San Antonio Legal Services Association (SALSA), formerly known as the Community Justice Program (CJP), started almost twenty years ago. In 2001, Justice Phylis Speedlin and attorney Karen Pozza, then-president of the San Antonio Young Lawyers Association, recognized the need for pro bono legal services in San Antonio. After exploring how pro bono programs worked in Dallas and Austin, a committee was formed in partnership with San Antonio Bar Association leadership to create the “Just Take One” program which paired attorneys with clients in need. The “Just Take One” program evolved into the Community Justice Program and received its non-profit status in 2004.
Over the years, partnerships with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid and St. Mary’s Law School allowed the program to prosper and grow using a recurring legal clinic model. CJP initially held monthly Family Law clinics at a local community center, later expanding programming to include Estate Planning (Wills) clinics as well as Veterans Legal Advice clinics at the VA Hospital. These recurring clinics targeted indigent, vulnerable and at-risk populations, including Habitat for Humanity families needing to protect their assets as first time homeowners, disabled veterans fighting for access to earned benefits, and children whose lives were in turmoil because of their caretaker’s lack of access to legal support for issues such as divorce and child support. CJP also held single issue clinics with a variety of community partners, collaborating with County Commissioners to provide identification cards for clients in need of community services, assisting citizens with disabilities in executing documents to receive necessary medical treatment and providing emergency legal services for people impacted by Hurricane Harvey and the Sutherland Springs shooting.
In August 2019, after more than 15 years of existence as part of the San Antonio Bar Association, we ushered in a new era for the program with a new, independent Board of Directors. The decision to re-launch as a separate entity stemmed from the shared recognition that a dedicated group was necessary to expand and tailor programming to address the enormous need for civil legal services in our community.
SALSA has relied on generous support from the San Antonio Bar Foundation, the Association of Corporate Counsel, the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, the Texas Bar Foundation, local law firms and community members. This ongoing support ensures that when community needs are identified, SALSA stands ready to serve its clients. Over the years, SALSA has become the reality that Justice Speedlin and Judge Pozza imagined so many years earlier.