Legal Services NYC provides legal services to low-income individuals in New York City and New York state, and advocates for left-wing legal policies. The organization is based in Manhattan with offices in the other four boroughs of New York City.
Legal Services NYC was founded with direct support from federal funding and relied for decades on funding from the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), a federally-funded nonprofit which subsidizes low-income legal services across the United States, almost exclusively. From the 1980s onward, Legal Services NYC transitioned to gaining most of its funding from federal, state, and local contracts, as well as some private donations, but still received considerable funding from the LSC and New York state’s Interest on Lawyers Accounts Funds. In 2018, funding from these two government-sponsored organizations accounted for almost one-fourth of Legal Services NYC’s budget.
Despite receiving government funds, Legal Services NYC engages in cases to support and uses rhetoric that invokes left-of-center politics, particularly social justice and anti-racism. It also engages in open advocacy of political positions through open letters and statements directed towards government officials.
In 1967, Community Action for Legal Services (CALS) was established by a group of lawyers working with federal offices established throughout New York City to provide legal services as part of the Johnson administration’s “War on Poverty.” In 1970, CALS litigated Goldberg v. Kelly, a legal case that saw courts establish a due process requirement to terminate welfare benefits. In 1974, Congress created the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), and CALS became one of its first grantees. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, nearly all of CALS’s funding came from the LSC. 
During President Ronald Reagan’s terms, funding to the LSC was cut. In response, New York State created the Interest on Lawyers Accounts Funds to fund groups like CALS. CALS further diversified its funding with federal, state, and local contracts and private donations. In 1989, CALS became Legal Services for New York. 
In 1998, Legal Services NYC responded to state regulations requiring continual training for attorneys by creating the Legal Support Unit. In the same year, the organization also helped establish New York Lawhelp, a similar legal services nonprofit. 
In 2007, Legal Services for New York became Legal Services NYC. 
Legal Services NYC focuses on cases pertaining to 19 “programs,” including civil rights and language access, immigration and immigrant rights, student debt relief, government benefits, and disability advocacy. The organization’s programs and its rhetoric reflect a left-wing political outlook. Additionally, Legal Services NYC engages in outright political activism and advocacy through open letters and public statements. 
In June 2020, Legal Services NYC and a coalition of other groups released a roadmap for removing police from schools to be replaced by “healing-centered practices to support students with trauma.” The plan made a series of recommendations to the New York City government, including promoting anti-racism through “Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education” and anti-bias education for teachers and administrators. 
Also in June 2020, Legal Services NYC issued a letter co-signed by other housing advocate organizations urging New York City’s civil and housing courts to stop all evictions both because of the COVID-19 pandemic and because many New York residents were preoccupied with the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. 
In December 2019, director of government benefits at Legal Services NYC Tanya Wong wrote a public statement condemning new regulations on the disbursement of food-stamp benefits (known as SNAP after the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that provides them). 
In 2018, Legal Services NYC received $77,664,257 in funding, the bulk of which came from government contracts to provide legal services to low-income individuals. Federal contracts amounted to about $2 million, state contracts to $16.5 million, and New York City contracts to $33 million. Foundations, events, and individual donors contributed about $7 million combined. New York Community Trust, a massive donor-advised left-of-center nonprofit, was one of Legal Services NYC’s largest donors, with over $100,000 in funding. 
In 2018 alone, Legal Services NYC received almost $12.6 million from the Legal Services Corporation, and another $6.4 million from the New York State-based Interest on Lawyers Accounts Funds, for a combined 24% of the organization’s budget. From 2017 to 2020, funding from the Legal Services Corporation has increased from $11.8 million to $13.3 million.