Without legal assistance, survivors of domestic and sexual violence face profound barriers on their pathways to safety, justice, and healing. High-priority areas include protective orders, child support, custody, divorce, immigration status, wrongful termination, landlord-tenant matters, and bankruptcy. Unfortunately, the provision of these legal services is inadequate, fragmented, and inaccessible. And while access to legal assistance is key to achieving safety and self-sufficiency—national studies show that access to an attorney can increase survivors’ likelihood of obtaining a civil restraining order from 32% to 86%—this need remains unmet for the majority of survivors and their children.
Currently, A Safe Place Family Justice Center for Clackamas County (ASP-FJC) helps meet survivors’ crucial need for legal services through partnerships with Legal Aid Services of Oregon and Victim Rights Law Center. These agencies provide high-quality, survivor-centered services. However, they meet only a fraction of the need due to eligibility requirements, capacity, and high demand. ASP-FJC seeks to expand essential legal assistance for survivors of domestic and sexual violence through the creation of the Legal Empowerment Accelerator Project (LEAP). This accelerator program will give new lawyers the opportunity to provide pro bono and sliding scale services to clients of A Safe Place during the course of an 18 month program. In exchange for their efforts, these new attorneys will gain invaluable professional experience while working in a supportive legal environment
LEAP was developed through an ad-hoc group that began regularly meeting in 2016. Currently, the Steering Committee includes several private practitioners, a Clackamas Women’s Services (CWS) Board member, CWS’ Executive Director, representatives of the County Bar Association, representatives of Lewis & Clark Law School, Victim Rights Law Center, Clackamas Women Lawyers, Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, and Clackamas County Law Library.