Creating Client-Centered

State Communities of Justice





The Hotel Hershey
Hershey, Pennsylvania
April 25-28, 2001








Text Box: A Conference Sponsored by the 
Legal Services Corporation




For three days in April, 2001, LSC brought together 51 representatives of the legal services community—program staff at all levels, client board members and representatives of community organizations, and other stakeholders, including state IOLTA Directors, a judge, and a private attorney who chairs a state planning committee, as well as 25 guests, representing national organizations, and LSC staff—to discuss a broad range of issues relating to the broad theme of “creating client centered communities of justice.” All of the participants have been involved in one way or another in client-centered activities in their home states and all made a commitment to follow up with client centered initiatives at home when they returned from the conference. LSC selected the participants from among the applicants with an effort to reflect a broad range of diversity—by program role, race, gender, and type of experience.  

LSC identified the objectives of the conference as:  

The conference was truly designed to be a “conversation.” No effort was made to achieve consensus or to reach conclusions or decisions. Rather, the goal was for participants to share their thoughts and ideas and listen to one another. The LSC design team—Ernestine Watlington, Edna Fairbanks-Williams, Randi Youells, Michael Genz, Robert Gross, Reginald Haley, and Regina Derzon—and Facilitator John Tull created a structure designed to promote informal, open-ended discussion. Before the conference, as a stimulus to discussion, participants were provided with a group of papers addressing a variety of different issues from a range of different perspectives. At the conference, the authors of some of the papers, along with a few other participants, made brief presentations about particular client-centered initiatives they are involved in. Some discussion took place in plenary sessions, but much of the conference was devoted to discussion in small groups. There were four randomly-chosen small groups, each led by a team consisting of one client representative and one staff person (program or national). Small groups discussion in the first two days of the conference focused on changes affecting client communities; models for client centered legal services; and technology-based delivery of services. The key points of these discussions were noted on flip charts, but no final report was made back to the plenary session. On Saturday, the final day of the conference,  each participant was asked to respond in writing to three questions:  

These questions served as the basis for the last small group discussions, which were reported back to the plenary group as part of the final conversation of the conference.  

Participants were enthusiastic about the value and quality of the discussion and urged that it be continued in other contexts. In the final session, facilitator John Tull summarized the main themes that had emerged during the conference as:  

The richness of what is going on at the program and state level. Participants heard about a number of exciting initiatives that are very different, but all client centered in their own ways. Those that generated the most discussion were community economic development, holistic approaches to delivering services, technology based delivery mechanisms, and involvement of client councils in building leadership and capacity in low-income communities. In John’s words, “We all felt that we learned a great deal we had not known before. We are all taking away more than we brought.”  

The need for broader connections and new partnerships. Participants spoke of “getting out of the legal services box,” breaking down institutional barriers, and finding new and different ways to engage with client communities and other agencies and groups who work with them.  

The importance of involving clients in the delivery of legal services and the need for greater inclusiveness in client representation. Participants stressed the importance of involving clients in legal services in meaningful ways at all levels of the system. In light of the increasing diversity of country, it is especially important that programs reach out to emerging communities.  

The need for capacity building at national, state and program levels. Institutional structures for including the client viewpoint need to be strengthened at all levels. Providing training and capacity building within the client community must be a key role of these structures.  

The need for continuing conversations.  Many conference participants commented on the high quality of the discussion at the conference and the fact that people were really listening attentively to one another. Participants agreed about the need to build on and expand the discussion at the conference, through newly created structures that will make it possible to broaden the discussion to include others in the community.  

Discussion in the plenary sessions and small groups focused on the following major areas:  

The following sections report on these discussions in more detail. A final section reports on discussion concerning the value of the “conversation” begun at the conference and the need to continue and expand it in the future.  

About This Report


This Report was drafted by Robert Echols, an independent consultant engaged by LSC to serve as the reporter for the conference.  

The Report aims to capture the vitality and the “conversational” nature of the conference. Much of it consists of direct quotations from individuals, with a minimum of characterization or paraphrase by the reporter. 

All of the statements in italics are direct quotations by individual participants. They come from one of two sources: the individual written “insight” forms, described above; or notes taken by the reporter during the plenary sessions and some parts of the small group sessions.

Any text included in brackets [like this] was added to make clear that the comment was made in response to a particular question.  

The reports of discussions in the small groups are based on the flip charts made during the session. These were transcribed by LSC and circulated to participants after the conference.


In the opening plenary session, Alan Houseman presented an overview of his conference paper on the demographic and other changes affecting client communities and the new legal issues that are emerging as a result. While emphasizing the importance of looking beyond the census data, which under-reports data about many issues affecting low-income people, participants confirmed that these changes were having a major impact on their communities and the communities they serve.  

In small groups, participants were asked to discuss the following questions: “What’s happening in your community (changes in who clients are, changes in clients’ lives, emerging legal issues facing low-income people)? What should legal services providers/state justice communities be doing in response?”  

The changes in client communities and clients’ lives mentioned in the discussions include the following: 

The following were identified as emerging legal issues:  

Some specific suggestions offered in response to the question, “How should legal services be responding to these changes?,” included the following:  

The following broader approaches were also identified. They are discussed more fully in the sections that follow:  

In the opening plenary and a subsequent plenary devoted to State Justice Communities, several participants expressed their opposition to LSC’s role in reconfiguring programs in their states, arguing that the results were counter to the goal of “client-centered communities of justice.” These concerns resurfaced in a few written comments:  

In some states, the struggles over configuration have gotten out of control. The potential value has been less than the damage they have caused. From what I have seen, configuration decisions have not involve much in the way of client input.  

LSC should back off of configuration (but not state planning).  

Quality and breadth of service is the issue, not mere reconfiguration.  

Others expressed support for LSC’s state planning initiative as a positive agent for necessary change. Still others expressed the view that programs affected by configuration decisions should put their frustration behind them and move on to address the concerns of clients.  

I was surprised at the anger many people have toward LSC, especially with regard to the push for statewide programs. The anger and resistance to change could seriously harm clients in these communities for some time.  

In my state, the programs have merged. It was hard, but the merging gave them a statewide scope of work. The system is client-centered. It’s up to us as clients to help make it be what we want it to be.  

In my state, state planning has increased services, especially for people in rural areas.  

LSC President John McKay responded that LSC had encouraged states to include clients in their planning processes and pledged to redouble LSC’s efforts to ensure that the client perspective was heard. He also stated that the overall objective of state planning has been to expand services to clients through expanding resources at the state level. He emphasized LSC’s support for efforts in the areas of community education and community economic development, as well as a special concern about access to services for the rural poor.  

Throughout the conference, participants stressed the importance of involving clients and bringing a client perspective to state planning processes.  

State planning needs to have a broader focus on what’s happening in client lives, not just designing a legal “system.”  

State planning should be more client-centered.  

We are inviting powerful organizations to help make decisions about service—the judiciary; the Bar; private attorneys; the attorney general, the legislature; other agencies serving clients. They are removed from clients. They can discount staff. Clients must be in the room.  

Many of the themes raised in these opening sessions were discussed in more depth in the following days, as reported in the following sections.


In plenary sessions, participants heard presentations about models representing different approaches to “client-centered legal services.” The models were selected from projects described in papers submitted for the conference or projects that people attending the conference were involved in. The models presented were not intended to represent all of the possibilities, but rather to illustrate the range of different approaches that can be successful. The models presented were:  

In small groups, participants talked about ways that they might apply these different approaches in their own programs and states. Among the general points that emerged were the following:  

Some specific issues or approaches that were mentioned include:  

The discussions and the individual written comments about the insights that the participants had gained from the conference make it clear that participants were excited about the rich potential of the various models that were discussed. Many people commented that they had learned a great deal about different ways of solving problems and expressed their enthusiasm about what they had heard. Although several participants noted that the words “client-centered” and “empowerment” mean different things to different people, overall the participants were enthusiastic about the diversity of approaches.  

The programs presented are a great incentive for participants to either work on the same idea or expand to meet the clients needs. The suggestions and ideas make me realize that with the “I can attitude” our programs can implement changes to meet our clients’ needs. CDBG and other suggestions can make a difference to our clients,. We ought to try. All the projects can change lives in positive way.  

Wonderful client-centered ideas for use by my domestic violence program….this has given me some ideas on how to improve our legal services “thinking out of the box.” I thought of ways to provide better, innovative service. 

A client-centered approach should embrace all ranges of assistance—community economic development, technology, pro se, individual lawyering. We need to “think out of the box” (A term I hate) and develop more approaches to serve client (but serve them in a way that meaningfully resolves the issues rather than apply a band-aid).  

Many participants spoke of the importance of adopting a more inclusive, holistic approach to providing services—working with a broader array of providers and approaching the client as an whole person rather than a “legal problem.”  

We need to break down institutional barriers. Other agencies and groups provide doorways to client and clients provide doorways to other groups.  

Legal services needs to get out of its box and connect with the community in new ways – e.g. use technology to link community agencies to legal aid, train hospitals to spot legal issues, have a presence in court houses or similar places where clients are. “Community lawyering” has different meaning to different people but it needs to be anchored in what clients need, not what legal aid lawyers think is best. To determine client needs requires that providers connect with client communities in new ways.  

We must reach out to more than the justice community, to a broader coalition.  

Programs should be more inclusive in developing strategies and programs for the communities served.  

We need to make lists for all programs of who their partners could be and train the lawyers and client board members to reach out to these organizations and train them to work with each other. Each program must be forced to interact with the public organizations in a way that promotes the welfare of the community at large and the feeling that everybody is one big family helping each other with all programs….the churches can help in many ways and are not asked enough to do their share. The churches know the problems of their people and can convene group discussions and make people feel like they are one in the community with everybody. This will achieve empowerment for all. 

We have to get a away from “just us” mentality and look at the needs of the client community more broadly. There are lots of client who are involved in other networks, for example, the disability network. Our clients are not just the people who know us, but the people who don’t know us as well, the people who relate to other entities.  

Look at people needs—not just legal needs.  

We have to work more closely with other programs. All of the programs should get away from protecting their turf and collaborate more. 

Many participants identified Community Economic Development as an approach that should be promoted. Client involvement was seen as a key component.  

CED work can be an effective method for involving clients and creating bridges and collaborations with other agencies. 

LSC needs to hear about the need for community economic development. It’s something that we can do for communities as a whole and that give hope to communities.  

Legal services lawyers should be assisting, but not leading, movements for change.  

We must redefine case work to include economic development.  

Importance of the EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) to community economic development.  

Need to work more on CED—tax credit effort—tax clinics.  

A number of participants emphasized the importance of openness to change in the legal services community.  

Local legal services leaders—directors, long-time staff, long-time board members, including long-time client board members—need to be more open to change and learn to deal with it—apart from personal self-interest—so emerging needs of clients are served.  

Change, change, change—it’s coming. Programs will have to be innovative or be swallowed up in programs that are willing to be innovative in meeting the unmet needs of clients. Our job descriptions simply cannot remain the same and we must be open-minded to new ideas and new faces of ideas, because we are simply not providing services to as many eligible people if we maintain the current delivery of services…My small program must come to grips in realizing that change in order to facilitate more effective delivery of services. The fight will be convincing the program, the easy part will be becoming stronger via partnerships with other agencies that service people as we do, once the fight with the program is over. Network, network, network…use models, ideas from others who have been successful. [The role of LSC should be] guidance, rather than expecting improved performance by mandating it—provide programs with their expertise.  

Programs and leaders need to welcome change and improve their ability to listen to different perspectives and work in multiple, flexible ways.  

To be receptive and view our work on a continuum instead of absolutes. No matter how effective we may believe our system to be there will not be change and improvement without this receptiveness. 

Many participants identified the range of diverse, creative client-centered models presented at the conference as one of the high points of the event. Overall, participants were extremely enthusiastic about the richness of what they heard. As will be reported in more detail below, many participants recommended that LSC serve as a clearinghouse for information about initiatives of this type.


Technology-based systems for delivering legal services—support for pro se/self-representation, hotlines/ telephone-based intake, advice and referral systems, web sites, email/list serves—emerged as one of the central subjects of discussion at the conference. Issues relating to technology came up in one way or another in all of the small group sessions. In addition, one set of small groups sessions was devoted to entirely to discussion of technology-based delivery methods.  

Bob Cohen, Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society of Orange County, California, made a presentation about the program’s I-CAN! project, a system designed to help clients to fill out judicial forms on their own. I-CAN! uses a sophisticated, touch-screen computer with audio and visual components to provide explanations and ask questions that the client answers to complete a particular form. It then prints the form and instructs the client where and how to file it. Users can respond to questions in a language other than English and have the form printed out in English. I-CAN! “kiosks” are currently housed in two locations: the Orange County Superior Courts Family Law Center and the offices of Legal Aid Society. Bob emphasized that the service did not represent a substitute for representation by an attorney, but rather provided support to people who were currently going without any assistance at all.  

In discussions, participants identified a number of problems or challenges associated with the use of technology:  

Participants also discussed a number of potential problems or issues associated with providing services that are less than full representation (advice, referral, support for self-help):  

Among the arguments raised by those supporting the expansion of technology-based services were the following:  

Participants discussed the potential of technology-based delivery methods for improving services to clients in a variety of ways:  

Participants agreed that providers need to be careful that technology-based systems are implemented in ways that actually serve clients:  

In their written comments, a number of people identified the potential of technology for improving services to clients as one of the major insights that they had gained from the conference:

Technology can radically expand the availability of certain simple services.  

Importance of our community’s involvement in the creation of technology to expand access to public services. 

[Insight:] the changed substantive environment in which clients must live, particularly the opportunities and pitfalls of the advancing technology revolution.  

We will never get away from the individual one on one service—this is the backbone of LSC programs—but with the future of technology and economic development we can also help many more.  

Technology will be an important link to clients and we must be ahead of that curve.  

If we don’t expand technology someone else might and they will not approach it from  the same perspective. 

National organizations need to ensure that state organizations use technology to provide for client self-help at every level and be responsive to needs to clients.  

Technology is inevitable and needs to be implemented in client-friendly ways.  

We need to continue to push to have legal services people understand and embrace how technology can help our clients and legal services in delivering services. Need to make sure that rural as well as urban areas have technology resources.

  Some participants focused on the need to provide support to self-represented people:  

Legal services must provide focused, in-depth assistance to the large group of people who are self-represented in courts and administrative agencies. 

I continue to reject the nation that technology and pro se programs will create a two-tiered system—there is already a two-tiered system and the bottom tier comprises pro se litigants who receive no assistance.  

People being able to help themselves legally and getting information and training to overcome poverty.  

We should not set up a dichotomy between individual clients and the low-income community as a whole or between pro se and more extended representation—all are necessary.  

However, a few participants disagreed about the potential of these approaches.  

In our state, we have established a hotline and created videos and so on. It’s still not enough. Clients are not being served by technology and pro se.

Direction from Washington is inconsistent with the value of client-centeredness. There is an increased emphasis on doing something for everyone, pressure to do more cases. This can disrupt relationships with individual clients and client groups and is potentially destructive of the core values of legal services.  

Our attorneys want to work on cases, they don’t want to be on the phone. Clients can’t help themselves in the judicial system.  

As discussed more fully below, a number of participants stressed the importance of providing support and training for clients in the use of technology.  

The discussions about technology and its “opportunities and pitfalls” proved to be some of the most stimulating of the conference. This was also an area in which individuals who espoused differing points of view frequently found in discussing their concerns that their differences were less great that they originally supposed. Certainly there was broad consensus that technology is a tool, not an end in itself, and that technology-based delivery methods cannot substitute for full legal representation where it is needed.


Much of the discussion throughout the conference focused on different models for client participation, involvement, and engagement, and for ensuring that legal services are provided in ways that are client-centered. Key themes that emerged include:  

Individual comments reflected these themes:  

Successful legal services can only happen where there is a vital, active client community with its own voice. We need to work to create and sustain new leaders in the client community.  

A very good reminder of the importance of involving clients/client community representatives in the process. 

[Insight:] the importance of client involvement in the delivery of legal services…and the lack of client involvement in my state.  

White lawyers need to pay better attention to what is happening to the minority/low-income population, particularly in litigation/legal issues that affect that population. We need to be conscious and remind ourselves of the reality of white privilege. Money can lead to class divisions and we are here to make a level playing field for all concerned. 

Our client leaders have much to offer to the broader community. They can teach our programs and our program partners a lot. They can also teach other client leaders (in a broader community) about what it means to show leadership. 

The clients at this conference demonstrated the creative, insightful and critical role that powerful clients must play at all levels of decision-making in legal services. Together we are vibrant.  

Clients need to be involved – it needs to be real.  

I really saw how important client participation is. I know I want to be more involved with my local agency as a client rep. I will be more into the community, educating possible clients.  

[Insight:] Just how involved some clients can be in their programs.  

More client involvement is needed.  

Decision-making groups … at national and state levels at staff, board, and communities of justice level must reflect the client communities we serve (race, culture, national origin, income backgrounds) to the maximum extent possible.  

My program is way ahead of the curve and must continue to be so. Our client board members encourage us to expand our services beyond traditional legal services.  

Need to form true partnerships between attorneys and clients. (This is not a problem in my state. There is a partnership relationship that exists.) 

Clients need to be more involved at the local, state, and national level in understanding the current environment surrounding federal legal services and in planning for the future. There is a need for renewal of effort in involving clients in the access to justice struggle and in my state we need to have legal services leaders rededicate themselves to spending time and money developing client leaders… I plan to be a leader in developing some kind of client council in my state.  

Participants stressed the importance of ensuring that clients are representative of their communities and that the whole spectrum of client communities are represented. Some stressed the need for continuing development of new client leadership.  

Need to insure that all cultures are represented—in whatever context makes sense. Need to be sure that client representatives speak from all points of view of client community.  

Client councils occasionally require new blood.  

Need for increasing client diversity.  

Need to develop improved communication with broader client communities.  

The community needs to develop new client leaders and new staff leaders—longtime leaders may need to step aside.  

Client Board members need to go back and be accountable to the community. There are lots of clients who have no relationships with client communities.  

Need to raise up new client leaders form emerging immigrant groups.  

Participants discussed the need for capacity-building to support client involvement at the program, state, and national levels, including institutional structures both for ensuring consideration of the client perspective and for developing and supporting leadership within client communities. Specific models that were mentioned were:  

Our state should begin forming a client council. We rely too much on what we think we know from clients who walk in the door.  

The Georgia Clients Council provides a particularly good example of clients who are advocates (getting public housing set up) and trainers (training other clients in leadership skills) and active in the support for legal services—letter writing campaigns.  

[In my state] consider funding a position to work with client councils or at least have the Community Economic Development unit work with client board members (they have board training module) to get them involved in advocacy and outreach; could perhaps work toward rehabilitating the state Client Council.  

Client organizations with a strong institutional base are more likely to be better informed and capable of bringing a powerful voice to the room rather than a token presence. Due to budget cuts, reorganizations and crisis, most LSC grantees have fallen away from supporting strong client councils and other institutions that support a powerful client voice. At this moment in history, as we broaden our communities of justice, it is more critical than ever that there be a powerful client voice at all levels of decision making.  

There should be regular meetings of clients at national level. There should be a strategic plan for client involvement at every level.  

There is an attitude of exclusion and culture of exclusion—the talents of clients, while acknowledged as being important, don’t appear to be actively sought out, recruited, and enhanced. This group, the board of the program I’m from and my guess, most programs, are not reflective of the communities we are or should be serving. [Changes in my program/ state should include] ensuring greater client involvement, not only in numbers, but more importantly in leadership opportunities and with increased responsibilities. While we have done very holistic state planning, the next step for my state should be a new initiative on client participation. 

 [Insights:] Absence of historical/institutional perspective/discussion; limited vision of client capabilities and as partners; people’s vested self-interest prevents “servant-hood.” As a national community, can we start over? mission/purpose: defining justice—more than the courts? Creating justice synergy.  

[Insight:] The weakness of client council nationwide and the need for closer networking and communicating with other areas, especially on a worker/client basis. Need to push client council interests to first place on LSC agenda; push for meaningful regional meetings to continue exchanging ideas and offering support. LSC should be partners working with people.  

Participants saw LSC as playing a leading role in developing these capacities and promoting client-centered legal services in other ways. Potential LSC initiatives that were mentioned included:  

LSC needs to be very clear about what organizations need to do. For example, a set of directives, etc. Some organizations need direction because without it, they would chose to remain stagnant, despite the fact that our client base and their problems are ever-changing.  

LSC should mandate client board member skills and leadership development; fund a national client organization; intentionally incorporate client empowerment in legal services delivery system models (capacity-building, not just client councils); continue the conversation(s).  

LSC should support client groups with training opportunities and other assistance.  

LSC can help establish a clearinghouse for client council resources.  

There is fear in working with client groups and others because folks feel this might be taken as grassroots lobbying. LSC can send out suggestions based on successful projects throughout the national and welcome other programs to try such innovations.  

[LSC should] redefine case reporting to include possible impact.  

LSC should fund networking among clients and training for client board members from each legal services service area in all needed areas, such as technology, legal issues, training of trainers, etc.  

If LSC mandates “encouragement for different approaches” then Directors and staff will be more willing to come out of their comfortable zone to develop and implement new changes. Technology plays a role—a big role—but is not the only way. Small steps can also help clients. Also, LSC can encourage programs that want to try new approaches to visit, connect, or somehow make things easier so the people that already did the program can “mentor” the other program. Does LSC keep track of all the innovative ideas in a way that other programs can have access to it? That can be first step to network agencies throughout the country. This is a great opportunity to help and expose other programs to excellent ideas and projects already going on. LSC can expand their own network for cooperative work. If LSC reaches out then other agencies can participate in areas that LSC has restrictions.  

LSC should develop client leadership and make sure that at least the client board members have a computer.  

[LSC and national organizations should] collect best practices and share info, provide training devoted to new ways of working in the community and to active, holistic intake.  

[LSC and national organizations should] work in collaboration and partnerships with other client-based organizations.  

[Role of LSC:] (1) model, require cultural changes in exploring new ways of expecting and responding to changes. An example is Head Start programs must do a community needs assessment every three years that is broader requirement than LSC’s priority-setting requirement. A community needs assessment would look not only at priority legal issues, but also demographic information, location of facilities in response, changing external conditions, etc. (2) LSC needs to institutionalize measures regarding client involvement. Staff are understandably myopic regarding the need to reform self and have fears regarding changing location, job descriptions, changing learning curves, etc. Consequently, asking programs to report not only who client board members are, but what the attendance is, how those members are involved in committee work, what the other opportunities for involvement are, etc. (3) LSC needs to explore creative ways to ensure cultural relevance in involvement—the organizational model excludes cultural groups rather than includes.  

[LSC/national organization role:] ensuring that clients are participating in state planning processes at all levels—on committees, the governing group, etc.; ensuring stable ongoing funding for a national client organization, remembering the lessons of the past so that it deals with substance, not who gets to go to NLADA meetings.  

LSC should provide a mechanism for a strong national voice and presence for clients.  

[LSC should] help raise some money outside of government to help train clients and staff in managing change, strategic planning skills. It would be nice to have someone at LSC who could have a position as a grant-writer/developer.  

[Role of LSC:] networking with clients; funding separate client board members organization in each service area for training in all needed areas such as technology, legal issues, training of trainers, etc.  

LSC could rehabilitate the National Client’s Council. If there is a National Clients Council, it could compile and publish its history from its beginnings in the early 1970s. Learning history of past struggles is important. LSC could play a role in cataloguing models and practices from various programs—could include some of the things brought out in workshops (substantive and organizational)—could be posted on web site.  

LSC should fund a National Clients Council to provide training, leadership, coordination and support for local programs. Create an institution that will encourage or force states to provide leadership in this area by evaluating client participation in: competitive bidding criteria; annual reports/any other evaluations; directive like community planning letters. Ask how clients were involved in statewide planning, strategic planning, priority setting technology.  

LSC should support creation of National Clients Council to train and organize clients; develop blueprints, etc., for programs as a how-to”; mandate client involvement in state planning.  

While many participants specifically called for the creation of clients councils at various levels, others argued that the client leaders and representatives should be integrated into broader organizations rather than segregated into separate organizations, such as clients councils.  

Client leaders have articulated a sense of isolation. We shouldn’t increase that by promoting separate client organizations. We’ve had separate organizations before and they don’t work. We need to insist that clients be fully integrated into larger organizations. There may be separate client sections, but they should be part of and inform the organizations as a whole.  

The changing nature of our client communities means we must look more broadly at client leadership. We cannot go back to the old “client council” model. We must develop new means of tapping into client organizations and being relevant to them. We (staff and board) must go out into the community. We don’t have to be the organizers of groups but we must be present at others groups’ meetings. We can’t expect folks to gather around the “legal services” issue. We must go to neighborhood meetings. etc., and prove to the community that we are a partners and we have an important role to play to help the groups get where they want to go. We need training programs about the need to do this.  

There are already national organizations—not helpful to invest in another. LSC could allow some funds for an annual clients training conference at the NLADA conference or freestanding. There are issues of LSC restrictions and congressional implications that need to be considered more carefully.  

This conference demonstrates the value of bringing together clients and non-clients. We tend to segregate ourselves at other events.  

A Clients Council is not the (best) only national approach, as people need to develop local skills and cultures around connecting to local client communities.  

Some participants specifically felt that the role of the NLADA Client Section should be expanded to build these capacities at the national level, or that NLADA should otherwise expand its activities in this area  

NLADA’s client policy group and client section can be supported and further developed. They should see themselves as link between legal services and other community groups and help programs link also.  

[The conference] reinforced need to assure that clients board members and client council members are well-rooted in their communities….the need to better identify, organize, and train client statewide to have an effective role in program and statewide planning and implementation. NLADA Client Section needs substantial outreach and needs to find funding to develop better training.  

There is inadequate leadership at the national and state levels to support strong client institutions. NLADA should seek resources to pay for client organizations; also coordinate with VISTA, Americorps.  

NLADA should help raise some outside money and provide more client development.  

As noted earlier, some participants called for mechanisms to ensure client involvement in state planning processes.  

[In my state] clients are involved in state planning, through focus groups and opportunities to comment.  

To develop a forum and a mechanism for client involvement in state planning.  

Several participants argued that client involvement efforts should be focused on substantive issues rather than “legal services” issues, or delivery rather than governance.  

It’s a mistake to organize clients around legal services rather than substantive issues—housing, health care, economic development.  

Client involvement needs to move its focus from board involvement to program-building and involvement in the delivery system.  

While participants had a variety of different perspectives about how best to achieve real, meaningful client involvement and engagement, there was no disagreement about the importance of the goal itself.  


Participants’ comments indicate that the goals for the conference identified by LSC at the outset were met. Again, they were:  

Participants were overwhelmingly positive about the quality and value of the discussion and expressed the need to continue it and expand on it in other forums.  

In discussion, participants emphasized the importance of the issues discussed here and the need to continue and build on these conversations. Currently there are not contexts where this can happen—or if they do exist, there are not enough of them. Participants emphasized that LSC should make the report of the conference broadly available and should provide opportunities to build and follow up on it, through the web site and though promoting similar opportunities for discussion in the future.  

Many participants attributed the success of the conference to the fact that people truly listened to one another, respected one another’s viewpoints, and were open to learning from one another.  

People need to do more listening.  

We all benefited from listening to one another. LSC should provide listening training.  

How important real listening is.  

Remember to listen to the feedback, suggestions, and requests of clients as opposed to plugging people into your paradigm. Diversify staff training to maximize listening skills.  

The conference showed the value of really listening to one another.  

Provide opportunities for dialogue, but accept that in our “house,” there is room for all your children.  

Finally, a number of participants had high praise for the strengths of the conference participants and of the legal services community in general:  

It feels very good to know that we the clients can work alongside LSC for the same causes.  

Even though all the “isms” (racisms, sexism, classism, etc) still happen, this is a really fine group of good people trying to help.  

What a great group of people I am affiliated with.  

What a vibrant, creative community we are, particularly when clients are active, participating partners.