Frequently Asked Questions (January 2010)
1. Why does Legal Aid continue to raise money? Doesn't it get government monies?
Answer: Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma is a 501 (c) (3) organization that will always rely on the generosity of the legal community as well as the business and foundation
communities. Legal Aid receives funding from the following government entities:
- Legal Services Corporation - a national pass-through agency for Congressional funds supporting the largest portion of the budget.
- State of Oklahoma - to support family law work and the second largest funding source for Legal Aid.
- Title III Older American grants - to help with the legal problems of senior citizens.
- HUD monies - supporting legal work for Tulsa County homeless individuals
2. Does Legal Aid receive United Way funding?
Answer: United Way funding constitutes 5% of Legal Aid's $7 million budget. Legal Aid receives grants from 15Oklahoma United Ways and Community Funds: Ada, Grady County (Chickasha), Enid, Lawton, Muskogee, Norman, Oklahoma City, Pottawatomie, South Central Oklahoma (Ardmore), Southeastern Oklahoma (McAlester, Durant, Idabel), Stephens County (Duncan), Stillwater, Texas County (Guymon), Tulsa Area, and Woodward.
3. How long is this Campaign going to be?
Answer: The record-setting 2008 Campaign for Justice was a one-year effort which raised $732,195 which allowed Legal Aid to continue to improve it's statewide infrastructure tp afford greater access to justice for low-income and elderly Oklahomans. That mission is to "be a partner in the community making 'equal justice for all' a reality" by providing free civil legal assistance to eligible low-income persons and their families and to the elderly. Legal Aid and its enthusiastic volunteer fundraisers plan to return every year thereafter.
4. Can I make a pledge and pay it off during the year? Can I make a multi-year pledge? Do you accept credit cards?
Answer: Yes, yes and yes. The Campaign return envelope or pledge form will have space to indicate how you wish to pay your gift. Just let us know when you want a reminder or invoice. Legal Aid accepts Visa andMasterCard.
5. Does Legal Aid take cases from the private attorneys who struggle to support their practices?
Answer: The income eligibility guidelines for Legal Aid clients are so low that they would never be able to afford a private attorney. For instance, a family of four can only earn a maximum of $26,500 per year or $2,208.33 per month to qualify. These clients cannot pay for legal services and many of their legal problems center around their poverty. Legal Aid does not accept any fee generating cases, but instead refers them to private lawyers when those clients seek our help.
6. Why can't the cause of justice be served by private attorneys taking pro bono cases? Why do we need to pay Legal Aid attorneys?
Answer: Many attorneys recognize an ethical obligation to provide legal help to the poor. In 2008, 505 Legal Aid cases were handled and/or closed by private Oklahoma attorneys, with some attorneys taking over ten cases during the year. However, the need for legal services far exceeds the current capacity of pro bono attorneys and Legal Aid.
A three-month study in 2005 revealed that for every case Legal Aid accepted for assistance or representation, an equal number of cases were turned away due to lack of resources. There were just not enough Legal Aid attorneys, staff or pro bono. This is a critical gap in our justice system. William G. Paul, who successfully led the three-year Campaign for Legal Aid and who served as president of the American Bar Association in 2000, tells attorneys across the country that the most cost-effective method of providing legal services is through a fulltime Legal Aid program, staffed by attorneys who are trained in the areas of poverty law that so often burden low-income people. This model provides clients with the best counsel while freeing the private attorneys to practice law in their own areas of expertise.
7. What kind of cases does Legal Aid accept? Does it defend criminals or get involved in class action lawsuits?
Answer: Except for a contract with the city of Oklahoma City to provide municipal court defender services, Legal Aid may not assist with any criminal defense issues or representation of those who are incarcerated. Legal Aid attorneys in Oklahoma are prohibited from entering into any class action law suits. Because the demand far exceeds the capacity of staff attorneys to handle, even if the people or families qualify, those that are accepted generally meet a condition of immediate severity. Legal Aid attorneys have represented thousands of families who need legal help to escape domestic violence, protect their children, avoid homelessness, redress consumer fraud, overcome barriers to employment, and/or obtain medical care.
8. What are Legal Aid's priorities in the service it provides?
Answer: The priorities of Legal Aid attorneys are to first ensure the safety of their clients and then to work to secure food, housing, and a source of income. This work includes helping victims secure protection from domestic violence, helping individuals and families make the transition from welfare to work, handling cases that gain access to necessary health care services, helping individuals secure social security income and other benefits for which they legally qualify, insuring that poor families are able to maintain or secure safe and affordable housing and shelter, assisting individuals to gain access to education and training, and providing legal assistance on consumer and employment-related matters. In 2008, Legal Aid closed 20,212 cases and touched the lives of 15,324 Oklahoma children.