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Legal Services Non-Profits Announce Cut-Backs

Volunteer Legal Services Program and Lawyers' Committee for Civil Right Cite Decreased Funding from Foundation and Government Sources


May 8, 2009 -- San Francisco -- The Volunteer Legal Services Program of The Bar Association of San Francisco (VLSP), and The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights for the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR) announced today that both organizations have informed staff members of furloughs or layoffs in an effort to reduce costs and manage budgets in response to the current economic climate.

VLSP, the largest provider of pro bono legal services in San Francisco, will institute a 10% furlough for most of its staff starting July 1, 2009.  VLSP has 35 full- and part-time employees.  Several fully-funded positions will not be affected.  Open positions will not be filled through the balance of 2009.  New law firm associates who have been deferred from starting due to the economy will step in to handle some of the workload, at no cost to VLSP.

VLSP has experienced an 8% reduction in the amount of funding from private foundations, as well as in federal and state grants.  “Cuts so far have reached $160,000, and we have 8 months of the year to go.   We knew that we needed to be proactive, and to safeguard the strength of the organization,” said Tiela Chalmers, Executive Director of VLSP. “The furloughs are a way to ensure the continued health of the VLSP organization, and retain a dedicated staff.  We are committed to continuing to provide high quality legal services to thousands of low-income individuals and families, and offering rewarding pro bono opportunities to attorneys.” 

The economic climate has also led The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area to restructure its operations, effective Friday, May 8, 2009.  Like VLSP, LCCR has experienced reductions in funding from private foundations.  LCCR has taken this precautionary measure to ensure that it can continue to be well positioned in the long term to champion the rights of the underprivileged in its core issue areas of race, poverty and immigrant rights. Six positions have been eliminated in LCCR's restructuring; the majority of the impacted positions are administrative, and all of LCCR’s programs remain intact.  

"This was an extremely difficult decision for us to make," said Lateefah Simon, Executive Director of LCCR. "However, like many organizations across the country, both in the private and nonprofit sectors, we are also dealing with the uncertainty of today's economy. As a result, we are taking steps to reduce costs throughout our operation so that we can continue to serve Northern California's most vulnerable populations for decades to come."

With institutional donors cutting back on their support, both organizations are turning increasingly to law firm and individual supporters. As a result of the economic downturn, demand for free legal services has greatly increased, and the need for funding and pro bono participation is at an all-time high.

Both legal service organizations rely heavily upon pro bono attorneys within San Francisco to provide services to thousands of people in desperate need of legal help.  Individual attorneys, law firms and corporate legal departments are also part of the critical system that keeps legal services nonprofits vibrant and serving the community. 


The Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF) is a nonprofit voluntary membership organization of over 8,000 attorneys, law students and legal professionals in the Bay Area. Founded in 1872, BASF is one of the largest and most dynamic metropolitan bar associations in the U.S., with a long and distinguished record of community action, public service and service to the legal profession.

Questions about media relations, BASF issues currently in the news, San Francisco Attorney magazine, marketing and communications:

Ann Murphy, Director of Communications & Public Relations
(415) 782-9000 x8792

For general communications inquiries:

Sayre Happich, Assistant Director of Communications & Public Relations
(415) 782-9000 x8104