Why Get Involved?
The need is great, the responsibility profound
Many lawyers feel a profound sense of responsibility to do pro bono work and most find they gain great personal satisfaction from doing so. The great majority of lawyers provide pro bono service of some nature. The need for more involvement, especially in helping those who cannot afford legal representation, is great.
Survey found 77 percent of low-income households have a legal problem
In 2002 Missouri Legal Services, with funding from the Missouri Bar Foundation, employed Professor Greg Casey to survey the needs of the poor for legal services. The October 2002 survey found that during the three years before the report, 77% of low-income households faced at least one legal problem (190,172 households containing 507,760 persons). Many households experienced multiple legal problems. The average number of legal problems per household was six.
Most of these households are unable to obtain legal help
Most of these households were not able to obtain legal assistance. Funding for Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is constantly under attack and under threat of reduction. And current funding levels are far from adequate. Moreover, LSC is required to address the needs of the most vulnerable first. To obtain assistance from Legal Services, a person must have an income at or below 125% of poverty level ($12,763 per year for one person). And Legal Services is prohibited by law to provide assistance to incarcerated persons and, because of ethics rules that the Supreme Court of Missouri places on all lawyers, Legal Services isn't able to help both parties due to conflict of interest.
Limited resources require prioritization even for those eligible
Even as to those eligible, because of limited funding and resources, Legal Services must prioritize case areas that can be served in order to focus legal assistance to those most in need. As a result, at the time that the survey was conducted, Legal Services was only able to serve 25 percent.
Based on this report over 63,000 households each year have at least one legal problem needing an attorney and more than 47,000 (75%) could not receive help through Legal Services. Note: The 47,000 does not include persons who were outside of federal poverty level eligibility threshold that Congress sets for LSC. The simple fact is that there is a great need to address the problem of access to justice for many needy households.
Other entities also trying to fill the gap, but falling short
Legal Services Corporations aren't the only ones trying to fill the need when it comes to providing legal services to the poor. However, these entities (not-for-profit organizations) also struggle to close the gap. These entities/organizations might be associated with law schools, faith-based or social service organizations or they may serve a particular societal group.
Universal fact: organizations cannot meet need without pro bono lawyers
While increased funding for LSC or large monetary contributions to not-for-profit entities serving the legal needs of the low-income citizen would make a great difference, the fact remains that the most critical and indispensable key to solving this problem is for lawyers to provide pro bono services.
Search for and find an opportunity to help an entity, help others here
If you want to use your education, skill and knowledge to be part of the solution, this site is designed to help you find an organization that could use your help. Go to the search function to find the right fit for you.