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Atlanta Legal Aid has made a difference for nearly 100 years.
Five counties. 75 lawyers. 1,200 volunteers. 20,000 cases. Every year.

Since 1924, Atlanta Legal Aid Society has offered free civil legal aid for low income people across metro Atlanta. With five neighborhood offices, three offices in Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta hospitals, three county courthouse projects, a variety of self-help clinics, and countless community education programs, Legal Aid lawyers and volunteers reach tens of thousands of people annually. More than 20,000 cases are represented by our staff of 75 attorneys and 1,200 volunteers every year.

HOUSING

Safe, decent and affordable housing is fundamental to building community. Legal Aid works across metro Atlanta and the state to help people to maintain the homes they have, to increase access to affordable housing and to improve conditions in which people live in order to help communities thrive.

CONSUMER

Consumers often have difficulty navigating the complexity of laws and regulations established to protect them. Legal Aid lawyers fight predatory debt collectors, unfair and illegal collection practices, and other practices that threaten our clients’ economic stability.

FAMILY

Family stability is at the heart of Legal Aid’s practice. Our lawyers and volunteers legalize family relationships, fight for custody and child support and protect victims of domestic violence, giving clients the tools to move on from often violent and tragic circumstances.

HEALTH

The good health of the people who come to Legal Aid is not always about simply accessing a doctor or a service. Securing the health of these clients encompasses many areas of our practice and touches many of our most vulnerable populations. Advocates help people with disabilities start new lives outside institutions, ensure that children with health and developmental issues get a proper education, finalize wills and estates for women with breast cancer, work through private and public bureaucracies to guarantee appropriate health benefits and support services and hold providers accountable for clients’ needs.

OUR SPECIAL PROJECTS

Our special projects bring our core work to special populations, including those with disabilities, seniors, victims of domestic violence, people with cancer or HIV/AIDS, veterans, and caregivers.

DISABILITY INTEGRATION PROJECT

We work with people with mental, physical, and developmental disabilities who are living in institutions – such as nursing homes and state hospitals – or who are at risk of institutionalization. We help them get the services they need to live in the community instead.

The legal right to community-based services comes from the Olmstead Decision, a 1999 United States Supreme Court ruling based on the Americans with Disabilities Act. The lawsuit was filed by Sue Jamieson, an attorney at Atlanta Legal Aid, on behalf of two women named Lois and Elaine who were repeatedly institutionalized as a result of their mental illness and intellectual disability. Olmstead is the most important civil rights decision for people with disabilities in U.S. history. Go to www.OlmsteadRights.org to discover the history of Olmstead, learn about people whose lives have been changed by the decision, and access resources for self-advocacy and legal advocacy.

For more information and to apply for services, call 404-377-0707.

ENHANCED SERVICES PROJECT

The Enhanced Services Project trains volunteer attorneys to perform vital follow up work with clients who have received brief advice, counsel and self-help materials from Atlanta Legal Aid attorneys, but who may need additional support or basic legal advice on a given topic to be successful. Previous follow up work has shown that providing such continuing legal services to clients can improve success rates by as much as 30%. Volunteers can participate in the Atlanta Legal Aid downtown headquarters or remotely, once preliminary training is complete.

GEORGIA SENIOR LEGAL HOTLINE

The Georgia Senior Legal Hotline has provided legal advice, brief service, and referrals to Georgians over 60 since 1998. The goal of the Hotline is to improve the lives of Georgia’s seniors by providing greater access to high-quality legal services. While the Hotline assists seniors without regard to income, the Hotline targets economically and socially vulnerable seniors.

The Hotline can be reached at (404) 657-9915 or toll free 1(888) 257-9519.

HEALTH LAW PARTNERSHIP

The Health Law Partnership’s (HeLP) primary premise is that attorneys can intervene to improve the physical, social, and economic environments in which many low-income children live, resulting in their improved health and quality of life. HeLP assists eligible clients with the following types of legal problems that can threaten health improvement and access to care: housing issues, access to health insurance, education, public benefits, unsafe living conditions, etc.

Potential clients can apply for assistance by calling (404) 785-2005.

HEALTH LAW PROJECTS

Projects under our Health Law Unit assist cancer patients and low-income individuals living with HIV and AIDS with a variety of legal issues including housing, public benefits, employment issues, health insurance access, and end of life/estate planning.

Major funding for the AIDS Legal Project is provided by the Federal Ryan White Program as administered by the Fulton County Ryan White Program and by HUD’s Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) Program, as administered by the City of Atlanta. Major funding for the Breast Cancer Legal Project is provided by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Applicants with AIDS/HIV, Cancer or ALS can get help by calling (404) 614-3969.

HOME DEFENSE PROGRAM

The Home Defense Program (HDP) provides advice, referrals, and legal representation to homeowners who are facing the loss of their homes, have been targeted for predatory mortgage lending or servicing practices, and/or have been wrongfully denied loan modifications or HomeSafe Georgia assistance. Most clients are longtime homeowners, elderly and/or disabled living on a modest retirement or disability income, or families experiencing layoffs or substantially reduced wages.

Learn more about home scams here.

KINSHIP CARE PROJECT

The Kinship Care Project helps relatives who are raising children in the place of deceased or otherwise absent parents. Relative caregivers often struggle to care and provide for the new members of the household.  The focus of the Project is to stabilize the legal relationship between the caregiver and the child through an adoption or custody proceeding.  The secondary goal is to ensure that the caregivers are maximizing all of the resources available to the children in their care.  In addition to direct representation, the Project recruits, trains, and serves as back up to private attorneys who volunteer to complete pro bono adoptions.

To apply for assistance, please call (404) 657-9915 or toll free 1(888) 257-9519.

PRO BONO PROGRAM

Our Pro Bono Program connects interested volunteers with opportunities that fit their interests, schedule, and experience. Atlanta Legal Aid provides client intake, screening, legal check-ups, document collection, and review. Our volunteers provide discrete legal representation or advice.  They can direct the scope – limited or full service. The collaboration promotes access to justice for Legal Aid’s clients.

OUR HISTORY

Atlanta Legal Aid Society was founded in 1924 by a collection of lawyers and community leaders.

Many were instrumental to Atlanta’s rise to prominence in the south and their names still echo throughout the region on businesses, buildings and street signs.

Originally established with a single lawyer, Legal Aid’s work focused on family law and consumer issues.

The program remained small through its first decades, with the work of a few permanent staff supplemented by volunteers from the legal and charitable communities. In the 1960s, Johnson’s war on poverty offered opportunities for the expansion of civil legal aid as a tool to fight poverty. Legal Aid leapt to the challenge and expanded to include neighborhood offices in Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties. The legal aid movement of this era ushered in a golden age of civil legal aid. Young, eager lawyers took the opportunity to make real impact on those who had been long overlooked or forgotten, using the law in creative ways to challenge a system that often left the most vulnerable without redress or hope.

The work of these lawyers laid the foundation for changing Atlanta’s outdated and unfair housing codes and landlord-tenant law, while tackling food insecurity, unsafe living conditions and family issues. The founding of the Legal Services Corporation in 1974 cemented the ideals of this movement by providing civil legal aid with a steady source of funding. Atlanta Legal Aid would soon serve five counties – Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, Gwinnett, and Clayton – and steadily grow into one of the most important nonprofits in the metro area. Legal Aid bought its first permanent home on Spring St. in 1978. Legal Aid continues to serve thousands of individual clients while working to create a fair and balanced system for all.

SIGNIFICANT CASES

Through our historical casework, we have made a lasting impact for individuals and communities in Georgia and nationwide.

  • Beginning in 1981 and for more than 10 years, Legal Aid lawyers represented more than 1,800 Cubans to get them due process hearing rights.

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    1981 | Marielitos

  • Atlanta Legal Aid won Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 in the United States Supreme Court in 1999. Olmstead ordered desegregation of state mental institutions, envisioning the freeing of inappropriately institutionalized persons to live in the community.

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    1999 | Olmstead Decision

  • Atlanta Legal Aid filed lawsuits against Stewart Finance for their unfair loan practices targeting the elderly and disabled. Ultimately, the FTC filed an action against Stewart Finance and shared part of the proceeds with our clients, with each client receiving $2,000.

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    2001 | Stewart Finance

  • Tony Strickland became a victim of Georgia’s unconstitutional post-judgment garnishment procedure, when his worker’s compensation funds were garnished from his bank account, despite protection from a statutory exemption.

    READ MORE

    2012 | Strickland Case & Garnishment Statutes

  • Staff Attorney Erik Heath led a client dealing with a severe health condition through bankruptcy, thereby discharging a decades-old student loan.

    READ MORE

    2013 | Bankruptcy Trifecta

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