NASHVILLE, Tenn., Aug. 30, 2016 – Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands and the attorneys who assist the organization on a pro bono basis through its Volunteer Lawyers Program collectively provided Tennesseans with $23.3 million in free legal assistance and representation in 2015, the non-profit law firm announced today. That’s a 2.6 percent increase over 2014.
Throughout the year, Legal Aid Society handled a total of 7,022 cases for low-income families and individuals across the organization’s 48-county service area.
“These numbers continue to reflect the importance of legal advocacy across our region. Our staff and our volunteer attorneys spent more than 136,000 hours in 2015 providing critical free civil legal assistance to meet basic needs of Tennesseans who are low-income,” said Gary Housepian, Legal Aid Society’s executive director. “Every minute spent in the office, on the phone, in the courtroom—wherever we are—is focused directly on fairness in the civil justice system for our clients. Because when justice prevails, we all win.”
Legal Aid Society’s staff and volunteer attorneys provided assistance and representation over a wide variety of civic legal areas in 2015 including: Family (33 percent), housing (18 percent), consumer (14 percent), income maintenance (13 percent), miscellaneous (9 percent), health (7 percent), employment (5 percent) and individual rights issues (1 percent).
“In 2015 we also began to reach out proactively to people with criminal records through our new re-entry program,” Housepian added. “By helping those individuals experience fairness in securing housing, employment and health care as they rebuild their lives after prison, our goal is to help support their strengths and well-being, which can only contribute to building a better community for all of us. Through the help of a Skadden Fellow, we will increase these services in 2016.”
The efforts to advance justice stretch far beyond Legal Aid Society’s staff, which handled 4,974 cases. In 2015, 758 attorneys across Middle Tennessee and the Cumberland Plateau participated in the Volunteer Lawyers Program by providing pro bono services. The volunteer attorneys donated 5,161 hours of legal assistance, handled 2,029 cases and provided $1.8 million in free legal help to Tennesseans. An additional 126 cases were handled by contract attorneys.
“I don’t think we’ll ever feel like we’re doing enough—there are so many people out there who need access to legal help. But what we do makes a difference,” said Sal Varsalona, a volunteer attorney from Forrester & Varsalona and a member of Legal Aid Society’s Board of Directors. “It’s the gratitude and appreciation of clients that makes me come back clinic after clinic and continue to help.”
Additionally, in 2015 Legal Aid Society and its Volunteer Lawyers Program:
- Organized 76 free legal clinics with 1,447 attendees
- Obtained $2.4 million in financial benefits for taxpayers through the Tennessee Taxpayer Project
- Collected for the IRS $72,850 in revenue from closed cases and $130,806 in worked cases
In addition to free legal assistance, Legal Aid Society offers free legal education to Tennesseans through self-help brochures for common legal problems and community presentations. Legal Aid Society distributed 64,607 self-help brochures in 2015—a 42 percent increase from 2014. Its website had 259,543 hits – a 6 percent increase from 2014. The organization also coordinated 733 free legal educational seminars in 2015 with almost 29,400 attendees. This is a 402 percent increase in attendance from the 5,858 attendees in 2014.
Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands advocates for fairness and justice under the law. The non-profit law firm offers free civil legal representation and educational programs to help people in its region receive justice, protect their well-being and support opportunities to overcome poverty. It serves 48 counties from offices in Clarksville, Columbia, Cookeville, Gallatin, Murfreesboro, Nashville, Oak Ridge and Tullahoma. Legal Aid Society is funded in part by United Way. Learn more at www.las.org, or by following the firm on Facebook.