New Mexico Legal Aid’s Volunteer Attorney Program (VAP) was created to help address the problem of lack of access to civil legal assistance for low-income New Mexico families, focusing on the ten poorest counties in the state. New Mexico has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, and most of the poorest counties in New Mexico are rural counties. In contrast, 83% of the attorneys in New Mexico live in the three urban centers in the state: Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces. The lack of access to an attorney for people in the rural counties of New Mexico is a significant factor that keeps low-income New Mexico families chronically trapped in economic distress.
VAP recruits and supports pro bono attorneys, paralegals, and volunteer law students to assist low income rural families. The project uses technology such as video-chatting and a secure web portal to respond to cases regardless of any geographic distance separating the client and the pro bono attorney.