The Value of Research to Practitioners
“In the long run, legal aid programs’ investment in randomized study will not only improve services and help direct scarce resources, but will also build public support, because the willingness of the legal aid movement to question itself and change in response will demonstrate to the wider world that our work is, in the end, focused on doing the best we can to help very poor people, in often-desperate circumstances, to improve their lives.”
–Steven Eppler-Epstein, Executive Director of Connecticut Legal Services
Harvard Law Review, 2013
Recommendations for Recruitment and Retention
Recommendations by Carmody and Associates (2010) for Legal Aid Association of California in order to recruit and retain high quality attorneys to provide legal assistance for low-income individuals:
These recommendations address the major issues identified in the Report. Most are made for the individual organizations, although some will need cooperative effort.
Salaries — Government employers are the primary financial competition for recruiting new attorneys to legal aid and retaining attorneys who want to continue to do public interest work. The salaries paid by government employers, detailed in this Report, exceed the legal aid attorneys by large amounts. A short-term and long-term recommendation is to bring legal aid salaries in line with those paid to government attorneys.
Loan Repayment Assistance Programs. Multiple approaches to increase assistance with payment of the attorneys’ student loans should be undertaken.
Retirement Benefits — The legal aid organizations should increase their contributions to employees’ retirement plans to assist attorneys, both young and old, in meeting their financial needs for retirement.
Flexibility — The legal aid organizations should develop or expand schedule flexibility that meets the needs of the attorneys as much as possible, while providing good access to services for clients.
Professional Development and Advancement. — Increased opportunities for advancement within the legal aid organizations should be developed, as well as implementation of professional development plans that help attorneys take advantage of these opportunities.
Recruitment and Hiring Practices. — The legal aid organizations should prioritize the recruitment and hiring process by developing a staff committee, with significant membership of and input from newly hired attorneys, to recommend and implement specific improvements.
Funders and Supporters. — Funders of legal aid organizations must ensure that their funding can be used to increase attorney salaries and implement the other needed changes identified in this Report. Funders and other supporters of legal aid should be leaders in the efforts needed for effective recruitment and retention of legal aid attorneys.