by John E. Settle, Jr.
A big turkey arrived early for the attorneys and staff of Legal Services of North Louisiana (LSNL) on the day before Thanksgiving,-no federal funding grant for 2017. This did not make for holiday of thanks, since it could mean pink slips for many of those working for LSNL providing legal services for the poor. The grant of $1.5 million was awarded to Acadiana Legal Services Corporation (ALSC), effective New Year’s Day.
Currently, LSNL has 3 office locations; the central office is in Shreveport and the branch offices are in Monroe and Natchitoches. LSNL has a staff of 40, that includes 14 attorneys and 5 paralegals. LSNL was formed in February 2002 by a merger of Northwest Louisiana Legal Services, Inc. of Shreveport and Kisatchie Legal Services Corporation of Natchitoches (KLSC); LSNL now serves 26 parishes in the state. LSNL and its predecessor, Caddo-Bossier Legal Aid Society, have served Shreveport and Bossier since 1967. KLSC began providing legal services to the Natchitoches area in 1978.
ALSC was formed in 1978 to serve the low income residents in 6 Acadian parishes; it has now expanded to 21 parishes. ALSC has offices in Lafayette, which is the corporate headquarters, along with Alexandria and Lake Charles. As of the effective date of January 1, 2017 ALSC will serve 57 of the 64 parishes in Louisiana. Both LSNL and ALSC are private non-profit corporations.
Currently Acadiana’s executive director Greg Landry is obtaining information from Terri Scott, LSNL’s interim executive director, to develop a detailed staffing model which will show how many staff will need to be hired, in what positions, stationed in which locations and with what designated duties. The initial plans are to have 4 units: Administrative Law; Child in Need of Care; Family La; and General Litigation. Depending on the nature of the services provided by each unit, staffing decisions will be made as to attorneys, paralegal, secretaries and intake assistants. Once these decisions are made, the available positions and locations will be publicized to the existing LSNL staff and the public, along with job descriptions and salaries.
Landry said that his “firm has always highly valued applicants with a demonstrated commitment to public interest work and that (he) expects most existing staff will rank highly among job applicants in that regard. While we cannot promise to employ all existing staff, regardless of their fit for the needed positions, our hope is that they will give us the opportunity to match their skills with our staffing needs. It is likely that staffing adjustments will need to be made periodically after January 1st, based on our experience once we are practicing there. We are working to have one law firm, operating under one set of pay scales and job descriptions.”
Landry advised that LSNL will receive some transition funding from the grant, and how quickly the transition can be completed is an open question. He indicated that how many positions he will be able to create and fill in part is dependent upon which assets are received from LSNL. Needless to say Landry and his staff have a major task in doubling their size of their firm to handle the 26 new parishes as well as to assemble and organize his staff which will almost double. Undoubtedly, the consolidation will be a net job loss for the LSNL staff.
Former Caddo District Judge Leon Emanuel had served as the LSNL Executor Director from March 2014 until his abrupt resignation in October of this year. Reportedly, many internal management issues had plagued his leadership and many speculate that the refunding grant application for LSNL was lost; in part, due to internal conflicts in his office. Its unfortunate that Shreveport will lose its status of being the headquarters location of a 26 parish operation on January 1, 2017, — especially since it has had a prominent presence in the Shreveport Bossier community for almost 50 years.