The primary purpose of the Legal Aid Society is to provide quality legal services for the low-income residents, children, and disadvantaged groups with special legal needs in Orange County, Florida, and to assist in providing legal aid services to similarly situated residents of neighboring counties through an effective and fiscally sound program through the combined efforts of staff and pro bono attorneys.
The Legal Aid Society opened its doors in the early 1960s as a volunteer organization created by attorneys who were members of the Orange County Bar Association. These 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 nonprofit organization under the name, “Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association, Inc.”
Today, the Legal Aid Society consists of about 50 staff members including 18 attorneys and relies greatly on the contributions of volunteered time and financial donations to provide Orange County’s most vulnerable residents with quality, legal services.
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 1980s, the Legal Aid Society 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, Orange County Government, The Florida Bar Foundation, Dr. Phillips Charities, & Bob Woodruff Foundation.
Since its creation, the program has been located at various sites within downtown Orlando. In 1978, the Orange County Bar Association and Legal Aid Society purchased a building on North Orange Avenue. In 1990, the Legal Aid Society moved to its present location at the corner of Magnolia Avenue and Robinson Street.
The Legal Aid Society 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.