Bad News on Jobs with Civil Legal Aid Organizations

By: Steve Grumm

From a Legal Services Corporation release:

Washington DC – According to a recent survey conducted by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), local legal aid programs expect to reduce staffing by nearly 750 employees in 2012, including 350 attorneys, because of funding cuts. This represents a reduction of eight percent of full-time-equivalent (FTE) positions from the end of 2011.

Nationwide, programs receiving grants from LSC reported significant reductions in funding, staffing, and operations.  Eighty-seven percent of the respondents report that their total (LSC and non-LSC) funding in 2012 will decrease significantly from 2011.  Eighty-two percent of the programs with reserves expect to use those funds in 2012 to continue operations.  One hundred thirty-three of the 134 LSC grantees responded to the survey.

As of December 2011, LSC-funded programs employed 9,185 FTE staff—including 4,360 attorneys—a reduction of 6.7 percent (661 positions) since December 2010.  Over the two-year period from 2010 to 2012, LSC-funded programs expect to lose 14 percent of their staff, including 591 attorneys (nearly 13 percent) and 320 paralegals (18 percent).   Sixteen percent of respondents expect to close offices in 2012.

Of the programs reporting decreases in their total funding from 2011 to 2012, 91 percent (87 programs) expect to serve fewer clients and accept fewer cases, and 73 percent (70 programs) will restrict the types of cases accepted.  Twenty-nine percent of programs expect to cut back services on foreclosure-related issues and services to victims of domestic violence.

There’s no making lemonade out of this.  It’s terrible news for legal services lawyers and (more signifcantly) for clients.  Nonetheless, we know that law students come to the PSLawNet Blog for info on career options.   We are still posting legal aid job listings from throughout the country everyday on PSLawNet.  So  the upshot is that you have to be the best job candidates you can possibly be in this tight job market.  Use our Job Search Fundamentals tools to work up great cover letters and resumes, and to learn how to ace interviews.

On a related note, we encourage law students to volunteer with civil legal aid providers this year.  Resources within these organizations are depleting but client demand from poor people and families continues to rise.

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