The ATJ Program consists of full-time personnel to assist legal services providers in their efforts to provide legal help to the poor. Severe cuts in federal funding for Legal Services Programs in 1995 caused legal services programs to seek diverse sources of support. Many states and state bar associations came to the aid of legal service providers by creating programs designed to assist legal services and pro bono organizations. In 1996, the Louisiana Bar Foundation, Louisiana State Bar Association, and Louisiana legal service programs undertook the task of designing a program which could assist providers. The result of their hard work was the development of the Access to Justice Program.
In August 1997 the Access to Justice Program was staffed with a director, and in March 1998, a full time assistant was hired. The Access to Justice Program helps to coordinate the work of the providers on various statewide issues, provides a forum for discussion and is a resource organization for participating organizations. The Access to Justice Program, initially envisioned as a resource program, has taken on an expanded role in facilitating statewide planning and assisting all interested providers of legal services.
The program director acts as liaison between the Access to Justice Committee and other groups. Through this arrangement, the program has been able to obtain input from an array of organizations, including, the Louisiana State Bar Association, the Louisiana Bar Foundation, the Supreme Court of Louisiana, Louisiana Law Schools, social service organizations, the judiciary and a host of other interested parties.
The Access to Justice Committee provides a forum for legal service providers to network and share limited resources. The committee works to make others aware of the unmet needs of the poor for civil legal services, and works toward solutions that can be realized in proper funding of the legal services providers and increased participation by the legal community. It does this by: encouraging cooperation among legal service providers, facilitating training of volunteers and providers, encouraging participation and collaborations, recruiting volunteers, providing educational materials, enhancing public access, disseminating information through bar publications, providing technical support on access issues, and acting as a liaison between the providers to the bar, courts, schools and other groups. Working in conjunction with the Louisiana State Bar Foundation, the Louisiana legal services and pro bono organizations, law schools, statewide public interest organizations and various other groups, the Access to Justice Committee has been able to produce constructive results on numerous projects. These projects all have the underlying objective of reinforcing the comprehensive legal network of programs providing effective services in an efficient manner to Louisiana's indigent. Projects undertaken by the ATJ program include: a Contributions Check-off, an Economic Impact Proposal, The Justice for Children Conference, The Louisiana State Plan for the Delivery of Legal Services, The Directory of Louisiana Legal Services Providers, State Task Forces, Technology Initiatives, TEL-LAW Initiatives, and a Voluntary Reporting Mechanism.