Legal aid (free legal advice or representation for people who can’t afford it) is often taken for granted, but is a necessary part of our country’s justice system, to help ensure that legal advice and counsel is available to everyone, even those who are unable to pay for it. Both legal aid and pro bono work (given by attorneys to low-income clients without charge) are important to help level the legal playing field.
Here in the state of Nevada, several legal aid resources are available to help those who cannot afford to pay for representation.
Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada
Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada1 is a nonprofit law firm dedicated to providing civil legal services to the most vulnerable in its community. Practice areas include: consumer rights (bankruptcy, debt collection, foreclosures, etc.); children (foster care, special education, educational surrogate parent); family justice (domestic violence, custody, divorce, guardianship, immigration); and senior citizens.
The center provides a wealth of resources, including an “ask a lawyer” service, free classes, and self-help materials, in addition to direct representation.
Washoe Legal Services
Washoe Legal Services2 is a nonprofit legal services agency that has been helping qualified residents of Washoe County since 1965. It provides civil legal services at no charge to residents who can’t access or protect their basic legal needs. It offers services in the landlord/tenant, consumer law, domestic violence, and immigration law categories.
Volunteer Attorneys for Rural Nevada
Volunteer Attorneys for Rural Nevada (VARN)3 specializes in domestic violence law, offering various programs to serve low-income residents and victims in 15 rural counties in Nevada. Services areas include: Carson City, Churchill, Douglas, Elko, Esmeralda, Eureka, Humboldt, Lander, Lincoln, Lyon, Mineral, Nye, Pershing, Storey and White Pine counties. The organization’s work includes a domestic violence rural immigrant integration project, a domestic violence victims’ assistance program, and pro bono services.
Nevada Legal Services
Nevada Legal Services4 is a statewide nonprofit organization that provides free legal services to low-income Nevadans in every county. Because it is grant-funded by the government, it must adhere to income guidelines and can only represent Nevadans with income at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. There are also restrictions on the assets its clients can have. Interested parties must talk to someone at the organization to see if they qualify.
Southern Nevada Senior Law Program
The Southern Nevada Senior Law Program, as its name implies, specializes in providing legal services to seniors, including: estate planning and probate, health care directives, real property and housing, consumer assistance, elder law rights, government benefits, and public entitlements, as well as community outreach.
The Southern Nevada Senior Law Program serves those who are 60 years of age or older, who live in Clark County. There are no income restrictions for receiving assistance from the program, but most clients are below the federal poverty level.
Who Funds Legal Aid?
These programs all receive support from a program called Interest on Lawyer Trust Account (IOLTA), established by the Nevada Supreme Court. Attorneys often receive and hold funds from clients or third parties for future use. For small amounts or funds that will be held only for a short time, attorneys deposit the money into an interest-bearing IOLTA bank account. Banks then send the interest earned from the IOLTA accounts directly to the Nevada Bar Foundation for distribution to legal aid providers. In 2015, the foundation distributed more than $2.8 million in grants to legal services providers, assisting more than 23,000 households throughout the state.6
Nevada State Bank is a proud participant in the IOLTA program. Randy Boesch, head of The Private Bank by Nevada State Bank, stated, “We know how important IOLTA is because of our involvement in the legal community. The organizations that receive these IOLTA funds serve people in need, such as senior citizens in need of legal services who cannot afford them, and foster children who have nowhere to turn for legal help. It just makes sense for a community-based bank like Nevada State Bank to help people in need in the community.”
The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of ZB, N.A.
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