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"Expanding Horizons"

Thoughts on Agenda Setting and a Full Advocacy Toolbox for Legal Services

By John Bouman

Lawyers at effective legal services programs seek to understand their clients’ problems and represent them to the best of their abilities. They examine the facts of their daily caseloads for systemic and policy problems and use an array of tools to solve clients’ problems. A legal services practice focused on problem solving sets its agenda based on clients’ facts. It should expand its strategies and tactics beyond litigation and cultivate relationships with people who can help its clients when the program is not able to do so. Illinois advocates who applied the problem-solving practice model to secure tenants’ rights, social security disability benefits for widows, and the end of illegal delays in Medicaid succeeded without necessarily engaging in activities restricted by the Legal Services Corporation. Programs should ensure that their advocacy toolboxes are up-to-date and complete. 

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