Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm with a rich and deeply respected history of advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations, beginning with the Houston Legal Aid Clinic in 1948 and East Texas Legal Services in 1977. The Houston Legal Aid Clinic, which later became the Houston Legal Foundation, was established by the Houston Bar Association and Texas Southern University, among others. East Texas Legal Services was created as the result of local interest from multiple parties, including client groups in Nacogdoches and Tyler, members of the Nacogdoches County Bar Association, and to some degree, the Jefferson County Bar Association. Both programs were created for the same purpose: equalizing access to justice for low-income persons who otherwise would not be able to afford an attorney to protect their rights and help meet basic needs.
There were changes over the years. For example, the two legal aid firms expanded their reach with increasing numbers of counties included in their respective service areas. In the 1960s, the Houston Legal Foundation offered criminal defense for a period of time in response to the Supreme Court decision in Gideon v. Wainwright; and the Houston Legal Foundation eventually became known as Gulf Coast Legal Foundation. In the 1980s, East Texas Legal Services created the East Texas Fair Housing Center to investigate, address and monitor corrective actions related to violations of the Fair Housing Act. Throughout this natural evolution, East Texas Legal Services and Gulf Coast Legal Foundation always remained true to their original purposes.
A 2002 merger was designed to capitalize on each entity’s resources. East Texas Legal Services, a largely rural legal aid program, and the primarily urban Gulf Coast Legal Foundation, along with a portion of Legal Aid of Central Texas, were combined to become Lone Star Legal Aid as it exists today: the third largest legal aid organization of its type in the United States. LSLA has a proud tradition of successful client-centered work, and, historically, the firm has won victories that affect not only the client who initially presented with a particular issue, but groups of low-income people on community, state, and national levels when the firm’s actions have resulted in systemic policy and procedural changes, such as public housing desegregation and health care access for children.