The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, founded in 1905, is the fifth oldest legal aid organization in the country, and still serves as a national model for similar societies. Legal Aid’s mission is to secure justice and resolve fundamental problems for those who are low income and vulnerable by providing high quality legal services and working for systemic solutions.
Legal Aid’s 51 attorneys and 1600 volunteer lawyers work represent clients in court and help others solve legal issues at the many Brief Advice Clinics throughout the year and across Northeast Ohio. Each year, Legal Aid serves nearly 23,000 people in the community in a variety of cases dealing with civil issues such as:
Unemployment, housing, education, immigration, divorce, and much more. Legal Aid is deeply connected to its community and responds to the specific needs that arise in the five counties it serves: Cuyahoga, Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, and Lorain.
When the economy impacted the housing market and many families were at risk of losing their homes, Legal Aid enhanced its foreclosure practice in order to handle the growing number of cases related to foreclosure.
Legal Aid provides most written materials in both English and Spanish, includes a translation option on its website, and uses interpreters frequently when communicating with clients who have limited English proficiency. Legal Aid’s impact in the Latino community can be seen through the story of Ms. Lillian Medina. She is a native of Honduras, and came to Cleveland in 2006. She found out about Legal Aid when she was referred by a social worker at MetroHealth because she was concerned about her son, Juwan, who was exceptionally quiet for a three year old. When Ms. Medina enrolled Juwan in preschool, she found that he struggled to keep up and she sought Legal Aid’s help to obtain special preschool education services that would help Juwan progress. A Legal Aid attorney succeeded in getting Juwan evaluated, which revealed a large discrepancy between his verbal and nonverbal communication abilities. This qualified him for special education, which Juwan subsequently received, along with SSI benefits because of his condition. Juwan is now four years old and is thriving in his new school where the teachers understand his needs and tailor lessons to work with him instead of against him. Without Legal Aid, Juwan might have gone years without an Individualized Education Program, falling far behind in his classes and struggling to enjoy school.
Another example is Ms. Sanchez (name changed to protect privacy). She is a native of Puerto Rico and came to Legal Aid for help with an eviction case. A bilingual Legal Aid attorney assisted Ms. Sanchez and prevented an eviction judgment against Ms. Sanchez. The Legal Aid attorney successfully litigated a counterclaim in a property damage action against the landlord. Ms. Sanchez was awarded $2200 and Legal Aid ensured she continued to receive rental payment assistance from the Housing Voucher Program.
In addition to the casework Legal Aid’s attorneys handle, the organization lives up to its mission of “working for systemic solutions” by advocating for client rights and partnering with agencies such as El Barrio, El Centro, the Spanish American Committee, among others. In 2010, a social work department was established in order to guide clients with deeper causes for their legal issues to the proper resources to ensure long-term success after their case is closed. In 2012, Legal Aid partners with other legal and medical associations in Ohio to help develop Advance Directive forms that are in Spanish and English in a side-by-side format: Legal Aid can help people prepare an Advance Directive.
Please visit www.lasclev.org to learn more about Legal Aid; access brochures and more success stories like Juwan’s and Ms. Sanchez; and view the events calendar to find when and where upcoming Brief Advice Clinics are taking place.
You can also “Like” The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland on Facebook to get updates on the organization and its impact on the community.
If you or someone you know needs representation in a civil case, contact Legal Aid’s Intake Department at 216-687-1900 or toll-free at 888-817-3777 to apply.
Legal Aid hosts FREE legal clinics in various neighborhoods in Northeast Ohio.