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A Special Message from Legal Aid Board President Mike Ungar, Esq.

Posted April 4, 2020
4:46 pm

I’m truly inspired by what I’m seeing. As we all work together to confront and endure a pandemic that no one could have imagined, we are seeing precisely what we’d expect of Legal Aid. As President of Legal Aid’s Board of Directors, I can personally assure you that:

  • Legal Aid is essential, responding to the basic needs of our lowincome
    clients who are particularly vulnerable right now;
  • Legal Aid is open for our clients, many of whom need our free legal
    services more than ever; and
  • Legal Aid was ahead of the curve, taking immediate, coordinated
    steps the weekend of March 14 to ensure the safety of our nearly
    100–strong staff members and our clients as we seamlessly moved
    our operations off-site.

The ABA recently announced the creation of a new nationwide Task Force on Legal Needs Arising Out of the 2020 Pandemic. Its charge is to make recommendations for addressing the legal needs of lowincome
people related to COVID-19 and help mobilize volunteer lawyers for people who need legal help for basic needs. That task force is chaired by James Sandman, former president of the Legal Services Corporation, the nations’ largest funder of civil legal aid for low-income Americans. Jim is an incredible leader, and he was just in Cleveland for our annual meeting. It would come as no surprise to him that our Legal Aid is already “mobilized” and helping those in need. I’ve been in touch, literally on a daily basis, both with Legal Aid’s leadership team and with our highly engaged Board and committee members. What I’ve witnessed in the early days of this new reality is nothing short of amazing.

Under the direction of Colleen Cotter – our visionary and indefatigable leader, and truly as talented an Executive Director as one could find – Legal Aid staff nimbly and quickly transitioned to working from
home. Thanks to a strong infrastructure, this team of staff and volunteers are working in the trenches to deal with many matters for which there are no plays in the proverbial playbook.
One result of this crisis, of course, is the horrible economic toll, which seemingly overnight rendered a growing percentage of our community to become eligible for Legal Aid’s services.

Bottom line: We need your help now more than ever. Please join me and many others in supporting Legal Aid, which is battling on the front lines to help clients address pandemic-related issues such as lost jobs, housing, safety and security, and benefits. Thus, please consider a special gift to Legal Aid. Use the enclosed envelope or give online at

No matter what you financially contribute, I hope you will also join me in thanking our public officials, our judges and court staffs, our public defenders, our prosecutors, and, of course, the private bar of
Northeast Ohio. I also want to especially thank the leadership of all the bar associations in our service area. The entire legal profession truly shines in moments like these, with its unwavering commitment to
assuring access to justice for those who so desperately need it.

Before I conclude, I’d be remiss if I didn’t specifically shout out our extraordinary Board of Directors. In addition to 100% attendance at every recent committee meeting (wow!), we’ve also been taking full
advantage of the broad, deep, and diverse array of Board talent and perspectives.

Thank you, in advance, for any contribution you can make to help us provide the best legal representation for our clients, keep our staff safe, and continue our high-priority mission of ensuring access to justice. Please stay safe and healthy– and please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you support Legal Aid: email me at

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