Volunteer Opportunities Around the Philadelphia Region
I have been a volunteer attorney for the Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia (CLCP) since April 2007. The CLCP states that its volunteers are “Christian legal professionals and law students called by the Word of God to do justice among the poor … [by] provid[ing] services to low-income clients in the name of Christ.” The CLCP currently has three clinic locations, each of which meets twice per month. The clinics are located at the Salvation Army facility in West Philadelphia, Sweet Union Baptist Church in West Philadelphia and Spirit and Truth Reformed Church in North Philadelphia. At each clinic, clients from the local neighborhood meet with attorneys who volunteer their time at the clinic to discuss and help them resolve their problems and inquiries. Of course, as the CLCP is Christian in nature, the attorneys and clients often pray with and for one another and the Gospel message is shared with the client.
Over my five years of serving with the CLCP, I have had the privilege of helping hundreds of people with their legal issues. I have been approached with all manner of issues, including but not limited to landlord-tenant, custody, support, divorce, social security, unemployment compensation, disability, debt collection, criminal and estate cases. The experience has blessed both me and the client; the client receives free or greatly discounted legal assistance while I reap the benefits of knowing I am truly helping the less fortunate and living out my Christian faith in a practical way. I am confident in saying that virtually everyone who has served with the CLCP has had a similar experience.
Attorneys have received the great gift of knowing about the law, how to navigate it and how to help people with their legal issues, and they bear some responsibility for sharing it with others. Accordingly, the Pennsylvania Bar Association recommends that attorneys perform 50 pro bono hours per year and the CLCP is a wonderful place to volunteer. Aside from the CLCP, the Philadelphia area has many opportunities and organizations to assist people on a pro bono or low-fee basis. These include:
- Community Legal Services of Philadelphia
- The Philadelphia VIP program
- The Philadelphia Legal Assistance Center
- The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
- The Juvenile Law Center
- The Women Against Abuse Legal Center
- The Nationalities Service Center
- The SeniorLAW Center
- The Support Center for Child Advocates
- The Regional Housing Legal Services
- The Legal Clinic for the Disabled, and many others.
It is an extremely satisfying feeling knowing that one has given of oneself to help someone else in a profound way, not to mention the practical legal experience it can give an attorney simply because of the wide scope and breadth of the legal issues involved with the clients. Furthermore, the impact a volunteer attorney can have on someone’s life cannot be underestimated. If you are not involved in pro bono work, or with an organization as described above, I truly encourage you to become involved; you will be greatly rewarded. Indeed, the great irony of my volunteering experience is that the benefit I can provide to my clients is far less than the benefit I receive from them by the privilege of serving them.
Originally published in The Legal Intelligencer Blog on March 23, 2012 and can be found here.