Volunteer Legal Services was founded in 1981 by Austin attorneys concerned by inequity in the civil legal system. The high cost of legal services meant poor people could not get the help they needed, even for critical issues like divorce, child custody, consumer fraud and housing matters. First named “Austin Lawyers Care,” our founders envisioned an organization that mobilized volunteer attorneys to give back to their community through donations of time and legal expertise.
Serving just a few hundred people each year, and sharing donated office space with what was known then as Legal Aid (now Texas RioGrande Legal Aid), VLS in its early days offered one core program: individual representation.
Over the last 35 years, VLS programs have expanded to serve more than 7,000 people annually, through a variety of programs: twice-weekly legal advice clinics and other topic-specific clinics, partnerships with law firms and other nonprofits, pro se (self representation) clinics, as well as individual representation. However, we remain true to our original volunteer-attorney model. Our staff serves to recruit, train and support attorneys, but our 950 + volunteers form the heart of our program success.
We continue to receive strong support from individual lawyers and law firms, as direct service volunteers, Board members and donors.