Pro Bono News

Law You Can Use: Ohio's Civil Legal Aid System Offers Hope to Low-Income Ohioans (OH)

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Law You Can Use: Ohio's Civil Legal Aid System Offers Hope to Low-Income Ohioans

"Civil legal aid refers to the legal services provided at no cost to low-income Ohioans by hundreds of attorneys and paralegals throughout Ohio. These professionals work through local and regional legal aids, volunteer pro bono programs, and reduced-fee contracted services to help thousands of people gain access to legal representation.

Civil legal aid helps Ohioans struggling to make ends meet resolve urgent, noncriminal legal problems. For example, a local legal aid can help protect elderly people from unlawful evictions, women and children from violence in their homes, and can help veterans receive the benefits they have earned and need.

A legal aid society (commonly known as a "legal aid") is a nonprofit law firm that serves a designated area of Ohio. There are eight legal aids that, together, serve every county in Ohio, plus one statewide legal aid dedicated to serving seniors. Like any law firm, each legal aid has attorneys and support staff. Legal aid attorneys are trained in a wide range of issues facing those living in poverty and may also specialize in a particular area of the law, such as housing or domestic violence.

In addition to traditional one-on-one representation, many legal aids have developed online resources to provide clients with advice, brief services, or to refer clients to another agency better suited to help a client with his or her problem. The legal aid system also includes a hotline that provides free legal information, advice and referral for all residents of Ohio age 60 and over.

The primary sources of funding for civil legal aid in Ohio come from the Ohio Legal Aid Fund. The Ohio Access to Justice Foundation administers this fund, which consists of interest earned on IOLTA (Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts) and IOTA (Interest on Trust Accounts), and from a filing fee surcharge on civil cases filed in municipal, county and common pleas courts. Most legal aids also receive grants from the federal Legal Services Corporation, which is funded by an appropriation from Congress.

Legal aids also receive funds from other sources such as individual donors, foundations, businesses, United Way allocations, and state and local bar associations. Visit the Ohio Access to Justice Foundation website ( to learn more about IOLTA/IOTA, filing fees, and the history of funding legal aid in Ohio..."

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