Better Business Bureau Report for
The Legal Aid Society Of Cleveland

Better Business Bureau Report issued March 2017
Better Business Bureau Report expires March 2019

This BBB Accredited charity meets all 20 Standards for Charity Accountability. Find out more...

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Charity Contact Information

Name: The Legal Aid Society Of Cleveland
1223 West 6th Street
  Cleveland, OH 44113
Phone: 216-861-5500
Web Address:
Also known as:Legal Aid
Cleveland Legal Aid
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Better Business Bureau Comments

Formerly known as:The Legal Aid Society Of Cleveland

Year, State Incorporated: 1905, Ohio
Affiliates: None
Stated Purpose: Legal Aid's mission is to secure justice and resolve fundamental problems for those who are low-income and vulnerable by providing high-quality legal services and working for systemic solutions. Thanks to high school civics classes and television crime shows, almost everyone is familiar with the language of the Miranda rights (“you have the right to remain silent…anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law…you have the right to an attorney…if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you”). These words have become so engrained in American culture that many people mistakenly believe that anyone appearing before a judge is entitled to no-cost representation by an attorney. However, Miranda rights only apply in serious criminal cases, such as assault, murder, burglary, or drunk driving. There is no such constitutional right to legal representation in civil cases – those dealing with issues like eviction, domestic violence, and employment. Many low-income people experiencing problems like these face the daunting task of navigating the legal system on their own, without even basic assistance. That’s where The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland comes in: The agency ensures that low-income people have access to justice. Legal Aid provides no-cost high-quality civil legal services to people with incomes up to 200% of poverty in areas of law that affect safety, health, housing, economic security, employment, and domestic relations. Legal Aid’s four offices serve residents of Cuyahoga, Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, and Lorain counties.

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Evaluation Conclusions


The Legal Aid Society Of Cleveland (LASC) meets the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.
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The purpose of The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland is to promote equal access to justice. To do this, Legal Aid’s 40 staff attorneys and 400+ volunteer lawyers provide no-cost civil legal assistance to low-income people in Northeast Ohio. Key programs include: • Legal Assistance Legal Aid advises and represents clients in court and administrative hearings, negotiations, and litigation in areas such as consumer rights, disability, domestic violence, education, employment, family law, health, housing, foreclosure, immigration, public benefits, utilities, and tax. Legal Aid partners with other service providers to ensure that the outcomes achieved through legal representation have a long-lasting impact on families. • Community Education and Outreach Legal Aid attorneys spend a significant portion of their time in the community engaged in proactive, preventative neighborhood-based work, providing people with the tools they need to handle and avoid a legal problem or to resolve it on their own, as well as to know when to contact Legal Aid or another service provider for assistance. • Advocacy Legal Aid works to address underlying societal inequities by advocating for changes in local, state, and national policies and regulations. In addition, Legal Aid attorneys play leadership roles in statewide and national policy groups, and participate in community coalitions and partnerships to improve shelter, safety, and economic security for low-income individuals, families, and communities. And, because Legal Aid clients may face other issues that interfere with the effectiveness of legal representation, the organization offers social work services that increase clients’ stability and security in areas such as housing, mental health, substance abuse, benefit applications, medical care, transportation, and utility assistance. In 2016, Legal Aid impacted 17,979 people through 7,490 cases. Thousands more were served through community presentations and outreach work. Legal Aid’s impact is profound; its services change the trajectory of people’s lives by: • Securing safety for victims of domestic violence and other crimes • Ensuring economic stability through secured income and prevention of income loss • Assisting individuals in removing barriers to obtaining and maintaining employment • Protecting assets, income, and housing by preventing foreclosure • Helping individuals secure and retain decent affordable housing • Increasing access to health care • Providing access to quality education, which is a route out of poverty • Promoting increased understanding of legal issues and processes • Ensuring that the justice system and government entities are accountable and accessible Legal Aid’s clients come from every ethnic and age group and live in urban, suburban, and rural areas. They are the working poor, veterans, homeowners and renters, families with children, farmers, people with disabilities, and the elderly. In 2016: • 76% of clients lived in Cuyahoga County • 83% of households served made less than $25,000 a year • 71% of clients were women, most of whom were heads of household with children • 18% of clients were older adults

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2016, LASC's program expenses were:

Improve safety and health 2,542,524
Promote education and economic stability 2,302,656
Secure decent affordable housing 1,897,810
Total Program Expenses: $6,742,990
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Chief Executive : Colleen M. Cotter, Esq., Executive Director

Chair of the Board: Vanetta Jamison
Chair's Profession / Business Affiliation: US Veterans Administration

Board Size: 24

Paid Staff Size: 70

*Compensation includes annual salary and, if applicable, benefit plans, expense accounts, and other allowances.
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Fund Raising


Method(s) Used:

direct mail, invitations to fund raising events, grant proposals, internet, planned giving arrangements
Fund raising costs were 6% of related contributions. (Related contributions, which totaled $7,854,201, are donations received as a result of fund raising activities.)
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Tax Status


This organization is tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. It is eligible to receive contributions deductible as charitable donations for federal income tax purposes.
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The following information is based on LASC's audited financial statements for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2016.

Source of Funds  
Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation 2,327,148
Legal Services Corporation 2,300,369
Donations and Private Grants 1,568,238
Donated Services 947,098
Other Government Grants 408,231
United Way 303,117
Partner Agencies (contracts for legal services) 220,982
Other Income 216,851
Total Income $8,292,034


Uses of Funds as a % of Total Expenses

Programs: 84%  Fund Raising: 5%  Administrative: 11% 

Total income $8,292,034
Program expenses $6,742,990
Fund raising expenses 438,021
Administrative expenses 883,287
Total expenses $8,064,298
Income in Excess of Expenses 227,736
Beginning net assets 6,046,819
Ending net assets 6,274,555
Total liabilities 733,327
Total assets $7,007,882

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