Legal Services Corporation

Also found in: Acronyms, Wikipedia.

Legal Services Corporation

The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is a private, nonprofit organization established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for legal assistance in civil matters to people who are poor (Legal Services Corporation Act of 1974, 42 U.S.C.A. § 2996 et seq.). The LSC receives funds from Congress and makes grants to local nonprofit programs run by boards of directors made up of local lawyers, community leaders, and client representatives. LSC support is the backbone of legal aid funding in the United States. The organization has attracted opposition from fiscal conservatives who wish to abolish it.

The federal government began to make direct grants to legal aid organizations in 1965, during President Lyndon B. Johnson's war on poverty. Studies revealed that states were doing an inadequate job of providing legal assistance to people who were poor, especially in the South, the Southwest, and much of the Midwest. The LSC was established in 1974, during the Nixon administration, to establish a structure for distributing funds to qualified local providers of legal aid that was permanent and immune to political pressure.

The LSC is governed by an 11-member board of directors, appointed by the president of the United States with the advice and consent of the Senate. No more than six members may be of one political party, and at least two members must be eligible clients. Through its Office of Field Services and its regional offices, the LSC distributes grants to legal services programs operating in neighborhood offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Micronesia. Only 3 percent of its budget is spent on the administration costs for the home office; the rest goes to community programs.

The LSC supports local legal aid programs through training, research, sharing of information, and technical assistance. It also funds 16 national support centers that provide specialized assistance to attorneys in representing their clients. Most of these support centers specialize in substantive areas of the law, such as housing, administrative benefits, and health. Others specialize in the unique legal problems of particular groups, such as Native Americans, migrant farm workers, immigrants, and older people. Staff members of the support centers may become directly involved in litigation on behalf of their clients.

General research is conducted by the LSC Institute on Legal Assistance. The institute is devoted to substantive study of the broad range of legal problems encountered by poor people that relate to the services provided by legal aid programs. The research projects of the institute fall into five broad categories: problems posing the most serious consequences to people who are poor, such as income security and health benefit programs; gaps in substantive poverty law, such as rural issues; studies of agencies that provide benefits to people who are poor, such as Welfare agencies and public hospitals; projects to prevent legal controversies and to create new procedures for settling disputes; and ways to evaluate how special legal institutions such as housing and small-claims court affect people who are poor. The institute also conducts seminars and holds meetings on these topics and others that deal with the effect of the law on poor people.

The LSC 2003 budget of $338.8 million funds 161 local legal services and is designed to benefit some 5 million, mostly children living in poverty.

The LSC has been under attack for many years by conservative politicians and other groups that allege that the legal aid programs it funds have engaged in political and Lobbying activities, often at the expense of providing legal services needed by people who are poor. Critics argue that the LSC has been the legal pillar of the welfare state, opposing efforts by conservatives to rein in government programs. Congressional Republicans have sought either to drastically reduce funding of the LSC or to abolish the LSC altogether. Congress allocated $415 million for the program in 1995, compared with $338.8 million in 2003.

In 2000, the LSC approved a document entitled Strategic Directions 2000–2005. The goals of the strategy include dramatic increases in the provision of legal services to eligible persons and assurance that eligible clients receive appropriate and high quality legal assistance. Strategies for achieving these goals include use of state planning, technology, and improved program oversight.

Further readings

American Bar Association (ABA). 1995. Arguments Against Cutting the LSC. Fact sheet. April. Chicago: ABA.

Heritage Foundation. 1995. Why the Legal Services Corporation Must be Abolished, by Kenneth F. Boehm and Peter T. Flaherty. Backgrounder no. 1057. October 18.

Legal Services Corporation. Available online at <> (accessed July 28, 2003).

Vivero, Maurico. 2002. "From 'Renegade' Agency to Institutional Justice: The Transformation of Legal Services Corporation." Fordham Urban Law Journal 29.


Equal Protection; Legal Aid.

References in periodicals archive ?
In June 2007, the Legal Services Corporation issued a revised
These types of questions and situations spurred the legal services corporation to create and refine the Talking Together Program, which provides parents involved with child welfare with an alternative way of resolving conflicts.
16 a youth pre-charge diversion protocol was signed between the Nishnawbe Aski Legal Services Corporation (NALSC) and the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).
They never remember that Republicans have sold them out on NAFTA, the Fed, the World Trade Organization, bailouts of the UN, Planned Parenthood subsidies, the National Endowment of the Arts, the Legal Services Corporation, Bosnia, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, federal control of education, quotas, immigration, taxes, spending, and almost everything else that really matters.
In 1978, Jimmy Carter appointed Hillary to the Legal Services Corporation, the same year that Bill Clinton became governor of Arkansas.
He trained hundreds of organizers working with the National Welfare Rights Organization, labor unions, senior organizing and community groups, the Legal Services Corporation, Highlander Center in Tennessee, and in his popular organizing classes in the Social Work department at SFSU.
Archer, mayor of Detroit, the Investing In Communities Coalition rallied support within the Senate Appropriations Committee for the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant, Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, Economic Development Administration, Legal Services Corporation, Weed and Seed community drug prevention grants, and other programs funded under appropriations for the Departments of Commerce, Justice and State.
school vouchers, a national voucher program, tax breaks for religious and home school costs, a tax limitation constitutional amendment, defunding of the National Endowment for the Arts, defunding of the Legal Services Corporation and opposition to needle exchange programs designed to fight AIDS.
This figure happens to be more than twice the amount the government gives the federally chartered Legal Services Corporation to provide basic legal representation to millions of low-income people.
The provisions, designed to tighten the belt on the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), which administers funds to public legal services entities throughout the United States, would have changed the traditional auditor-client relationship.
The Prison Litigation Reform Act prohibits all organizations receiving funds from the federal Legal Services Corporation from representing inmates.
Since President Richard Nixon signed the bill creating legal services in 1974, Congress has appropriated several hundred million dollars a year to the Legal Services Corporation.

Full browser ?