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.
Funding. 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 includes unrestricted funds to legal aid organizations, as well as funding for:
- Disability Benefits Project
- Domestic Violence Legal Assistance Project
- Medicare Advocacy Project
Other Funds include grants for these projects:
- Civil Legal Aid to Victims of Crime
- Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund
- Massachusetts Immigration Legal Assistance Fund
- Afghan Refugee Project
Support. 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 Policy Analysis measures 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 client’s 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 protect their basic human needs for health, safety, and housing.
People with an income at or below 125% of the federal poverty level are eligible for civil legal aid. According to the 2022 federal poverty guidelines, that means an annual income at or below $34,688 for a family of four.
MLAC asked the legislature to provide $41 million for civil legal aid in the FY23 state budget through line item 0321-1600. This amount was included in the FY23 Final Budget of the Commonwealth, signed into law by Governor Baker in July 2022.
Civil legal aid organizations in Massachusetts provide a wide range of legal assistance to people and families with low incomes. Common issues addressed include housing, employment, education, health care, and family law, among others. Below are fact sheets that detail the types of cases closed in each issue area, as well as descriptions of the ways civil legal aid helps specific groups.
- Family Law and Domestic Violence
- Health Care
- Income Maintenance
- Immigrants and Refugees
- Older Adults
My legal aid attorney was heaven-sent.