Little Rock-based nonprofit law firm Center for Arkansas Legal Services (CALS) will receive a $394,344 grant from Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Legal Services Corp. (LSC), according to a Wednesday (Sept. 20) news release. The money will be used to hire staff to lead the creation of a criminal record-sealing clinic for low-income Arkansas residents.
CALS is one of 17 legal aid organizations receiving a Pro Bono Innovation Fund grant from LSC. In total, LSC will give $5 million to support efforts to expand and improve pro bono legal services for low-income Americans.
“This is a much-needed investment into expanding and improving pro bono legal services for Arkansans, and we are thrilled to put it into motion,” said Milo Mumgaard, executive director of the Center for Arkansas Legal Services. “Every day, we receive hundreds of requests for legal assistance from struggling Arkansans on life-changing legal needs. This demand far outstrips our ability to meet it through our dedicated legal staff working from our eight offices. This grant is a catalyst to linking volunteer attorneys and their vital legal skills to so many Arkansans in need, and will, in turn, change so many lives for the better.”
According to the release, CALS will use the grant to develop its pro bono working group by assessing its pro bono services and hiring a new pro bono subject area manager. The manager is expected to lead the creation of a criminal record-sealing clinic and provide related community outreach.
“This grant will enhance legal services available to Arkansans regardless of their financial situation,” said Sen. John Boozman, R- Ark. “I’m pleased to support this funding that will connect individuals and families with community resources to help foster a brighter future.”
The money for the grants comes from the fiscal year 2023 congressional appropriation. Since the grant program was established in 2014, the nonprofit has provided 139 grants totaling more than $40 million.
“LSC’s Pro Bono Innovation Fund supports grantees’ tireless efforts to expand access to legal services,” said LSC President Ron Flagg. “Pro bono volunteers are an invaluable resource for the millions of low-income Americans in need of legal aid.”
According to LSC, low-income residents do not receive sufficient legal help for 92% of their civil legal problems. Expanding pro bono and other volunteer services allows legal aid providers to better assist low-income Americans in civil issue areas like housing, family, employment and income maintenance, consumer debt and natural disaster recovery.
In 1974, Congress established LSC as an independent nonprofit to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. The nonprofit provides money to 131 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in the United States. CALS was founded in 1965 and provides free civil (non-criminal) legal services to low-income Arkansans in 44 counties.