Who We Are
The Ohio Poverty Law Center is a nonprofit law office advocating for policies to protect and expand the legal rights of low-income Ohioans.
Ohio Poverty Law Center began as part of the Ohio State Legal Services Association (OSLSA), which was started in 1966 by the Ohio State Bar Association with funding assistance from the Office of Economic Opportunity. Formerly functioning as the state support unit of OSLSA, Ohio Poverty Law Center became a separately incorporated nonprofit in 2009.
Ohio Poverty Law Center Board of Managers
Phone: (614) 824-2501
Janet Hales joined the Ohio Poverty Law Center as the new Director in April of 2015. Janet’s experience includes serving as Director of Advocacy for Legal Aid of Western Ohio and 16 years of private law practice representing clients in a wide variety of actions, including fair housing and employment discrimination. After graduating from law school in 1991, Hales served as law clerk to the Hon. Barbara K. Hackett, United States District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan. She started in private practice at Cooper & Walinski, LPA in 1994, where she became a partner and practice group chair. Prior to her legal career, Hales was a teacher and advocate working with children and adults with disabilities.
Mike Smalz has been working at the Ohio Poverty law Center on statewide family law, domestic violence, and other poverty law issues in Ohio since 1988, and has been practicing law for over 40 years. Mike received his JD from the University of Minnesota College of Law in 1976. Prior to joining OSLSA/OPLC, Mike was a legal aid attorney in Michigan, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. He is a member of the Ohio Supreme Court’s Advisory Committees on Domestic Violence and Children, Families, and the Courts. He has also served on many Supreme Court, Bar, and administrative agency committees and task forces, and the Ohio Child Support Guidelines Council. Mike has argued, served as counsel, or filed amicus briefs in nearly a dozen Ohio Supreme Court cases and has given trainings and presentations on domestic violence, child support, fair housing law, public utility law, appellate practice, and other topics. He has published articles on federal civil rights laws, the primary caretaker custody doctrine, and domestic violence and is the author of two guidebooks on fair housing law.
Linda Cook is a senior attorney with the Ohio Poverty Law Center. Linda engages in legislative and administrative advocacy on issues that affect low-income consumer rights, access to education, health care, work supports and other family security programs. She works with a broad coalition of state and national partners to reform payday and car title lending; she also helped to draft and worked to pass bi-partisan legislation updating Ohio’s exemption statute, and managed two statewide collaborative legal aid foreclosure intervention projects. Linda also serves on the Steering Committee of Advocates for Ohio’s Future, a nonpartisan coalition promoting health and human service budget and policy solutions so that all Ohioans live better lives. Linda practiced for over 18 years in a legal aid direct service office as a staff attorney and managing attorney prior to joining the staff of the Ohio Poverty Law Center in August 2006. Linda is a 1987 graduate of the Ohio State University College of Law.
Phone: (614) 824-2504
Patrick M. Higgins joined the Ohio Poverty Law Center in September 2016 as an Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation Justice for All Fellow. He works on workforce issues and addresses legal barriers to employment, particularly those related to criminal records. He also works with the Legal Aid Society of Columbus and Southeastern Ohio Legal Services to perform direct legal representation and information sharing components of his fellowship. Higgins, who was awarded the 2016 Equal Justice Works Public Interest Award for the Midwest region, spent the majority of his law school career working in the public interest sector, including: as a law clerk at the Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio; as certified legal intern at the University of Cincinnati Domestic Violence and Civil Protection Order Clinic; and as a summer associate at Advocates for Basic Legal Equality in Toledo. Patrick graduated from the University of Cincinnati College of Law as an Arthur Russell Morgan Fellow in Human Rights, a position within the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights, where he served as the Senior Articles Editor with Portfolio for the Human Rights Quarterly. Higgins received his B.A. in Global Liberal Studies with a minor in Spanish Language from New York University.
The Ohio Poverty Law Center is very grateful for the support of its funders. OPLC is supported through operating funds from the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation and grant funding from the George Gund Foundation, the Ohio State Bar Foundation, JDP Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.