Project 50, No. 6: Community Legal Center

Posted by Holly Whitfield | March 5th 2014 2068 0

Project 50 is a weekly feature on a Mid-South nonprofit that will go on through 2014. I hope that you decide to get involved with at least one organization you hear about this year and put your love for Memphis to work. For this week's Project 50 edition, I asked  Emily Stotts, Staff Attorney at the Community Legal Center to write a guest post about the CLC's work to provide Memphians with essential legal services. 

The Community Legal Center (CLC) strives to ensure equal access to justice by providing legal services to working Memphians experiencing poverty. “Our clients are hardworking individuals who earn too much to qualify for Memphis Area Legal Services, but not enough to realistically be able to pay for private legal counsel,” says Executive Director, Meg Jones. “We’re here to try to help fill that void and ensure that everyone, no matter their place in life, has access to the legal system.”

CLC Staff Attorney Hayden Lait assists law student Alex Hall at the Pro Se Divorce Clinic at the University of Memphis School of Law's 2013 Alternative Spring Break.

From their office in the MIFA building on Vance Avenue, the CLC has provided legal services in matters such as landlord-tenant issues, uncontested divorces, and wills and estates to Memphians for nearly twenty years.

In 2006, the CLC, got together with the Immigration Section of the Memphis Bar and the University of Memphis School of Law, formed the Immigrant Justice Program (the “IJP”). This program provides legal representation to the Mid-South’s swelling immigrant population and assists with claims for asylum, applications for U-visas for victims of violent crimes, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and other forms of immigration relief.

Volunteer Carole Fincher working hard in the CLC office.

The CLC has just four part-time staff attorneys and therefore, much of its success relies on its loyal volunteers. Students from the University of Memphis and Rhodes College provide essential administrative support, while local attorneys ease the caseload by screening prospective clients at the twice-monthly legal clinics at St. John’s Methodist Church and by taking on cases pro bono. For attorneys interested in helping with the IJP’s caseload but with no prior immigration law experience, CLC staff attorneys provide them with the training and support they need to tackle the job.

Guests at Strut! Memphis enjoying the fashion show.

The CLC is about to turn 20, and it’s busier than ever. Last year, the CLC served over 2,300 individuals. Next week, March 10 – 14, the CLC and The University of Memphis School of Law’s Public Action Law Society will participate in the school’s fifth annual Alternative Spring Break program. Law students from Memphis and across the country will spend their week providing free legal services to the community. The CLC has partnered with Memphis Immigration Advocates, Inc. and Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition to assist 10 Alternative Spring Break participants prepare DACA applications for eligible Dreamers. The CLC will also be assisting 20 other participants guide clients through the pro se divorce process.

Important: The CLC is still accepting clients for both pro se divorce and DACA. For more information, visit the CLC’s Facebook page!

Official mission statement: The Community Legal Center's mission is to provide legal services to people of limited means who would fall within the jurisdiction of the courts located in Memphis and Shelby County and to educate them as to their rights and responsibilities under the law.

Biggest annual event: Strut! Memphis Fashion Show in October (last year's Facebook event page)

How you can help: 
Attend Strut! Memphis in October
– Volunteer as a translater if are fluent in a language other than English.
– If you are an attorney, v
olunteer at the CLC's Tuesday evening legal clinics held every first and third Tuesday of the month at 5:30 p.m. at St. John’s Methodist Church. You can also sign up to take on one of our cases pro bono. 

Learn more/follow:

Emily Stotts is a Staff Attorney with the Community Legal Center and a 2013 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Law.

Author: Holly Whitfield

I write about what’s going on with Memphis music, food, arts, events, sports, people, and culture. Memphians love Elvis and barbeque with a passion that must be seen to be believed, but there is so much more to this place.

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