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Cleveland Metro. Bar Association working to eliminate financial barriers for people in need of legal services

A new initiative is in the works to make legal services more accessible to people don't qualify for free assistance.
WFT Gavel
Posted at 6:00 AM, Mar 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-10 06:08:28-05

CLEVELAND — Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association is celebrating 150 years in existence.

To honor their long-standing history, the organization says they want to continue improving people’s lives and have plans to introduce a new initiative they say is needed in the community.

“It's needed because a lot of people don't know about the legal system, and if you don't have the means to pay for it, then you're walking into a situation blindsided,” said Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association Client, Cherea Humphrey.

A game-changing opportunity is in the works for those who are struggling to get access to legal services.

“This is going to create all kinds of opportunities to eliminate barriers that will create better lives,” said Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association CEO Becky Ruppert McMahon.

This help comes at a time, McMahon says, many people simply can’t afford legal services because they’re already living paycheck to paycheck or at or below the poverty line – and don’t qualify for free help.

“That's either because they make quote-unquote, 'too much money,' so that they don't qualify for free legal services, but they still can't afford a market-rate lawyer,” McMahon said.

Cherea Humphrey says this can put people in a difficult situation like she once experienced before she qualified for free legal assistance thanks to a partnership between the bar association and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

“By me not being able to afford one, you know, it was like, okay, well, what I'm going to do,” Humphrey said.

That’s where Ruppert McMahon says the Cleveland Legal Collaborative will step in to help.

Starting next year, Ruppert McMahon says lawyers in their first five years of practice will work with more experienced law professionals to provide quality legal services at a flat, fixed, low fee – and in some cases at no cost.

“I think it's great because when I was looking for lawyers, it is very expensive,” said Humphrey.

In return, people who aren’t getting free assistance through organizations like the Legal Aid Society will finally be able to access it.

“We're going to grow a new generation of lawyers who are as millennials, we know they are much more interested in being direct in their fight for social justice, for racial justice and for equity,” said Ruppert McMahon.

The bar association hopes to recruit their first class this fall and begin services in January.

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