A line started forming long before the doors opened at Bread for the City’s Southeast Center on Good Hope Road in Anacostia at the last Advice & Referral Clinic. Clients arrived early for an opportunity to meet one-on-one with a volunteer lawyer for free legal assistance.
In fact, the number of clients served tied met the all-time high of 58, for this location. After walking through the door clients were quickly greeted and guided through a sign-in process that determines their legal needs. Meanwhile, the volunteer attorneys were finishing up a brief training on what to expect once they start seeing clients.
This month’s volunteers came from the D.C. Access to Justice Commission, Department of Justice, and D.C. Bar Litigation Section, along with volunteer mentors from the D.C. Bar Labor & Employment Law and Estates, Trusts & Probate Law Sections. The pace of the attorney/client meetings is fast. One attorney can assist several clients in the course of a few hours and that assistance can go a long way in easing the clients’ fears about their legal issues.
“Over the last few years, demand at the Southeast clinic site has doubled. This month, the Clinic served almost triple the number of clients that would have been seen on a typical Saturday in 2010. This Clinic simply couldn’t happen without the caring, compassionate volunteers who give up their Saturday mornings to expand access to justice for D.C. residents. We are incredibly grateful for our volunteers’ time and passion for pro bono service and for Bread for the City’s generosity in opening its space to us each month,” remarked Pro Bono Program Managing Attorney Leah Myers.
It is estimated that about 70 percent of individuals requesting free legal assistance require only brief services—not full representation—to solve their legal problems. On the second Saturday of every month the Advice & Referral Clinic operates out of Bread for the City’s Northwest and Southeast locations. The Clinics offer individuals without representation the opportunity to discuss with volunteer attorneys most matters governed by D.C. or federal law, including bankruptcy/debt collection, consumer, employment, family, health, housing, personal injury, probate, public benefits, and tax law issues.
In addition to providing a wide range of services on-site, the Advice & Referral Clinic is a point of entry into the legal services community. For eligible clients who require more than brief services, clinic volunteers make referrals to the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program Advocacy & Justice Clinic, Bankruptcy Clinic, Health Care Access Project, and Wills Clinic, as well as numerous outside legal and social services providers.
Learn more about the Advice & Referral Clinic and how you can get involved.