Community Lawyer’s Inc. (“CLI”) provides a wide variety of legal and advocacy services to indigent, low-income individuals, and working people. As a public 503-C nonprofit, CLI generally does not charge for legal services. We rely on our donors and volunteers to enable us to provide services to as many individuals as possible.
Pro bono Legal Clinics
CLI relies on volunteer attorneys to staff our legal clinics. Each volunteer attorney provides limited scope representation to indigent and low-income individuals. We recruit attorneys who have demonstrated expertise in their areas of practice and whose backgrounds and experiences are culturally relevant to the CLI community.
The Executive Director and the Board interview applicants to ensure their basic competency and require that the volunteer attorney be covered by malpractice insurance. The volunteer attorney enters into a limited scope, pro bono representation agreement with the client. CLI’s role is to provide administrative support including pre-screening and scheduling consumers; obtaining demographic data; assisting with fee waivers, if necessary; and provide non-legal supportive services. CLI also offers substantive training to the volunteer attorneys, if needed.
CLI provides assistance in the following areas through pro bono legal clinics:
The immigration clinic provides counsel and advice in family-based matters, including adjustment of status and consular process, and removal proceedings, relating to process and procedure of immigration court proceedings and possible defenses such as cancelation of removal (42A and 42B); asylum; and Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) and U-Visa petitions.
The Family Law clinic provides limited scope advice and assistance with Family Law issues such as divorce, custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, and property issues. Consumers consult individually with the Family Law attorney to receive advice to advance their case. The attorney, staff, and volunteers, comprised of students and other community members, work together to complete any of the necessary paperwork for the consumer during the clinic. The goal is to provide the consumer with the knowledge to represent themselves in their own case, assist with paperwork, and encourage the self-represented litigant through their family law case with advice and strategy. Consumers are encouraged to make follow up appointments in case they need further assistance to complete their case or issue.
Landlord Tenant/Eviction Defense
The eviction defense clinic provides advice to tenants regarding the unlawful detainer process, from service of notice to relocation of tenant. CLI provides advice on relocation assistance and fees, and assistance in drafting Answers to Unlawful Detainer Complaints, when applicable.
The education law clinic offers counsel, advice and limited scope representation in all matters relating to the educational rights of children with disabilities and their parents. This includes counsel on procedural protections, a review the child’s Individualized Education Program or other relevant documents, preparation of records requests, letters and requests to the school for evaluations or services, compliance complaints and the California Department of Education.
Legal Document Preparation
In an effort to increase access to low-cost services, CLI provides a legal document preparation service, drafted by and/or under the supervision of an attorney. The cost for document preparation is on a sliding scale and waived if the consumer meets federal poverty guidelines. The document preparation service is critical to consumers who are primarily Spanish speaking. The types of legal documents prepared by CLI staff include:
Immigration documents: (1) Applications for Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) (forms I-821D, I-765, and I-765WS); (2) Applications for Employment Authorization (I-765); (3) Applications to Replace Permanent Resident Card (I-90); (4) Applications for Naturalization (N-400); and (5) FOIA requests .
The Executive Director trains and supervises CLI staff to identify issues that may require the assistance of an attorney. For those matters, CLI staff will refer the consumer to a pro bono clinic, or for direct legal services with CLI.
Supporting Non-Legal Needs
CLI staff and volunteers counsel and provide support to consumers with respect to their non-legal needs such as helping to navigate public services, connecting to other community services, translating documents, and general support. This is an essential aspect to supporting CLI’s legal services, as our consumers come from disenfranchised communities and may require supportive services to follow through with their legal issues.
CLI advocates for its consumers and client’s interests in the community through advocacy campaigns. These activities include participating in voter registration and citizenship application drives, educational know-your-rights workshops, coalition building, and collaborations with various community groups, such as the Community Legal Aid SoCal; Watts/Century Latino Organization; Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department; and different churches in Compton and neighboring communities.
Other Legal Matters
CLI receives walk-ins and telephone calls from consumers requesting legal services outside the scope of those provided by CLI legal services and/or volunteer attorneys. In those instances, CLI refers consumers to the State Bar of California Website and/or the State Bar of California hotline (866-442-2529).
Projects in Development:
Attorney Incubator Project
CLI is currently expanding an informal incubator program that fosters the development of a cadre of private attorneys who provide quality legal services in underserved communities. CLI is developing the protocols and resources to reduce the administrative costs of managing a private law practice. In addition to helping attorneys create sustainable business plans, the incubator program provides office space, law office management and law training to help prepare attorneys for community-oriented careers.