Equity in Legal Protection: Results

Equity in Legal Protection: Results

Highlights of progress through September 2010

Strategy: Help low-income residents receive affordable, quality legal and advocacy services to better understand and protect their rights

Overall, the number of low-income residents receiving legal services exceeded what was anticipated, largely due to increased demand from the economic downturn and resulting adjustments made to service delivery models by all three grantees. Legal education, provided to low-income residents through clinics (often at offsite locations in West and southern Marin), has become an important vehicle to address higher client demand; in particular, clinics on evictions, foreclosures, and bankruptcy have been very heavily attended.
MCF funding has been critical to organizational stability during the recession. Grantees have been able to avoid staff layoffs and have reduced anticipated operating deficits, but they had to rely on reserves to close remaining gaps in 2010 and will likely need to do so again in 2011.

Through focus groups of Marin safety-net agencies, providers shared their current successes and challenges related to connecting clients with legal services. Many clients accessing safety-net services share common legal needs around landlord/tenant issues, divorce/child custody issues, and domestic violence. Over half of providers’ clients presented legal needs, with a steep increase in demand due to the economic downturn and immigration developments in 2010.

Economic fallout has had ripple effects. For example, domestic violence and divorce rates have been shown to increase with financial stress, and fewer eligible immigrants are able to pay fees for the citizenship exam.

The recently passed FY11 federal budget included $15.8 million in mid-year cuts to the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), a major source of funding for legal aid organizations across the country. These cutbacks have not as yet directly impacted our grantees, but the general lack of support from national sources underscores the critical importance that MCF funding holds for local providers.

MCF grants have also supported leadership development and innovation. For example, Family & Children’s Law Center developed a new low-cost mediation program using pro-bono attorneys as an alternative to going to court.

Balancing unmet legal needs with organizations’ limited resources will continue to be a challenge for the foreseeable future. In addition, a growing segment of Marin’s middle class is without the resources to afford private services, but they don’t qualify for community-based services dedicated to those who have the least resources and are most in need.

By the numbers:

Area of Measurement For period 4/09-9/10 Goal of Five-Year Plan
Number of low-income residents receiving legal and advocacy services 7,243 18,500
Amount of pro-bono legal support for clients $1,888,476 $6.4 million
Percentage of clients reporting satisfaction with services received 89% 80%
Percentage of clients surveyed who report being better prepared to interact with the legal system 85% 85%
Number of low-income residents receiving legal education 2,532 1,630 in Year 5

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