Emerge is proud to participate in the Licensed Legal Advocates Pilot Program with the University of Arizona law school’s Innovation for Justice Program. This program is the first of its kind in the nation and will address a critical need for people experiencing domestic abuse: access to trauma-informed legal advice and assistance. Two of Emerge’s lay legal advocates have completed coursework and training with practicing attorneys and are now certified as Licensed Legal Advocates. 

Designed in partnership with the Arizona Supreme Court, the program will test a new tier of legal professional: the Licensed Legal Advocate (LLA). LLAs are able to provide limited legal advice to domestic violence (DV) survivors in a limited number of civil justice areas such as protective orders, divorce and child custody.  

Prior to the pilot program, only licensed attorneys have been able to provide legal advice to DV survivors. Because our community, like others nationwide, severely lacks affordable legal services in comparison to the need, many DV survivors with limited resources have had to navigate civil legal systems alone. Moreover, most licensed attorneys have not been trained in providing trauma-informed care and may not have an in depth understanding about the very real safety concerns for DV survivors while engaged in legal proceedings with someone who has been abusive. 

The program will benefit DV survivors by enabling advocates who understand the nuances of DV to provide legal advice and support to survivors who otherwise might go into court alone and who would have to operate within the many rules of legal procedure. While they cannot represent clients as an attorney would, LLAs are able to help participants complete paperwork and provide support in the courtroom. 

The Innovation for Justice Program and evaluators from the Arizona Supreme Court and Administrative Office of the Courts will track data to analyze how the LLA role has helped participants resolve justice issues and has improved case outcomes and expedited case resolution. If successful, the program will roll out across the state, with the Innovation for Justice Program developing training tools and a framework to implement the program with other nonprofits working with survivors of gender-based violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. 

We are excited to be a part of such innovative and survivor-centered efforts to redefine DV survivors’ experience in seeking justice.