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January 27, 2012

Survey Finds Layoffs Likely for Legal-Aid Groups

Reduced federal spending on legal assistance for the poor will likely exacerbate a wave of job cuts at legal-aid organizations, The Wall Street Journal writes, citing a survey of such groups.

Legislation passed by Congress in November cut money for civil legal assistance by 14 percent, from $404.2-million to $348-million—the lowest level in five years, according to the Legal Services Corporation, the entity that disburses the funding to local groups.

In the poll conducted in December and January and released Thursday, 132 organizations supported by the Legal Services Corporation said they expect to layoff nearly 400 people in total this year, including 163 lawyers. Legal-aid centers have already eliminated hundreds of lawyers, paralegals, and support staff since 2010, The Journal says.

On average, the surveyed groups get about 43.6 percent of their funding from the Legal Services Corporation. The national group's president, Jim Sandman, said reduced state funding and increasing poverty are ratcheting up the strain on local legal-aid groups.