Free community legal services are an integral part of any urban setting, providing legal advice, recommendations, and even representation to those who cannot afford them and, consequently, may need them the most. These services are supported through a precarious mix of donations, legal trust funds, government grants, and sometimes the altruistic spirit of volunteers who just want to give something back to the community.
A glance down any community legal services directory will yield several programs who rely heavily on state and federal grants in order to keep their services active. Many of these grants have annual application requirements, and are by no means guaranteed from one year to the next, which leads many community legal services providers to search for additional sources of operational funding.
Community donations can be a helpful addition, but are understandably less reliable than the government grants. Securing long term, large scale donation support is a difficult and resource intensive process, and small scale donations can be sporadic at best. However, trust funds are occasionally set up to benefit free legal services in various parts of the country, either through a last will and testament of a wealthy patron, or by large organizations such as the two trust funds that support the legal services throughout the state of Ohio. The interest from these funds can be a steady source of support for struggling legal providers, relieving much of the worry from beleaguered workers.
But almost every provider of community legal services incorporates volunteer help into many aspects of their day to day operation. Volunteers function in nearly every facet, from office help to administration to fund raising itself. And of course, lawyers both new and retired volunteer their time to help the underserved members of a community get the legal advice and help they need.
From Community Legal Services Philadelphia to Community Legal Centres in Australia, people are getting the access to legal services that they would not be able to otherwise afford. If you are interested in making a difference, find your local legal center and see what you can do to help.