Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Legal Aid 'Pop-Up' Office Focuses on Helping Rural Clients Nonprofit's Advice Can Eliminate Barriers

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Legal Aid 'Pop-Up' Office Focuses on Helping Rural Clients Nonprofit's Advice Can Eliminate Barriers

Article excerpt

Camped out in the conference room of a career center in Kittanning on Tuesday, a group of attorneys were armed with doughnuts, bottles of water and legal advice on a variety of subjects. And they were prepared to share it all with anyone who walked in. For free.

The event was a "pop-up" legal clinic - one of three held last week -and it was aimed at reaching people who can't find or can't afford to hire an attorney.

The pop-ups were put on by lawyers from Laurel Legal Services, a regional nonprofit, and representatives of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. Renee Williams, executive director of Laurel Legal Services, said it was a first in the region.

The first customer came about mid-morning. He was a middle-aged man, unemployed for several years and had relied on credit cards to pay his bills and buy food. Now his credit cards had been canceled, and he owed the companies $10,000. He wanted to know: Could his utilities be shut off? Could his house be taken?

Laurel Legal Services is one of three nonprofit legal aid organizations that receive state and federal funding to help the region's poor answer questions like these. In the agency's Greensburg office, Laurel's nine attorneys each have 30 to 70 cases open at a time, Ms. Williams said. Clients generally must meet an income qualification - at 125 percent of the poverty level or lower - and they must be able to get to the office.

Ms. Williams said she sees an opening in the system for the kind of outreach the pop-ups can provide. "So if we can do these outreaches where we're not actually being taken on as an attorney but we can give some legal advice, it's a phenomenal way to get out into the community and try to hit people we wouldn't normally see," she said.

The clinic, which was co-hosted by the PA CareerLink office in Kittanning, was the second in a series of three daylong pop-ups the groups hosted during the week. …

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