All for Pro Bono, and Pro Bono for All
Probably the most inclusive pro bono group in the United States, the New York County Lawyers Association was the first big bar association that admitted members regardless of their gender, race, and ethnicity. They have engaged in legal pro bono work for over a century and show no signs of letting up. The NYCLA was set up to provide free legal services for people who were at a disadvantage and could not pay regular legal fees.
We got a chance to talk to attorney Anthe Maria Bova of the NYCLA and she offered us her insights into the organization’s work. According to the NYCLA, when deserving people cannot or do not have the means to afford or navigate the legal system, they become discouraged. The justice system was created to provide justice for all, but sadly, many members of society don’t have the means to make use of it. This is where legal aid organizations step in and provide these people the legal understanding, legal advice, and representation that they need.
The NYCLA mainly serves clients who live in New York City and greater New York. Their clients span several legal practice areas, specialities, and sectors. Volunteer attorneys with the NYCLA offer legal assistance with issues such as housing, family, employment, consumer debt, and re-entry. There are several projects that the NYCLA offers, including a Legal Counseling project, the State Central Registry Project, Project Restore, the Manhattan CLARO project, and the Tax Court Project.
“The New York County Lawyers Association, a non-profit organization that is over 100 years old, was developed to, among other things, provide free legal services for indigent, low income, and other persons in need.”
- Legal Counseling Project
- State Central Registry Project
- Manhattan CLARO
- Project Restore
Legal Counseling Project
With the NYCLA’s unique Legal Counseling Project, clients get to meet attorneys one on one to explore and discuss their individual cases in-depth. That’s not all though; the project hosts legal clinics once a week and provides legal aid across matters in family cases, divorce, legal separation annulment, child custody, and maintenance.
State Central Registry Project
When the New York State Office of Children and Family Services receive a call regarding suspected abuse and neglect, a report is entered into the State Central Register. Through the State Central Registry Project, volunteer attorneys provide counsel and representation to individuals who seek to amend, seal, or expunge indicated reports from the New York State Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment.
Manhattan CLARO Project
As a result of the growing number of New Yorkers using credit cards to make ends meet, Civil Courts are being inundated with consumer debt cases. The Manhattan CLARO Project addresses the needs of unrepresented debtors who are being sued by their creditors, by providing pro se litigants the opportunity to discuss their case with an attorney and obtain limited legal advice. Rather than representing individuals in court, the CLARO volunteer attorneys meet these individuals at the New York County Civil Court’s evening clinics and advise them on how best to represent themselves in court.
Unemployment is a persistent factor most strongly correlated with recidivism. Obtaining gainful employment, however, is typically difficult for a person with a criminal record, particularly one who seeks to enter a vocation requiring state licenses. The New York Department of State, which has the authority to grant the necessary licenses, is knows to routinely deny them to individuals solely on the basis of their prior criminal convictions.
Project Restore provides pro bono representation to individuals who have been denied security guard licenses and who are challenging the denial. Advocacy includes representing license seekers in administrative law proceedings, appealing adverse Administrative Law Judge decisions to agency commissioners, and when warranted, appealing commissioners’ decisions to the New York State Supreme Court via Article 78 Petitions.
Tax Court Project
Most taxpayers who appear in front of the U.S. Tax Court are unrepresented and cannot afford to pay an attorney to represent them. While some calendar call locations have Low Income Taxpayer Clinics, such clinics in New York only provide representation to taxpayers who are already clients.
For more information about programs at the NYCLA, and to volunteer, contact:
Anthe Maria Bova
General Counsel and Director of Pro Bono Programs email@example.com
Pro Bono Programs Administrator
New York City Lawyers Association
14 Vesey Street
New York, NY 10007
Tel. (212) 267-6646 Ext. 236
Fax (212) 406-9252