Extraordinary Community Organization Supports Legal Needs of Low-Income Clients


As the only legal aid organization in the 19th Judicial Circuit, Florida Rural Legal Services, Inc., or “FRLS”, has been providing free legal services to vulnerable and low-income clients in Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, and Okeechobee counties since 1966.

FRLS provides pro bono civil legal assistance to anyone who falls within 200% of the poverty level – i.e. about $43,000 annually for a family of three. One exception to the rule, however, are family law cases. Anyone, regardless of income or assets, can receive free family law assistance so long as they are, or have recently been, a victim of domestic violence.

Because FRLS is a grant-funded program, it must adhere to a list of “priority cases” to ensure it can provide services to as many clients as possible. FLRS legal support includes in-house attorneys handling family, housing, immigration, and elder law issues, while local private attorneys provide their services pro bono and volunteer their time at law clinics and seminars to address other legal issues such as bankruptcy, estate planning, and guardianship cases.

Lisa Thompson Barnes, Esq., of Collins Brown Barkett, Chartered, is one such local attorney who has provided countless hours of pro bono assistance to clients in guardianship matters. She was nominated for the 19th Judicial Circuit’s President’s Award for pro bono services in 2020. Additionally, FRLS recently partnered with the John’s Island Community Service League and the Indian River County Bar Association to create an Eviction Diversion Program (“HEART”) to address the growing number of housing-related issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic. To participate in the HEART Program, local attorneys volunteer their time to assist with pre-eviction “mediation” between landlords and tenants to help the tenants avoid getting an eviction on their record.
For a full list of FRLS cases and guidelines, please visit

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