As long as there have been attorneys, there has been legal aid, or legal assistance offered at little or no charge to persons who otherwise would not be able to afford it. In a sophisticated age of legal services delivery, powered by megabytes, computer chips, and the infinite universe that is the Internet, we sometimes forget or discount the humble origins and continuing foundation of legal services: individual attorneys who believe that “justice for all” is not a truth ensured by its rhetorical inclusion in historic documents, but an ideal that must be actively and incessantly pursued by personal, everyday actions.
Read the ACCESS TO JUSTICE REPORT, a Civil Needs Assessment.
Founded in 1950, by pillars of the Hawai`i legal community, such as Betty Vitousek, Vincent Yano and Samuel King, Jr., the Legal Aid Society of Hawai`i (“Legal Aid”) was created to “...secure justice for and to protect the rights of the needy and to promote measures for their assistance in such connection.” Its broad, sweeping mission reflects the expansive nature of its services, then and now, as the oldest and largest provider of legal services in the State of Hawai`i.
Initially, Legal Aid provided assistance to low-income persons in both civil and criminal law, serving as a “catch all” for persons living in poverty and plagued with legal issues. However, its single office in Honolulu could not accommodate the needs of a program charged with the daunting task of serving indigent people statewide.
Over time, therefore, offices cropped up across our island landscape, first with a Big island office in Hilo, established in the late 1950s, then offices on Maui, Kaua`i, and in Kahaluu, until Legal Aid offices had been placed on each of the six primary islands (four offices on O`ahu, two on the Big Island, and one each on Maui, Kaua`i, Moloka`i, and Lana`i). Funding cuts in the 1970s and 1980s necessitated the closing of our Lana`i and Kahaluu offices, which have since been reopened as the program’s budget has grown and diversified.
For a more detailed history of the Legal Aid Society of Hawai`i
The Legal Aid Society of Hawaii’s mission is to achieve fairness and justice through legal advocacy, outreach and education for those in need.
"Building a Just Society"
FULFILLING OUR MISSION
Over the last five years, the Legal Aid Society of Hawai`i has faced substantial reductions in government funding and a significant increase in requests for services as the State economy continues to struggle. Legal Aid has therefore focused its efforts on developing state-of-the-art delivery systems to handle the volume of requests for services and to provide comprehensive legal assistance to those in critical need.
While Legal Aid continues to provide full representation to those in need, Legal Aid has committed itself to providing those who have no other legal alternatives some level of service. Five years ago, Legal Aid began improving access to justice by training clients to handle legal matters on their own. By assessing our clients’ level of need according to a pyramid scale, we are now able to help all eligible applicants substantially achieve justice.
In its work with clients, with our co-workers and in the community, the Legal Aid Society of Hawai‘i is committed to:
The Legal Aid Society of Hawai`i is the largest non-profit law firm in the State of Hawai`i.
Legal Aid currently has a staff of over 90 attorneys, paralegals, secretaries, and administrative staff statewide who are dedicated to assisting the people of Hawai`i with their legal concerns.
For information on CAREER OPPORTUNITIES at Legal Aid
For information on Legal Aid’s STAFF
To view Legal Aid's 2006-07 Annual Report
To view Legal Aid's 2007-08 Annual Report
To view Legal Aid's 2008-09 Annual Report