We are Connecticut's largest nonprofit law firm, dedicated to improving the lives of low-income people by providing access to justice.
We believe that Connecticut can be the first state with universal access to justice - a place where every person is treated fairly and has equal opportunities to thrive.
THE PROBLEM WE'RE SOLVING
The Constitution State believes in fairness and equal justice. But the most vulnerable members of our communities can't afford the legal help they need in life-changing situations.
Poor people charged with a crime have a right to a free public defender. But for most other kinds of cases, low-income people do not have a government-funded lawyer.
Without legal help, many vulnerable people don't know their rights or can't access the justice system to protect their basic needs - like safety, health, housing, employment, and education. The most recent study in Connecticut found that people below the poverty line face hundreds of thousands of serious legal problems each year - and that, too often, they don't know where to turn for help.
That's where CLS steps in to make a difference.
CLS uses a wide range of legal advocacy tools to make a difference for our clients and our communities:
- Legal Representation: We are lawyers for low-income clients in more than 5,000 civil legal cases every year - from defending against employment discrimination to obtaining benefits for people with disabilities to helping immigrant victims of crime get visas.
- Policy Advocacy: We advocate at the Connecticut legislature and in municipalities across the state for laws, policies, and practices that increase fairness in the justice system and strengthen the services and supports available to low-income people.
- Education and Training: Our experienced staff provide training, organize legal education seminars, and distribute legal information to help community members, service providers, and justice-system stakeholders understand the rights of vulnerable people.
- Impact Litigation: We have a long history of successful impact litigation - carefully-chosen court cases, some of which are extraordinarily complex, that can make lasting change in the law and improve the lives of many people at once.
We provide free legal help for low-income people. Usually, that means households making less than 125% of the federal poverty line. In 2017, 77% of our clients came from families that made less than 125% of the poverty line - that's $30,375 annually for a family of four.
We are the free legal services provider in 122 communities across Connecticut - every place that isn’t part of greater Hartford or greater New Haven. But we work beyond those boundaries, too: We operate statewide hotlines for elderly people and for consumer debt protection that extend to every community in the state. And we collaborate with our sister legal aid agencies to host a website that provided free legal information to more than 1.3 million visitors across Connecticut in 2017.