Legal Services Program
History and Mission
The Oregon State Bar Legal Services Program funds an integrated, statewide system of civil legal aid organizations enabling low-income Oregonians to address critical legal issues directly affecting their families, homes, income, jobs, and access to vital services such as education and health care. To meet these needs, legal aid providers operate offices in 17 communities together providing service to all 36 counties in Oregon.
The Legal Services Program was created by the Oregon Legislature in 1996 to oversee state funding of legal service providers, to develop Standards and Guidelines for those providers, and to create a Legal Services Program Committee. ORS 9.572
In 1998, Oregon became one of the first states to form an integrated statewide network of legal aid providers, when the OSB Board of Governors approved the initial Oregon Legal Services Program Standards and Guidelines.
To use the filing fee revenue to fund an integrated, statewide system of legal services centered on the needs of the client community as identified in the Mission Statement of the OSB Civil Legal Services Task Force Final Report, May 1996; and
To use its oversight authority to work with Providers to ensure that the delivery of services is efficient and effective in providing a full spectrum of high-quality legal services to low-income Oregonians.
To work to eliminate barriers to the efficient and effective delivery of legal services caused by maintaining legal and physical separation between providers of general legal services to low-income Oregonians in the same geographical area, while maintaining Providers’ ability to offer the broadest range of legal services required to serve the needs of clients.
Standards and Guidelines
The Standards and Guidelines apply to all programs receiving funding from the Legal Services Program. The Standards and Guidelines address the following areas:
Governing Structure of the Legal Services Program: The OSB Board of Governors created the OSB Legal Services Program Committee pursuant to ORS 9.572 (3) to advise the bar in the operation of the Legal Services Program. The Standards and Guidelines outline how the Legal Services Committee advises the BOG and the Legal Services Program Director. The OSB LSP Committee receives direction from the Board of Governors per ORS 9.572 (1). The Legal Services Program Director appointed by the bar, pursuant to ORS 9.572(2), is charged with periodically reviewing legal service providers who receive funding from the Legal Services Program per ORS 9.572(1). The OSB LSP Committee is charged to assist and advise the LSP Director in carrying out the LSP program review among other duties to assist and advise.
Standards and Guidelines for Providers: The providers must meet guidelines regarding provider structure, use of funds, client eligibility, priority setting, grievance processing, and avoidance of competition with the private bar. The goal of the Standards and Guidelines is to maintain an integrated delivery system designed to provide relatively equal levels of high-quality client representation throughout the state. The standards and guidelines also incorporate additional standards such as ABA Standards for the Provision of Civil Legal Aid and the Oregon Code of Professional Responsibility.
Cooperative Collaboration by Providers: The providers must create mechanisms for cooperation among themselves and other programs providing services to low-income Oregonians.
Oversight by the Legal Services Program: The Legal Services Program provides oversight to the providers using the tools described in the Standards and Guideline.
Oversight and Accountability
Oversight of providers is driven by objectives taken from the Legal Services Program mission and focuses on ensuring that there is
- an integrated, statewide system
- centered on the needs of the client community
- that efficiently and effectively
- provides a full spectrum of
- high-quality legal services.
Periodic Accountability Process
The periodic accountability process provides the Legal Services Program with information about the work of legal services providers. The process focuses on the effectiveness of the providers in meeting the needs of individual clients and the larger client community and in developing and using resources. The goals of the review are to ensure compliance with the Standards and Guidelines; to ensure accountability to clients, the public, and funders; and to assist with each provider’s self-assessment and improvement.
The process has three components:
- A periodic Self-Assessment Report submitted by providers, including a narrative portion and a statistical/financial portion;
- A periodic Accountability Report provided by the Legal Services Program to the OSB Board of Governors and other stakeholders summarizing the information from the providers’ self-assessment reports and other information including ongoing contacts with providers by Legal Services Program staff and annual program financial audits; and
- Ongoing Evaluation Activities by the Legal Services Program including peer reviews, desk reviews, ongoing contacts, and other evaluation activities consistent with the Standards and Guidelines.
Recent Accountability Reports are available in the Reports section.
Each legal aid provider files an annual report annually detailing its activities in the previous year. The annual report contains the following information:
- A copy of the program’s final audit report from a financial audit by an independent auditor, which meets generally accepted accounting practices;
- The numbers and types of cases and matters in which legal services were delivered;
- A list of the provider’s staff and governing body;
- A copy of the provider’s budget;
- A narrative description of the provider’s operations, including a description of its needs assessment, priority setting, and grievance processes, which is sufficient to demonstrate that the program complies with the Standards and Guidelines.
OSB Legal Services Program Complaint Process: The following complaints will be addressed by the OSB Legal Services Program Committee through the Director of the Legal Services Program:
- Complaints about the manner or quality of legal assistance provided in individual cases or the denial of legal assistance in individual cases. Each provider is required to have a written internal grievance procedure to address complaints about the manner or quality of legal assistance provided in individual cases or about the denial of legal assistance in individual cases. The Legal Services Program will not review or respond to your complaint under this category unless you have completed the providers’ internal grievance process.
- Other complaints, excluding category 1, regarding the overall quality of legal assistance or the performance of the provider.
- Complaints that providers are acting outside the scope of the statute, ORS 9.574, not in compliance with these Standards and Guidelines, or misusing funds.
Ethics or malpractice complaints will be forwarded to the appropriate discipline department at the Oregon State Bar.
If you have a complaint please print and complete the complaint form and mail it or email it to the Director of Legal Services Program.
The Legal Services Program Committee will not review or respond to a complaint unless they receive a complaint form outlining the nature of the complaint in writing. If you have any questions or need a complaint form mailed to you please contact the Director of Legal Services.
State Budgetary Appropriations: Beginning in 1977, a portion of legal aid's funding came from state court filing fees. In 2011, the legislature continued funding for legal aid but disconnected funding from fluctuating court filings. As of 2019, the State of Oregon provides a budgetary appropriation of $12.26 Million per biennium—or $6.13 Million annually—to the Legal Services Program to fund legal aid in Oregon.
One-time Appropriations: In the 2007-2009, 2009-2011, and 2015-2017 biennia, the Legal Services Program received additional funding from the State of Oregon through one-time general fund appropriations.
Unclaimed Lawyer Trust Account Funds: The Oregon State Bar manages the receipt and distribution of Unclaimed Lawyer Trust Account funds appropriated to the Legal Services Program per ORS 98.368(2).
Pro Hac Vice Fees: Out-of-state lawyers pay a fee to appear in Oregon courts. These fees go to the Legal Services Program to fund legal aid per ORS 9.241.
Cy-Près Awards: At least half of funds from Oregon class action settlements and judgments that are either unclaimed or unpayable are forwarded to the Legal Services Program to fund legal aid per ORCP 32 O.
Legal Aid’s Other Funding Sources
Beyond funds from the Legal Services Program, providers have 80 sources of funding including federal and state grants and revenue from private foundations. Examples include a grant from The Oregon Housing and Community Services to provide legal assistance for homeowners facing foreclosure, funds from an Oregon Department of Justice grant to serve victims of domestic violence, grants from United Way to provide services to low-income clients and generous contributions from private lawyers through the Campaign for Equal Justice.
Oregonians have a long history of working together to support access to justice; this collaboration is sometimes referred to as the Oregon Access to Justice Coalition. Partners have included Governors, Chief Justices, Judges, Attorneys General, legislators, state and local bar groups, members of Oregon’s corporate community, private lawyers, the Campaign for Equal Justice, the Oregon Law Foundation, and legal service providers. In addition to the OSB Legal Services Program, below are a few of the bar groups and nonprofits that are part of Oregon’s Access to Justice Coalition.
OSB Pro Bono Program: The Legal Services Program includes the Pro Bono Program. Legal Services Program staff work with the OSB Pro Bono Committee to support a statewide culture of pro bono and greater participation by the private bar.
Oregon Law Foundation: The OLF is a nonprofit with the mission to support access to justice in Oregon by obtaining and distributing funds to provide legal services to persons of lesser means. The OLF’s primary source of revenue is the interest on lawyer trust accounts (IOLTA). The OLF works to educate banks on the importance of supportive interest rates on IOLTA accounts. The private bar also plays a crucial role in getting banks to raise interest rates. The OLF works closely with the OSB and CEJ to achieve its mission.
Campaign for Equal Justice: CEJ is a nonprofit established in 1991 to help with the mission of ensuring that equal access to justice becomes a reality for all residents of Oregon. CEJ takes a strategic approach to solving the shortage of legal services by educating lawyers and the public about the need and by working to increase resources for legal aid through grants, state and federal support, and by direct fundraising from private lawyers. CEJ works closely with the OLF and OSB to achieve its mission.
Lawyers at four nonprofits cooperate to provide legal services throughout the state with offices in Albany, Bend, Klamath Falls, Newport, Pendleton, Portland, Roseburg, Coos Bay, Grants Pass, Hillsboro, McMinnville, Ontario, Salem, St. Helens, Woodburn, Eugene, and Medford.
- Legal Aid Services of Oregon (LASO)
- Oregon Law Center (OLC)
- Center for NonProfit Legal Services (CNPLS)
- Columbia County Legal Aid In 2011 Columbia County Legal Aid assigned to OLC the responsibility to operate and maintain an office in St. Helens serving low-income residents of Columbia County. Although Columbia County Legal Aid still receives the Legal Services Program funds, the Columbia County office is fully integrated into OLC.
OregonLawHelp.org is developed by legal aid to provide free legal information on topics affecting low-income Oregonians.
Task Force Reports
Legal Needs Studies
Keren Farkas, Chief Access to Justice Officer
William Penn, Assistant Director Legal Services Program
Brooke Thacher, Program Coordinator
Laura Greer, Administrative Assistant
Oregon State Bar Legal Services Program
PO Box 231935
Tigard, OR 97281-1935