It has already been well documented that nationally, legal aid is being hit hard by the economy and the Madoff scandal. In Massachusetts, a state that has a long history of providing legal aid to low income and individuals in need, has seen its funding seriously reduced. Greater Boston Legal Services, the largest legal assistance agency in the region, will be cutting its staff by over 20% in the fall. Other organizations across the state have had to cut staff and close on alternate Fridays.
As mentioned in a previous blog post, much of the funding comes from the interest gained on an obscure pooled account called the Lawyers’ Trust Account program. This account contains money from certain escrow funds that is set aside by lawyers to serve clients. More money the lawyers put in, the greater money available to clients who need legal defense. The less money that comes in and the lower the interest rate (which is the case right now), the less there is available to serve clients.
This Globe article highlights the struggles occurring in Massachusetts legal aid organizations.