History

Washington State has a long history of civil legal aid programs providing all forms of legal representation for all low-income people. CLS traces its roots to 1967, when a group of attorneys joined together to form Seattle Legal Services, one of the first civil legal aid programs in the state. That organization grew into a statewide program as Evergreen Legal Services. Columbia Legal Services was formed in 1996 through the merger of Evergreen Legal Services, Puget Sound Legal Assistance Foundation, and Spokane Legal Services Center.  Since CLS’s founding, a primary mission directive has been to ensure that all groups of low-income people have access to civil legal services, with all legal options available. Today, Columbia Legal Services continues the legacy of legal aid work in Washington. We seek social and economic justice for all.

Legal Services attorneys and staff, circa 1971

CLS is a member of the Alliance for Equal Justice, and coordinates its work with other alliance members based on the guiding documents of the Washington State Access to Justice Board, including the Hallmarks of a Statewide Civil Legal Services System and the State Plan for Delivery of Civil Legal Services to Low Income People in Washington State (the “State Plan’). CLS’s main roles in the Alliance, as described in the State Plan, are to make sure that all forms of representation are available to clients, including class actions; that clients are able to meaningfully participate in proceedings affecting their legal rights in local, state and federal legislative and administrative regulatory bodies; and that no population or group of low income people is denied access to the civil justice system.