A Jumping-Off Point: The Lay of the Land

“Impoverished persons living in rural areas are often overlooked in the delivery of legal services, despite the prevalence and persistence of poverty in these areas. According to the 2000 Census, rural counties with poverty rates above the national average outnumber urban counties in that category at nearly a 5 to 1 ratio. Of the 500 poorest counties in the country, 459 are rural, and, of the 500 lowest per capita income counties, 481 are rural.

Despite this overwhelming need for pro bono services, however, rural lawyers have unique limitations on providing such services. These limitations include conflicts of interest, multi-district registration requirements, fewer support staff, and greater travel demands. Staff-based rural legal aid programs face similar difficulties because they cover a wider geographic region with fewer personnel than urban legal aid programs. Plus, for their part, rural clients also face greater challenges accessing legal services due to scarce resources, transportation problems, and a general lack of information about legal help. “


“Outside the Perimeter”, there are about 59 legal aid lawyers (as of 12/2005) whose only job is to provide free civil legal services to low-income households. The 2000 Census indicates a minimum of 744,000 people who live at or below the federal poverty guidelines. That’s one rural legal aid lawyer for 12, 610 people, each of whom, according to dated legal needs studies, has 2 or more legal needs per year. The math tells the story.

While Georgia is generally considered to be an economic standout among southern states, and in the nation as a whole, Georgia is home to 38% of the entire south’s persistently poor counties! 91 of Georgia’s counties are “persistently poor” according to very recent studies. (http://www.cviog.uga.edu/services/research/poverty/). Unbelievable. Of course, you won’t see signs along I-75 pointing you to decades-long impoverished communities. Out of sight, out of mind.

There’s more. 35 of these “persistently poor” counties have either no Georgia lawyer listing an address in that county, or 5 or fewer Georgia lawyers that list an address in these 35 counties. And what’s more, of these 35 counties that do have 1-5 lawyers, that lawyer may be a judge, a prosecutor, or may not have a law practice– taking them out of the pool of lawyers available to represent people with critical legal needs.

These are the “persistently poor” counties. The counties with 0-5 lawyers are in BOLD: Appling, Atkinson, Bacon, Baker, Baldwin, Ben Hill, Berrien, Bleckley, Brantley, Brooks, Bulloch, Burke, Calhoun, Candler, Charlton, Clarke*, Clay, Clinch, Coffee, Colquit, Cook, Crawford, Crisp, Decatur, Dodge, Dooly, Dougherty*, Early, Echols, Emanuel, Evans, Glascock, Glynn, Grady, Greene, Hancock, Irwin, Jasper, Jeff Davis, Jefferson, Jenkins, Johnson, Lanier, Laurens, Liberty, Lincoln, Long, Lowndes, Macon, Marion, McDuffie*, McIntosh, Meriwether, Miller, Mitchell, Montgomery, Oglethorpe, Peach, Pierce, Pulaski, Putnam, Quitman, Randolph, Schley, Screven, Seminole, Stewart, Sumter, Talbot, Taliaferro, Tattnall, Taylor, Telfair, Terrell, Thomas, Tift, Toombs, Treutlen, Troup, Turner, Twiggs, Ware, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Webster, Wheeler, Wilcox, Wilkes, Wilkinson, Worth.

Here’s a map of Georgia for those of you, both ITP (“Inside the Perimeter”) and OTP (“Outside the Perimeter”), who would like to scan the vast Georgia territory to see where these counties lie: http://www.mapsofworld.com/usa/states/georgia/georgia-county-map.html.

So, that’s the lay of the land– the “lawscape”, if you will.


About ProBonoGA

Lawyer and justice architect wannabe... I am the pro bono director for Georgia Legal Services Program and direct a program that is funded by GLSP and the State Bar of Georgia. I am a lawyer licensed to practice law in the state of Georgia, and not in any other jurisdiction. Nothing posted on this blog should be considered legal advice. Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship with me. I do not have an active legal practice and do not have clients. I am not using this site to market to clients. I do not recommend attorneys or law firms. If I reference an attorney or a law firm in this blog, I do so to tell a story, make a point, or urge you to think about an issue presented by that attorney or law firm.
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2 Responses to A Jumping-Off Point: The Lay of the Land

  1. Mike says:

    I heard a very humorous recounting of a conversation between two trial court judges on the issue of pro se– i.e. people who have to represent themselves without a lawyer. The number of people who try to represent themselves in court has been increasing at an alarming rate. Many people can’t afford a lawyer, can’t find one who handles the kind of case they have, or can’t pay full freight.

    Judge #1: How do you help people who appear before you without a lawyer?

    Judge #2: Oh, I don’t help them.

    Judge #1: Do they come back?

    Judge #2: Oh, yea! They all keep coming back! And I have to go through it all over again with each of them.

    Judge #1: Well, is that working for you?

    Judge #2: Well, I guess not.

  2. Mike says:

    I’m pleased to report that one of the five counties in Georgia previously reported to have no lawyer now lists a lawyer.

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