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Standard 6.2 on Characteristics of Staff

Standard 6.1 | Table of Contents | Standard 6.3


A legal aid organization's staff and leadership team should be diverse, well-qualified, and competent, sensitive to people impacted by poverty and their legal needs and committed to providing high-quality legal services. Diversity includes having staff and leadership at all levels who may be disabled, LGBTQ+, bilingual, come from historically underrepresented groups, and have lived experience in common with that of the communities the organization serves.


Legal aid should be provided by staff members who are professionally well-qualified and competent, are sensitive to persons they are serving and cognizant of their legal needs and are committed to high-quality legal work to address the immediate problems of their clients and broader systemic issues. To this end, an organization should recruit and strive to retain diverse staff with the professional skills and knowledge necessary to provide high-quality assistance to persons served, a commitment to providing such assistance, and the capability of communicating effectively with members of the low-income and oppressed communities. 

Organizations should take steps to facilitate high-quality work by offering training in professional skills and substantive law CLEs and assuring that staff members have meaningful opportunities for professional development. They should supervise staff members to foster their professional growth and ensure effective assistance to clients.Organizations should strive to retain staff by providing fair compensation; benefits; and sustainable, supportive work environments, including the ability to work remotely when possible. An organization's capacity to attract and retain high-quality staff will be enhanced by the degree to which it is engaged with the people it serves in diverse communities, accomplishes meaningful results for them, and has institutional credibility with those communities it serves.

High-quality representation also calls for practitioners who can communicate effectively with their clients and who are aware of and sensitive to the cultural diversity that the organization serves. The organization should seek practitioners who are from the communities it serves or have the capacity to empathize with the concerns of clients with diverse characteristics and bridge differences that may exist regarding their understanding of their legal problems and the legal system in general. Organizations should recruit bilingual practitioners and staff who can effectively communicate with applicants and clients who may have language preferences other than English or who are deaf or hard of hearing. Organizations should conduct training for staff to ensure that they are equipped to provide services to members of diverse client communities in a manner that reflects the values of race equity, cross-cultural sensitivity, and cultural humility.

Legal aid teams should have staff, leadership, and board members who come from the community they serve or live in close proximity to it. When it comes to the organization, inclusion also means having representative teams, including people with disabilities, and adequate gender representation. For example, in legal aid, men and women of color are underrepresented in professional and leadership ranks as well as on boards. Long-term strategies need to be prioritized with a goal of having staff and leadership representation that matches the composition of clients being served.