Mobile legal clinics provide much-needed legal services to families in DC
Written on Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 3:00 pm by Renee Schomp in Community Lawyering Project, Legal Clinic, Stories
Even before law school, Taylor Healy knew she wanted to be a public interest lawyer. After graduating, she was awarded the Polikoff-Gautreaux Fellowship at Business and Professional People for the Public Interest (BPI) in Chicago, where she focused on public housing redevelopment and affordable housing policy at the city level.
It was in Chicago that she first learned about Promise Neighborhoods, a federal Department of Education grant program that aims to “significantly improve the educational and developmental outcomes of children and youth in our most distressed communities” by providing place-based services to children and their families. She quickly realized the need for civil legal services providers to be incorporated into the Promise Neighborhoods model to help with landlord-tenant issues, family law, disability and public benefit issues, and other areas that potentially require legal counsel.
Today, Taylor is an Equal Justice Works Fellow at Bread for the City, a DC-based nonprofit, and is sponsored by DLA Piper. Through her project, she is bringing legal services to DC’s Promise Neighborhood in Ward 7; Kenilworth-Parkside. With a commitment to close the justice gap for those in need, Taylor is starting a new trend for legal aid organizations: instead of asking clients to come to a legal aid office, take the legal aid office to them.
Since her fellowship started in September 2012, she has established three monthly mobile legal clinics where pro bono attorneys from DLA Piper staff the clinics to conduct intake and provide brief services. “Every month, Taylor distributes hundreds of flyers to spread the word, often with the help of students from local law schools,” writes Bread for the City. “The clinics are scheduled for a two-hour period – the first hour for walk-ins and the second hour for appointments. While it would certainly be an adventure to try and solve the legal needs of the 5,000 + people living in Kenilworth-Parkside on our own, the clinics are only able to function because of the generosity of the DLA Piper attorneys who donate their time to the project. In fact, DLA Piper is so committed to making the legal clinic a success, they included it in the firm’s 2012 Commitment to Action though the Clinton Global Initiative.”
So far, Taylor has conducted 36 of these legal clinics, and they have been very well attended. She says: “Through my project, Bread for the City has brought its legal clinic services to Northeast DC for the first time. Bread serves clients from all four quadrants in the district, but the community-based nature of my work is a first for the organization. The best calls I receive are the ones where someone says ‘my aunt told me to call you,’ or ‘I saw you give a presentation at my son’s daycare center.’ I learned quickly that you can’t just hang out a shingle and expect people to show up – I have to put in the leg work and the face time to earn the trust of the community I serve. That work has involved everything from passing out fliers door to door and conducting surveys, to helping Santa pass out Christmas gifts at the neighborhood holiday party. What makes my project the perfect job for me is that I get the opportunity to work with everyone on everything – from senior citizens to young families, from Social Security benefits to domestic violence and everything in between.”
Note: This blog was originally posted on the Equal Justice Works website which can be found here.
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