Legal Aid Society seeks more pro bono attorneys for Western Tidewater

Published 5:00 pm Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Virginia Legal Aid Society, a Lynchburg-based nonprofit law firm that provides legal information, advice and representation in civil cases to underprivileged individuals and families in Virginia, is attempting to double its number of pro bono volunteer attorneys in small cities and rural areas.

To that end, they have recently launched a program titled “Building Pro Bono Capacity in a Small-City and Rural Service Area,” which will include the creation of local task forces of private attorneys, judges and legal aid staff to recruit and support new pro bono participation, a clinical program with Liberty University School of Law, and continued development of a statewide online pro bono portal.

Though the program will focus on recruiting new pro bono participation in the Danville, Farmville and Suffolk areas, the Franklin and Southampton area, which currently has only one pro bono attorney from the Legal Aid Society, may also benefit.

“We hope to significantly increase that number over the next two years,” said Michael G. Stulz, a managing attorney with the Virginia Legal Aid Society’s Suffolk office.

Currently, more than 600 private lawyers work in the six-city, 20-county region served by the Virginia Legal Aid Society, which extends from Lynchburg and Danville to the Western Tidewater area. Approximately 170 of them provide free legal services to the low-income clients the Legal Aid Society serves, and closed 151 cases last year. According to Stulz, data from the Virginia State Bar shows approximately 24 attorneys in the Franklin and Southampton area.

The clinical partnership with Liberty University School of Law will involve up to eight students who will represent low-income clients each semester with case supervision and support by legal aid and private attorneys.

“Liberty University School of Law is excited about and proud of our new partnership with VLAS,” said B. Keith Faulkner, dean of Liberty Law in a press release by VLAS. “The opportunity to partner with an organization dedicated to helping our local community and the Commonwealth is exciting. Our students will benefit from learning practical skills alongside a quality group of attorneys. Our talented faculty and the dedicated men and women at VLAS will work together to inspire our students to help those whoa re often the most vulnerable in our communities and impact their lives.”

More than 140,000 people in VLAS’s service area are eligible to receive free legal aid on civil cases covering housing, access to healthcare, income and public benefits, family issues, consumer lending and assets.

“We have found that systematic local peer recruitment, early exposure to pro bono work, and ease of case selection are keys to a successful pro bono program,” said David Neumeyer, Executive Director of VLAS. “Our new program combines all three elements to serve our entire service area and support the rest of the Commonwealth. We are grateful for the Legal Services Corporation funding and the partnership with Liberty University that makes it possible.”

Legal Services Corporation is a not-for-profit company established by Congress in 1974 to fund legal aid programs