Standards for the Provision of Civil Legal Aid

Standard 1.2-1 on Individual Members' Commitment to the Provider

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Standard

All members of the governing body should be committed to the mission of the provider and devote adequate time to meet board responsibilities.

Commentary

General considerations

The governing body needs to make prudent decisions that are responsive to the needs of low income communities for effective legal assistance. This calls for its members to support the mission of the provider and to commit adequate time and resources to carry out their responsibilities.

Support for high quality, responsive legal assistance. Members of the governing body should be persons who recognize the essential role of assertive advocacy in the American system of justice. They should also be sympathetic to the challenges facing persons without financial means and should support forceful legal representation to respond to their legal problems. They should appreciate how their decisions significantly affect how the needs of low income communities for effective legal assistance are met.

Effective communication with the low income and legal communities. Members should recognize the importance of the provider communicating effectively with the low income population regarding how best to serve low income persons. They should be open as board members to communication with representatives of the low income community and to open discussion among all members of the governing body. All board members should participate fully in deciding important issues.

Members of the governing body should also appreciate the importance of establishing a firm link between the provider and the legal community to develop a more informed understanding of the legal needs of low income communities and to encourage participation by members of the bar in representation of clients.

Commitment of adequate time and resources. Membership on the governing body of a legal aid provider involves significant responsibilities. The governing body cannot carry out its essential functions without the informed, committed involvement of its individual members. Effective participation begins with a willingness to learn about the provider's mission, how it operates, how it is funded and what the legal requirements are that govern its operation. It also calls for each board member to learn about the important characteristics of the low income communities served by the provider and the legal problems they face. Such knowledge and awareness is important to the governing body making appropriate decisions regarding service delivery, budgeting, financial management, and other pertinent matters.

Members also need to commit adequate time to carrying out their responsibilities. They should commit to regular attendance at meetings of the governing body and any committees to which they are assigned. They also need to commit time to completing any projects or tasks they agree to take on, including the direct support of the provider's resource development strategies.