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Daunting. Overwhelming. These are just some of the words that can be used to describe the prospect of trying to deliver legal services to an older population of 162,500. Yet that is the challenge confronting Legal Services of Middle Tennessee.
In this challenge are to be found what Pogo once called "insurmountableopportunities. "Elders'huge unmet needs for legal assistance offer abundant opportunities for service, only a few of which can be effectively addressed at any given time. A legal assistance program's effectiveness therefore depends on the care and creativity with which it focuses its scarce resources. The development of a successful and focused legal assistance program requires leaders to: * Set priorities among client needs, * Develop specialized legal knowledge, * Complement the advocacy efforts of
other programs, * Achieve versatility of advocacy styles,
and * Gain support from state and Area
Agencies on aging.
In legal assistance programs where the lawyers have performed these activities even limited budgets have produced a large "bang for the buck" on behalf of the elderly population. One Program's Experience
Legal Services of Middle Tennessee, Inc. was established as a non-profit corporation in 1968 with funding provided by the old Office of Economic Opportunity. Twenty years later, we employ 17 attorneys and 5 paralegals, with an annual budget of $1.5 million. LSMT serves a 14-county area which includes Nashville. Sixty-five percent of the program's funding comes from the Legal Services Corporation, and with the exception of clients over age 60, we serve only those whose incomes are below Legal Services Corporation indigency standards.
We have received Title Ill funds for more than a decade, to provide civil legal assistance to clients over age 60. The current Title Ill grant is $36,000 annually. An estimated 162,500 eligible …