What about pro bono for rural Californians?

Impoverished persons living in rural areas are often overlooked in the delivery of legal services, despite the prevalence and persistence of poverty in these areas. According to the 2000 Census, rural counties with poverty rates above the national average outnumber urban counties in that category at nearly a 5 to 1 ratio. Of the 500 poorest counties in the country, 459 are rural, and, of the 500 lowest per capita income counties, 481 are rural.

Despite this overwhelming need for pro bono services, however, rural lawyers have unique limitations on providing such services. These limitations include conflicts of interest, multi-district registration requirements, fewer support staff, and greater travel demands. Staff-based rural legal aid programs face similar difficulties because they cover a wider geographic region with fewer personnel than urban legal aid programs. Plus, for their part, rural clients also face greater challenges accessing legal services due to scarce resources, transportation problems, and a general lack of information about legal help.

In addition, legal services organizations providing services in rural areas face significant funding challenges. In California, there are fewer funding dollars per low-income individuals in rural areas than in more urban areas of the state.

LAAC and OneJustice hope that this website will be able to act as on online link between attorneys working on urban areas and legal services programs in rural areas. However, at this time there are no organized programs forging that link.

For the time being, we encourage interested volunteers to directly contact the following programs working in rural areas of our state:

Sacramento and Northern California
www.vlsp.org - VLSP of Northern California offers pro bono opportunities in Sacramento and several other Northern California counties.

www.lsnc.net - Legal Services of Northern California (LSNC) is one of the largest legal services programs in the states and provides service to low-income Californians in over 25 far north counties.

The Central Valley
www.centralcallegal.org - Central California Legal Services provides vital direct legal services to low-income residents of Fresno, Kings, Mariposa, Merced, Tulare, and Tuolumne counties.

Kern County
www.gbla.org - Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance provides free legal services to low-income residents of Kern County.

The Inland Empire
www.icls.org - Inland County Legal Services providers legal assistance and advice to low-income residents of Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

www.crla.org - California Rural Legal Assistance provides services to low-income Californians, including farmworkers, from 22 offices, many in rural communities, from the Mexican border to Northern California.

For more information about the Rural Delivery of Pro Bono Services, click HERE to go to the ABA's Rural Pro Bono Delivery Initiative.