State Bar, legal aid groups strategize on funding for equal access Thursday, August 17, 2017 Categories: Top Headlines Technology gave State Bar and legal aid representatives located hundreds of miles apart a chance to share strategies for increasing funding for some of California's most vulnerable residents. The July 19 convening at the State Bar's Los Angeles and San Francisco offices was called "Getting More Resources for Legal Aid: $$$ and People." The dual-location, video conference brought together more than 100 people from legal aid organizations, including those that help veterans, homeless people and people with disabilities. The State Bar and legal aid groups have for years advocated for increased money, state and federal, to be set aside to make legal services available to the poor, and there have been some small victories in the process. In 2016, a State Bar-administered fund that finances legal services for low-income people got an additional $5 million in funding. Representatives of the state's many legal aid organizations had pushed again for an increase to the Equal Access Fund this year, which has remained almost the same at $10 million since it was founded nearly two decades ago. That push was successful. In June, the Equal Access Fund was earmarked an additional $10 million for 2018 and 2019. The state also promised to set aside 25 percent of money from unclaimed class-action settlement awards, also called "cy pres," to go towards the fund. "We've been going as hard and as fast as we can to increase funding for 2018 and beyond," said Salena Copeland, executive director of the Legal Aid Association of California. She pointed to recent news of legal aid attorneys helping immigrants with the federal travel ban. "We got $10 million for next year, but in my mind we need to get more," Copeland added. "It did make a difference this year that legislators finally understand what you do." It was also a rare opportunity for pro bono advocates to share ideas, plan events and promote cooperation by using technological platforms. The meeting itself, staged nearly 400 miles apart, was the first time legal aid advocates in two different locations could meet virtually and share presentations. Overseeing the event for the State Bar was Rodney Fong, director of the State Bar's Office of Legal Services.