Q&A with Megan Kinney, Managing Director of Land of Lincoln Legal Aid’s East St. Louis Office
As Managing Attorney of Land of Lincoln’s East. St. Louis office, describe what a typical work day looks like for you.
A favorite part of my role as Managing Attorney is that I have no two days alike. I spend most mornings answering a barrage of emails, but I also might visit a homebound client, attend a community partner meeting, or present on Land of Lincoln services to prospective clients. My afternoons are usually spent at the office answering staff questions related to substantive law, service of process, grant compliance and LSC rules, as well as checking on possible conflicts of interest. Depending on the day, I may also have routine duties like reviewing mileage reports, timesheets, and training requests. I am currently in the middle of planning two pro bono events in St. Clair County – a Sealing & Expungement Summit and a Power of Attorney clinic. In addition to my managerial duties, I serve as the task force chair for our Senior Citizens unit. I help other Land of Lincoln elder law practitioners with their cases and questions. I also still have a caseload, so, scattered throughout the day, I will make court appearances, attend administrative hearings, and/or draft documents like Wills. I affectionately describe my days as having the foot on the gas pedal from 9am-5pm.
Land of Lincoln just completed a major assessment of the legal needs of the people it serves across 65 downstate counties. What stood out the most for you in the results?
In our 2019 legal needs assessment, clients voiced that income stability was their number one civil legal issue. I was surprised to see that family law issues were not listed because much of our practice is devoted to representing survivors of domestic violence in obtaining Orders of Protection, divorces, and favorable parenting plans. However, it is not surprising that income stability was the chief concern. James Baldwin wrote, “Anyone who has struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.” Income instability adversely affects the lives of the poor, particularly if they lose or have reduced, their Social Security income, SNAP or TANF benefits, etc. Some of our clients live on as little as $783.00 per month and if any part of this benefit is reduced, terminated, or garnished, it can create significant havoc for our clients. The client needs assessment identified access to health insurance as the second need. Income stability and access to health insurance go hand-in-hand for low-income individuals. Access to insurance allows for preventative care, prescriptions, and other basic health needs. Without health insurance, indigent clients might face insurmountable healthcare debt, and stop seeing doctors. This is unacceptable, and Land of Lincoln is actively taking cases to help clients retain health benefits like Medicaid and Medicare.
What’s the number one thing you want elected officials and policymakers to know about the people your office serves?
Elected officials and policymakers have constituents in crisis. Crisis might look like a large medical bill, a mentally ill relative, an eviction notice, a utility shut-off, an abusive relationship, a child improperly expelled from school, or a senior citizen terminated from Medicaid insurance. Crisis can paralyze the poor. Land of Lincoln stands with folks in crisis and provides a holistic approach in serving clients through court representation, accompaniment to social services agencies, or through negotiations. Land of Lincoln and elected officials have similar goals – we want our clients to have stability and security in their lives. I encourage our elected officials to call Land of Lincoln on behalf of their constituents who face civil legal issues; we are always happy to help.
Why is the IEJF so important to Land of Lincoln Legal Aid?
IEJF provides tremendous support to Land of Lincoln. Simply put, IEJF allows us to serve more low-income people who would otherwise not be able to afford an attorney. IEJF support has allowed our consumer team to expand services and represent two litigants in shoddy home repair cases. Our family law unit continues to provide excellent in-court representation to survivors of domestic violence three days a week in St. Clair County Circuit Court. And the IL-AFLAN grant allowed us to help save the homes of veterans facing foreclosure.
What has been your favorite travel adventure to date? And what is on your travel bucket list?
Some of my college gal pals and I took a trip to Portland, Oregon last spring. We smelled the roses at the incredible International Rose Test Garden, enjoyed a few food trucks, and continually caffeinated ourselves while exploring the city. We took day trips to see waterfalls, and headed northwest to visit Cannon Beach and a great brewery in Astoria, Oregon. It was idyllic! Next on the travel bucket-list includes a trip to Maine with my sister, another trip to Ireland with my family, and hopefully a trip to L.A. for the 2028 Olympics.