With approximately one million poor persons in Louisiana, and an estimated 25% of these individuals experiencing at least one legal problem each year, Louisiana has a large number of individuals who can not afford an attorney. The providers of legal services in Louisiana attempt to attend to these needs, but despite their valiant efforts, the unmet legal needs are staggering. The ATJ Committee assists these providers of legal services by encouraging financial support and by encouraging participation in pro bono volunteer work.
You Can Provide Financial Support
Furnishing financial support for legal services providers is the best and most simple method of helping. With assistance from the Louisiana Bar Foundation, the committee established the LBF Access to Justice Fund in 1998. The fund provides a mechanism for the statewide acceptance of tax-deductible donations by the Louisiana Bar Foundation for the benefit of Louisiana providers. The LBF ATJ Fund is the repository for monies from various sources. In the past, monies collected from the Louisiana State Bar Association's Dues Check-Off and Cy Pres awards have been deposited into the fund.
The ATJ Program has simplified donating by offering several mechanisms by which others can help financially.
Provide Financial Support
Direct Contributions Made to the LBF Access to Justice Fund or a Named Legal Services Provider.
The Louisiana Bar Foundation has created various funding mechanisms that allow you to donate to the LBF Access to Justice Fund or a specifically named provider. For more information on these options, please contact:
LSBA Contributions Check-Off
If you are an attorney, you can make a contribution to the LBF Access to Justice Fund on your dues statement. The Louisiana State Bar Association has included a check-off box to facilitate attorneys making contributions. By simply checking the box on the dues statements and submitting a separate check, made payable to the LBF Access to Justice Fund attorneys can assist those organizations providing legal services to the poor. These donations have been distributed to direct service providers and have funded the ATJ Grants which provide small grants to organizations working together on civil legal projects.
Cy Pres Awards
The Cy Pres doctrine is a legal theory which allows courts to put residual class actions funds to their "next best use" to support the aggregate, indirect, prospective benefit of class members. In recent years courts throughout the country have used this legal theory to award funds to programs that provide free legal services to low-income persons. They have found legal services programs to be appropriate recipients of these funds. Even in cases where the relationship between the class and recipient has been more tenuous, courts and litigators have agreed on donations to groups based on the public interest work they perform.
The LBF Access to Justice Fund can be the recipient of Cy Pres Awards that support specified legal services providers or all providers statewide. By directing cy pres funds to LBF Access to Justice Fund- which provides support and grants to legal service providers - the cy pres goal can be accomplished.
Judges and attorneys can support providers by considering awards to the LBF Access to Justice Fund in their judgments or consent agreements. For more information on how you can do this, contact the Access to Justice Program.
You Can Volunteer with a Legal Services Provider or Pro Bono Organization
Legal services and pro bono providers offer opportunities for attorneys, paralegals, and others to volunteer in a variety of ways, serving clients directly or indirectly.
As a volunteer, you can provide direct or indirect legal services to indigent clients through pro bono or other public interest law firms of your choice.
As an advocate, you can encourage others to help, or organize advocacy efforts.
As a mentor or resource provider, you can furnish indirect legal services, such as your expertise, to others providing direct services.
Much assistance is needed and many more opportunities to help exist. By getting involved, you can make a positive impact on the lives of indigent individuals. You can support fellow members of the legal profession who provide these services. You can provide a positive image of a legal professional in your community, and you can experience the satisfaction of "making a difference". Call the Access to Justice Program or your local legal services provider for more details, or simply browse our Pro Bono Opportunities.
The limited financial resources of legal services providers can often be stretched further by the contribution of goods or services which would otherwise be purchased by programs for staff use. If you have goods or equipment that you are considering for a donation, please contact the ATJ Program.