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Legal agencies for low-income, elderly combine forces

Legal agencies for low-income, elderly combine forces

Sunday, July 24, 2011
Jonathan L. Mannina, left, is executive director of the newly-created Community Legal Aid, and Hisham Leil is managing attorney for the Springfield office located in Monarch Place.
By Buffy Spencer  THE REPUBLICAN
 SPRINGFIELD — The nonprofit agency that has provided legal services for low-income and elderly residents of Western Massachusetts has joined forces with a similar agency in Worcester. 
All the services provided by Western Massachusetts Legal Services will continue as before, but the new entity will be known as Community Legal Aid. 
Western Massachusetts Legal Services and Legal Assistance Corp. of Central Massachusetts have come together to create the new entity, according to the new agency’s executive director, Jonathan Mannina. 
The nonprofit corporation provides free civil legal assistance to low-income and elderly residents of Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin and Berkshire counties. 
The merger is not going to affect services in Western Massachusetts in any way, although there is a hope there will be expansion of services, Mannina said. 
The existing staff of Western Massachusetts Legal Services was brought into the new agency. 
“We put together a new management team, but the front line staff representing clients is the same,” he said. 
Each office will have a managing attorney who will report to a deputy director and to Mannina, he said. 
Hisham Leil, who was working on immigration issues for Western Massachusetts Legal Services, is now managing attorney in the Springfield office, which is located in Monarch Place. 
“We’re really hoping over time this enhances services to the folks in Hampden County. We are in the process of putting together an expanded board which will have representation from all the counties served,” Mannina said. 
The two legal-aid agencies have had challenging financial times, and consolidating management and other functions makes sense, he said. 
Since the new agency now covers half the state, there may be some larger public and private funding sources that can be approached to help provide support for its programs, Mannina added. 
“(Community Legal Aid’s) staff looks forward to working together on issues affecting our client communities,” Mannina said. “We are proud of the legacy of past providers of legal aid in central and Western Massachusetts, and we are committed to providing the finest legal advocacy for our clients.” 
With a staff of 50 people and offices in multiple locations, services are offered in elder law, government benefits and unemployment compensation, landlord-tenant law, humanitarian-based immigration law, housing and employment discrimination, and family law matters affecting domestic violence victims. 
In addition to assisting clients with their cases, the agency provides trainings for social service providers and other members of the community on legal issues affecting low-income and elderly families and individuals. 
The main offices are in Northampton, Pittsfield, Springfield and Worcester. Staff meet with clients on designated days at satellite offices located in Fitchburg, Greenfield, Milford, North Adams and Southbridge. ▪
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