Frequently Asked Questions About the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network

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WHAT IS THE PENNSYLVANIA LEGAL AID NETWORK?

The Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network is a statewide consortium of independent legal aid programs that provides civil legal assistance to low-income individuals and families. The network is administered and funded by the corporate entity that this website is home to, known as Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, Inc. (PLAN, Inc.)


WHAT ROLE DOES PLAN, INC. PLAY AS AN UMBRELLA AGENCY?

PLAN, Inc. administers funding that comes from a variety of federal, state, and local sources. We contract with individual legal aid programs for the provision of services and then monitor performance, coordinate training and technology, and help develop new resources and programs.


HOW IS LEGAL AID FUNDED?

The sources of funding for legal aid include federal and state appropriations; grants from foundations, bar associations, United Way agencies, and other organizations; allocations from local governments; grants from the Legal Services Corporation; revenue from Pennsylvania IOLTA, a statewide program that collects and combines residual interest earnings from lawyer trust accounts; and revenue from a surcharge on court filing fees. Private lawyers also contribute with their dollars and by volunteering their services (called “pro bono”) for low-income individuals in need.


WHAT IS CIVIL LEGAL AID?

Civil legal aid refers to the free legal services provided by some 350 legal aid attorneys and paralegals in legal aid programs throughout Pennsylvania. These professionals work through local and regional legal aid offices to help over 100,000 low-income people gain access to legal representation. Civil legal aid helps people resolve urgent, non-criminal legal problems. For example, elderly people are protected from unlawful evictions; women and children are protected from violence in their homes; and veterans get help obtaining financial benefits they have earned and need.


ISN’T EVERYONE ENTITLED TO A LAWYER?

The courts provide public defenders in criminal cases if a defendant cannot afford a lawyer, but there is not yet a similar established legal guarantee in civil cases.


HOW MUCH NEED IS THERE FOR CIVIL LEGAL AID?

Nearly 1.9 million Pennsylvanians financially qualify for legal aid.* A recent study indicated that nationally one in every two individuals who qualify for and actually seek assistance from legal aid programs is turned away because of a lack of resources. The study also verified that at least 80 percent of the legal needs of the poor go unmet.


WHO QUALIFIES FOR LEGAL AID?

Eligibility is based on governmental guidelines and local program priorities. Generally, income eligibility is pegged at 125 percent of the poverty level.*

Contact your local legal aid program or visit www.PALawHELP.org on the Internet for further information.


WHAT IS PALawHELP.ORG?

PALawHELP.org is a single, easy to navigate web site that contains current and accurate legal information that people experiencing legal problems need to have. PALawHELP.org provides:

     

  • Information on free legal aid programs and other legal service providers
  • Court Information
  • Legal education and self help information
  • Information about and links to social services and government agencies.


HOW DO I FIND MORE INFORMATION ABOUT LOCAL LEGAL AID PROGRAMS?

On this website you can visit our Legal Help Finder to locate the legal aid program serving your part of Pennsylvania. 

You can also visit www.PALawHELP.org for more information. This web site provides referral information to legal aid programs in Pennsylvania and provides current information on a variety of legal topics. Otherwise, please call 1-800-322-7572 for referral information.


* In addition to those who financially qualify for legal aid, thousands of victims of domestic violence are served regardless of income.