A Brief History of Senior Legal Hotlines

by Shoshanna Ehrlich

The Senior Legal Hotlines movement began in 1985 as partnership between AoA and the AARP Foundation, when, with a grant from the AoA, AARP launched the first statewide senior legal hotline as a pilot project to test the feasibility of increasing access to legal services for Pennsylvania residents age 60 and older by providing legal advice by telephone.

The Legal Hotline for Older Americans in Pittsburgh was based on the stand alone model – the statewide senior legal hotline was operated by an organization that was not part of a legal services program offering extended representation. The original Pennsylvania hotline tested the basic concept that has spread to more than half the states and defined the services to be provided by a legal hotline. Residents age 60 and older could call a toll-free number. Experienced attorneys with special training in elder law answered eligible callers’ legal questions, provided advice to resolve callers’ problems, counseled clients on courses of action, and provided some brief services.  If the caller needed representation, he was referred to an appropriate resource, including OAA Title IIIB legal service providers, Legal Services Corporation-funded programs, reduced-fee private attorneys, pro bono attorneys or the private bar.

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