Anti-Poverty Effect of Legal Aid




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What comes to mind when one wants to eliminate poverty in the United States? Education? Healthcare? Job Training? There are many possible solutions, but one that is often overlooked is access to legal services. When one stands up and recites the pledge of allegiance, the final words we say are, “Liberty and Justice for all.” We strive to uphold the words we say, but reality says otherwise. Not everyone is granted equal protection under the law because the United States has one of the worst civil justice systems in the world, thus, poverty is still a rampant issue. This summer I interned at Bayview Hunter’s Point Community Legal (BHPCL) a legal aid in San Francisco. BHPCL, co-founded by Virginia Taylor ’08, is the country’s first system of universal access to civil representation. Every day, I worked with attorneys and volunteers to ensure that everyone living in the local community can get representation on every viable legal claim or defense. My work consisted of translating Cantonese for our monolingual clients, paralegal tasks - client support, document review, fact gathering, and demand letter writing. I also was involved with creating the Social Return on Investment (SROI) report. SROI is an analysis created to help understand the impact a nonprofit by measuring its inputs (money spent on services and overhead) against the short and long-term financial benefits it provides its clients, students, or patients, as well as the long-term impact of each type of intervention is estimated using the help of social science research.