About Legal Aid

Legal Aid of Western Missouri provides free civil legal assistance to people who need it most and can afford it least. With offices in downtown Kansas City, Joplin, St. Joseph, Warrensburg and a neighborhood office on Kansas City’s west side, we serve a 40-county area where 288,000 people live in poverty.

Legal Aid is the only organization in western Missouri that provides free, comprehensive civil legal services to low-income people. Our work is highly cost-effective and addresses root causes of community problems. Legal Aid collaborates with other community organizations working on housing, health care, public assistance, domestic violence and other issues to solve community problems.

Our main practice areas are:

In addition to individual casework, we manage special projects designed to concentrate services in areas of particular need in our client community.

Learn more about how we help people by reading stories about actual clients.

History of Legal Aid of Western Missouri:

Legal Aid of Western Missouri began as the Kansas City Legal Aid Bureau, the first legal aid program established west of the Mississippi. At its inception, in 1910, the legal aid office was an adjunct of the Board of Public Welfare. In the early 1960’s the Kansas City Bar Association undertook a comprehensive survey of the unmet legal needs of the low-income population. It was determined that in order to ensure justice for all, there needed to be a place for poor people to receive free legal services. In 1964, 501 (c)(3) status was established and initial funding was secured from a Ford Foundation grant, the Jackson County Circuit Court and the City of Kansas City.

In the 1970’s as federal funding became available, the program expanded its service area to 40 counties, or the western third of Missouri. At this time the program’s name changed to Legal Aid of Western Missouri. Currently, Legal Aid maintains two offices in Kansas City, one downtown and the other on Kansas City’s west side which primarily serves a Hispanic population. Three offices serve out-state rural areas and are located in St. Joseph, Warrensburg and Joplin.

In order to serve those with the greatest need, the Legal Aid Board of Trustees, with considerable input from the client and provider communities, the private bar and Legal Aid staff established strict priorities for cases that are accepted. It has been determined by the Board of Trustees that the cases that are taken have the greatest importance and impact on the lives of clients. Priority cases include public benefits, housing, immigration, domestic violence, consumer problems and health issues. In addition to individual casework, we manage special projects designed to concentrate services in areas of particular need in our client community.

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