White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable

White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable

In November 2016, WH-LAIR issued its first annual report to the President titled "Expanding Access to Justice, Strengthening Federal Programs"
In November 2016, WH-LAIR issued its first annual report to the President titled "Expanding Access to Justice, Strengthening Federal Programs"

Annual Report 2016:
Expanding Access to Justice, Strengthening Federal Programs

This first annual report to the President documents how WH-LAIR has worked over the past four years to inspire innovative interagency collaborations that support and protect individuals who are frequently overlooked and often underserved. It also provides dozens of examples of agencies working together and with legal aid to develop programs that advance their common goals. Finally, the report discusses how the WH-LAIR agencies are collaborating with state and local partners to ensure that the most vulnerable among us receive the fair treatment and equal justice that they deserve.

Read the report, press release and fact sheet

Read a blog post by WH-LAIR designated co-chairs Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Bill Baer and Domestic Policy Council Deputy Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs, Justice, and Opportunity Roy Austin


In 2012, the White House Domestic Policy Council and the U.S. Department of Justice launched the Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable to raise federal agencies’ awareness of how civil legal aid can help advance a wide range of federal objectives including improved access to health and housing, education and employment, family stability and public safety. The Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable’s message included that providing legal assistance to people who cannot afford it can also have substantial economic benefits by preventing outcomes that are harmful to them and expensive for the communities.  

In recognition of the work of the Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable, on the eve of the historic United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development, on September 24, 2015, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum establishing the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (WH-LAIR) to continue and further this work.

WH-LAIR brings together 22 participating federal agencies to inspire new collaborations to serve the Nation’s poor and middle class and to better engage civil legal aid providers as federal grantees, sub-grantees, and partners. Since 2012, participating agencies have worked with civil legal aid partners, including non-profit organizations and the private bar, through outreach calls, webinars and other strategies to identify areas in which legal services can advance various federal program objectives. They also have developed legal services-specific language for appropriate new grants and projects, and worked closely with federal grantees to educate them about the value of collaborating with civil legal aid partners. Additionally, several agencies have contributed to the civil legal aid evidence base by funding or performing related research, including evaluations of these partnerships.

WH-LAIR is staffed by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Access to Justice, an office launched in 2010 to help spearhead national efforts to expand access to civil legal aid and criminal indigent defense. WH-LAIR's Executive Director is Karen Lash, Deputy Director of the Office for Access to Justice.


Announcing the LAIR-inspired Juvenile Reentry Assistance Program at National Reentry Week Launch Event

Attorney General Lynch and Secretary Castro at JRAP event

"…I am proud to be here to help unveil the Juvenile Reentry Assistance Program, or JRAP, grants that [HUD] Secretary Castro announced, which will help young people under the age of 25 to clean their records and gain a true second chance.  JRAP is a direct response to recommendations made by the President’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force and it is just one of the many great ideas that have arisen in part from the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable, or LAIR, which brings together 21 federal agencies in an effort to identify and enhance legal aid opportunities, including for reentering individuals.  I have the privilege of co-chairing LAIR, which is staffed by the department’s Office for Access to Justice and it is deeply gratifying to see such a vibrant cross-agency effort result in impactful programs like these grants."

                                                                           ~ Attorney General Loretta Lynch, April 25, 2016

On April 25, 2016, during a National Reentry Week launch event in Philadelphia, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and HUD Secretary Julián Castro announced the Juvenile Reentry Assistance Program grantees – 18 Public Housing Authorities (PHA) with nonprofit legal aid partners

Every year approximately 20,000 young people are arrested in Philadelphia. Community Legal Services (CLS) – Philadelphia Housing Authority’s JRAP partner and one of the 18 grantees – annually represents hundreds of these youth to help them overcome the various barriers to education, housing and employment that are imposed as a result of their juvenile or criminal records. Jamie Gullen, co-director of the CLS Youth Justice Project says, “JRAP is a welcomed resource to allow CLS to expand the reach and scope of our work, holistically addressing the myriad of challenges young people with records face as they transition into adulthood."  From Philadelphia to Providence, and Syracuse to Shreveport, JRAP will enable PHAs working with nonprofit legal aid programs and law school clinics help legions of young people address the challenges justice-involved individuals face when trying to find work and a place to call home.

DOJ’s Office for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Administrator Bob Listenbee knew first-hand from his work as a public defender in Philadelphia the difference legal help can make to a young person striving for a second chance. Legal aid attorneys can help justice-involved youth expunge, seal or correct their records, reinstate revoked or suspended driver’s licenses, provide legal advice when searching for employment, advocate for readmission to school and much more.  After leaving a LAIR meeting inspired by DOJ and DOL programs that integrate legal aid into reentry programs, Listenbee and his staff worked with HUD’s Director of Public Housing Supportive Services Ron Ashford and DOJ ATJ staff to create JRAP. JRAP, which is supported by research and recommendation 11.4 of the My Brother’s Keeper Taskforce Report to the President (which notes that legal services are “acutely needed to address accuracy and expunge criminal records, reinstate licenses and reduce excessive fines”), is the first federal grant program to focus exclusively on legal assistance and will also produce valuable data to further inform future policymaking efforts.

The 18 JRAP grantees were announced during the Department’s Inaugural National Reentry Week, which inspired more than 550 DOJ-sponsored events in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Many of these activities included legal aid and public defender partners and helped to continue to promote awareness about the significant support that civil legal aid provides to justice-involved individuals. The Administration also issued a number of announcements and new resources during this week, including a Presidential Memorandum, signed by President Obama, institutionalizing the Federal Interagency Reentry Council and providing guidance regarding the use of criminal history information when evaluating federal employment and occupational licensing applicants.

Stay tuned for more LAIR agency reentry collaborations, including a summer announcement to launch the National Clean Slate Clearinghouse, a first-ever one-stop resource for local legal aid programs, public defenders and reentry service providers seeking to improve their capacity to help clients with record-cleaning and expungement.


WH-LAIR Chosen as the United States’ National Best Practice on the Rule of Law

WH-LAIR Chosen as the United States’ National Best Practice on the Rule of Law

WH-LAIR was selected as the United States’ “national best practice on the rule of law” to the UN Secretary General. The UN’s website now features WH-LAIR as an exemplary “National Best Practice” on the issue of Access to Justice.



Maha Jweied 
Executive Director

White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable



Office for Access to Justice
(202) 514-5312


          Federal Partners


U.S. Department of Justice
White House Domestic Policy Council


Federal Partners

Administrative Conference of the United States

U.S. Agency for International Development

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Corporation for National and Community Service

​U.S. Department of Agriculture

U.S. Department of Education

​U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

U.S. Department of the Interior

U.S. Department of Justice

U.S. Department of Labor

U.S. Department of State

U.S. Department of the Treasury

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Federal Communications Commission 

Federal Trade Commission

Legal Services Corporation

National Science Foundation

Office of Management and Budget

Social Security Administration

Link to the Office for Access to Justice website.