Joe Surkiewicz: Voices for Civil Justice raise profile of civil legal aid

Voices for Civil Justice is a non-partisan communications hub with the mission of raising awareness of the vital role legal aid plays in helping people provide for their health, their livelihoods and their families.

Op-Ed (Maryland)

Joe Surkiewicz
Daily Record (Maryland)
May 1, 2014
Link to story (subscription req'd)

Organizations mentioned/involved: Voices for Civil Justice, Maryland Access to Justice Commission (MDATJC)


The goal for the new program, which started up earlier this year, is to cast a spotlight in the national media on the work of civil legal aid, with a long-term goal of bolstering its resources.

Voices will also “brand” civil legal aid to overcome the sector’s virtual invisibility in the national media.

“We know that civil legal aid is grossly under-resourced and only meets a small fraction of the legal needs of our clients,” said Voices executive director Martha Bergmark. “We want to bolster resources. Until legal aid is branded, it’s not going to happen. This is a way to get there, whether the resources come from Congress or, say, expanded pro bono.”


“We’re trying to be strategic, while still throwing stuff at the wall and see what sticks,” she said. “Already, we can see that there’s a necessary capacity piece that we’re filling nationally. If you’re pitching a national story, you’ve got to be there for the national media. It’s very clear we’re not stepping on any toes. It’s been really interesting so far.”

Along with deputy director Elizabeth Arledge, another veteran of LSC, NLADA and other legal services programs (and a former newspaper reporter), Voices will define and strengthen legal aid’s brand identity with key audiences such as policy makers, opinion leaders and donors.