The Legal Aid Society was begun in the early 1960’s as a volunteer organization and created by attorneys who were members of the Orange County Bar Association. The volunteer attorneys agreed to take referrals in civil and criminal cases for local residents who could not afford an attorney. In 1967, the organization was formally incorporated in Florida as a not for profit under the name of Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association, Inc. It hired its first director and full time staff and offered free civil legal services. Currently, Legal Aid employs about 35 staff including 18 attorneys and coordinates the contributions of time and money from over 2700 volunteers both attorneys and non-attorneys.
Financial support for Legal Aid is diverse. It was one of the first legal aid programs to receive financial support through a user fee add on to court filing fees in civil cases. United Way, now Heart of Florida United Way, has provided funding for over 30 years. Attorney contributions are one of the three largest continuing sources of funds, now providing about $400,000 annually. In the 1980’s Legal Aid began receiving grants from the Interest On Lawyers Trust Account program which is administered through The Florida Bar Foundation. Additional sources of funds are City of Orlando and Orange County.
Since its creation, the program has been located at a variety of sites within downtown Orlando. In 1978, the Orange County Bar Association and Legal Aid purchased a building on North Orange Avenue. In 1990, Legal Aid moved to its present location at the corner of Magnolia Avenue and Robinson Street.
Legal Aid remains a local program with core support from volunteers whose dedication enables it to provide civil legal services primarily in Orange County. Legal Aid is especially proud of its Pro Bono Program, and the Guardian ad Litem Program.