Blue Ridge Legal Services (BRLS) is a nonprofit organization that offers legal guidance and representation to individuals unable to afford a private attorney.
The services offered by Blue Ridge Legal Services, however, are eligible to low-income residents living in the Shenandoah or Roanoke Valleys of Virginia.
As a non-profit organization, BLRS offers pro-bono services. free legal aid and no-cost civil legal assistance.
In law, pro-bono service is a term that derives from the Latin phrase pro bono publico, which means “for the public good”.
Pro-bono service is a term that means professional work that is undertaken voluntarily and at no cost.
In this article, we shall discuss the scope of work done by BLRS.
Additionally, we also discuss the process and steps required for one to get help from Blue Ridge Legal Services.
Furthermore, this article will explain the modus operandi of Blue Ridge Legal Services, the type of cases they manage, and what one can anticipate from their legal support.
What is Blue Ridge Legal Services
Blue Ridge Legal Services is a non-profit organization that offers top-tier legal guidance and representation to individuals unable to afford a private attorney.
Serving 26 jurisdictions along the Blue Ridge Mountains, including Shenandoah and Roanoke Valleys of Virginia, Blue Ridge Legal Services functions as a legal aid organization covering cases spanning housing, family law, consumer protection, public benefits, education, and healthcare.
Blue Ridge Legal Services was formed in 1977 when two local legal aid programs merged.
As a non-profit organization, BLRS obtains funding from various sources, including the Legal Services Corporation, the Virginia Law Foundation, the United Way, local governments, and private donations.
The organization maintains offices in Harrisonburg, Lexington, Roanoke, and Winchester.
In addition, the employees at BLRS consist of lawyers, paralegals, and support staff.
Scope of Cases Handled by Blue Ridge Legal Services
Blue Ridge Legal Services assumes responsibility for a wide array of civil legal matters that impact the fundamental necessities and rights of economically disadvantaged individuals.
Some prevalent case categories handled by BLRS include:
The legal aid company assists tenants facing eviction, foreclosure, inadequate or unsafe housing conditions, discrimination, or the loss of utility services.
Additionally, the firm further provides support to homeowners navigating mortgage challenges, predatory lending, or property tax relief.
Animosity is a common occurrence in low-income neighborhoods, subsequently, BLRS prides on helping victims of domestic violence secure protective orders, custody arrangements, visitation rights, child support, and divorce proceedings.
The firm can also extend legal advice in other family-related matters, such as adoption, guardianship, paternity issues, or name changes.
Blue Ridge Legal Services will often offer guidance to consumers contending with debt collection harassment, deceptive trade practices, identity theft, bankruptcy, or credit report discrepancies.
Furthermore, the firm can also help people with advice related to automobile purchases, repairs, warranties, and repossessions.
Blue Ridge Legal Services will often support individuals during the application or appeals process for public benefits that encompass programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and unemployment compensation.
Blue Ridge Legal Services assists students and parents in addressing matters related to special education, school discipline, bullying, enrollment procedures, and access to educational services.
Individuals with challenges related to healthcare service access or coverage can seek free aid from BLRS.
The services provided by the firm touch on issues ranging from medical debt and malpractice to nursing home abuse or neglect and advance directives.
It is worth noting that BRLS does not handle or give advice on matters about criminal cases or fee-generating cases like personal injury or workers’ compensation claims.
Additionally, cases falling outside their service area or beyond their expertise are beyond their scope.
Therefore, if you are seeking professional help with Blue Ridge Legal Services, it is important to book a consultation and enquire if your case falls within the firm’s scope.
Application Process for Blue Ridge Legal Services
Prospective beneficiaries of free legal aid are required to follow the intake procedure.
During this phase, a member of the intake team will collect household details, including household size, income, and asset information.
Additionally, the intake team will perform conflict of interest checks, and gather a concise description of the issue at hand.
Blue Ridge Legal Services uses this information to determine one’s eligibility for their services and whether they can address the specific case.
There are three avenues for applying to BRLS:
- By Phone: Reach out to the office serving your area during its intake hours. Refer to the “Areas Served/Office Locations” section or consult the service area map to locate the appropriate office. If you are unsure which office to contact, you can dial 1-866-534-5243 toll-free, and the system will automatically connect you to the relevant legal aid office.
- Online: You have the option to submit your application online, accessible 24/7. Although the online application collects the most essential information, you will still need to talk with an intake paralegal to complete the application. Expect to hear from the intake staff within three business days to review and complete your submission.
- In Person: Alternatively, you can visit the office in person that caters to your area during its intake hours. Details about office locations and intake hours can be found in the “Areas Served/Office Locations” section and on the service area map.
Please refrain from sending legal queries via email.
This is because BLRS does not furnish legal advice unless one is officially deemed eligible for their services through the established intake process.
So, before officially becoming a client, Blue Ridge Legal Services will never intend to establish an attorney-client relationship via email exchanges.
Therefore, avoid sharing privileged or confidential information via email.
To initiate the screening process, please choose one of the three avenues mentioned above.
Anticipating BLRS Support
Should one qualify for legal help from Blue Ridge Legal Services, expect a paralegal or an attorney to be assigned.
The paralegal or attorney will always be an expert in the area of your concern.
The extent of BLRS advice depends on the nature and difficulty of your situation, resulting in varying levels of service:
- Legal Advice: Blue Ridge Legal Services may supply legal insights and counsel concerning your rights and available options, but this does not extend to courtroom representation or negotiations with the opposing party.
- Brief Service: BLRS can assist in preparing or reviewing documents such as letters, forms, or pleadings, yet this does not encompass representing you in legal proceedings or negotiations.
- Representation: In cases that demand representation, BLRS can represent you in legal proceedings or negotiations, handling all aspects of your case from beginning to conclusion.
Blue Ridge Legal Services maintains regular communication regarding your case’s status and progress.
The top-notch services offered by the firm include keeping one informed about critical deadlines, hearings, or decisions influencing your case.
The preferences and opinions of an individual seeking the services of BRLS are always valued. Therefore, the company will seek your input and consent before taking significant actions on your behalf.
Concurrently, BRLS anticipates your cooperation, requiring relevant information and documents for effective case management.
Notably, BRLS does not impose fees for its services. Nevertheless, for certain case-related costs, such as filing fees, court expenses, or witness fees, BLRS will usually not cater to such costs.
BRLS endeavors to lower such costs and, whenever possible, will seek waivers or reductions.
Prior to incurring any potential costs on your behalf, BRLS will apprise you of the situation.
BRLS is committed to its mission to offer equitable access to justice for low-income residents in its service domain.
The consistent years of offering essential civil legal assistance at no charge have made BLRS stand out as a valuable resource for economically disadvantaged residents of the Shenandoah and Roanoke Valleys in Virginia. The service area also stretches from Frederick County to Franklin County.
BRLS extends premium legal advice and representation across a spectrum of civil legal matters affecting clients’ basic needs and rights.
If you believe you meet the eligibility criteria for their services, you can start the application process through phone, online, or in-person channels.
Once accepted as a client, BRLS commits to protecting your interests and pursuing the most suitable outcome for your case.
Hence, the firm takes pride in providing low-income people with high-quality legal services in matters that could otherwise turn their lives upside down.