Virginia State Bar

An agency of the Supreme Court of Virginia

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Ten Facts About Virginia’s Justice Gap

Did you know?   

  • Over 80% of the civil legal needs of the poor in Virginia and nationwide go unmet.[1]
  • Individuals who are represented by counsel are twice as likely to have a favorable outcome compared to those who are unrepresented.[2]
  • There are presently more than 1 million people in Virginia who are living in poverty.  In other words, one in eight Virginians is eligible for free legal services from Virginia’s legal aid programs.[3]
  • 48% percent of low and moderate income households in Virginia experience a legal problem each year (approximately 400,000 legal problems annually).[4]
  • Because of funding cuts and decrease in IOLTA revenue, Virginia’s legal aid programs have lost 20% of their funding, resulting in a loss of 20% of total legal aid attorney and support staff statewide (61 positions total, including 34 attorneys). That leaves just 130 legal aid lawyers to cover the land area of Virginia or 42,775 square miles.  At the same time Virginia’s poverty population has increased by over 30%.[5]
  • There is one legal aid lawyer per 7,237 poor persons in Virginia. Compare this to the ratio of one lawyer per 349 Virginians. [6]
  • Nationwide, 50% of the potential clients who request legal assistance from legal aid are turned away due to a lack of resources. People seeking assistance with family law cases were turned away 80% of the time.[7]
  • Rule 6.1 of the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct every lawyer, regardless of professional prominence, should devote 2% of his or her professional time to pro bono legal services activity (or approximately 40 hours per year).[8]
  • If Virginia lawyers were in compliance with this aspirational goal, we should be providing over 900,000 hours of pro bono.[9]
  • According to the best available data, Virginia lawyers are providing just 80,000 hours of pro bono.[10]

What can you do to help?

  • See the VSB’s Precipitating Change Through Pro Bono brochure to find out more about Pro Bono opportunities in Virginia
  • Request to receive information about, an online pro bono website starting in August in which low income Virginians can post a legal question on the website and attorneys who register for the website can review the questions, select one, and post an answer. It’s free, it’s limited scope, it’s convenient, it’s anonymous: it’s Pro Bono.
  • Check out the Virginia State Bar Access to Legal Services Facebook page.
  • Contact Crista Gantz, VSB Director of Access to Legal Services by phone (804-775-0522) or e-mail (

[1] 2007 Virginia Legal Needs Study, commissioned by the Legal Services Corporation of Virginia (LSCV) and funded in part by the Virginia law Foundation; 1994 ABA National Legal Needs Study

[2] Russell Engler, Connecting Self-Representation to Civil Gideon: What Existing Data Reveal About When Counsel is Most Needed,  Fordham  Urban Law Journal, Volume 37, Issue 1, 2009. pp. 51- 66..

[3] Legal Services Corporation of Virginia, Report to the Commonwealth and the General Assembly, FY 014-15, p. 8

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[6] VSB Membership Report, August 3, 2015 (number of active Virginia lawyers); LSC Grant Application, May 2014(number of legal aid lawyers); US Census website (Virginia population and poverty population)

[7]Legal Services Corporation, FY 2016 Budget Request; Alan W. Houseman, The Future of Civil Legal Aid in the United States, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), November 2005

[8] Rule 6.1, Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct

[9] Joanna L. Suyes and John E. Whitfield, Is There a Justice Gap in Virginia?, Virginia Lawyer, February 2014

[10] Legal Services Corporation of Virginia, Report to the Commonwealth and the General Assembly, FY 014-15;2013 VSB Access to Legal Services Statewide Survey of Independent Pro Bono Programs; and an extrapolation of ad hoc pro bono hours from ABA Supporting Justice III report, March 2013