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Mission & History

Mission

Community Legal Aid SoCal helps our neighbors fight injustice by providing compassionate, high quality legal aid, and advocating for stronger communities.

History

Bridging the justice gap since 1958, we were founded as Legal Aid Society of Orange County in direct response to the needs of the Orange County’s poor for equitable access to justice.

Our priorities, practice areas, and programs have constantly evolved in response to the most pressing needs of underrepresented individuals and groups in Orange County and beyond. 

  • In 1976, we launched the Senior Citizens Legal Advocacy Program, our first large-scale effort to prescriptively respond to the needs of a uniquely vulnerable population.
  • In 1984, we identified a growing need for legal help outside of the county’s geographical border and successfully bid for a competitive grant to expand its service area beyond Orange County.  We expanded our service area to include 18 cities in southeast Los Angeles County, where we became known as Community Legal Services of Southeast Los Angeles County.  In addition to providing our typical legal services, we have established unique legal outreach and assistance programs reflective of the specific needs of the communities of Southeast Los Angeles.
  • In 1995, our Complex Litigation Unit filed suit in state court against a local municipality for regulations targeting the homeless, and successfully protected the constitutional rights of these destitute individuals. Additionally, we established a toll-free hotline for clients to increase accessibility of our services to a greater number of people. This hotline provides a centralized intake system for the program and serves as a gateway to all of our services.
  • In 1998, we established the Health Consumer Action Center, assisting low-income and underrepresented consumers to access the health care system in Orange County and providing legal advocacy and expertise to help vulnerable families obtain coverage. 
  • In 2000, we pioneered a web-based application that enables individuals to prepare their own legal pleadings called I-CAN! As the first of its kind the legal community, I-CAN! has been recognized at national and local levels by the National Association for Court Management (NACM) and by the California Courts Judicial Counsel.
  • In 2001, we established the Low-Income Taxpayer’s Unit.
  • In 2003, we launched the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) initiative.
  • In 2004, we established the Compton Self-Help Center.
  • In 2017, our Affordable Housing Advocacy Support Team, as part of the Complex Litigation Unit, successfully led litigation to protect low-income residents from eviction in lieu of high-rise luxury housing.
  • In 2018, we celebrated 60 years by unifying our offices in Orange and Los Angeles Counties under one new organizational name, Community Legal Aid SoCal.

Community Legal Aid SoCal has had a life-changing impact on the welfare and life quality of our region’s immigrants, homeless, elderly, and abused individuals.  The work we have accomplished throughout our 60-year history has had a profound impact in Orange and Los Angeles Counties, across our region, and nationwide.