Grant Year: 2010
Site Visit Evaluation Report
Agency: Portage County Legal Aid Society
Location: Stevens Point
Date of Visit: May 9, 2011
Participants: Maurice Rice, Jr. (Portage Co. LAS President); Dean Dietrich (WisTAF President); Rebecca Paul (Portage
County LAS's screening/emergency services attorney); Sally Olson (Portage County LAS – CAP Services); Linda Check
(Portage County LAS Secretary/Treasurer); John Morser (Portage County LAS), Melissa Dalkert (Portage County LAS
Vice President); DeEtte Tomlinson (WisTAF Executive Director
New Grantee/First Site Visit: Yes No
Section I: General Grantee Information
County(ies) served/Statewide: Portage County.
Description of Agency: Portage County Legal Aid Society (PCLAS) is a non-profit corporation established in March of
1994. The agency was initially established by a resolution of the Portage County Bar Association which recommended
developing a legal aid society to meet the legal needs of low-income households not being addressed by Wisconsin
Agency's mission/purpose: PCLAS uses volunteer attorneys to provide initial legal need screening sessions, brief service
meetings, assistance with pro se representation, and when needed, full legal representation by a volunteer attorney.
Client Demographics: Note: all client demographics are from PCLAS' 2010 IOLTA/PILSF annual report.
18 to 61 years old: 60
62 years and older: 2
Latino, Hispanic or Spanish origin: 5
American Indian or Alaska Native: 1
Black or African American: 1
825 Williamson St., Suite A | Madison, WI 53703
phone: 608.257.6845 | toll-free: 877.749.5045 | fax: 608.257.2684
email: firstname.lastname@example.org | www.wistaf.org
Less than 125% of federal poverty level: 62
125% - 199%: None
200% - 299%: None
300% or more: None
Governance: The agency is run (and most services are provided) by a 12 member board of directors, which meets
quarterly. The board also provides fiscal oversight and determines policy as needed.
Administration: Since its inception, PCLAS has received subsidized support from CAP Services (the local community
action agency), including a receptionist, clerical and administrative services, office space, use of a telephone, copying and a
fax machine. CAP provides PCLAS with a receptionist for sixteen hours per month. She is the initial contact for the
agency and screens applicants for financial eligibility, schedules appointments with the screening attorney and answering
questions about PCLAS services to walk-in and phone callers.
Services provided: PCLAS identifies eight areas where pro bono representation could be of assistance to the public:
family law, housing, employment, public benefits (including disabled and dependent benefits), small claims, bankruptcy,
consumer and utility, and civil rights. In some areas full representation of clients is necessary and an attorney from a
volunteer panel is assigned to the case. The agency also has a pro se center that deals primarily with divorce procedures.
How agency determines need: Based on the needs of the applicants who request services.
List agency's system(s)/procedure(s) for guaranteeing quality client services (client complaint policy, client
satisfaction surveys, etc.): At each Board of Directors meeting, one board members are given a list of 10 clients and are
asked to call the clients and discuss their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with services received. The agency reports that
responses have been very positive. Mr. Rice also discusses all cases during the year with each attorney who had any
involvement with the matter to determine when the case is closed and determine how satisfied the client was with the case.
Funding Sources: PCLAS receives most of its funding from WisTAF, but also receives income in the form of private
donations and has applied for a Community Foundation grant. Though in the recent past United Way has indicated they
would provide some emergency funding, recently, United Way has stated they cannot accept any new applications for
funding for 2012.
Fees for Services: PCLAS charges a nominal fee of $10 for each completed and filed application, though fees are waived
in most cases; all legal or prose services are provided free of charge, though donations have been made in the past.
Portage County Legal Aid Society – May 9, 2011 p. 2
Grant Year Income: $15,330 (Agency also carries a $1,860 reserve)
Grant Year Expenses: $14,558
Are the most recent copies of required documents on file?
If no, what documents are missing? N/A
Agency's use of pro bono attorneys/services: All services are provided by volunteer pro bono attorneys. The two
exceptions are: one contracted attorney who provides the bulk of the pro bono emergency services, and one
contracted attorney who takes care of the weekly Pro Se Center meetings with clients. Combined, the contractual
amounts paid to the two attorneys is $9,300 per year, which assists with defraying costs associated with the services
Section II: Changes from Previous Year
Were there issues from the last site visit that needed to be addressed in this site visit?
If yes, briefly describe what the issues were and how they've been addressed: N/A
Briefly describe any administrative changes: None.
Briefly describe any changes to the program/services provided: None.
Briefly describe any service area changes: None.
Briefly describe any significant funding changes: United Way funds is not accepting grant applications and has no
emergency fund available; its funding has shrunk with the poor economy, so available funds are given to agencies that
meet United Way's stated priorities.
Briefly describe new unmet needs/trends identified: The number of requests for services has climbed, as has the
number of cases accepted by PCLAS. Cases are becoming more complex.
Section III: WisTAF Grant Funding & Its Use
Grant(s) Under Review:
1. 2010 Public Interest Legal Services Fund: $12,600
Grant was used for (general legal services, specific project(s), etc.): Provision of direct civil legal
services (most of which were divorce and/or custody matters) by funding (in part) the emergency
screening attorney position.
Portage County Legal Aid Society – May 9, 2011 p. 3
Number of clients served: 62
Was projected education/advocacy/service outcome met? From 2010 grant application: Continue
Annual Law Day activities: presentations at the local Junior and Senior high schools on such topics as coming of
age; having a Recognition Luncheon with a guest speaker who can educate those present about pro bono
activities, representation issues and services available from the State Bar association.
Note: While the annual Recognition Luncheon was not held due to limited funding, the agency continues
to plan outreach and education efforts outside of that venue.
Was projected administrative outcome met? From 2010 grant application: Establish a method of
evaluating client satisfaction and effectiveness of representation, based on recent efforts to follow up with
PCLAS-assisted clients by phone.
Note: Exceeded outcome goals. In addition to stated objectives, PCLAS was also able to develop a
procedure to measure the satisfaction of clients who are represented by volunteer attorneys.
How much (if any) of this grant was carried over into the current year? $0
Additional Funds Leveraged by WisTAF Grants, if any (please list):
None, since United Way funds are not available. However, PCLAS has applied for funding from the Portage County
Community Foundation and has also approached the Women's Fund.
Partnerships/Cooperative Efforts: PCLAS works collaboratively with Justiceworks, Ltd. to recruit volunteer attorney
participation in their programs. They also maintain a working relationship with Wisconsin Judicare and the State Bar's
Pro Bono Coordinator.
Were able to meet increased services demands (62 cases in 2010, compared with about 30 most years) even with
Recruited two new attorneys to take pro bono cases. One attorney, just out of law school, has also taken on
several cases with Mr. Rice overseeing his work.
The lack of attorneys willing to take cases is a continuing challenge. Cases are becoming more complex, which
makes it even more difficult to find pro bono attorneys.
Judicare has talked to them to see if they can make arrangements to have attorneys in Stevens Point take cases that
would count towards Judicare certification. Currently there are no domestic violence attorneys available from
Judicare for Portage County.
Are receiving more referrals from the Family Law Center (Justiceworks) for assistance because Portage County
recently instated a $50 per party filing fee for pro se litigants.
Portage County Legal Aid Society – May 9, 2011 p. 4
Section IV: WisTAF Reviewer Determination(s)
1. Were the grant objectives identified in the grant application accomplished?
Comments (if any): The limited funding provided by WisTAF provides a lifeline for the continuation of services
by this organization. The organization continues to struggle with finding volunteer attorneys to provide services.
The Board of Directors and staff of this program are committed to the continued providing of services and the
finding of more volunteers.
2. Please note your thoughts/assessments about the appropriateness of the use of the grant(s) made, the
effectiveness/need for the program(s) for which the grantee received funding, information learned that
particularly impressed you, etc.
WisTAF monies have been used appropriately by this Agency. The WisTAF funding appears to be the lifeblood
of this Agency to meet the needs of the Portage County area. There is a very strong commitment to meet the
needs of the local community.
3. Please list issues/concerns to be addressed at the next site visit for this grantee (if any):
The only concern identified continues to be the lack of volunteers to provide services under the auspices of this
Program. There is a strong commitment to provide services to those in need. There may be a change from prior
years to find additional staffing and volunteer attorneys.
4. Would you recommend that this grantee be eligible for future WisTAF grants?
Submitted by: De Ette Tomlinson Date: June 23, 2011
WisTAF Board Member Reviewer: Dean Dietrich Date: July 1, 2011
Grantee Agency Representative Reviewer: Maury Rice Date: July 12, 2011
Portage County Legal Aid Society – May 9, 2011 p. 5