King County Bar Foundation Programs
Through its PBS programs, KCBF provides free legal advice and representation to prevent homelessness; provide family safety and stabilization, especially where children are in danger; and assist low-income individuals in navigating the legal system as they seek to preserve basic human needs. Staff and volunteer attorneys provide direct representation in court proceedings, legal advice, and education related to housing, family law, debt, and other civil legal issues. PBS's specialized programs work together to provide access to justice for the most vulnerable King County residents. PBS's services target those King County residents who live at or below 200% of the federal poverty level and who have civil legal needs. Priority clients are those who face additional barriers including limited English proficiency, cultural barriers, domestic violence, mental health issues, individuals with AIDS/HIV, and other marginalized populations. Our clients include families needing access to medical care, education and employment, preservation of stable housing, debt relief, and family safety. Staffing for PBS's programs is very lean, yet the programs manage and coordinate over 1,300 volunteer attorneys to provide the free legal advice and representation that preserves many basic needs for King County's low-income population.
Recognizing that every member of our society, regardless of race or ethnicity, must have a stake in our legal system, KCBF is one of the largest providers of minority scholarships to law students in the state and is dedicated to expanding opportunities with the law for people of color.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
KCBF’s Pro Bono Services has expanded its ability to help people with debt and bankruptcy issues. PBS established a free monthly debt education workshop for King County residents which teaches attendees how to assess their debt situation, deal with debt collectors, respond to a collection lawsuit, and determine when or if they need to file bankruptcy. If needed, attendees can receive direct representation with their bankruptcy issues.
PBS also hosts debt and bankruptcy legal clinics in which King County residents can receive a free half-hour consultation with a pro bono attorney to discuss their debt issue. A panel of experienced bankruptcy attorneys is available to provide pro bono representation to low-income clients needing the relief of Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and PBS offers legal representation to low-income clients who are in debt due to fraud, Social Security overpayment, and other issues that are too complex for the clients to handle on their own.
King County has a significant number of persons with limited English proficiency, and the PBS programs’ budget for interpreter services is unable to adequately meet the need. Professional interpreters are essential in insuring that clients receive the assistance they need. The informal interpretation often provided by friends or family members in other situations is not available in the legal services context where confidentiality is required and where difficult legal terms and concepts need to be explained.