GOLD2023

Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law

Los Angeles, CA   |  www.hbcfl.org

Mission

We protect victims of domestic violence and improve the well-being of children living in poverty. With the help of volunteers, the Center provides free family law assistance and legal education to the poor. We strive to empower people in need and assure them meaningful access to the courts.

We aspire to create a community where poverty is not a barrier to those who seek to resolve critical family law matters.

Ruling year info

1985

Principal Officer

Stacy Horth-Neubert

Main address

3250 Wilshire Blvd Ste 710

Los Angeles, CA 90010 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

95-3943493

NTEE code info

Legal Services (I80)

Family Violence Shelters and Services (P43)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law was founded in 1982 by leaders of the Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles and Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles. In response to federal government cutbacks to the largest family law legal aid program in LA, the womens’ bar associations started a small self-help, volunteer lawyer-run organization in South LA to help low-income individuals who had nowhere to turn for help to address domestic violence. Today, the Center provides a vital non-duplicative service to low-income residents. It is the nonprofit law firm of last resort for individuals who have complex family law problems affecting their safety and the welfare of their children, their current and future financial security and stability, and who do not have money to hire a lawyer.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

The Center's Programs

Together with over 250 volunteers, the Center's 9 attorneys and 12 support and administrative staff provide intensive legal assistance to more than 1,400 clients each year with an annual budget of $1.6 million. Through its educational, referral and direct services the Center impacts the lives of over 9,000 very low income persons and their children each year.

Population(s) Served
Families
Economically disadvantaged people

Creating a parternship between clients and volunteers, the Center teaches individuals who cannot afford a lawyer how to represent themselves in court. This unique approach has been adopted by courts throughout the state, and has served as a model for self-help programs across the country. With the assistance of dedicated volunteers, the Center continues to directly aid over 1,500 individuals each year.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people

Using volunteer lawyers from the local community, the Center provides hundreds of hours of free legal representation to clients who are unable to present their own cases in court because of complexity, or obstacles such as severe abuse or physical or mental disability.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people

The Center's Community Education and Outreach Program aims to inform people about family law subjects like custody and child support, and increase their awareness of related community resources. A broad array of agencies, institutions, and neighborhood groups are visited each year including community colleges, domestic violence programs, and non-profit organizations.

Population(s) Served
Adults

Confronting the epidemic of violence in families that causes injury and death, the Center provides hundreds of victims and their children each year with tangible means to protect themselves, leave their abusers and rebuild their lives.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people

Where we work

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

The Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law is a nonprofit law firm whose purpose is to assist low-income residents of LA County free of charge to resolve critical family law problems that, without help from a knowledgeable lawyer, would devastate their long-term social, economic, and health outcomes. With the help of volunteers the Center provides direct legal assistance, education, and in-court representation to its clients in matters of domestic violence, paternity, child custody, support, divorce and marital property. The Center strives to empower people in need and assure them meaningful access to the courts, with the goal of one day creating a community where poverty is not a barrier to those who seek to resolve their family law matters.

The Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law provides free legal services targeted for very low-income individuals with family law problems too complex to handle without a high level of legal expertise and guidance by a trained attorney. The Center accomplishes its mission by martialing the talents of its volunteer lawyers, law students, and other professionals, such as forensic accountants. Through the Center’s Pro Per Program, all Center clients are provided with intensive, hands-on legal assistance to prepare them for effective self-representation. The Center’s volunteers and staff attorneys help clients complete often confusing and complex legal forms. Clients unable to represent themselves obtain free legal representation in court through the Center’s Pro Bono Panel.

In addition to its core legal services to vulnerable persons and its large volunteer program, the Center sponsors the Mothers Behind Bars Program, a daily legal education program at LA women’s jail facilities. Most participants are parents and almost all report histories of domestic violence. Classes emphasize creation and preservation of healthy maternal relationships, breaking cycles of abuse, and reducing recidivism by fostering interest in successful motherhood. To make its services more accessible the Center visits a number of neighborhood sites in south and east LA monthly and offers the same services on a regular basis at several community colleges. The Center’s presence in community colleges has an especially important impact, where parenting disputes and domestic violence can easily derail student progress towards obtaining a degree.

For all full description of all of the Center’s programs, visit: https://www.hbcfl.org/about/programs/

The Center’s full-time staff includes Executive Director Betty Nordwind, who has guided the Center’s growth since 1987 and in 2014 earned the California State Bar’s lifetime achievement award for her many years of work extending legal services to the poor, and Deputy Director Heidi Slater, who has served the Center for twenty years with strong administrative skills honed as a One Justice Executive Fellow. Betty and Heidi are joined by a team of staff attorneys; a Volunteer Coordinator; and assistants in client services, development, communications, and administration.

In addition to the Center’s full-time staff, volunteer lawyers and law students are indispensable to the Center’s legal aid programs and annually contribute over 12,000 service hours with their time conservatively valued at $3.2 million. Through active recruitment, training and mentorship of over 250 skilled professionals, the Center brings tenured lawyers together with new attorneys and law students to directly serve clients with family law problems. By offering rigorous and ongoing training in family law practice, the Center maintains a reputation as a family law resource of first resort for legal professionals wishing to serve low-income families and children.

The Center was recognized by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges as one of the “most effective and innovative programs in the nation designed specifically for battered mothers and their children.” The Center established one of the largest and only pro bono panels of attorneys representing low-income family law litigants in Los Angeles County and California.

The Center has participated in state and national efforts to raise California’s child support guidelines and to restructure the California government’s child support system. Current partnerships include the LA County Sheriff’s Department, the District Attorney Bureau of Victim Services, domestic violence shelters, various community colleges and neighborhood organizations. The Center works closely with other legal service providers to share its experience and expertise.

The Center continues to meet emerging needs in the Los Angeles community. Special efforts undertaken by the Center in 2019 include:

Women’s Gender-Responsive Jail Project: Originally named the Mira Loma Women’s Jail Project, this systemic effort aimed to investigate, monitor, and provide recommendations concerning the planned move of the Los Angeles County Women’s Jail. The Center anticipated family ties and rehabilitation would be harmed by moving the jail 90 miles away from the existing hub of service providers, courts, and community organizations. Its seminal report, “From Lynwood to Lancaster”, was relied upon in part by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in February 2019 when announcing their decision to abandon the long-distance Mira Loma move. Through the project, the Center continues to work with Los Angeles County and Sheriff Department personnel as members of the Gender Responsive Advisory Committee (GRAC).

Community Legal Education Program: Begun as a pilot in early 2019, the Center teaches men’s and women’s legal education classes at various Probation offices. Well-received, the Center hopes to expand the program as probation departments across the county become increasingly interested in strengthening the relationships of formerly incarcerated parents and their children.

Veterans Family Law Project: Started in fall 2018 and led by the Center’s Equal Justice Works fellow, this project provides free family law services to low-income veterans. The Center provides services that include direct representation, advice and counsel, and know-your-rights presentations to inform veterans on custody and visitation, which are frequently impaired because of absence and PTSD. This program focuses on helping veterans strengthen their relationships with their children.

Financials

Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law

Board of directors
as of 12/22/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Serine Tsuda

Salisbury, Lee & Tsuda, LLP

Term: 2023 -

Margo Bouchet

Law Offices of Margo Bouchet

David P. Shebby

Shebby • Hirashima LLP

Heidi Tuffias

Law & Mediation Offices of Heidi Tuffias

Serine Tsuda

Salisbury, Lee & Tsuda, LLP

Amos Buhai

DeepElm

Jonathan Forgang

Alston & Bird LLP

Nicole Kardassakis

Payne & Fears LLP

JB Rizzo

Frankel Reichman & Rizzo, LLP

M. Lynda Sheridan

Law Offices of M. Lynda Sheridan

Jean Cooper

Attorney

Yolanda Martin

Law Offices of Yolanda Martin

Alyssa Dickerson

Meyer, Olson, Lowy and Meyers, LLP

Sarah Luetto

Hersh Mannis LLP

Gloria Chang

Netflix

Dan Bemel

UBS Private Wealth Management

Amos Buhai

DeepElm

Kimia Klein

Fox Rothschild LLP

Nicole King

Venable LLP

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? No
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No