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Case Selection

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West Tennessee Legal Services has given free legal help to people in need for more than twenty years. We are a nonprofit law firm representing people who live in seventeen counties in West Tennessee. Since our clients pay no legal fees, we exist because of funding from grants through private foundations, government contracts, and individual donations.

Because funding is very limited, we can only take the most critical cases. Each year we ask people in the community to tell us what kind of cases they think are most important. This is how we set our priorities and decide which cases we can take. 

People from all walks of life give us a view into the community they see each day: clients, social workers, ministers, nurses, judges and lawyers. Each year, we mail more than 5,000 surveys and during the year, we conduct focus groups where we ask select groups to share their thoughts about our priorities with us. These focus groups are composed of clients/potential clients, other service providers or legal professionals. In an informal setting, we discuss the legal needs and how we address them in the community and assess a priority rating for each.

Please help us to help families in your community in West Tennessee by letting us know your thoughts. We welcome your comments and hope that you will keep us informed of the unmet legal needs you see in the future. With your help, we look forward to successfully serving those in need in West Tennessee for many more years. Topics are posted below.

If you have questions or comments, please contact
J. Steven Xanthopoulos, Executive Director
Phone: 731-426-1311 or

How WTLS Decides What Cases to Take

The priorities established by WTLS will be implemented and developed through the following principles:

  1. The issue presented must be one for which there is no appropriate referral.

  2. The issue presented must be one in which the probability of success is reasonable given the projected amount of resources necessary to achieve the desired outcome.

  3. The issue presented lends itself to a legal solution as well as a solution which may be legally pursued pursuant to relevant laws, rules, regulations and operating standards.

  4. In regard to substantive areas, client populations and delivery methodology, consideration will be given to project resources, service demand and funder priorities.

  5. The following substantive areas constitute the most serious needs of WTLS clients and will form the core of the WTLS work:


    1. Access to health care;

    2. Securing or retaining income;

    3. Securing or retaining shelter;

    4. Personal freedom and security of :

      1. abused persons;

      2. institutionalized/vulnerable persons; and

    Substantive areas are to be broadly interpreted so the effect of WTLS representation is more important than the means. The substantive areas of V. are not in the relative order of importance.

  6. The delivery of services will be broad-based and comprehensive including legal representation, information and referral, community education, partnerships - local, statewide, regional and other, pro bono, resource development and other appropriate methodology.

  7. Community education/outreach is important in implementing the priorities.

  8. All projects will consider available resources - current and potential, client service demand, funding source criteria in conjunction with priorities



If you live in West Tennessee and would like to participate in our survey, please choose the 3 most important areas we should address. 


Benefits: Food Stamps, Families First, SSI / Social Security, Unemployment Benefits, Welfare to Work


Emergency Family: Spouse Abuse, Divorce with Abuse


Non-Emergency Family: No-fault Divorce


Spouse Freedom from Abuse: Spouse, Disabled Persons, Elder Abuse


Housing: Evictions, Discrimination, Public Housing, Mortgage, Home Ownership


Individual Rights: Discrimination, Rights of Institutionalized Persons


Government Services: Access for Disabled Persons, Police Protection, Public Transportation


Financial: Consumer Rights, Exploitation of Vulnerable Adults


Medical: TennCare, Medicare, Access to Healthcare







Send mail to Kathryn@wtls.org with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright 2003 West Tennessee Legal Services, Inc.
Last modified: February 06, 2013