OMAHA — Legal Aid of Nebraska received a highly competitive Pro Bono Innovation Fund grant from the federal Legal Services Corporation. The $357,475 grant allows Legal Aid to begin the Pro Bono Connection Project, which will expand pro bono legal services to low-income Nebraskans in rural areas. LSC’s Pro Bono Innovation Fund awarded $4,347,185 to 14 legal aid organizations nationwide to encourage and expand pro bono efforts and partnerships to serve more low-income clients. The project’s goal is to increase the number of low-income rural clients receiving civil legal assistance, according to a press release from Legal Aid.
Among those commending Legal Aid’s receipt of the grant include Nebraska U.S. Congressman Don Bacon.
“In Congress I have supported robust funding for legal assistance to low-income individuals and families, to ensure they have access to justice and due process,” Bacon said. “This grant will help identify those who need that access and I look forward to hearing how this assistance will benefit Nebraskans in need.”
According to a press release, the Pro Bono Connection Project will boost Legal Aid’s efforts to help bridge the “justice gap” in the state, where nine out of 10 legal problems faced by low-income Nebraskans go unaddressed. Working in close collaboration with the Nebraska State Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyers Project, the project takes direct aim on this challenge by taking into account Nebraska’s concentration of attorneys in two major cities, the shortage of attorneys in rural areas, the state’s large geographic size and the lack of a strong history and culture of pro bono service.
Legal Aid will use an asset mapping approach to identify community strengths and resources that are best able to support pro bono legal services in three rural areas, and then connect and support these efforts through innovative technology, virtual clinics, urban-rural attorney collaboration and pro bono promotion and volunteer opportunities. The Pro Bono Connection Project will be announced Oct. 11 at the upcoming second Pro Bono Summit during the Nebraska State Bar Association’s annual meeting in LaVista.
“There are a lot of exciting developments going on right now in the state to foster more pro bono legal work,” said Jennifer Gaughan, Legal Aid’s chief of legal program and strategy. “The Pro Bono Connection Project is going to be a real catalyst to this joint work, and promote considerably more pro bono legal services not only with Legal Aid’s efforts but also among the VLP and other collaborators. Ultimately, that means more justice for low-income Nebraskans, something they so sorely need.”