Public Counsel is the largest pro bono law firm in the nation. We work with major law firms and corporations to change people's futures.
Our staff of 71 attorneys and 50 support staff - including five social workers - along with over 5,000 volunteer lawyers, law students and legal professionals assists over 30,000 children, youth, families, and community organizations every year.
Founded in 1970, Public Counsel is the public interest law firm of the Los Angeles County and Beverly Hills Bar Associations as well as the Southern California affiliate of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Public Counsel's activities are far-ranging and impact a wide spectrum of people who live at or below the poverty level. Volunteer attorneys have the opportunity to work on a variety of different projects-large and small, litigation and transactional matters. Our staff provides training, model pleadings and forms and consultations to volunteers.
Public Counsel has received a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America's largest and most-utilized independent evaluator of charities. Click here to view our rating.
The substantive areas in which we work include:
The Center for Veterans Advancement (CVA), a national leader in veteran's advocacy, provides direct representation, or representation through pro bono partners, to veterans and their families. The Center provides legal representation at both the local and national levels, and coordinates its work with efforts already underway to establish special "Veterans' Courts" in Northern and Southern California designed to meet the unique needs of returning veterans. The Center also manages legal clinics, including one of the largest pro bono advocacy programs in the United States.
Public Counsel's Appellate Law Program (ALP) helps pro se indigent litigants to better represent themselves in both their civil appellate matters and federal district court matters, and provides pro bono representation in selected cases. An indigent pro se civil litigant faces numerous hurdles in both the appellate courts and the federal district court. For a pro se appellant, determining whether a trial court's order is appealable, calculating the time to file a notice of appeal, designating the record on appeal, complying with applicable rules, and drafting briefs that provide a clear discussion of the relevant facts, procedural history, and law -- with proper record and legal citations - are difficult tasks for many of these individuals. For a pro se litigant in district court, deciding whether a case belongs in federal court, framing the issues properly, accomplishing service of process, and dealing with the various motions, hearings, and conferences leading to trial is an equally daunting endeavor.
The Community Development Project (CDP) builds strong foundations for healthy, vibrant and economically stable communities by providing services to community organizations and small businesses who provide critical jobs and social services but whose limited resources cannot support payment of legal fees. CDP's Housing Opportunities, Preservation and Enforcement (HOPE) unit further strengthens communities using systemic policy, litigation and land use tools to support the development and preservation of affordable homes. Our staff and volunteers provide assistance on a wide range of matters - including incorporation of a new entity, tax-exemption issues, employment, intellectual property, lease negotiation and land use and affordable housing advocacy.
Public Counsel staff and volunteers work to increase the number of desperately needed child care spaces in Los Angeles County and assist existing facilities to continue their operations. We provide advice and pro bono representation to low- income family home day care providers, nonprofit child care centers and for-profit centers serving low-income residents on licensing, zoning, insurance and landlord/tenant issues as well as other concerns. We help local governments develop ordinances and policies related to child care. Staff, volunteer lawyers and law students regularly give educational presentations on legal issues of concern to groups of prospective and licensed child care providers.
Public Counsel staff and volunteers have provided pro bono representation to over 20,000 homeless families and individuals, including at-risk youth, in order to secure shelter, clothing, food and other vital benefits. In addition to operating the General Relief Advocacy Program, Public Counsel staff, volunteer attorneys and summer law associates administer the Los Angeles County Homeless Court Program, which, since its inception nine years ago, has assisted over 4,000 at-risk individuals clear outstanding warrants and tickets.
Public Counsel staff attorneys, social workers and social work interns work with pro bono attorneys and law students in assisting children in civil legal matters such as guardianship, special education, government benefits, emancipation, teen parents' issues and blocked trust accounts. We also provide representation to children whose parents are dying of AIDS. Our School-Linked Legal Assistance Program brings legal services directly to various local high schools and middle schools through on-campus legal clinics and classroom presentations.
As part of our work with children, Public Counsel staff attorneys, paralegals and volunteers assist prospective adoptive parents who wish to adopt children who are currently under the jurisdiction of the Dependency Court. The project is run out of a Public Counsel satellite office in the Edmund D. Edelman Children's Court.
Public Counsel staff and pro bono attorneys represent defrauded consumers such as students cheated by deceptive trade schools, debtors suffering from collection agency harassment, home equity fraud victims, victims of used car scams and victims of independent paralegal -- or notario -- fraud. Public Counsel staff and volunteers also conduct community intake and brief advice clinics in East Los Angeles and South Central Los Angeles.
In conjunction with the Los Angeles County Bar Association's Commercial Law and Bankruptcy Section, Public Counsel matches pro bono attorneys with indigent debtors needing assistance with filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy, debtors facing nondischargeability litigation and debtors considering reaffirming discharged debts.
Public Counsel staff and volunteers provide pro bono representation to individuals from over 30 different countries. Legal services are provided to the following vulnerable immigrant groups: victims of persecution seeking asylum in the United States; domestic violence, violent crime and trafficking victims seeking relief under the Violence Against Women Act and the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act; and immigrant children who have been abused, abandoned or neglected and cannot safely return to their home countries. Public Counsel also provides legal rights information and legal representation to immigrant detainees at the Santa Ana City Jail who would have no access to attorneys without Public Counsel's assistance, and provides technical assistance and training on immigration law to attorneys and court staff throughout the United States.
Public Counsel co-counsels with other public interest groups and private bar volunteer attorneys on a number of major litigation matters. In the recent past, these matters have included a challenge to L.A. County's failure to provide sufficient visitation by social workers to at-risk children; provision of safe, clean housing for the homeless; preservation of family day care in poor neighborhoods; challenging local "anti-loitering" ordinances which discriminate on the basis of race; a successful challenge to L.A. County's reduction of General Relief monies; a challenge to the INS' use of secret evidence to exclude from the U.S., political refugees who had worked in their home country in support the U.S. government; a challenge to California's failure to access available federal funds for disabled children in foster care; winning a $2.3 million judgment against a notorious South Central Los Angeles mortgage loan broker; bringing class actions against trade schools which have defrauded hundred of poor people seeking job training; bringing a class action suit against the INS concerning the failure to secure competent interpreters in immigration court; winning a lawsuit resulting in one of the largest awards against a slumlord in American jurisprudential history; a challenge to the fraudulent practices of offshore insurance companies; and, filing a class action against FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to improve delivery of disaster relief services.
All of Public Counsel's law projects depend on the support of volunteer attorneys, law students and legal professionals to help our needy clients. We could not function without the generous support of the Los Angeles legal community. If you would be interested in taking a pro bono case or volunteering, please sign up online or call our Director of Pro Bono, David Daniels at 213/385-2977 x101 for more information.