Client-Centered State Communities of Justice Conference brought together
client advocates, legal services practitioners, LSC staff and board members,
and other members of the legal services community to address issues of
importance to our mutual goal of equal justice for all persons.
In June we issued the “Final Report” of the conference – a
summary of topics discussed and of participants’ opinions and suggestions.
In this document we respond by outlining those steps that LSC is taking
to address the very valuable suggestions we received from the conference.
the course of the three-day conference in Hershey Pennsylvania six common
themes emerged from the discussion groups, workshops and casual conversations.
The importance of involving clients in the
delivery of legal services
The need for client capacity building
The need for greater inclusiveness in client
The need for broader connections and new
The need to communicate the richness of what
is going on at the program and state levels
The need for continuing conversations.
Pursuing these themes
will help LSC to address its goals. These goals, memorialized in Strategic
Directions 2000-2005, adopted by the LSC Board of Directors on January 28,
2000 are: by 2004, LSC will dramatically increase the provision of legal
services to eligible persons; and by 2004, LSC will ensure that eligible
clients are receiving appropriate and high-quality legal assistance.
The Strategic Directions document also identifies anticipated
increased number of clients receiving legal
services appropriate to the legal issues they encounter;
expanded relevancy of the delivery system to
the most pressing needs of low-income clients, with clients themselves taking a leading role in this effort;
expanded range and improvement in the quality
of services provided by legal services programs; and
greater consistency in the quality of legal
services programs. State planning is identified as LSC's major initiative for
meeting these goals and outcomes.
There is no doubt
that Strategic Directions 2000-2005
raised the bar very high both for LSC and for our grantees. In slightly over
three more years we are expected to be able to demonstrate that we have
dramatically increased the number of clients we are serving, guaranteed the
quality of these services, ensured that wherever low-income persons and
prospective clients live they receive the same access/quality/consistency as
any other client, and do all of these
things in ways that are empowering to and inclusive of our clients and their
In order to
accomplish our goals, clients must be given a leading role. The themes of the
conference provide guidance to us on what we should be doing to involve our
client community, to listen to them and to serve them.
What follows is a statement of our commitment to address those themes
that came from the conference.
of Involving Clients in the Delivery of Legal Services
spoke with one voice in affirming the importance of involving clients in legal
services decision making at all levels. Client
input is necessary to determine the needs that are not readily apparent, to
find hard-to-reach clients and to fashion appropriate remedies.
At the conference, then-President John McKay and Vice President
Randi Youells affirmed the importance of client input at all stages of the
process. While state planning has, from its inception, called for all
stakeholders, including clients and client organizations, to be a part of the
process, we have re-emphasized the importance of client participation in our
recent program letter, 2001-7.
State planning is the Corporation’s major initiative for
determining client needs and addressing those needs. It calls on each state to address the present legal needs of
low income persons and to fashion a strategy for ensuring that legal services
to clients are of high quality and are responsive to the needs of low-income
people throughout the state. State planning staff are, and will continue to
be, calling for state planners to emphasize client participation.
In the grants management process, we are bringing, and will continue to bring, the theme of client
involvement to the programs we fund. We
review several factors bearing on client participation:
Are clients and client groups being afforded
a full voice in the priority setting process?
Does the process get a full range of client input – not just surveys
– from all parts of the client community?
Does the program board have at least 30%
representation from the client community? – members nominated by client
Does the program engage in significant
outreach and coordination activities with client community organizations?
Starting next year,
we will be giving feedback to programs on how their procedures fare in
comparison to standards.
Need for Client Capacity Building
While these state and
program efforts are important first steps to make sure the clients’ voices
are heard, more is needed. Clients
can only be fully effective when they are given the forums and the tools to
articulate their voices.
In order to more
fully pursue this, we will appoint a staff member to coordinate Client
Centered Activities. It will be her or his responsibility to make sure that we
strengthen our efforts to build client capacity. Among the efforts that this person will be tasked with will
A review and dissemination of information
about client councils – where they exist, how they work, what support they
need and what they can accomplish. This
will be a first step to determine whether LSC should more actively promote, or
even require, client councils.
Active engagement with our national partners
to discuss ways to assure that clients’ voices are heard at the national
Promotion of client training efforts such as:
Ensuring that program client board members
have the training they need to be effective voices for the client community on
their programs’ boards. We have
taken the first step in this by co-sponsoring with NLADA a full-day training
conference for client board members at the NLADA Annual Meeting in Miami.
Ensuring that programs understand that
training for clients is an essential role of theirs. Clients’ voices cannot be fully effective until they are
Overseeing client capacity-building
activities. Clients can only be effective when they are given the
structures and tools to articulate their voices.
III. Need for Greater
Inclusiveness in Client Representation
It was clear from the
information reviewed at the conference that the poverty population is becoming
more diverse and that diversity presents a challenge to legal services
programs. Languages and cultural differences present a challenge as do clients
who are working, live in remote areas, are immobile and don’t have easy
access to a telephone.
grantees need to remain vigilant in their efforts to meet the changing needs
of this diverse population. Two
parallel efforts can insure inclusiveness in client representation: assuring
that the staff and leadership is representative of the client community and
making sure that programs take the steps necessary to ensure inclusiveness.
and Staff Diversity.
A fundamental way to promote inclusiveness in client representation
is to make sure that legal services program staff composition is diverse.
An ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse staff is more
likely to be sensitive to the needs of a diverse clientele.
LSC is committed to
addressing inclusiveness and, in partnership with NLADA, has sponsored a
series of state, regional and national conversations to discuss diversity in
the legal services community.
The first of the
national conversations, which took place in March 2001 at the Equal Justice
Conference, focused on gender issues. In
May 2001, LSC and NLADA held a conference to discuss a broad range of
diversity issues, including race, ethnicity, gender, disability and sexual
orientation and identity. We have held sessions on diversity issues at
regional legal services meetings and at the substantive law training this
summer in Berkeley, California.
We are also pursuing
other steps to address the need for diversity in legal services programs.
A longitudinal study of legal services staff and leadership
distribution by race and gender is underway.
Also, our grant application form has been modified to elicit
information from each program on how they are working to recruit, retain and
promote diversified staff.
Other Strategies to
Promote Inclusive Representation.
While assuring a diverse workplace is an important first step in
assuring inclusive representation, a diverse staff may not, by itself,
guarantee that all clients are being represented equally.
We plan to use various approaches to reach the goal, including using
state justice communities to promote equitable distribution, modeling
successful inclusion efforts and harnessing technology.
Each state justice
community is being tasked with the responsibility of examining the state’s
client community and making sure that the needs of clients are being met
equally and equitably across the state.
This means making
sure that representation is equitable between rural and urban communities,
among all ethnic groups, for persons with special needs and among special
building on successful models of inclusiveness that some programs have
undertaken can be a particularly effective way to bring about inclusive
representation. (Several of the
projects discussed in the next section, “Need for Broader Connections and
New Partnerships,” promote inclusive representation.) LSC’s two main efforts to promote these interactions are:
emphasizing the importance of these endeavors in the grant application
process and promoting excellent models (See the discussion under “Need to
Communicate …” below.)
technology grant program, LSC is also exploring technological approaches that
can be helpful to addressing the question of inclusiveness.
Centralized intake, with its principle of a
single 800 phone number to direct the caller to appropriate services, has the
potential to make programs more accessible to clients who are in rural areas
and don’t have ready access to legal services offices. We are funding ways
to make centralized intake possible, such as efforts to have a unified case
management system and wide area network among offices.
We are mindful that these systems have to be
useful to callers who do not speak English and that there have to be
alternatives for those for whom telephone intake is not appropriate.
Remote access to offices expands on the
notion of centralized intake providing the client access remotely to her or
his attorney from a work station that the program has or from a public access
work station such as those in libraries.
LSC is funding several of these projects to see if they can effectively
help address access barriers.
Community Legal Education web sites and pro
se project websites can reach more people than have been reached before.
In addition to providing CLE or pro se services to those who need that
level of assistance, they can be a mechanism to lead those who need full
representation to sources – such as the legal services program, referrals or
PAI -- that can provide it. LSC is funding projects such as the ICAN! project, which was
begun by Bob Cohen at Legal Aid Society of Orange County .
As with our other efforts, we are attempting to explore models and test
them to make sure that they are fulfilling their promise of increasing overall
services without cutting into resources for full representation when needed.
Perhaps the most
effective way to determine whether clients are represented in all parts of the
community is to compare demographic data with program representation data.
As Bob Cohen described at the conference, the Orange County program
pioneered this work by mapping the two sets of data.
By doing this, they discovered significant pockets of low-income
population where there is little or no representation.
Among them was a Vietnamese community. LSC is exploring the use of this
technology so that programs across the country might have access to this tool.
IV. Need for Broader Connections and New Partnerships
conference, participants spoke of the need for “getting out of the legal
services box,” by finding ways to work with client communities and the
groups who work with them. Several
examples of this type of work were discussed at the conference and in the
conference’s papers, including:
Programs developing new ways of responding to
community needs identified by interaction with groups and agencies – Legal
Services of Eastern Michigan (see Ed Hoort’s paper) and Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (see Glenda
Discovering community needs through needs
assessment and addressing them by strategic planning in which a program’s
diverse staff fully participates -- Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (see
Mary Ann Heimann’s paper.)
Addressing needs through community economic
development efforts as represented by Olga Pomar’s paper and Greg
Client council initiatives to give clients
the skills to address problems in the community on their own – Georgia Legal
Service Program – Clients Council, as presented by Veda McKnight.
Holistic representation – responding to a
client as a whole person and allowing him or her to move beyond crisis and
create positive changes in their own lives, as presented by Tanya Neiman in
her presentation, and client centered legal services that empower clients as
described by Roberta Stick at the conference and in her paper.
Participants at the conference shared many
other examples of current efforts and proposed projects that have the
potential to make major changes.
LSC strongly supports the move to make broader connections and form
new partnerships. As far back as
1996, the LSC Board promulgated a listing of suggested priorities for legal
services grantees which recommended that: “[Legal Services] programs place a
high priority on activities designed to involve the entire community in
sharing the responsibility for facilitating access to justice.” The state planning initiative itself calls for coordination
of all stakeholders to promote the goal of equal justice.
In its discussion of the goal of dramatically increased access to
the justice system, the LSC Strategic Directions 2000-2005 states,
“[a]ttaining this goal requires a coordinated effort by LSC, other funding
sources, state and local bar associations, the courts, other organizations,
and grantees to adjust policy, practices and resources to ensure that more
people have access to quality client-centered, results-oriented legal
As described in other places in this paper, LSC is endeavoring to
spread these good ideas. We are currently involved in sharing good models with
the state justice communities, holding these efforts up as “standards” in
judging grant applications, and communicating good models to the community at
large. Our client-centered
staff person will be charged with getting clients and client representatives
involved in seeking out and identifying new and effective delivery models.
Need to Communicate the Richness of What is Going on
At the Program and State Levels
In summarizing the positive results of the conference, participants
were excited about the initiatives that they heard about for the first time
from each other -- some of which are described in the sections above on
“Greater Inclusiveness” and “Broader
Connections and New Partnerships.”
LSC is concentrating on two ways to spread the good work that
individual programs are pursuing – state planning and the information
management project. We are using
the state planning structure and staff as catalysts for spreading creative new
Within a given state, its state justice community has the potential
of making sure that best approaches in one part of the state are passed to the
state as a whole. While this usually tends to happen naturally in states with
a single legal services program, it can also happen across program barriers
and among legal services funded and non-legal services funded programs.
State planning staff are charged with communicating to the state
justice communities successful and innovative approaches from other states.
Additionally, LSC has just undertaken an “Information Management
Project.” The project’s goal
is to find the best approaches being followed by our programs and publicize
them. Information on promising
approaches will be directly sent to programs and will also be available on
LSC’s web site for all to see. We trust that the bright light of publicity
will spark discussion and modeling of good practices.
Need for Continuing Conversations
Conference on Creating Client-Centered State Communities of Justice was an
excellent start to address client-centered representation.
We hope you agree that the steps described above that we are taking and
planning to take in concert with our programs, our national partners and with
the client community, are responsive to the needs articulated at the
conference. In summary, those
We will be redoubling our state planning,
grants management and technology efforts to listen to client voices and
address client-centered goals.
We have initiated the Information Management
Project to give the widest possible distribution to innovative ideas and best
practices that our programs have developed so that they can be replicated.
We are appointing an LSC staff member to be
the client-centered coordinator charged with exploring further client
empowerment structures and tools. That
person will establish a national service desk to serve as a clearinghouse and
national hub for receiving and disseminating information about client-centered
To be fully effective, the dialogue that began in Hershey must
continue. LSC is committed to
build on the excellent work begun at that conference and to continue the
dialogue in 2002. Please
write us with your ideas. Your input on future efforts and your comments on
these plans would be greatly appreciated.