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California Legal Aid Providers Awarded $1.1 Million in Grants to Improve Pro Bono Services

Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) will receive $383,696

The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) announced last week that it is awarding more than $1.1 million in Pro Bono Innovation Fund grants to three California legal aid organizations. Inland Counties Legal Services (ICLS) will receive $435,404, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) will receive $383,696, and California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) will receive $367,167.  

These are three of 15 legal aid organizations receiving a grant. In total, LSC is awarding $4.75 million to support the growth of pro bono legal services for low-income Americans.  

Last year, 74% of low-income households faced at least one civil legal problem, according to LSC’s recently released Justice Gap report. Alarmingly, low-income Americans received no or insufficient legal help for 92% of their substantial civil legal problems. Expanding pro bono and other volunteer services will allow civil legal aid providers to better address these urgent, unmet needs. 

“Meeting the vast legal needs of low-income Americans is a tough job for legal aid providers with limited resources,” said LSC President Ronald S. Flagg. “Engaging pro bono attorneys and volunteers adds a powerful network that multiplies the impact of these organizations.”  

LSC awarded these grants from its Pro Bono Innovation Fund included in its FY 2022 congressional appropriation. Since 2014, LSC has awarded 121 grants totaling more than $35 million. Each organization’s project involves innovative solutions to persistent challenges in pro bono delivery systems that can be replicated by other service providers across the country. 

“I commend the Legal Services Corporation for their commitment to increasing Americans’ access to necessary legal assistance—regardless of their zip code or income level,” said Senator Alex Padilla. “This funding will help more Californians—from rural to urban communities—get pro bono legal assistance to navigate the justice system.” 

ICLS will use its grant to transform and modernize its pro bono program. It plans to first perform an assessment of its current barriers and opportunities. Then ICLS will utilize grant resources to build a more effective pro bono program that embraces technology, engages a diverse range of volunteers and is deeply integrated across the organization.  

LAFLA’s grant will support its Veterans of Color Advocacy Project (VOCAP), which will help veterans overcome the barriers associated with having a criminal record to gain self-sufficiency and stability. The project will incorporate volunteer attorneys, paralegal students and law students at each stage of expungement cases, from record evaluations and document preparation to hearings. Through VOCAP, LAFLA aims to further engage veterans to address longer-term legal matters. Leveraging volunteers for record-clearing will free up staff resources to assist veterans with their additional legal needs, including veterans’ benefits claims and discharge upgrades. 

With its pro bono program grant, CRLA aims to reduce barriers to success for low-income Central Coast residents eligible for criminal record expungement through reentry advocacy provided by pro bono volunteers supervised by CRLA attorneys. The project seeks to engage private law firms, pro bono attorneys, law students, undergraduates and paralegal externs. Volunteers will provide direct expungement services and clerical support, as well as deliver outcome surveys during client follow-up to evaluate service impact.

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