The Legal Aid Society of Santa Clara County (LAS) was founded in 1960 to provide free, civil legal services and to ensure access to the judicial system for the needy residents of Santa Clara County and to protect the legal rights of those persons unable to obtain legal assistance through other avenues. LAS meets this mission through the provision of legal advice, counseling, and representation and through community outreach and education. This enables their clients to act on their own behalf and to lead more knowledgeable, independent and productive lives.
LAS currently provides services in the areas of Family Law (including child custody/support and domestic violence issues), Housing (landlord/tenant issues, eviction defense, subsidized housing, mobile homes, homelessness and affordable housing), Immigration (document preparation for citizenship, family unification, work permits, adjustment of status and political asylum), Expungement Services, Fair Housing (investigation and representation in housing discrimination claims) and Individual Rights. LAS continue to represent parents and students in the implementation of the consent decree in the school desegregation case of Diaz/Vasquez v. San Jose Unified School District.
Since 1997 Antonio Estremera has been Directing Attorney of Legal Aid Society. Tony is responsible for overall management, administration and supervision of the legal services program. His staff consists of 12 attorneys, 15 paralegals, 10 support staff, and 6 management-administrative staff persons. Tony came to the agency with experience and credentials necessary to fulfill this challenging position. He earned his bachelor’s degree in history in June 1972 from Santa Clara University and the Juries Doctorate degree from the University of California Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law.
During the current recession period, LAS lost its most significant funding, about $7 M, when the County of Santa Clara did not renew their13 year contractual relationship. Since LAS was very dependent on this funding, the agency sustained substantial losses. Tony successfully handled the situation. He appealed to The City Council for aid and, based upon their historical record of excellent performance, their funding was renewed. Early in 2009, the City of San Jose CDBG Project Manager recommended obtaining assistance from SCORE. “We began working with SCORE specifically to address all of our financial weaknesses” said Antonio.
“SCORE counselors John Edwards and Bill Bryson met with us regularly to advise us on how to rebuild our financial capacity and to assist us in stabilizing our Organization’s financial health”. LAS maintained a substantial contract with the Contra Costa Superior Court, which allowed them to keep their core administrative staff and other programs in Santa Clara County as well. Antonio also added “With SCORE counselor John’s assistance we addressed a number of audit issues remaining from our Santa Clara County Contract and with our own agency audit.” The most recent independent audit found no major issues!
In the next few months LAS expects to conduct an extensive Board retreat to plan and draft a long term strategic plan. They will hold a number of focus groups, one with members of their community (local indigent community) and one with local nonprofit leaders. “We expect to continue asking SCORE for its assistance with the advice and counsel we have enjoyed in the past.” Tony concludes the story. Tony’s hard work and dedication made the company a great success in the past and will increase the success in the future..