LSNM History

Seeing the legal needs of people who could not afford a private attorney, a group of private attorneys in rural Minnesota began helping people pro bono in the mid-1970’s. Realizing that the demand significantly outpaced the number of attorneys available to assist, they sought a way to help persons most in need of free civil legal aid. They founded LSNM in 1976 to serve the legal needs of persons with low- incomes and the elderly in 22 counties in Northwest Minnesota. In the formative years, private attorneys agreed to accept cases for LSNM eligible clients through a “judicare” program which provided nominal compensation for the private attorneys. Yet, the demands remained too high. Eventually, LSNM hired staff attorneys to help meet the significant civil legal needs.  A combination of LSNM staff attorneys and paralegals, judicare attorneys, and pro bono attorneys now work together to meet the current legal demands in northwest Minnesota for persons living below or near the poverty level. Still today, the demand for civil legal aid in northwest Minnesota remains much higher than the availability of resources to assist those in need. Each person who applies and is found eligible for free civil legal aid receives a telephone consultation with a legal advocate. Sometimes a quick phone call explaining someone’s rights and responsibilities resolves the issue. Based upon attorney availability, an eligible client may receive advice on how to proceed in court, assistance in completing court forms,  representation at an administrative hearing, or full-representation in multi-year litigation. Currently, eight LSNM staff attorneys and one paralegal, along with the assistance of judicare and pro bono attorneys, meet as many of the civil legal aid demands in LSNM’s twenty-two county service area as possible. Yet, many, many people who are eligible and have meritorious cases go without any attorney because the overwhelmingly need. A nonprofit organization, LSNM appreciates federal and state funding, as well as organizational and private donations.  Generous people like you can bring equal justice to more people in need in northwest Minnesota. You may click on “Be a Partner Justice” and support equal justice.