Maintaining the Safety Net: Legal Services Works Closely With Communities to Help Those in Need

March 1, 2000

The fourth installment of the Access to Justice Series, Legal Services Lawyers Work Closely with Communities to Help Those in Need, illuminates the importance of legal services advocates to the larger communities in which their clients live.

Interesting partnerships develop that may at first seem unexpected: legal services lawyers in dialogue with landlords to improve conditions for tenants; legal services lawyers doing legal research to answer questions from nursing home staff about problems of frail and elderly patients; legal services lawyers and local officials working together to ensure that new federal programs benefit local low income citizens.

These partnerships reflect a natural relationship that develops as legal services advocates gain particularized knowledge, through direct representation of thousands of clients, about how the law affects individuals and communities. This knowledge is often invaluable to legislators, government administrators, community leaders, and many others. Even traditional adversaries often seek to work with legal services lawyers in order to benefit from this knowledge.

These stories offer a real-world counterweight to the views of certain critics who argue that legal services lawyers are ideologically driven zealots making mischief for taxpayers. That turns out not to be the case.

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