The Center for Arkansas Legal Services and Legal Aid of Arkansas are the only free civil legal aid organizations in the state. Together, they help more than 12,000 clients each year. With a combined total of only 60 attorneys between these two organizations, the caseload is staggering.
For every 17,568 low-income Arkansas, there is only one legal aid attorney, yet there is one attorney for every 400 Arkansans in the state. As a result of limited staff resources, more than half of those who qualify for and who seek free civil legal help have to be turned away.
Fortunately, the broader Arkansas legal community and other state leaders have realized the need to support efforts to enhance access to justice. In 2003, the Arkansas Bar Association petitioned the Arkansas Supreme Court to form the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission, an organization designed to implement initiatives to expand access and enhance the quality of justice in civil legal matters.
Since 2003, the Commission has undertaken initiatives to expand pro bono recruitment and participation, implement court assistance projects, effect changes to statutes and court rules that impact access to justice, educate the public about the need for civil legal aid, and increase financial resources available to provide legal assistance to low-income Arkansans. Its success has been augmented by its sister 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Arkansas Access to Justice Foundation, which manages the state’s IOLTA Program and coordinates statewide fundraising efforts for access to justice.
Together, we represent hope for more than half a million low-income Arkansans who would otherwise have nowhere to turn for legal help.