On June 1, 2021, the NH Pro Bono Referral Program and the Legal Advice and Referral Center (LARC) merged to become 603 Legal Aid.
The merger was formally announced to the public on Thursday, May 6, at the NH Campaign for Legal Services Virtual 2021 Campaign Kickoff Breakfast.
The product of over two years of planning, the merger will help to meet a growing need of low-income people in New Hampshire seeking free legal services.
“This is the single most significant change in the delivery of legal services for needy citizens in decades,” said George Moore, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Bar Association and one of the original committee planning members. “While we started talking about the possibilities before the pandemic, the ensuing shutdown of the economy made the need all that more urgent.”
Newly hired Executive Director Sonya Bellafant, said the merger will provide full representation for some clients.
“We are committed to expanding the scope of the services previously offered by LARC and Pro Bono,” Bellafant told the Bar News. “603 Legal Aid will provide statewide, centralized holistic in-take to readily identify pressing legal issues efficiently. Our objective is also to expand civil legal aid capacity by providing direct representation via staff attorneys, pro bono counsel and other referrals. These changes will ideally expand access and capacity to free civil representation to those who are struggling to preserve the basic necessities of life.”
Bellafant was most recently director of the Tennessee Senior Law Alliance, and was selected to lead the new program after a national executive search conducted by a collaborative committee of leaders from the staff and boards of LARC, Pro Bono and NH Legal Assistance.
“603 Legal Aid and New Hampshire Legal Assistance exist to bring the possibility of justice to people who face housing and food insecurity, who face violence at home, and who fight for dignity against power every single day of their lives,” said LARC Board Chairman Deborah Kane Rein at the NH Campaign for Legal Services Kickoff Breakfast on May 6.