LANC Provides Legal Aid to North Carolinians in Need
by R. Cal Adams, Jr.
November/December 2005 - "NC Lawyer"
(A publication of the NC Bar Association)
Helping poor people with their serious legal problems is the hallmark
of the Legal Aid of North Carolina. LANC is a statewide, community-based,
nonprofit law firm that provides free legal service in civil matters
to low-income people.
LANC helps low-income families break the cycle of poverty, decrease
their burden on society, obtain relief from unfair consumer practices
and/or provide protection from violence for themselves and their children.
The median household income of LANC clients is $9,000.
LANC as a rich history of providing legal advice to poor people
stretching back to LSNC (Legal Services of North Carolina) which was
formed in 1976 by a consolidation of 12 family indigent legal
services programs, which had their origins in the 1960's.
LANC currently has over 130 attorneys in 24
offices. LANC has
made a dramatic difference in the lives of the low-income population
of our state. Each year, thousands of individuals and families
receive free legal advice and representation that keeps them safe, preserves
their income and protects their homes.
LANC's cases include representation at hearings in small claims court
to civil jury trials to arguments in the NC Supreme Court. Its
attorneys have represented individuals, families, groups of individuals
and entire classes of individuals.
LANC focuses its legal practice in the following:
law, education, housing, employment, public benefits, environment, health
care, consumer, disabilities and elder law.
LANC's clients typically include the following: (1) victims of
domestic violence who are seeking safety for themselves and their children;
(2) disadvantaged children who have been denied the mental and physical
healthcare and education that they so need to grow into productive adults;
(3) the elderly who who sometimes preyed upon by the ruthless and who
need assistance with benefits; (4) the disabled and homeless who need
special consideration; (5) working, single and two-parent families who
are struggling to pay for child care, housing, food and healthcare for
their children on low-wage jobs; and (6) natural disaster victims who
suffer as a result of weather events, such as Hurricane Floyd, Hurricane
Fran and/or Hurricane Hugo.
LANC also has five statewide, special provider units that address issues
of special importance:
Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative, and
for Children's Services.
LANC also conducts community education and community outreach to individuals
and community-based groups on legal matters and issues affecting their
communities. Throughout the years, LANC has always tried to maintain
the highest standard of quality representation, believing that poor
people no less than rich people deserve the best advocacy that can be
To continue this long tradition, LANC will continue to depend on the
North Carolina Bar Association.
"Pro bono is a big part of our delivery of legal services," said LANC
Chair Cal Adams of Winston-Salem. "Volunteers are the lifeblood
of our organization."
Working in partnership with the North Carolina Bar Association and local
bar groups, LANC actively recruits, trains, mentors and co-counsels
with pro bono attorneys to help them handle the many complex and changing
legal issues unique to the practice of civil poverty law.
"These partnerships with LANC help ensure access to justice for low-income
families and further leverage the dollars that are invested in LANC,"
Adams added. "We need our volunteers both as pro bono attorneys
and as board members and members of our advisory councils.
"While we will always need volunteer lawyers, what we need the most
is financial help."
While LANC receives federal funding through the Legal Services Corporation,
its federal funding constitutes only about one-half of the LANC budget.
In addition, LANC receives more than $1.5 million from the NC General
Assembly, approximately $1.5 million form IOLTA and approximately $1
million from the Governor's Crime Commission.
Unfortunately, even with all this funding, LANC is still unable to hire
enough attorneys to represent all the poor people in North Carolina
who have serious legal needs. With additional resources, LANC
can protect more victims of domestic violence, shield more seniors from
consumer fraud and save the homes of many more families, thereby underscoring
the importance of a
three-year fund-raising campaign that LANC will
initiate in the near future.
There are approximately 2.25 million poor people in all 100 counties
in North Carolina. On October 17, 2005, the Legal Services Corporation
released a copy of a report titled
"Documenting the Justice Gap in America: The Current Unmet Civil
Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans."
The report concluded that at least 80 percent of the civil legal needs
of low-income Americans are not being met.
"There is a serious justice gap in America," said
LSC President Helaine
Barnett. "Stagnant federal funding and an increased poverty population
have served to increase the unmet demand... For every client who receives
service, one applicant was turned away, indicating that 50 percent of
the potential clients requesting assistance from an LSC grantee ere
turned away for lack of resources on the part of the program."
The report also determined that there is one legal aid attorney for
every 6,861 low-income persons. By contrast, the ratio of attorneys
delivering civil legal assistance to the general population is approximately
one attorney for every 525 persons or 13 times more attorneys.
The materials contained on this website
are for information and educational purposes only and do not
constitute legal advice.
Also please note that Legal Aid of North Carolina does not
provide legal assistance by E-mail. Contact your Legal Aid of
North Carolina office or a private attorney if you need to speak
to an attorney regarding your particular situation.
Legal Aid of North Carolina is a statewide, nonprofit law firm that
provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people in
order to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers
to economic opportunity.