Varnum has announced a $30,000 pledge of support to the Legal Assistance Center (LAC), a nonprofit legal self-help center that helps individuals solve basic legal problems and use the courts on their own. The pledge was formally announced at a December 1st reception celebrating the 20th anniversary of the LAC.
“We are very pleased to provide support to this vital community service,” said Varnum partner Beth Skaggs, who serves on the LAC Board of Trustees. “The Legal Assistance Center delivers a tremendous service in Kent County, not only to those who use the services provided by the Center, but also the entire legal community.”
The LAC is on course to have served more than 22,000 people in 2022. More than half have household incomes of less than $30,000.
Skaggs noted that the LAC is funded to a large extent by contributions from the community. Those contributions were reduced during the past several years primarily due to COVID and the inability to hold fundraising events. Skaggs said she hopes the Varnum donation will raise awareness about the need for financial support.
The LAC serves people involved in civil matters, such as divorce, custody, child support, parenting time, landlord/tenant matters, small claims and debt collection.
LAC Executive Director Deborah Hughes noted the increasing importance of services provided by the center. While people involved in criminal matters receive a court-appointed attorney if they cannot afford one, in civil matters “you’re on your own,” Hughes said. “As many as 70 to 80 percent of people in civil matters have no choice but to come to court alone without legal representation.”
The LAC, located on the 5th floor of the Kent County Courthouse at 180 Ottawa Ave., is staffed by three to five full time employees and more than 30 student volunteers in pre-law or paralegal programs at local universities. The Center currently operates 32 hours per week, providing basic legal information, forms, resources and guidance. People are referred to the LAC in multiple ways, including by Friend of the Court, Legal Aid, various bar associations, attorneys and others involved in the court system.
Varnum has been involved with the LAC since its inception in 2002, providing financial support and leadership. Varnum partner Beth Skaggs has served on the LAC Board of Trustees for the past five years.