Legal Empowerment Accelerator Program (LEAP)

The Need for Legal Services

Without legal assistance, survivors of domestic and sexual violence face profound barriers on their pathways to safety, justice, and healing. High-priority areas include protective orders, child support, custody, divorce, immigration status, wrongful termination, landlord-tenant matters, and bankruptcy. Unfortunately, the provision of these legal services is inadequate, fragmented, and inaccessible. And while access to legal assistance is key to achieving safety and self-sufficiency—national studies show that access to an attorney can increase survivors’ likelihood of obtaining a civil restraining order from 32% to 86%—this need remains unmet for the majority of survivors and their children.

LEAP at A Safe Place Family Justice Center

Currently, A Safe Place Family Justice Center for Clackamas County (ASP-FJC) helps meet survivors’ crucial need for legal services through partnerships with Legal Aid Services of Oregon and Victim Rights Law Center. These agencies provide high-quality, survivor-centered services. However, they meet only a fraction of the need due to eligibility requirements, capacity, and high demand. ASP-FJC  seeks to expand essential legal assistance for survivors of domestic and sexual violence through the creation of the Legal Empowerment Accelerator Project (LEAP). This accelerator program will give new lawyers the opportunity to provide pro bono and sliding scale services to clients of A Safe Place during the course of an 18 month program. In exchange for their efforts, these new attorneys will gain invaluable professional experience while working in a supportive legal environment. The anticipated start date for the program is in 2019.

Partners

LEAP was developed through an ad-hoc group that began regularly meeting in 2016. Currently, the Steering Committee includes several private practitioners, a Clackamas Women’s Services (CWS) Board member, CWS’ Executive Director, representatives of the County Bar Association, representatives of Lewis & Clark Law School, Victim Rights Law Center, Clackamas Women Lawyers, Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, and Clackamas County Law Library.

Features of LEAP

• LEAP attorneys will be carefully selected by members of the LEAP Steering Committee and will be supervised by LEAP’s Managing Attorney.
• The Managing Attorney, an attorney with experience in legal matters that survivors commonly face, will provide mentoring, support, and expertise to the participating lawyers in both the substantive and procedural aspects of practice and in law office management.
• The lawyers will learn how to manage an independent law practice, develop a business, and how to deliver high quality and survivor-centered legal services in a solo-practice context.
• Lawyers apply through their law schools, which select cohort members in consultation with an advisory board. Participation in the program requires active membership in the Oregon State Bar.
• Participating lawyers agree to provide a set number of hours of free and sliding scale services each month to clients referred exclusively from A Safe Place. They will be free to take other cases of any kind, with the exception of criminal defense.
• The Managing Attorney will be an employee of CWS, but the participating lawyers will practice as their own law firm.
• The program will provide office space and equipment to the participants in offices near A Safe Place.

How to Get Involved

An initial estimate of the start-up cost for the program is $25,000, and an estimate for the first year’s operating budget is $145,000. ASP-FJC plans to fund this program through grants and other fundraising efforts, and is seeking donations of office space and essential equipment. If you would like to serve as a sponsor, donate to the program, or have any additional questions, contact Administrative Projects Coordinator Kira Meyrick at kiram@cwsor.org or at (503) 655-8600.

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