Since October 2019, we have served 245 people (and counting) living in poverty with free legal aid.
Each person has a story, and on October 23 we will hear from clients about how legal aid has made a difference in their lives.
Until then, you can listen to Ms. Johnson's story and read about how we help below.
How we help
Almost three-quarters (71%) of low-income households nationally experienced at least one civil legal need last year. We provide civil legal aid for people living in poverty who either live in Washington, DC or have an issue based here. Many of our clients are homeless. We primarily serve people who need an advocate in the following areas:
Criminal record sealing: Having an arrest on your record is a significant barrier for finding employment and housing, and in Washington, DC, arrests stay on your record for at least two years even if the charges were dismissed. For others who have committed a crime and completed their sentence, the impact of their record greatly hinders their reentry and restoration in communities. CLADC petitions the court to get eligible records sealed so that people able to pursue the jobs, housing, and other opportunities.
Landlord/Tenant: When a tenant is experiencing unsafe housing conditions or is being threatened with eviction, CLADC is able to step in and advocate for the tenant and their rights. In Washington, DC, 88% of tenants in landlord-tenant disputes went unrepresented while 95% of landlords were represented in 2017. Studies have shown that the odds of getting evicted significantly decrease when a tenant is represented by an attorney.
Estate planning: CLADC helps clients create wills and other necessary documents to make sure their families know their wishes in the event that they pass away. This provides peace of mind for our clients, and eases the burden on their family members who will later need to enter the probate process.
Probate: When someone loses a loved one, the process of administering the estate of the deceased is often complex and stressful. CLADC helps clients navigate the probate court, ensure compliance with the law in regards to the estate, and helps ensure heirs are treated fairly.
Social Security benefits: CLADC helps people determine whether they are eligible for Social Security benefits and secure the resources they need, including representing clients in Social Security appeals. In these cases, having legal representation can make all the difference. "A study of SSDI cases found that appellants represented by attorneys were successful in 78.4% of the cases, while unrepresented appellants succeeded in only 28.3% of the cases."
*Statistics cited above are from the DC Access to Justice Commission's 2019 report: Delivering Justice: Addressing Civil Legal Needs in the District of Columbia.
We meet these needs through the generosity of supporters like you and our committed volunteer network of attorneys and law students.
Volunteer attorneys and law students faithfully serve at legal aid clinics three times each month. They listen to clients, provide legal advice, and often pray with clients. Many of these volunteers continue serving beyond the clinic by conducting legal research, drafting documents, and representing clients through the duration of their case. Even as we had to transition from providing in-person legal aid to phone consultations, these volunteers adapted and continued to show up for the most vulnerable in our city.
By mobilizing and equipping a network of committed volunteers, CLADC is able to provide $3 of free legal services for every $1 we raise.
CLADC connects those most in need with the attorneys who can help, and we provide ongoing training and mentorship for our volunteers. When you invest in CLADC, you make sure that when these volunteers step up to serve, they're not doing it alone.