Riverside — Inland Counties Legal Services was awarded a $435,404 Pro Bono Innovation Fund grant from Legal Services Corporation, which allow the nonprofit to expand legal aid in Riverside and San Bernardino counties through volunteerism.
The funding will be used to complete an assessment of the current pro bono barriers and opportunities, to hire a pro bono director and to engage a diverse range of volunteers who will assist eligible clients with legal issues, including housing, domestic violence, healthcare, education, public benefits, debt collection lawsuits, immigration and bankruptcy.
“This is monumental for Inland Counties Legal Services and the number of cases we are able to take on,” Inland Counties Legal Services Executive Director Darrell Moore said. “While we wish we could help everyone that comes to us, sometimes that is not the case, especially in areas of high demand like housing and domestic violence. With this grant and buy-in from the local legal community, we will be able to move the needle in meeting our community’s needs.”
Inland Counties Legal Services — the largest legal services organization providing services in Riverside and San Bernardino counties — started its pro bono program in 2019 and has seen slow but steady growth in volunteers and pro bono initiatives. One of the strongpoints has been a small business legal clinic, funded through a One Justice Development Grant, that connects eligible small business owners with pro bono attorneys for one-on-one consultations.
The clinic serves as an example of the power of pro bono — dozens of business owners in the community have utilized this service to review contracts, to get help choosing the correct corporate entity when starting a business and learn about trademark protection.
With the Pro Bono Innovation Fund Grant, Inland Counties Legal Services will be even better suited to expand efforts like the small business clinic, while continuing to provide and expand their legal services to those who otherwise couldn’t afford it.
Such legal services can be life changing to residents who need it.
“Pro bono legal services in the Inland Empire are essential to working families,” Rep. Norma Torres, CA-35, said. “Modernizing our pro bono programs is also essential, especially with the quality of services or residents are able to receive. I’m proud Inland Counties Legal Services is receiving this critical federal funding from Legal Services Corporation, which will allow them to serve more residents and help prevent unfair evictions, protect victims of domestic abuse, and ensure seniors and veterans can access their benefits.”
While Inland Counties Legal Services and our community partners attempt to meet the community’s needs, there are residents who go without the legal help they need.
Last year, 74% of low-income households faced at least one civil legal problem, according to Legal Services Corporation’s recently released Justice Gap report. Low-income Americans received no or insufficient legal help for 92% of their substantial civil legal problems.
Expanding pro bono and other volunteer services will allow civil legal aid providers to better address these urgent, unmet needs.
“Everyone has the right to high-quality, affordable legal services,” Rep. Pete Aguilar, CA-31, said. “I am proud to see this federal funding go to advancing Inland Counties Legal Services’s pro bono program. Together, we can narrow the justice gap throughout the Inland Empire and ensure that no one falls through the cracks in our justice system. I look forward to seeing the results of this program for Inland Empire residents.”
Legal Services Corporation also awarded $383,696 to Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and $367,167 to California Rural Legal Assistance. These California grantees are three of 15 legal aid organizations receiving a grant. In total, LSC is awarding $4.75 million to support the growth of pro bono legal services for low-income Americans.
“I commend the Legal Services Corporation for their commitment to increasing Americans’ access to necessary legal assistance — regardless of their zip code or income level,” Senator Alex Padilla said. “This funding will help more Californians — from rural to urban communities — get pro bono legal assistance to navigate the justice system.”
“This is an incredible win for the Inland Empire that will help close the justice gap for low-income communities across the region,” Rep. Mark Takano, CA-41, said.