When five legal aid programs in South and West Texas merged in 2002, the successor entity was named Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. The merger created the third-largest program in the United States that provides civil legal assistance to low-income clients who are unable to pay the customary fees of private attorneys.
Our primary service area comprises 68 counties, an area about the size of Colorado. The most recent U.S. Census Bureau estimate, for 2007, is more than 1.4 million residents in this area were below the poverty guideline. TRLA tries to meet their legal needs with only 129 staff attorneys and a bare minimum of support staff, which is all we can afford at present funding levels. That’s a ratio of one staff attorney to 10,900 poor individuals, many with multiple legal problems.
The true ratio is much higher. Residents with incomes below 200 percent of the poverty guideline are eligible for our services and we have an additional responsibility to serve the legal needs of the farm worker population in all of Texas. Population growth and economic conditions have also increased the number of the poor since 2007.
We desperately need pro bono help from the private bar to meet the legal needs of low-income residents in your community. We are writing to you because we want your input, as a private bar leader, on how members of your bar association might help us serve your community.
Please review our 2011 TRLA PRIVATE ATTORNEY INVOLVEMENT PLAN which describes our current approaches to working with the private bar. We hope that after reviewing you’ll share it with your local bar association members. If you have suggestions about how we might work together to help low-income members of your community, we’d like to receive them by July 8, 2011.
Thank you in advance for your time and for your support,
Pablo Javier Almaguer
Private Attorney Involvement Group Coordinator