Arkansas Legal Services Partnership

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The Arkansas Legal Services Partnership is a consortium of two nonprofit legal services programs, the Center for Arkansas Legal Services and Legal Aid of Arkansas, that works together to provide free civil legal assistance to low-income residents throughout Arkansas.

According to its website [1], its vision is to “improve the lives of low-income Arkansas by championing equal access to justice for all regardless of economic or social circumstances."

Background[edit]

The Center for Arkansas Legal Services (CALS) and Legal Aid of Arkansas (LAA) are 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations that provide free legal services to low-income individuals residing in the state of Arkansas in civil (non-criminal) cases, ranging from family to consumer and housing to individual rights cases. Together the two programs serve clients in all seventy-five counties in Arkansas. CALS, headquartered in Little Rock, serves 44 counties while LAA, based in Jonesboro, serves 31 counties.

Services[edit]

The Arkansas Legal Services Partnership handles the following areas of law:

  • Family Law (e.g. Custody-Visitation, Domestic Abuse, and Guardianship)
  • Consumer Law (e.g. Bankruptcy, Contracts, and Garnishments)
  • Housing Law (e.g. Landlord/Tenant, Federal Housing, Evictions, Homeownership)
  • Public Benefits Law (e.g. Social Security, Medicaid, SSI, Medicare)
  • Family Law (e.g., custody, visitation, guardianships)
  • Elder Law

According to its annual report, Arkansas Legal Services Partnership handles more domestic violence cases than any other type of case. Data shows that if a victim of domestic abuse gets a divorce and custody of children, he/she is more likely to leave the abusive situation.

The vast majority of clients contact the program through a statewide toll-free HelpLine, jointly operated by the two programs. Once financial eligibility is determined and a case opened, services may include:

  • Legal advice used to empower the clients to resolve the problem themselves (71% of completed cases)
  • Limited service from an attorney or paralegal to help clients resolve their problems (e.g. sends a letter or makes a phone call)
  • Full representation by an attorney (staff attorney or volunteer attorney from the private sector)

In addition, the Arkansas Legal Services Partnership operates an online legal library and community education programs. [2]

Helpline[edit]

Both the Center for Arkansas Legal Services and Legal Aid of Arkansas operate a statewide Helpline where clients are determined eligibility and what level of service is needed. Clients are assisted differently depending on their unique situation: some receive legal advice over the telephone; some receive detailed information sent by mail; others are provided brief services such as filing a form; and still others are referred to a staff or volunteer attorney for legal representation. In 2006 the Statewide HelpLine received 24,938 calls, opened 11,268 cases, but could not assist 10,115 callers because of resource shortages. The statewide toll-free Helpline number is 1-800-9LAW Aid (1-800-952-9243).

Eligibility[edit]

Legal assistance is provided to eligible clients without charge. Clients may be required to pay court costs and other fees incidental to litigation. Clients must meet income and asset guidelines as well as case priorities. With some exceptions, clients must have incomes below 125% of the Federal Poverty guidelines which varies based on household size.[3]

Arkansas Pro Bono Partnership[edit]

The Arkansas Pro Bono Partnership is a collaborative effort to improve and expand the reach of pro bono activities in the state. Sanctioned by the Arkansas Bar Association, the Partnership is charged with coordinating the recruitment, responsibilities, and recognition of volunteer attorneys. The Arkansas Pro Bono Partnership is staffed by the Arkansas Legal Services Partnership. The following comprise the Arkansas Pro Bono Partnership:

  • Equal Access to Justice Panel
  • River Valley Volunteer Attorney Project
  • VOCALS
  • Arkansas Volunteer Lawyers for the Elderly (AVLE)

External links[edit]