In addition to individual representation, Columbus Community Legal Services works hard to respond to both immediate and systemic issues that affect the community. Below are a just a few of the pro bono, community education, and advocacy projects that students are engaging in this year.
D.C. Superior Court, Family Court Self-Help Center
The Family Court Self-Help Center is a free walk-in service for unrepresented individuals at D.C. Superior Court. Several times each semester, students volunteer at the Family Court Self-Help Center to provide general legal information and assistance with preparing court filings to visitors involved in a variety of family law matters. Students may perform tasks such as reviewing and preparing pleadings and motions, providing information on hearing preparation, remedies, evidentiary issues, and providing referrals to other legal and social services agencies.
Domestic Violence Shelter Legal Clinics
Students from the Families and the Law Clinic conduct periodic legal information and referral clinics at a local domestic violence emergency shelter to educate and inform survivors about their legal rights and answer any questions they may have. CCLS hosts an annual fundraiser to be able to provide lunch and informational materials to the survivors and their families who attend the clinics.
D.C. Superior Court, Small Claims Self-Help Center
The Columbus School of Law was part of an initial work group challenged with devising a way to assist self-represented parties in small claims matters. As a result, General Practice Clinic students have staffed the Small Claims Resource Center at D.C. Superior Court every semester since fall 2006. Under the supervision of Professor Faith Mullen, students talk to self-represented litigants about how to present their cases in court, help them prepare pleadings, and refer them to legal service providers. Students assist an average of twelve self-represented litigants each morning they staff the center.
*Note: Students who are not enrolled in the General Practice Clinic may also participate in this pro bono project after attending a brief training session. Interested students should contact Professor Mullen at Mullen@law.edu.
D.C. Superior Court, Child Support Legal Services
The General Practice Clinic collaborates with the Child Support Legal Services Project at D.C. Superior Court to provide limited assistance and advice to pro se litigants with child support matters. Teams of students, under the supervision of a clinic supervising attorney, conduct short interviews, review documents & provide information and limited advice to unrepresented litigants. Students have the opportunity to integrate their knowledge of family law and the skills they have been developing in interviewing and counseling. More importantly, the students see, firsthand, how lawyers can use their expertise to expand access to justice. Several students have enjoyed the experience so much that they have returned to the project as volunteers once their clinic experience ended. The project is run by the D.C. Legal Aid Society and Bread for the City and funded by the D.C. Bar Foundation.
Consumer Protection Workshops for Alternative High School Students
A project inspired by a CPP student with a background in education, students in the Consumer Protection Project conduct legal information sessions at an Alternative High School in Southeast D.C. CPP students work to address the unique needs of students who previously dropped out of high school. At each session, CPP students provide information related to consumer issues such as creating good credit, identity theft, major loans, predatory lending, cashing checks, and credit reports to raise awareness and protect the interests of this underserved population.
Student-Driven Pro Bono Projects
Although time constraints may prevent some AFE students from participating in community outreach projects, Professor McGonnigal encourages his students to initiate and take part in community projects each semester. This past summer, an AFE student organized a team of students to spend a day at Hogar Immigration Services in Arlington, Virginia. AFE students helped dozens of soon-to-be American citizens work their way through their naturalization paperwork. AFE students have also held several limited-advice legal clinics at area churches and at the Armed Forced Retirement Home.
Main Office Phone: 202-319-6788