The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) is the largest funding source for civil legal aid organizations in Massachusetts.
The Commonwealth established MLAC in 1983 to ensure that people with low incomes facing critical non-criminal legal issues have access to legal information, advice, and representation. Our mission is to improve legal aid in Massachusetts through collaboration with the legal services community, the public, the bar, and the legislature.
What We Do
The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation provides funding and support to civil legal aid organizations across the Commonwealth.
MLAC is the largest funder of civil legal aid in the Commonwealth. MLAC grants the money to nonprofit organizations that provide legal assistance at no cost to residents of Massachusetts with low incomes. For more information on the organizations MLAC funds, please visit our funding pages.
MLAC provides several kinds of grants.
General Support Funding
General Support includes unrestricted funds to regional and statewide legal aid organizations, as well as funding for the following Special Projects:
- Disability Benefits Project
- Domestic Violence Legal Assistance Project
- Medicare Advocacy Project
Immigrants’ Rights Funding
Other funds include grants for these projects:
- Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund
- Massachusetts Immigration Legal Assistance Fund
- Afghan Refugee Project
Victims of Crime Funding
The Civil Legal Aid for Victims of Crime Initiative (CLAVC) helps victims of crime throughout Massachusetts with their related civil legal problems.
MLAC strengthens legal aid in Massachusetts in several ways:
- The Central Technology Project provides technology services and support to MLAC-funded organizations to help them deliver legal aid effectively and efficiently.
- Data and Analysis collects and analyzes the scope and impact of legal aid across a wide variety of factors, including: number of clients and cases, types of cases, and demographics. With that data, the team reports on the legal aid workforce, the impact of legal aid on low-income people, and recommends new goals and strategies for addressing current and emerging legal needs.
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion works to create a diverse, representative and collaborative environment within legal services to provide accessible, welcoming, and culturally competent services to clients of all backgrounds and their communities.
- Program Evaluation conducts grantee program evaluations using a peer review model. Performance standards are drawn from the American Bar Association’s Standards for the Delivery of Civil Legal Services and cover six areas of focus: strategic planning and collaborative priority setting; development and utilization of resources; client access; quality assurance; management, administration, and use of technology; and governance.
- Communications develops content and campaigns that promote awareness of civil legal aid and the work of MLAC grantees through client storytelling and data. Additionally, it supports efforts to increase communications and media outreach capacity within legal services on a statewide basis.
- Fellowships fund the work of legal aid attorneys who seek to expand the delivery of legal services in communities traditionally underserved by legal aid. MLAC funds two fellowships: the Bart Gordon Fellowship and the Racial Justice Fellowship.
- The Equal Justice Coalition advocates for state funding for civil legal aid. It is a partnership of MLAC, the Boston Bar Association, and the Massachusetts Bar Association.
MLAC receives revenue from several sources:
- The Commonwealth of Massachusetts appropriates money in its state budget to MLAC, which MLAC distributes to qualified civil legal aid organizations. In Fiscal Year 2023, the state appropriation is $41 million.
- MLAC receives 67% of the revenue generated by the Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program. Revenue is generated through the interest of modest or short term bank accounts that attorneys use to manage their clients’ money temporarily.
- MLAC receives grants from government agencies and private foundations seeking to fund special initiatives in response to emerging crises. For example, MLAC received grants for initiatives to provide legal defense to homeowners in the midst of the foreclosure crisis, legal services to immigrants facing deportation, and to address the civil legal needs of victims of crime.
About Civil Legal Aid
Unlike criminal defendants, people facing serious civil legal problems—such as domestic violence, housing, health care, employment, government benefits, bankruptcy, and elder issues—do not have the right to an attorney in most cases. Legal aid organizations provide essential representation and advice to help people who cannot afford an attorney protect their basic human needs for health, safety, and housing.
People with incomes at or below 125% of the federal poverty level are eligible for civil legal aid. According to the 2023 federal poverty guidelines, that means an annual income at or below $37,500 for a family of four.
This year, MLAC is asking the Massachusetts legislature to provide $49 million for civil legal aid in the FY24 Budget of the Commonwealth through line item 0321-1600.
Civil legal aid organizations in Massachusetts provide legal assistance to low-income individuals and families in a variety of areas, including housing, employment, education, health care, and family law, among others. Coming soon are a series of fact sheets that detail the types of cases closed in each issue area, as well as ways civil legal aid helps specific groups of clients.
- Family Law and Domestic Violence
- Health Care
- Income Maintenance
- Immigrants and Refugees
- Older Adults
My legal aid attorney was heaven-sent.