About Our Law Firm
Bay Area Legal Services opened its doors in 1967 to provide free civil legal services to low-income Tampa Bay area residents.
Bay Area Legal Services is a regional, nonprofit public interest law firm providing the highest quality legal counsel by:
- Assisting individuals and nonprofit groups with limited access to legal services.
- Resolving the legal problems of our clients.
- Preserving the independence, hope, and dignity of those we serve.
Bay Area Legal aims to create pathways to justice through high-quality legal services, education, and community partnerships.
Five Core Values
Bay Area Legal Service’s five core values are Respect, Compassion, Excellence, Communication and JEDI/Race Equity.
- Respect: We believe in attentive consideration of other’s feelings, desires, needs and identity, ensuring a high level of trust and integrity in all interactions.
- Compassion: We believe in empathy and understanding for the well-being of others and appreciate our diversity and interconnectedness.
- Excellence: We believe that a highly competent and diverse staff working together will achieve outstanding results.
- Communication: We believe that clear thoughtful verbal and written expression coupled with active listening leads to effective teamwork.
- JEDI/Race Equity: We believe in the importance of a workplace that embraces the concepts of justice, equity, race equity, diversity, and inclusion into its daily practice, hiring and retention of staff, and interactions with clients and community partners.
These core values are a manifestation of the deeply held beliefs and principles manifested in the behavior of every employee at the firm. They represent our organization's highest priorities, and fundamental driving forces. These values guide our staffing decisions, firm goals and most importantly our personal interactions with each other, our clients and the local community.
Bay Area Legal opened its doors in 1967 to provide free civil legal services to low-income Tampa residents. We began with a staff of four attorneys in three neighborhood storefront offices called Law Inc. of Hillsborough County and working on a shoe-string budget. Today we are a nonprofit, public interest law firm with more than 100 attorneys, paralegals, and support staff, operating on a multi-million-dollar budget, with locations throughout the Tampa Bay area. Last year we provided legal services and information to more than 16,889 individuals, families, and community groups. Through our offices in Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas counties and our Centralized Telephone Intake program, we provide a full range of legal services to our clients.
Bay Area Legal’s Timeline
- 1967: Law Inc. of Hillsborough County created to serve the civil legal needs of low-income residents.
- 1967: Judge Don Castor named the first Executive Director.
- 1974: Neighborhood offices combined into one main office in Tampa.
- 1976: Law Inc. expanded civil legal services into Pasco County.
- 1976: Name changed to Bay Area Legal Services, Inc.
- 1976: Dade City office opened in East Pasco.
- 1976: New Port Richey office opened in West Pasco.
- 1976: The Senior Advocacy Unit was established to serve clients 60+.
- 1980: Richard C. Woltmann named Executive Director.
- 1982: Bay Area Volunteer Lawyers Program established in Hillsborough County.
- 1991: Plant City office established in eastern Hillsborough County on Baker Street.
- 1993: Judge Don Castor Community Law Center created to provide pro bono legal assistance to non-profits and community groups.
- 1994: South County office opened in southern Hillsborough County.
- 2000: Legal Information Center opened at the George Edgecomb Courthouse in Tampa.
- 2002: Services expanded to Manatee and Sarasota counties with enhanced partnerships with other legal aid organizations.
- 2002: Legal Aid Line (Centralized Telephone Intake) established throughout the five-county region: Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Manatee, and Sarasota counties.
- 2003: St. Petersburg office opened in Pinellas County.
- 2005: Florida Senior Legal Helpline created to provide telephone legal services and referrals to low-income seniors throughout Florida.
- 2006: The L. David Shear Children’s Law Center created to provide attorney ad litem legal representation to children in the child welfare system.
- 2014: Bay Area Volunteer Lawyers Program Northwest pro bono partnership created with the Clearwater Bar Association for northern Pinellas and Pasco Counties.
- 2016: Legal Information Center celebrates its 100,000th visitor.
- 2017: Online Intake established in addition to the Legal Aid Line.
- 2017: Bay Pines Medical-Legal Partnership created and becomes the 10th Medical-Legal Partnership at a veterans’ hospital in the nation.
- 2018: Bay Area Volunteer Lawyers Program and Bay Area Volunteer Lawyers Program Northwest combine to provide pro bono services under the renamed Volunteer Lawyers Program.
- 2018: The Disaster Relief Team was established as a branch of the Volunteer Lawyers Program.
- 2017: Bay Area Legal celebrates its 50th Anniversary with the creation of the Veterans Legal Initiative Endowment Fund.
- 2018: Major General Ernest A. and Marilyn Bedke Veterans Law Center established to provide legal representation to Florida’s veterans.
- 2019: Florida Veterans Legal Helpline created to provide telephone legal services and referrals to low-income veterans throughout Florida.
Throughout our history, Bay Area Legal has identified areas of legal need and responded with solutions. With our dedicated staff and the support of donors, volunteers, community groups, and funding partners, we strive each day to deliver on our mission to provide the highest quality legal counsel by assisting individuals and community groups with limited access to legal services.
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If you live or have a case in Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas or Sarasota counties, we may be able to help.