Legal aid is the provision of assistance to people otherwise unable to afford legal representation and access to the court system. Forms of legal aid have existed since the early 1900s, primarily through private funding. In 1974, Congress created the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) to provide federal funding for non-criminal legal aid services. Since then, funding through the LSC has varied radically, leading to inconsistent provision of services and uncertainty throughout legal aid organizations as a whole.
Legal aid organizations in New Hampshire are no different. The inconsistencies in funding from federal sources, particularly during the last few years, have made adequate provision of services difficult. This report examines the three largest and most important providers of legal aid services in New Hampshire: New Hampshire Pro Bono, New Hampshire Legal Assistance, and the Legal Advice and Referral Center. The report looks at the cases taken on by these three organizations, as well as the cases turned away, to create an overview of legal aid needs in the state. Additionally, the report tracks the funding of these three organizations, from federal, state, and non-profit sources, and looks at how decreases in funding may hurt their ability to provide service. The findings have shown that there is a considerable amount of unmet legal need in New Hampshire; legal aid organizations are forced to drop a large number of the cases that come to them due to a lack of resources, and the number of successful cases is a very small fraction of the total eligible population. The study concludes that current legal aid organizations are underfunded and unable to help all eligible individuals who are seeking assistance.