Free Legal Services for the Poor:

Increased Coordination, Community Legal Education, and Outreach Needed

HRD-78-164: Published: Nov 6, 1978. Publicly Released: Nov 6, 1978.

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As created by Public Law, the Legal Services Corporation is a private, nonmembership, nonprofit corporation, and is the primary provider of free civil legal services to the Nation's poor. The Corporation received appropriations of $125 million and $205 million for fiscal years 1977 and 1978, respectively, and an estimated $76 million was also available in 1977 for legal services to the poor from other sources; this was distributed almost equally among Corporation- and non-Corporation-funded providers.

Substantial resources exist for free legal services to the poor from Federal, State, and local sources in addition to those provided by the Corporation. Although the Corporation entered into an agreement with the Administration on Aging to provide services to the elderly, it relies primarily on local projects' initiatives to identify and coordinate activities. Some Corporation grantees were not aware of other available providers and resources in the service area, and improved coordination is needed to ensure maximum use of all potential resources. Few Corporation grantees have conducted or obtained assessments of the legal needs of the poor in their communities for the purpose of establishing service priorities. The Corporation cited insufficient time or resources as the reason for not conducting periodic local needs assessments. Such periodic assessments would help assure that project priorities and resources are directed to the most prevalent problems. Community legal education and outreach efforts have been limited by the unavailability of staffing and resources.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The President of the Legal Services Corporation should: explore the potential for obtaining national coordination agreements with Federal and non-Federal funding sources; provide guidance to grantees for identifying and determining the nature of nonproject resources in their communities; encourage grantees to seek support from local bar associations, law schools, and other potential resource providers; disseminate information to grantees regarding innovative approaches to assessing legal needs; provide guidance to grantees for performing periodic needs assessments; encourage grantees to seek assistance from social service agencies in assessing local needs; expand training sessions on community legal education; and provide individual projects with needed technical assistance.

    Agency Affected:


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