New Haven Legal Assistance Association
426 State St
New Haven CT 06510
Contact Information
Address 426 State St
New Haven, CT 06510-
Telephone (203) 946-4811 x
Fax 203-498-9271
Web and Social Media
New Haven Legal Assistance Association, Inc.'s mission is to provide high-quality legal services to individuals, families and groups who are unable to obtain legal services because of limited income, age, disability, discrimination and other barriers.
At A Glance
Year of Incorporation 1964
Organization's type of tax exempt status Public Supported Charity
Organization received a competitive grant from the community foundation in the past five years Yes
CEO/Executive Director Alexis Smith
Board Chair Beverly Hodgson
Board Chair Company Affiliation Mediation and Arbitration
Financial Summary
Revenue vs Expenses Bar Graph - All Years
Mission New Haven Legal Assistance Association, Inc.'s mission is to provide high-quality legal services to individuals, families and groups who are unable to obtain legal services because of limited income, age, disability, discrimination and other barriers.

New Haven Legal Assistance Association, Inc. (LAA) is a nonprofit organization that was incorporated on April 7, 1964 to "secure justice for and to protect the rights of those residents of New Haven County unable to engage legal counsel." LAA was one of the first legal services programs established and the federal government used it as a model for similar programs throughout the country. When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Arthur J. Goldberg opened LAA's first neighborhood office on May 1, 1965 (Law Day) he said, "I hope that we will see in city after city. . . programs such as this which will bring equal justice and dignity to all." More than 40 years later, LAA continues to provide free legal services to eligible individuals and families in the greater New Haven area.

In 2015, New Haven Legal Assistance opened 1,176 new cases for people with low income. For these individuals, access to a lawyer helped them preserve housing, get needed health care, obtain protection from violence and get the benefits, wages and jobs needed to meet their families’ basic needs. Of the 1,057 cases we closed in 2015, positive outcomes were recorded in 99.5% of the cases.
Our most pressing need is for additional staff to meet the great demand for our services.  The state will provide a free attorney to low-income people charged with a crime, but that is not the case for most civil legal matters. A 2008 survey by the University of Connecticut Center for Research and Analysis revealed that 71% of low-income households in Connecticut experienced at least one legal problem during the past year. More than four in ten households (43%) had experienced three or more legal problems in the past year. Since that survey was taken, the number of low-income households in Connecticut -including greater New Haven and the Lower Naugatuck Valley - has increased as a result of the recession. For every low-income person in our service area that we are able to represent, we have to turn many more away.
CEO Statement

One of my favorite quotes about equal justice comes from a 19th-century French writer, Anatole France: “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread." I appreciate his wry observation of the gulf between our perception that the scales of justice are in balance and the realities of being poor. More than 70 percent of low-income households have experienced at least one civil legal problem during the past year. Because there is no right to counsel in most civil legal cases, these folks are on their own. Unfortunately for them, our adversarial legal system is based on the idea that both sides to a conflict will have a lawyer by their side. If you do not have a lawyer, and the other side is a bank, a government agency or your abuser, the chances of obtaining a favorable outcome are not good. The chances of successfully accessing the legal system at all are even worse if you have low literacy, a disability, or limited English proficiency.    

In a 1965 column, TIME Magazine described this state of unequal justice and reported on a promising new remedy: setting up storefront "neighborhood law offices" in low-income areas: “In New Haven last year, for example, the Ford Foundation financed the prototype New Haven Legal Assistance Association Inc.”  For the last half-century New Haven Legal Assistance has tirelessly represented low-income people facing domestic violence, denial of government benefits, homelessness, utility shutoffs, wage theft and other legal problems related to basic human needs. In almost every case, our advocacy results in a better outcome for the client. In many cases, our advocacy has changed the law, a policy or a practice in a way that is better for low-income people.

Our clients are our community: children, workers, parents, people with disabilities and seniors. It is our privilege to represent them and we could not do so without the support of all those who believe in equality before the law.
With much appreciation,
Susan Garcia Nofi
Board Chair Statement

It is an honor to serve as the Board Chair for New Haven Legal Assistance, Inc. (LAA). LAA was incorporated in 1964 to "secure justice for and to protect the rights of those residents of New Haven County unable to engage legal counsel." The Ford Foundation made the original grant that funded LAA.  There was reportedly a debate about whether low income people were in more need of access in their neighborhoods to legal or health services.   Lawyers beat out doctors by a narrow margin.

We have much to be proud of.  LAA today serves nearly 1,400 clients in 22 cities and towns in greater New Haven in the areas of child protection, education law, family law, housing law, immigration, public benefits, disability rights, and workers' rights.  Over 98% of our clients are happy with our work. Visit our website to hear directly from our clients about the difference LAA has made in their lives.

LAA has also made a lasting impact through our alumni. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Clarence Thomas both worked here as law students.  Fifteen of our staff attorneys became judges.

In the fall of 2014, we celebrated our 50th anniversary.  Those 50 years have brought many victories for assuring equal justice without regard to wealth.   Click on to read about our many landmark cases.

While we are proud of our past, we face a challenging future. We can serve only a small percentage of low income people who need legal advice. Our funding from the State and from the judicial system is once again threatened with significant reductions.  More than ever, strong support from individuals in the community who believe in equal access to justice is critical to our being able to stand up for the rights of our clients.  Please give generously.

Sincerely yours,

Ben A. Solnit

Service Categories
Primary Organization Category Civil Rights, Social Action, Advocacy / Civil Rights
Areas Served
East Haven
Lower Naugatuck Valley
New Haven
North Branford
North Haven
West Haven
New Haven Legal Assistance provides high-quality legal services to individuals and groups unable to obtain legal services because of limited income, age, disability, discrimination and other barriers.  LAA provides legal services in the following areas:

 •child protection


 •criminal defense



 •housing (including
fair housing)


 •public benefits

 •disability rights

 •workers' rights

We use a combination of individual representation, impact
litigation, policy advocacy and community legal education to improve the lives of poor people and to increase access to justice.

Population Served Poor,Economically Disadvantaged,Indigent / Unemployed, Underemployed, Dislocated / Elderly and/or Disabled
Program is linked to organization’s mission and strategy Yes
Program is frequently assessed based on predetermined program goals Yes
Short Term SuccessHelpOrganizations describe near term achievement(s) or improvement(s) that will result from this program. This may represent immediate outcomes occurring as a result of the end of a session or service.
Short-term success depends on the client's legal problem. For a victim of domestic violence, it is obtaining a restraining order. For someone facing eviction, it is having the eviction prevented or obtaining additional time in the housing to find substitute housing. For a client who has been denied unemployment insurance benefits or lacks access to medical care, success is being awarded unemployment benefits on appeal or gaining access to Medicaid so they can seek the needed medical treatment.
Long Term SuccessHelpOrganizations describe the ultimate change(s) that will result from this program. This may be far into the future and represent an ideal state.

Our long-term goals are to ensure equal access to justice, to achieve long-lasting improvement in the rights and living conditions of our client community and to foster our clients' ability to protect their own rights.

Program Success Monitored ByHelpOrganizations describe the tools used to measure or track program impact. Outcome measures. At the time each case is closed, the advocate records the results their legal work produces for the client - for example, our intervention may have prevented the client's electricity from being shut off, or helped the client get SSI disability benefits or forced the landlord to fix unsafe conditions in the client's apartment.

Client satisfaction surveys. At each case closing, a short survey is mailed to each client asking whether they are satisfied with the service they received; whether they were told enough about what was going on with their case; whether their choices were explained clearly; whether they were you given enough information to make decisions in your case; whether they are satisfied with the outcome; and whether they were treated with dignity and respect by NHLAA staff.

Starting on January 1 of this year, we have also begun collecting financial outcome data at the time of case closing. Some of the most important results we get for clients cannot be measured in dollars and cents (i.e. family reunification, protection from family violence). However, in many cases our work results in an economic benefit to the client: for example, when we recover unpaid wages from an employer, obtain a child support order or an award of social security disability benefits.
Examples of Program SuccessHelpOrganization's site specific examples of changes in clients' behaviors or testimonies of client's changes to demonstrate program success.
In 2012, NHLAA opened more the 1,200 cases. Our advocates protected 44 victims from domestic violence by obtaining or extending a court order; helped 48 parents obtain custody or visitation orders that were in their children’s best interest; prevented the eviction of 97 low-income renters; helped 14 low-income disabled people obtain social security disability (SSI) benefits; obtained or preserved special education services for 63 disabled students; prevented the unlawful termination of 139 low-income parents’ rights; obtained a stable, appropriate placement for 159 abused and neglected children; and many other positive outcomes.
Here is one client's story: Billy is a 12-year-old who was referred to LAA by the juvenile court after several incidents in the community. Because of these incidents, Billy was also recommended for expulsion from school. LAA represented Billy at the expulsion hearing and negotiated a withdrawal of the expulsion pending a referral to special education. Billy was ultimately determined to be eligible for special education and was placed in a smaller clinical day school to help address his emotional and academic needs. Meanwhile, Billy's mother received an eviction notice from her landlord. LAA represented Billy’s mother in the eviction case and was able to get the case dismissed. LAA helped to keep Billy in school with appropriate support and services while also ensuring that his family was able to maintain its housing. For additional client stories, visit our web site at

CEO/Executive Director
Alexis Smith
Term Start Nov 2016

Number of Full Time Staff 25
Number of Part Time Staff 6
Number of Volunteers 8
Staff Retention Rate 94%
Staff Demographics - Ethnicity
African American/Black 7
Asian American/Pacific Islander 1
Caucasian 20
Hispanic/Latino 3
Native American/American Indian 0
Other 0 0
Staff Demographics - Gender
Male 6
Female 25
Unspecified 0
Former CEOs and Terms
Susan Garcia Nofi Sept 2012 - Nov 2016
Senior Staff
Title Deputy Director
Experience/Biography Prior to joining NHLAA, Alexis was a staff attorney at Greater Hartford Legal Aid, where she represented low-income parents and students holistically, predominantly in special education matters and expulsion hearings. She also advocated for ex-offenders whose criminal records serve as a barrier to obtaining employment and other life sustaining benefits through the pardons application process, employment
discrimination claims, and legislative advocacy. She obtained her J.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School and is admitted to practice law in Connecticut, the Federal Court for Connecticut, and the United States Supreme Court. Alexis is past president of the George Crawford Black Bar Association. She currently serves as secretary of the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (CONNCAT), secretary of Community Partners in Action, and past chair of Highville Charter School. Alexis is also a James W. Copper Fellow for the Connecticut Bar Foundation.
Title Litigation Director
Experience/Biography Shelley has been fighting for the civil rights of low-income people with LAA since 1987. She develops, manages, and supervises all federal cases, state court class actions, and appeals. She also coordinates amicus work done by LAA on cases raising issues of concern to our client community. She currently sits on the board of directors at the Connecticut Fair Housing Center and is a past president of the Connecticut Legal Rights Project. Shelley received the David H. Neiditz Professional Writing Award, 1994 (for best appellate brief in a Connecticut case), was a James Cooper Fellow and is a Connecticut Bar Foundation life member. For the last decade, she has been on the faculty for an Affirmative Litigation course for legal services attorneys currently sponsored by the Shriver Center in Chicago, IL. She worked for the Connecticut ALCU from 1982-1987, and at Georgia Legal Services in the Douglasville office. Shelley graduated from Boston College Law School and is a member of the Bar of the State of Connecticut and a member of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
Title Controller

We have many partners in the legal and social services communities. We regularly make client referrals between our organization and area social service, health and other providers. We belong to the Valley Council of Health and Human Services Agencies and the Milford United Way Council of Agency Executives.

We work in tandem with Connecticut's other legal services programs. We have statewide task forces for each of the substantive law areas in which we work, at which our advocates share information, co-counsel in some cases, and work together on policy initiatives. NHLAA, Connecticut Legal Services, Greater Hartford Legal Aid, Statewide Legal Services of Connecticut and the Legal Assistance Resource Center of Connecticut share technology and other resources and make joint funding proposals for statewide legal projects.

We are also fortunate to have good partners in the Connecticut Judicial Branch and the private bar. We work with the Connecticut and New Haven County Bar Associations on educational and pro bono initiatives. Our Executive Director is a member of the Judicial Branch's Access to Justice Commission, its Pro Bono Committee and participates on the Judicial Branch's web board as a liaison between the branch and Connecticut's legal aid programs.


Board Chair
Beverly Hodgson
Company Affiliation Mediation and Arbitration
Term Sept 2016 to Sept 2018
Board of Directors
Barbara Bellucci
Hiram L. Brett
Sister Mary Ellen Burns
Michael Caldwell
Scott Casper
Jennifer Celentano
Thomas Dembinski
John Doroghazi
Evette Hamilton
James Horwitz
Sung-Ho Hwang
Scott Jones
Barbara Katz
Kia Levey
Michael McCabe
Tironda Newton
David Reif
Andrew Shaffer
Ben Solnit
Jennifer Willcox
Board Demographics - Ethnicity
African American/Black 5
Asian American/Pacific Islander 1
Caucasian 15
Hispanic/Latino 0
Native American/American Indian 0
Other 0 0
Board Demographics - Gender
Male 10
Female 11
Fiscal Year Start Jan 01 2018
Fiscal Year End Dec 31 2018
Projected Revenue $4,784,197.00
Projected Expenses $4,777,303.00
Spending Policy Income Only
Credit Line Yes
Reserve Fund Yes
Form 990s
IRS Letter of Exemption
IRS Determination Letter
Detailed Financials
Prior Three Years Assets and Liabilities Chart
Fiscal Year201620152014
Total Assets$2,448,336$2,532,389$2,352,754
Current Assets$1,518,445$1,633,145$1,457,883
Long-Term Liabilities$152,638$164,583$186,299
Current Liabilities$142,101$267,979$88,212
Total Net Assets$2,153,597$2,099,827$2,078,243
Prior Three Years Top Three Funding Sources
Fiscal Year201620152014
Top Funding Source & Dollar Amount --State of CT - Court Fees Grants-in-Aid $2,038,304State of CT - Judicial Branch - Court Fees Grants-in-aid $1,795,328
Second Highest Funding Source & Dollar Amount --IOLTA - Interest on Lawyers Trust Account $313,025CT Bar Foundation - IOLTA $406,589
Third Highest Funding Source & Dollar Amount --State of CT - Judicial Branch Grants-in-Aid $240,000State of CT - Judicial Branch - Grants-in-aid $239,190
Capitial Campaign
Currently in a Capital Campaign? No
CEO Comments
Our greatest challenge in recent years has been the stability of our funding. For many years, our primary source of funding was Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA). Due to the recession and interest rates falling under 1%, IOLTA revenues in Connecticut plummeted from $20 million per year and currently hover around $1 million per year. In 2008 we were notified that our IOLTA income would be cut by 50%. To address the dramatic funding losses in the short term, we had no choice but to reduce expenses, which meant reducing staff. When IOLTA revenues were first cut, our attorneys voluntarily took a 20% salary decrease to keep staffing levels as consistent as possible, and to mitigate the impact on services to clients. Despite this, we had to eliminate three paraprofessional positions and our three most junior attorneys left for other jobs because they recognized that we could not continue to sustain their positions at that time. To address the funding crisis in the long term, we worked with Connecticut's other legal aid programs, the Connecticut Bar Foundation and the Judicial Branch to develop a new funding source for legal aid. In 2009, the legislature passed a bill that increased some court filing fees and provided the additional revenues to Connecticut's legal aid providers. This stabilized us and allowed us to restore the salary cuts and to restore a couple of the staff positions we had lost. Unfortunately, interest rates did not come back up and by last year, the IOLTA reserves that had been used to continue making IOLTA grants to the programs were in danger of being depleted. Thanks to the Judicial Branch, Judicial Branch, the Governor and the legislature, a second filing fee bill was passed.


Five years after the IOLTA crisis, we now have a more diverse income. In 2007, IOLTA revenues made up nearly 75% of our income. In our 2013 budget, IOLTA represents about 10% of our income, with the balance coming from court filing fees, court awards, state and federal grants and contracts, grants from private foundations and support from private donors. We still face some funding challenged, including court filing fee revenues coming in lower than projected, the sunset of the second filing fees bill and possible cuts to our federal funding due to sequestration. To provide more stability for the future, we are working on building up our reserves while maintaining the current level of services.

Foundation Staff Comments This profile, including the financial summaries prepared and submitted by the organization based on its own independent and/or internal audit processes and regulatory submissions, has been read by the Foundation. Some financial information from the organization’s IRS Form 990, audited financial statements or other financial documents approved has been inputted by Foundation staff. The Foundation has not audited the organization’s financial statements or tax filings, and makes no representations or warranties thereon. A more complete picture of the organization’s finances can be obtained by viewing the attached 990s and audited financials. To see if the organization has received a competitive grant from The Community Foundation in the last five years, please go to the General Information Tab of the profile.
Address 426 State St
New Haven, CT 06510
Primary Phone 203 946-4811
Contact Email
CEO/Executive Director Alexis Smith
Board Chair Beverly Hodgson
Board Chair Company Affiliation Mediation and Arbitration


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