How do we preserve the idea that justice is for all, including the poorest and most vulnerable among us, who cannot afford to hire legal representation? Civil legal aid plays an important role in matters that are non-criminal in nature, including issues surrounding stable housing, immigration, employment discrimination, domestic violence, and healthcare disputes.
AmeriCorps members serve around the country in an effort to increase the capacity of these organizations to provide civil legal aid.
AmeriCorps Legal Advocates of Massachusetts
One of these AmeriCorps program that helps build capacity and access for legal services in undeserved communities is the AmeriCorps Legal Advocates (ALA) program of Massachusetts, which has been placing members at partner sites since 2005. Members provide direct client service, and many of them are college or law school graduates interested in a law career. As one member stated, they “leave the program with the commitment and burden of continuing the fight against poverty through legal advocacy”.
ALA-MA “advocates receive training and supervision by legal professionals, and are exposed to a range of activities, including client communications, eligibility determinations, case development, legal research and writing, and hearings,” according to their website.
Other programs filling the need for legal advocacy and placing AmeriCorps members in a legal setting include JusticeCorps, whose members serve in court-based, self-help centers in several California metropolitan areas, and the Iowa Legal Corps.