Legal Aid of Western Missouri provides free civil (non-criminal) legal assistance to people who need it most and can afford it least. With offices in Kansas City, Joplin, St. Joseph and Warrensburg, we serve a 40-county area where 295,000 people live in poverty.
Since 1964, Legal Aid of Western Missouri has provided dignity, self-sufficiency and justice through quality civil (non-criminal) legal aid for those who have nowhere else to turn. The fundamental goal of legal aid services is simple—to provide free legal representation to low-income citizens and to cultivate self-sufficiency among their clients.
Legal Aid is governed by a volunteer Board of Trustees. Our Board is committed to guiding our efforts to protect and advance the rights of the most underserved – leveling the play field and ensuring that everyone can have access to the justice system. Our Board also ensures that we are accountable to our clients.
Our funding comes from a wide variety of federal, state and local government sources, foundations, law firms, and other private sources, along with donations from attorneys and other individuals.
Legal Aid’s attorneys, paralegals, secretaries and intake staff assist our clients with a combination of professional expertise and compassion. Our clients come to us in crisis and we are here to provide them with assistance, information and hope.
Learn more about how we help people by reading stories about actual clients.
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 on Blue Parkway and the other on Kansas City’s west side. 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.