South Carolina’s first nonprofit sliding scale law firm preserves over $1 million for the working poor

Charleston Legal Access keeps clients out of poverty through affordable, high quality legal services

Charleston, SC—The Lowcountry of South Carolina is seeing returns from the state’s first nonprofit, sliding scale law firm, Charleston Legal Access (CLA). Since opening its doors in February 2016, the organization has provided legal services to 321 families, microenterprises and individuals, and today is announcing that it has preserved $1,014,478 that these clients may have lost without legal representation. About half of this amount is money CLA has recovered for its clients, about one quarter are claims that CLA has successfully defended for clients, and about one quarter is debt released as a result of CLA’s representation.

“This is a significant milestone for CLA and for the community we serve,” said Adair Boroughs, Executive Director of CLA, “By representing South Carolinians at critical moments in their lives, we are preserving substantial assets for families and microenterprises and preventing them from falling into poverty.”

CLA’s success to date shows a demand for high-quality, affordable legal representation to help low and modest-income individuals achieve self-sufficiency and prosper.

The million-dollar milestone also points to CLA’s cost effective model: for every dollar spent by the
nonprofit law firm, it has been able to preserve $4 for its clients.

The nonprofit law firm—which is funded in part through philanthropy and in part through client
fees—handles most civil matters, including landlord/tenant, property, employment, contracts,
victim’s rights, and consumer cases. Notable victories include preserving of the home of an elderly
blind woman on the brink of foreclosure, recovering damages for a young couple with a newborn
whose landlord refused to repair the air conditioner at the height of summer, obtaining an order of
protection for a victim of domestic violence, recovering the cost of a lemon generator for a small
food truck business, and obtaining guardianship for an adult son whose mom had dementia.

CLA is unique from other nonprofit legal service providers in that it does not focus on free services.
Instead, the organization is serving those in the middle—clients whose limited incomes disqualify
them from free legal services but who cannot afford private attorney rates.

“We are intentionally focused on bridging a clear gap in the justice system,” offered Sally Newman, CLA Founder and Legal Director.

CLA provides advice and counsel over the phone for free; in-depth, in-person consultations for a flat fee of $50; and full representation on a sliding scale. CLA’s hourly rates for attorneys are $50-$100 per hour depending on household size and income.

Currently, CLA serves clients in the Tri-county area (Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley Counties) but hopes to expand to other parts of the state in future years. Potential clients can have their case or matter evaluated for free by calling CLA’s office at 843-640-5980.

Welcome, Ryan!

Ryan

Thanks to grants from The Joanna Foundation, The Henry and Sylvia Yaschik Foundation, and the Patrick Family Foundation, we are thrilled to welcome Ryan Fowler to the CLA team!

Ryan is a Michigan native with a strong commitment to public service. He graduated from Michigan State University College of Law where he gained trial experience while working with victims of domestic violence at the Grand Traverse Prosecutor’s office and worked on lawsuits filed in District Court on behalf of inmates in Michigan’s prison system. Ryan is excited to expand access to the justice system and use the power of law to help those in need. Ryan lives in downtown Charleston with his wife, Angie, and their dog Sophie.
 

2017 Annual Report

Just a few of CLA's accomplishments in 2017 include helping seven families stay in their homes,  two family businesses to continue to operate, and assisted a victim of domestic violence get an order of protection against her assailant.

In total, CLA preserved $483,723 worth of assets for low and moderate-Income South Carolinians. Click the button below to download a copy of our annual report from 2017.

Welcome, Adair!

A NOTE FROM OUR FOUNDER...

I was lucky to find myself working with Adair Boroughs while clerking for the Federal District Court of South Carolina several years ago, and over time, it became clear that she would be an important part of my future in South Carolina - and the future of CLA. 

Adair is extraordinarily hard working, has a sharp and uncompromising eye for litigation strategy, and can drill down to the heart of an issue in a flash. She was the first person I turned to when I began building the concept of South Carolina's first nonprofit firm designed to serve the working class. Like me, she didn't grow up with money, but went on to attend a top tier law school and excelled in highly prestigious positions throughout her career. Like me, she was interested in putting her skills to work tackling a failure of the legal market: the nonexistence of a firm dedicated exclusively to affordable legal representation in our state for everyone who is not indigent and therefore can't qualify for traditional legal aid, but cannot afford to pay hundreds of dollars an hour for a lawyer. 

I had a strong vision for this organization, but that vision wouldn't have gone far if it weren't for Adair. Since the beginning, she has been brainstorming, researching, hosting meetings, writing grants, creating budgets, and generally putting in the work that will take CLA from being a scrappy startup to a highly organized and effective resource, here to fight for our clients' rights for years to come. I'm very pleased to make our partnership official, as she takes over CLA's organizational management as our new Executive Director. We are starting 2017 with more capacity, resources, skills, and energy than ever before. Welcome, Adair! Thank you for choosing CLA. We are thrilled to have your leadership. And I am so happy to again be working with you every day.

- SALLY NEWMAN, FOUNDER AND LEGAL DIRECTOR, CHARLESTON LEGAL ACCESS