associations, and non-profits on issues affecting the provision of civil legal services to the poor.
Continue to expand engagement with organizations and individuals outside of the traditional legal services community—including other non-profits serving low-income people, the business community, judges, law schools, and leaders across a wide range of disciplines—to reach new audiences and support expanded access to legal services for eligible persons living in poverty in the United States. Continue to develop the LSC Leaders’ Council to raise public awareness of the current crisis in legal aid.
Increase private support for civil legal services through private fundraising and the development of a long-term institutional advancement plan to support expanded services. All LSC private-fundraising efforts shall complement its Congressional mandate and be reviewed to mitigate any competition with grantees.
Strategic Goal Three: Continue to achieve the highest standards of management for LSC and its grantees to sustain a capable, responsive, and accountable organization.
The United States Congress entrusts LSC and its grantees with funds collected from the American taxpayer. To live up to that trust and justify further confidence, LSC is a prudent steward of the resources allocated to it. LSC and its grantees should be models of fiscal responsibility and strong professional management.
- Maintain and clearly communicate LSC’s high standards for grants management for all grantees.
- Continue transparent management, regulatory compliance, and fiscal accountability as a grant-making organization while ensuring the measures in place take appropriate account of their effect on grantees’ delivery of legal services. Maintain strong coordination with the Office of Inspector General (OIG).
- Evaluate the changes in fiscal oversight implemented pursuant to the recommendations of the Financial Oversight Task Force to ensure financial oversight of grantees is as efficient and effective as possible.
- Provide grantees with guidance and technical assistance to foster greater regulatory compliance and fiscal accountability.
- Through the Performance Criteria, LSC will review the effectiveness of grantees’ Board of Directors. These criteria should include LSC’s continual development and sharing of best practices regarding non-profit corporate governance; the development of plans and processes by grantee boards of directors for training and transitioning of members of their boards of directors; the conducting by grantee Boards of Directors’ of regular self-evaluation regarding their oversight role; and LSC’s encouragement of the use of non-board member experts in accounting, finance and oversight to serve on grantees’ board committees.
- Develop a plan and briefing materials to support the transition to a new Presidential administration, Congress, and LSC Board.
- Encourage continuity of governance at LSC in order to maintain institutional history through practices such as the sequencing of Board appointments.
- Continue the practice of having experts (who are not LSC Board Members) in accounting, finance, and other relevant disciplines serve on LSC Board committees.
- Conduct capabilities and gap assessments across all internal LSC offices to ensure that investments in information technology support the most strategic use of resources.
- Evaluate the current needs of LSC for staffing and the current staffing model to ensure a sufficient level of personnel to promote LSC’s mission of oversight and support of grantees.
- Identify training and additional resources to promote maximum performance of LSC staff.