Legal Services Innovation for Modest Means Oregonians

The Access to Justice gap has reached a critical level that threatens the very underpinnings of our democracy, according to 2018 ABA President Hilarie Bass.

  • The ABA has found that approximately one in three Americans each year experiences a civil justice problem—most involving issues of health, safety, shelter, sustenance, or child custody—without access to meaningful legal help.
  • The Oregon Bar Futures Task Force put the number of un- or under-lawyered Oregonians at 1.2 million people annually.
  • The Legal Services Corporation found that 86% of the civil legal problems reported by low income Americans received no or inadequate legal help.
  • The Federal Reserve reports that 47% of Americans can’t come up with $400 cash to cover an emergency.

While pro bono services play an important role in supporting the most challenged members of our society, the civil access to justice gap has continued to grow despite decades of money and effort poured into those programs.

There has to be a better way.

Your generous gift will help us expand our services to modest means Oregonians. Donate Now

The Commons Law Center is taking a new approach to serving modest means Oregonians—our neighbors making less than 400% of the federal poverty level.

We are building the capability to deliver high-quality, low-cost legal services at scale by combining

  • affordable, unbundled legal services,
  • an efficient delivery model overseen by our pro bono partners,
  • new lawyer and law student training programs, and
  • community education and outreach efforts.

In the process, we are training tomorrow’s lawyers on how to build innovative, profitable, and community-oriented practices of their own.

It works like this:

Our programs provide high-quality legal help to modest means Oregonians on a sliding-fee or low-cost flat rate basis.

We then focus on using modern business practices like Lean, Agile, and Design Thinking to drive the cost out of our services delivery while maintaining high-quality deliverables.

We staff our programs with a combination of full-time team-members (including new lawyer fellows in their first few years of practice) who take the lead on individual matters, pro bono partners who help design our programs and provide quality assurance, and student law clerks who gain valuable experience while supporting the needs of our clients.

The result? Unlike most non-profit law firms, we aren’t trying to subsidize our client-facing services with charitable donations. Several of our programs are already self-sustaining and others are on that path.

Instead, we treat your donation like seed money and invest it in expanding into new legal services offerings (landlord-tenant is high on our list), funding operational improvements that will help us further streamline our services, and building our community partnerships and education programs.

In short, we place tremendous value on the charitable investment you make in our programs, and we’re constantly working to stretch and scale our donations to maximize their impact.

In our second year, we are on pace to more than double the number of matters we handled in year one, and we are actively recruiting for two additional lawyers (including a new lawyer fellow) to expand our capacity.

Specifically, your generous donation will help us:

  • Hire additional new lawyer fellows to add to our capacity and support our mission of providing practical skills to recent law school graduates.
  • Improve our client-facing technology, like our online chatbot, and build out a robust knowledge management program.
  • Optimize back-end systems, including our agile matter management tool and our client relationship management (CRM) software.
  • Create legal education modules that we can offer to our community partners throughout Oregon so that people are aware of and empowered by their legal rights.
  • Hire support staff to help us further scale our programs and support our growing demand for services.

 

Please consider making a one-time contribution to support our programs. Or, better yet, contact us to start a monthly recurring donation today!

Make a gift today

Donors

$25,000

CATALYST LAW, LLC

$5,000

BONNIE SERKIN

$2,500

SUSAN ALTERMAN

$2,000

KAFOURY MCDOUGAL

$1,000

HEILING DWYER & ASSOCIATES, KLARQUIST SPARKMAN, LANE POWELL, PICKETT DUMMIGAN MCCALL, TERRY SCANNEL

$500

ALBINA COMMUNITY BANK, AGILE ATTORNEY NETWORK, BENEFICIAL STATE BANK, BODYFELT MOUNT * BUSINESS FOR A BETTER PORTLAND, D’AMORE LAW GROUP, P.C., FARLEIGH WADA WITT, ROBERT & HEIDI KLONOFF, MILLER NASH GRATHAM & DUNN, RIVERVIEW TRUST COMPANY, STOLL BERNE, U.S. BANK, GREG ZEUTHEN

$250

BALL JANIK, GARVEY SCHUBERT BARER, STEVE GOEBEL, GEVURTZ MENASHE, JONES & ROTH, LEE DAVIS KELL, MASCAL LAW OFFICE, NIEHAUS PROPERTIES, NORTHWEST CORPORATE LAW, PERKINS ACCOUNTING, STEWART SOKOL & LARKIN, LAW OFFICE OF JONATHAN MISHKIN, P.C.