Late 1978-1981: After Green Amendment removed, LSC develops a coherent support policy

The Legal Services Corporation did not develop a coherent support policy until late 1978. See LSC, Support: Policies and Options for 1979 and Beyond (September 14, 1978). That policy developed after a process that included: meetings held by key LSC staff; the Next Steps process; the development of a paper on National Advocacy; and a joint PAG/NCC/NLADA task force on support. During summer 1978, an LSC support task force held two large meetings and three smaller meetings. The task force discussed a planning paper prepared by LSC staff members Alan Houseman and Judy Riggs. In addition, the 1007(h) study required by Congress in the 1977 LSC reauthorization called for creation of national support entities on immigration and veterans. See Special Legal Problems and Problems of Access to Legal Services of Veterans, Migrant and Season Farmworkers, Native Americans, People with Limited English-Speaking Abilities and Individuals in Sparsely Populated Areas (LSC 1980).

The new LSC support policy mandated:

(1) increased national support through increased funding for existing centers, the development of new support centers, expansion of national advocacy and the development of manuals and materials;

(2) development of state support to carry out three principal functions of state level advocacy, coordination and support initially through a state planning process and ultimately with increased funding;

(3) decentralization of training, from national events to local and regional training;

(4) an expanded Clearinghouse Review to include articles and discussions of delivery issues; and

(5) targeting of technical (or management assistance) to program problems as defined through monitoring and evaluation.

The new LSC policy was never fully implemented. This was due to the low priority placed upon support in the LSC budget requests and among the supporters of the program in Congress. While not overtly hostile, many of the moderate congressional supporters, particularly on the appropriations committee, did not give high priority to increased support. Instead, they pressured LSC to complete the “minimum access” plan of providing programs to cover every county in the US and territories.

National support
Growth did come eventually for national support although no significant new money was available until 1979. The new support policy set out four principal functions for national support:

(1) support of legal services staff and clients though individual service work, library and resource material, training, communications, the development of manuals and materials, technical assistance and development of strategies for use by local program staff;

(2) litigation, including serving as counsel for eligible clients and co-counsel with local program staff;

(3) legislative and administrative representation on behalf of eligible clients, including representation before Congress; and

(4) coordination and establishment of networks with local program staff, other advocates and advocate organizations representing the poor.

Many of the centers were funded to open Washington, DC offices for advocacy before Congress and in the federal agencies. Responsibilities of some of the existing centers were expanded, and new funding was made available for additional responsibilities and for special projects. All of the centers were encouraged to produce manuals and materials for use by local program staff, and additional funds were made available for these products. The Youth Law Center and the National Juvenile Law Center merged in 1980 into the National Center on Youth Law.

New initiatives were funded to cover the following subjects:

  • Family law (National Center on Women and Family Law)
  • Immigration (National Immigration Law Center)
  • Access to federal courts (Access to Justice Project at NLADA)
  • Veteran’s issues (National Veterans Legal Services Project)
  • Civil rights (through a contract with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law)
  • Food and hunger (Food Research and Action Center) and
  • Mental disability law (Mental Health Law Project)

However, there remained a number of areas in which support needs were great and no center was available to provide assistance (e.g., physically disabled).

State Support
There was substantial growth in state support. OEO had funded the Western Center on Law and Poverty (California); Michigan Legal Services; Massachusetts Law Reform; Ohio State Legal Services; Greater Upstate Law Project (New York) and Legal Services of New Jersey.

When discretionary money became available from the Corporation in 1977 and 1978, the programs in some states (primarily in the South and Southwest) pooled resources to establish state support projects–then called “joint ventures.” Often these projects limited their functions to training and legislative and administrative advocacy. Virtually none carried on the full range of activities of those programs funded through OEO. In other states where expansion was great, some state support entities were created as new programs or parts of expansion programs. In some states, the statewide program provided support to its staff and the staff of any other program.

Eventually, LSC recognized the need for state support in all states. In 1979, LSC began the process of state planning for, and funding of, state level advocacy, coordination and support around the country. However, because of budget pressures and the congressional emphasis on “minimum access,” new money was not allocated until 1981. The plans were only partially implemented when the appropriations reductions for FY 1982 stopped the expansion of state support.

Perhaps the greatest increase in support occurred in training. Substantial new funds were allocated to OPS in 1978 through 1980. OPS originally gave high priority to a series of national and regional training events for attorneys and paralegals. These events were beginning to come under increasing criticism from local program staff and local project directors (as well as clients) when the support study began. A National Training Advisory Committee (NTAC) was established in 1978. NTAC recommended a shift in training from the national to the local level and increased use of training grants to states and regions to conduct their own training activities. The support study adopted a view that was generally consistent with the recommendations coming from field programs and the advisory committee. By then, however, the OPS staff had been substantially increased. Tension began to arise between the desires of OPS staff and the recommendations of the advisory committees and the support study.

Bureaucratic resistance to the shift in training contemplated by the support policy also existed within OFS and the regional offices. The regional offices saw the opportunity to expand their activities and to use training as a means to improve quality in programs. In response to the regional office pressures and the OPS desires, LSC adopted a bureaucratically acceptable compromise. Instead of creating regional training centers, LSC regionalized its own staff, placing regional training coordinators in the regional offices. The coordinators were accountable both to the regional office director in OFS and to OPS. They were given some new funds to provide local training grants to programs.

The support policy contemplated turning most national training over to the national support centers. Some of the centers were reluctant to undertake the substantial training role originally contemplated without significantly increased funding. When additional funds for national training and national conferences were made available, the support centers provided the increased training.

The solution wasn’t entirely accepted. There continued to be internal divisions within LSC and legal services over the training efforts and the role which OPS and the support centers (state and national) should play.

The training aspect of the support study was never fully implemented until the 1981 budget crisis forced the LSC staff to seriously consider how effective training was to exist in the future. LSC created five regional training centers by funding existing programs to undertake training activities previously done at LSC. Also, LSC funded the Western Center on Law and Poverty to undertake substantive law training. These grants provided funds through 1983. At the time the grants were made, the LSC senior staff expected the training centers to function as permanent LSC grantees. However, because of the severe funding reductions, there was insufficient money to provide funding over a longer period of time.

Also in 1981, LSC gave a grant to NLADA to deliver Management Assistance and created an independent National Clearinghouse.