Board Development

The Shriver Center's Board Development curriculum and associated materials reflect the specific context of civil legal aid practice – its unique mission and values, services provided, clients and communities served, and challenges faced – as well as the core principles underlying the ABA governance-related Standards of Practice. The curriculum also addresses the leadership dimension of legal aid governance and supports the notion that a strong board/staff leadership partnership is essential to ensuring legal aid programs’ effectiveness in achieving their important mission.

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Context for Board Development

Legal aid providers work in increasingly complex environments. The central issues they address--housing and homelessness, intake and case triage, employment and training, outreach to the client community, access to health care, creation of new delivery mechanisms for providing legal services--are themselves subject to innumerable forces. 

As stewards of the organization, legal aid boards are responsible for overseeing their organizations' performance, accountability, fiscal integrity and regulatory compliance. They are also responsible for working with programs to develop strategic and long-range plans and to ensure that program resources and services are responsive to evolving community needs and “accomplish lasting results” for clients. In doing so, they must also recognize the various regional, statewide, and even national systems and partnerships within which providers operate and ensure that the providers’ operations and services are aligned with and take these into account. Together, these various dimensions of governance call for an active, engaged, and forward-looking board that works in a leadership partnership with senior management to govern the organization.

Topics covered in this course include:

  • Board Development
  • Board Dynamics
  • Board of Directors: Roles & Responsibilities
  • Board – Staff Partnership
  • Fiscal Responsibilities
  • How the Board carries out its work
  • Introduction
  • Program Oversight
  • Relations with the Chief Executive
  • Resource Development


Sample resources for this course:

Ellen HemleyEllen Hemley brings over 30 years of experience in the equal justice community to her role as Vice President of Training Programs at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law. Prior to joining the Shriver Center, Ellen served as executive director of the Center for Legal Aid Education, which provided training and leadership development programs to equal justice advocates nationally. Previously, Ellen was Director of Training at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute where, among other things, she oversaw CLAE's predecessor, the Legal Services Training Consortium of New England. She also served for many years as an independent consultant; her clients included the American Bar Association, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, the Florida Bar Foundation, the Washington Access to Justice Commission, the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, the Massachusetts Union of Public Housing Tenants, and scores of other legal aid networks, bar foundations and justice-related programs across the country. 

Chuck Greenfield is the Chief Counsel  for Civil Programs at NLADA and in that role is responsible for advising legal aid programs on LSC statutory law, regulations, policies, and practices. He previously worked as a program counsel for the Legal Services Corporation and as the Executive Director of two legal aid programs (Legal Aid Society of Hawaii and Legal Services of Northern Virginia.) Chuck also held positions as director of litigation and managing attorney for Micronesian Legal Services Corporation and as a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Santa Clara County, California.

Vanetta J. Jamison is a community representative Board member of The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and has been on the Board for three years. The Board consists of 1/3 community representatives nominated by various agencies in the service area. Cleveland Legal Aid serves five northeast Ohio counties and achieves impressive outcomes for clients. Vanetta is the Chair of the Governance Committee and served on the strategic planning committee. Vanetta brings her broad experience with community organizations and civic groups to Legal Aid. Vanetta is employed by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs as a Legal Administrative Specialist. She is also a former Legal Aid client.

Tim Walters is Executive Director of the Metanoia Project, a seasonal homeless shelter and hospitality center open on weekends during Cleveland's winter months. For the last four years, Tim has served as a community representative on the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland’s Board of Directors. Previously, he was a long-time community organizer in Cleveland's low income community.

Ann Stirling Bergen is an attorney in private practice in Willoughby, Ohio.  She has represented clients in a variety of legal matters, including family law, criminal, estate planning and administration, and general business matters.  Ann presently serves as President of the Board of Directors for the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, which serves five (5) counties in northeast Ohio.  In 2013, Ann was the first woman to receive the Law Day Award from the Lake County Bar Association, honoring her public service and contributions to practice of law, including her commitment to Legal Aid.   Ann’s practice includes litigation matters, as well as alternate dispute resolution models including mediation, arbitration and collaborative law.  Ann began her career as a staff attorney at Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.