Florida Bar Foundation Strategic Reset
Frequently Asked Questions
What do you mean by collaboration?
We recognize that legal aid organizations have a history of collaborating with each other. But we are talking about taking that collaboration to a new level and even going outside of the legal services system to collaborate with other types of organizations in the community that share common goals. This would be collaboration with the goal of creating permanent, systemic change and lasting partnerships. Medical-legal partnerships are one example.
What kind of metrics do you intend to collect?
Case numbers by themselves are not meaningful indictors of impact. That’s why we have been working with grantees to develop a new system for outcome measurement that will be piloted this fall and rolled out system-wide in 2017. The new Outcomes 2017 measures will capture results achieved for clients. Apart from helping direct resources to where they are most needed, this outcome data will help the Foundation and its grantees build a stronger case for support, both for our donors and for foundations, government and other funding sources.
Legal aid attorneys are already overworked. Will these new requirements add to their workloads?
There will undoubtedly be a learning curve and an adjustment period while staff attorneys and support staff learn the new Outcomes 2017 system. Ultimately, though, our goal is to ensure the work that we are supporting is impactful and takes full advantage of their skills sets. We would like to foster the development of innovative ways of handling advice and brief service, thereby reducing the number of such cases that go to the attorneys and freeing them up to do higher-level legal tasks.
What kind of challenge grants are you going to offer?
We are looking at all kinds of funding approaches. Challenge grants are just one type we are considering. A challenge grant is a way for programs to raise additional funds. You can challenge your donors to match Foundation or other funding you attract. We already do this successfully on a small scale with the Innocence Project of Florida for their exoneree emergency fund.
What happens if we engage in outreach, as you suggest, and we end up with more clients, when we are already unable to serve all of those eligible for our services who request help?
Outreach should be paired with information and education. For some people that’s all they need. Outreach is a great way to engage pro bono attorneys and law students. It increases community support and partnerships and increases the likelihood that the clients who do call you are eligible.
What is business process analysis, and how is it supposed to help us?
BPA is a team process of analyzing the efficiency and effectiveness of existing workflow systems. It was one of the five most important recommendations of the LSC Summit Report in 2013 and is included in the final report of the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice. Law firms have instituted BPA processes, and one law firm has been so effective at it they have developed a whole department around BPA for other law firms. As a part of their pro bono work, they have applied BPA to Illinois’ legal aid intake process and trained Minnesota legal aid programs on how to do their own BPA. One of our grantees is in the midst of a BPA project and is already seeing positive results. The Foundation itself is undertaking a number of internal effectiveness and efficiency analyses that are components of business process improvement, and we have been seeing positive results as well. As examples, we have introduced task automation, paperless workflow, EFT grant payments, and simplification of the loan repayment assistance program.
If you don’t have money to increase grants, how are you going to provide us tools and technical assistance?
We have always provided research studies, tools and technical assistance to our grantees and to improve the system overall. We are committed to maintaining our current general support funding level for 2017. This year we will be revisiting our funding priorities for the future. It’s too soon to say what that will mean for grant funding.
Why isn’t the Bank of America settlement money going to be granted like it was in 2016? The Project Directors Association already worked out a process for the first distribution of $1.4 million from that settlement.
The BoA funds of $23 million in this distribution are significant enough to create the opportunity for strategic investments with the potential to bring about major systemic change, which would require a different approach. This is consistent with the direction IOLTA programs around the country are taking with the BoA funds they have received.
Is the Foundation going to fund community service or social service providers instead of legal aid, or other legal services providers other than your current grantees?
We will be exploring all options for partnerships that create systemic impact and meet the civil legal needs of vulnerable Floridians.
How will our funding change?
We are not in a position to answer that question at this point. The only guarantee we can make is that our total grant allocation for 2017 will remain the same.
What about the Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP)?
We also will maintain our commitment to LRAP in 2017, and we expect that funding LRAP will continue to be a high priority beyond 2017.
Is the Foundation going to shut down or become part of another organization?
We have done most-likely case financial scenarios that assume no increase in interest rates and take into account our repayment of The Florida Bar’s loan to the Foundation, and we have determined that we can remain in operation at current staffing levels for the foreseeable future. We are not engaging in, nor are we aware of any discussion involving becoming part of another organization.
Will the grant application process be earlier in the year? If competitive grants, we would need more time to prepare budgets.
Thank you for that feedback. We will likely adjust our grant application process and will communicate with our PDA partners on the process going forward.
Do I understand that general support grants will not be available after 2017, or will they be competitive after that?
You should expect them to be competitive.
Are LSC programs going to disadvantaged because we are prohibited from handling class relief?
LSC programs are still able to make an impact even without class actions and can refer to LSC Performance Criteria, Performance Area III, Criterion 1 (c) for more information.
We also point you to Alan Houseman’s online blog: Restrictions on LSC Funded Legal Aid Programs.
“The LSC restrictions imposed in 1996 and subsequently, left legal services programs and their staff with less capacity to effectively represent low-income persons in the courts and before other forums that affect their rights and responsibilities. Even so, over 95% of the work done in legal services in 1995 could continue and over 98% of the cases brought to court in 1995 could still be brought. Moreover, there continue to be many critically important representational activities that can still be done by LSC-funded entities, and programs can continue to address systemic problems faced by low-income persons in virtually all substantive areas.”
Alan Houseman is the former executive director of The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) and author of Securing Equal Justice for All: A Brief History of Civil Legal Assistance in the United States. Mr. Houseman is currently counsel to the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA)
The following stories are all examples of impact cases that did not involve class actions:
Federal judge orders state of Florida to cover applied behavioral analysis therapy for autism
Rule challenge restores millions in food stamps, mostly to elderly, disabled
Southern Legal Counsel forces change in policy of denying indigent litigants filing fee waivers
Collaboration to meet the needs of a particular community or population, such as through a medical-legal partnership, is another form of impact work.
What are your thoughts on family cases in terms of provision of services by more than one local provider if the need justifies it?
This question applies to every substantive area of law and the legal services provided to clients. Duplication of services by similarly situated providers is something that will be carefully analyzed. We will be doing a statewide legal needs assessment and we will be having professionally facilitated conversations in every region to determine the most appropriate services to fund in each area.