Lillian O. Johnson to Retire from Community Legal Services

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PHOENIX, AZ—Community Legal Services today announced that Lillian O. Johnson, the firm’s Executive Director, has decided to retire effective April 2022. Community Legal Services (“CLS”) is Arizona’s largest nonprofit civil legal aid program, established in 1952. The law firm currently has offices in five counties, a budget of $7 million, and a staff of over 80, including 28 attorneys. Ms. Johnson has served in the position of Executive Director since 1982. The Community Legal Services Board will be utilizing a recruiting firm to execute a nationwide search for a new Executive Director.

Ms. Johnson has been a passionate advocate for equal access to justice for those who could not afford to pay for it throughout her legal career. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the National Legal Aid & Defender Association as well as several taskforces and committees, both on the national and local level, working to increase access to legal services and improve the quality of life for low and moderate-income families. Since 2000, under Ms. Johnson’s leadership, Community Legal Services has handled over 2,000 COVID-19 related cases.

Prior to joining Community Legal Services Ms. Johnson graduated from Howard University and began her legal services career while in law school at the University of Chicago, Mandel Legal Aid Clinic. Upon graduation from law school, she served as a staff attorney and managing attorney for Chicago’s largest legal aid program, the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago.

In 2011, Ms. Johnson was honored as a White House Champion of Change as a part of President Barack Obama’s Winning the Future Initiative; wherein they highlighted her everlasting commitment to access to justice for all, throughout her career.

In 2013, Ms. Johnson was inducted into the Maricopa County Bar Association’s Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame’s goal is to honor in perpetuity those remarkable individuals who have built the legal profession in this county and beyond, who have made extraordinary contributions to the law and justice, and who have distinguished themselves at the highest levels of public service.

In February of 2014, Ms. Johnson was a featured person and an honoree of the Phoenix Chapter of The Links, Inc., the Phoenix Chapter of Jack & Jill of America, Inc., and the Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity Inc., Gamma Mu Chapter of Phoenix. This program honors the community’s most distinguished citizens in the Art of Jurisprudence.

In November 2014, the William E. Morris Institute for Justice honored Ms. Johnson with the Hero Award for Access to Justice.


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