Spotlight on AIDS Legal Services Project
Since its founding in 1986 by the LACBA Barristers, the project has provided one-on-one pro bono legal representation to thousands of people living with HIV and AIDS who have a legal problem related to their medical condition.
With the help of highly motivated pro bono attorneys, ALSP has established a reputation for handling some of the most sophisticated legal issues, including asylum based on HIV status, employment, discrimination, consumer, public benefits and private insurance, testamentary and debtor/creditor matters, health law, social security appeals, and housing issues. (Currently, there is a special need for volunteers in the areas of employment law, consumer debt, and healthcare privacy issues.)
In 2009 alone, volunteer advocates and HALSA staff worked on 1,331 cases, resolving and closing 113 pro bono matters, including 14 cases that were either litigated in court or decided by an administrative agency. Project volunteers provided 5,131 hours of pro bono assistance at an estimated value of $1,015, 600.
“I’ve always been amazed at the level of commitment from our volunteer attorneys,” says Project Director Laurie Aronoff, “some of whom I’ve known for 20 years!”
In addition to a broad range of services—including counsel and advice, brief services, and direct representation by a staff or pro bono attorney—the project works with all of the area law schools to coordinate in-house externships and clinics that address specific legal issues.
This past year, ALSP worked alongside the Southern California Pro Bono Managers Group and the Public Interest Clearinghouse to design, administer, and launch a joint Web site to promote pro bono opportunities throughout Southern California.
ALSP also worked on several State Bar committees to help develop “pro bono best practices” and hosted a joint training session to harness the resources of large law firms on behalf of smaller legal service providers. Focus on promoting pro bono work and collaboration with area law schools continues, with special emphasis in 2010 on launching monthly Small Claims Workshops for low-income litigants.
In 1997, ALSP joined with four other HIV legal service providers to create a coordinated system that would eliminate the duplication of services and combine resources. The program—HIV & AIDS Legal Services Alliance (HALSA)—which was incorporated at the end of 2001, includes as its original collaborative partners AIDS Project Los Angeles, AIDS Service Center, the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, and Public Counsel.
“There are a lot of legal needs in our communities where many low-income people cannot access justice,” says Aronoff. “It’s great that so many private attorneys recognize the unique role they can play to help out, and I think it’s just as important that potential pro bono attorneys find an organization where they can apply their knowledge and make a real difference in somebody’s life.”
To find out more about the AIDS Legal Services Project, contact Project Director Laurie Aronoff at (213) 637-1692 or firstname.lastname@example.org.