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About Us

 

1-888-LSNJ-LAW
1-888-576-5529

Open for calls 8:00 to 5:30 pm
Monday through Friday.

 

VISION & MISSION

Legal Services in New Jersey embraces the vision of full access to essential civil legal aid for all economically disadvantaged people who cannot secure a lawyer on their own. This belief in the importance of legal assistance to indigent people stems from an underlying concern with fairness, and a conviction that important legal needs of individuals should be addressed.

Legal Services’ core vision and mission cannot deviate from this anchor, and the program must maintain a principal focus on meeting these basic needs. It must strive to pursue actions that have import and sweep beyond the individual parties in specific legal cases. It must prioritize legal representation that will help rebuild impoverished, deteriorating communities, or that address recurrent problems that otherwise would continue to occur in the lives of low-income people.

Legal Services must continually monitor its own effectiveness and place special emphasis on representation that actually secures fair outcomes for clients, and protects and enforces their legal rights.

New Jersey Legal Services’ core mission statement is:

"Just Justice"
Legal Services seeks to secure equal
substantive and procedural justice
for all economically disadvantaged people.

To achieve this mission:

  1. Legal Services must function as a concerted, coherent, closely coordinated legal assistance delivery system—the hub or a broader legal assistance delivery network and partnership, to ensure full access to equal justice for all economically disadvantaged people.

  2. Legal Services must develop the resources necessary to achieve this vision, and must target those resources, and use them as efficiently and effectively as possible, to achieve the greatest measure of equal justice.

  3. Legal Services must incorporate the views of its consumers and key partners, as appropriate to their experience, stake, and role, in making major decisions about how to design and implement its system of services.

LSNJ HISTORY

Legal Services programs were started county by county in the mid-60's, tracking those areas where there were supportive bar leaders or local community organizations. In a number of cases, these new programs merged with and supplanted preexisting county bar association legal aid societies. Many Legal Services programs began as part of OEO-funded community action corporations, later splitting and becoming independent. Since the mid-1970's, all county Legal Services programs have been independent non-profit corporations, not part of or affiliated with any other community organization. Each has its own board of trustees, a majority of whom are lawyers appointed by the local county bar association.

Statewide coordination of these separate county programs began later in the 1960's, coordinated first by the State Office of Legal Services within the state Department of Community Affairs, then by an informal project directors group in 1971-1972, by the New Jersey Legal Services Association in 1973, and thereafter by LSNJ, starting later that year (LSNJ had been organized a year earlier, in 1972). New Jersey has thus had a long - and strong - history of statewide coordination going back three decades, through LSNJ and its staff, task forces, statewide training, newsletters, legal and administrative support, fundraising and other work. Recent highlights have included statewide technology coordination, standardizing intake practices, instituting a statewide legal hotline, and program evaluations. Local program staff participate actively in and support these activities. Since 1973, Legal Services has spoken with a unified voice through LSNJ to the judiciary, Legislature, Governor and executive branch, and is perceived by each as a unified system—an enormous strength.

The various growth and retrenchment periods have each in turn tended to further strengthen this systematic coordination. During the expansion period from 1976 to 1979, New Jersey put substantial resources into increasing LSNJ's staff. Then, during the 1981-1983 retrenchment phase, LSNJ was called upon to coordinate the planning response and the quest for new resources. This emphasis on securing state level restoration and expansion funding continued through the remainder of the 1980's and 1990's. The IOLTA (Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts) program was made mandatory in 1993 and has provided increasing levels of statewide support, especially after new interest rate guidelines were established in 2005 – though revenues have fluctuated greatly according to economic conditions. State funding also saw significant gains, supported in part by legislation to increase filing fees. In 2003, the state’s 14 county-based programs were consolidated into six regional programs forming, with LSNJ, the New Jersey Legal Services system as it stands today.