Bay Area Legal Aid

Bay Area Legal Aid

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Legal Aid of Napa Valley will become part of a wider backstop for Northern California’s less fortunate.

The Napa-based agency said it will merge with Bay Area Legal Aid, effective Dec. 31. Napa will become the seventh county served by the Bay Area group, itself the product of a merger involving three county-based Legal Aid groups 15 years ago.

Bay Area Legal Aid spokeswoman Linda S. Kim said the regional provider will keep the Napa agency’s office at 575 Lincoln Ave., and local clients will be able to draw on the regional group’s roster of more than 70 lawyers. Attorneys working with the not-for-profit provider represent low-income clients pro bono.

“We have partnered on large grants and projects in the past, our staffs have worked alongside one another, and our respective boards share a common goal of equal access to justice,” Michael Holman, co-chairman of the Legal Aid Napa Valley board, said in the statement. “We believe Bay Area Legal Aid will continue our core mission with the additional benefit of a larger organizational structure and sustainability.”

Negotiations to combine the two providers had been under way since the spring, according to Teresa Cunningham, co-chairwoman of the Legal Aid Napa Valley board. The union allows local clients to tap a much larger staff than at the Napa agency, which has two full-time attorneys on a staff of six.

“In all the conversations we had, (the goal) was how to ensure the greatest service to Napa for years to come,” said Kim. “It’s a matter of scale; pulling resources together means we can serve people better.”

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Two Napa representatives will serve on the board of the Bay Area agency, the agencies said.

The merger will mark the second reboot of Legal Aid Napa Valley in the past decade. After the pullout of its former patron, Legal Aid of the North Bay, forced it to close in 2003, local backers recruited a new group of donors and reopened the service in March 2005.

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Howard Yune covers the city of Napa and the town of Yountville. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.

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