Volunteer Programs

We welcome and have volunteer opportunities for attorneys, paralegals, law school interns, and other non-attorney positions.

The Volunteer Legal Services Program (VLSP) recruits and supports the work of volunteer attorneys and law students who provide pro bono legal assistance to low-income individuals and families in Central California. VLSP provides volunteers with legal training, mentoring, case management, free malpractice insurance, and other services to facilitate their delivery of free legal services. Learn more about how you can make a difference and advance justice in our communities – join today!

Volunteer attorneys can have bar dues waived, and free MCLE and malpractice insurance

Eligible attorneys licensed in California can apply to the Pro Bono Practice Program of the State Bar of California to maintain active license status for the delivery of volunteer legal services when they are not engaged in private (for profit) law practice. This is an excellent opportunity for retired attorneys and those on extended family leave to do pro bono work without having to pay bar dues! Free MCLE and malpractice insurance is provided. Contact us to learn more.

Why CCLS

For over 50 years, Central California Legal Services (CCLS) has been providing free civil legal services to low-income individuals in Fresno, Tulare, Kings, Merced, Mariposa and Tuolumne Counties—a region where intense poverty exists side by side with unparalleled wealth and abundance. We work to improve the wellbeing of the San Joaquin Valley’s most vulnerable residents through systems-changing advocacy, client education, and legal work that meets individual clients’ immediate needs. We also work closely with agencies and community organizations that share our commitment to support our clients in being their own agents of change.

The mission of the CCLS Pro Bono Program is to improve the quality of life of low-income residents of our six-county service area by ensuring ready access to a panel of skilled volunteer attorneys to resolve serious legal problems.

Join the Cause. Open Opportunities.

Learn How to Express Interest

Limited Scope – Habitability and Reasonable Accommodations Claims

Lawyers | Litigation | Children & Families | Housing

Help tenants prosecute claims under the implied warranty of habitability, and request reasonable accommodations for their disabilities. These cases are limited scope representation and usually require interviewing a client/tenant, preparing/sending a demand letter to the landlord, and advising the client regarding the landlord’s response. Some cases may become full service if the client and volunteer attorney agree. CCLS provides training and support, including letter templates. Law students may assist with attorney supervision.

Research for Affirmative/Impact Litigation

Policy, Advocacy, & Research | Children & Families | Housing

Volunteer attorneys, law students, and law graduates are needed to research legal issues and potential claims for discrimination arising from court practices. These issues may include language access and disability discrimination arising from court practices regarding remote and in-person hearings, as well as other issues. A good fit would be a volunteer with strong research skills. CCLS may provide access to necessary research tools and resources.

Mentor a CCLS Staff Attorney

Training & Education | Children & Families | Housing | Immigration

CCLS’ staff attorneys practice in many areas of substantive law including housing, health, family, immigration, public benefits, consumers, and seniors. Good mentorship is hard to find. Experienced volunteer attorneys are needed to mentor CCLS’ staff attorneys. Volunteer attorneys will assist with case review and case strategy, review and advise on pleadings and motions, and support the attorneys in discovery, negotiation, and trial preparation.

Liaison to Substantive Teams

Policy, Advocacy, & Research | Children & Families | Housing | Immigration

The CCLS Substantive Teams (Housing, Health, Family/Immigration/Benefits, and Consumers/Seniors) are looking for volunteer attorney liaisons to attend team meetings, advise on case strategy, and assist otherwise as needed. Substantive litigation experience is preferred. This opportunity can be performed remotely.

Direct Representation of Tenants Facing Eviction

Litigation | Children & Families | Housing

Your help is needed to provide full representation to tenants facing eviction. These cases may be outside CCLS’ guidelines or beyond CCLS’ capacity to serve. Volunteer attorneys will provide all necessary legal services to zealously advocate for the client, including drafting/filing/serving responsive pleadings, possible discovery, negotiation, and appearance at trial if necessary. Training and supervision is available. CCLS will screen cases in an effort to assign appropriate cases to volunteer attorneys.

Virtual Clinic – Eviction Defense

Fixed Time Commitment | Children & Families | Housing | Immigration

Help CCLS stem the tidal wave of evictions expected in the wake of COVID-19. Our virtual eviction defense clinic needs volunteer attorneys to meet 1-on-1 with tenants and provide information, advice & counsel, and brief services such as preparing an answer. The clinic will operate remotely via Zoom, so you can help from anywhere you have a reliable internet connection. Housing experience is not required. Advance training and in-clinic supervision will be provided.

Virtual Clinic – Criminal Record Expungement

Fixed Time Commitment | Formerly Incarcerated | Criminal Records & Defense

Volunteer attorneys are needed to help prepare pro per applications and petitions for criminal record expungement. Cases are assigned and processed on the volunteer attorneys’ own schedules, with case management support from law students and substantive law support from local expungement experts. Training is provided.

Project First Step – Domestic Violence Restraining Orders

Litigation | Children & Families | Domestic & Sexual Violence Survivors

Project First Step has been an institution at CCLS for over 15 years. Volunteer attorneys assist victims of domestic violence obtain restraining orders against their abusers. This is a limited scope service. Clients typically have an existing EPO or TRO. Volunteer attorneys will interview the client, prepare and file supplemental pleadings if necessary, and prepare for and attend the hearing on the request for DVRO. Training is provided.

Interested?

To express interest click the button

under the pro bono opportunity

and complete the form

on Paladin

How to Express Interest

To express interest in one of our pro bono opportunities at Central California Legal Services, you will need to click the button below the opportunity you are interested in. When you do, you will be taken to the opportunity on Paladin. When you arrive, you can express interest without needing to create your own account. If you already have an account, log in with your credentials. Either way you can submit your contact information by clicking the “Express Interest” button in a teal color on the right side of the screen. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask them here.

Checklist

  1. Decide which opportunity you are interested in.
  2. Click the “Express Interest” button below the opportunity above.
  3. Click the “Express Interest” button on the right side of the Paladin webpage.
  4. Submit form as guest or log into your existing account.

Spotlight: George Leavell, Esq.

Why Does an IP Attorney Volunteer at a Free Senior Legal Clinic?

 

It wasn’t because these seniors needed help with their patent applications! I enjoyed the opportunity to help a couple of local seniors address their estate plans at the recent CCLS Senior Legal Clinic in Merced. My two clients had “modest” estates. They had questions. They had concerns. They wanted to make sure their heirs understood what was needed and what they wanted. They were genuinely concerned about what will happen when they pass from this mortal realm. They wanted to make sure their passing caused the least amount of disruption to their family’s lives. But they did not know … what they did not know. They needed a little professional guidance and help.

Sure, their issues were relatively simple and not very challenging, professionally. But… It was FUN to help them! It was GRATIFYING to be able to allay some of their doubts and fears! The BEST part, was the relief and smiles on their faces that “someone” heard their concerns and was willing and able to help them! Giving them a reason to smile is one of the best parts of being an attorney. The knowledge and opportunity to help someone else is a great combination! It is good for your psyche. I challenge you to help make the world just a little better place!

George Leavell is a California intellectual property attorney in Dos Palos, California and the Treasurer of the Merced County Bar Association. Re-printed courtesy of the MCBA Newsletter, March 2017.

Join Us As A Volunteer

You can help as a volunteer attorney. Individual attorneys and law firms provide invaluable pro bono assistance to low-income individuals and families in Central California.

General Civil Representation and Project First Step

We seek licensed California attorneys to represent low-income clients in many types of civil legal matters. Some cases will require only limited scope representation, so you can balance your pro bono commitment with your private practice. Attorneys volunteering with Project First Step provide critical assistance to domestic violence victims and their families.

Mentoring & Co-counseling

CCLS connects seasoned volunteers with passionate new legal aid attorneys, and prospective volunteers with experienced CCLS staff – to create collaborative litigation and advocacy opportunities that achieve impactful results for client communities.

Law Clinics

Volunteers in our law clinics can easily plan their pro bono activities on scheduled dates, times and locations, where they can assist multiple low-income clients in a single clinic session. Volunteers provide legal information, advice, and brief services on these and other important legal topics:

  • Guardianship of Minors
  • Worker’s Rights
  • Veteran Legal Services
  • Senior Estate Planning & Elder Financial Abuse Prevention
  • Tenant Rights & Eviction Defense Assistance

How can you get involved with Central California Legal Services?

Let us count the ways…

  • Connect on Facebook

    We post news and information about our services.
    Central California Legal Services Facebook

  • Volunteer

    Call us and let us know you would like to volunteer or use the contact form at the end of this page.

Maximize Your Impact. Volunteer at a Clinic.

Guardianship Clinic (Fresno County)

In partnership with the Fresno County Superior Court, you can help pro per litigants obtain court guardianship of a minor child. The clinics are held on the 1st and 3rd Friday of each month at the B.F. Sisk Courthouse (in the Soley Conference Room at the Self-Help Center); volunteers guide petitioners through orientation, and the guardianship process.

Workers’ Rights Clinic (Fresno-Merced-Visalia)

On the 3rd Tuesday of each month except for December (no clinic), volunteer attorneys and law students provide legal information to low-wage workers on a variety of issues, including: unpaid wages, unemployment insurance, discrimination, wrongful termination, medical leave and more. Prior employment law experience is not required – CCLS provides free MCLE training and supervision. Volunteers can provide services to workers in the Merced and Visalia CCLS offices in person, or by videoconference.

Fresno Vet Center & Stand Down Legal Clinics

Senior Estate Planning Legal Clinic, 3rd Wednesday of each month: Legal advice and preparation of California statutory wills, powers of attorney, and advanced health care directives for senior veterans (excludes trusts and complex estate planning).

Criminal Records Expungement Clinic, 3rd Thursday of each month: Legal information and assistance to obtain clearance of eligible criminal records, including seeking relief under Prop. 47 and 64 (if applicable).

Senior Estate Planning & Elder Financial Abuse Prevention

Seniors and their families benefit from the peace of mind that comes from understanding the basics of estate and end-of-life planning. Volunteers draft simple wills, and powers of attorney and advance health care directives, so seniors can choose a trusted agent to help with their financial and medical decisions. Clinics are held on various dates and times that serve clients (age 60+) throughout the CCLS service area.

Fresno Court Tenant / Landlord Housing Project

In partnership with the Fresno County Superior Court, volunteer attorneys and law students provide self-represented low-income tenants (and eligible landlords) with legal information about the unlawful detainer (eviction) process and how to complete court documents. Clinic sessions are held in the Fresno County Superior Court (B.F. Sisk Courthouse) on most Tuesdays and Thursdays. All legal services, including those provided by volunteers, are supervised by CCLS staff attorneys. Housing law training and free MCLE credit are available.

Pro Bono Attorney Practice Program

Eligible attorneys licensed in California can apply to the Pro Bono Practice Program of the State Bar of California to maintain “active” license status for the delivery of volunteer legal services when they are not engaged in private (for profit) law practice. This is an excellent opportunity for retired attorneys and those of extended family leave to do pro bono work without having to pay bar dues! Free MCLE and malpractice insurance is provided. Contact us today to learn more.

VLSP Legal Clinic & Training

There are many volunteer opportunities for attorneys, law clerks, paralegals, and other professionals, some of which include free training and MCLE credit. Please visit our Events Page for upcoming clinics and training.

The Pro Bono Training Institute provides free online training for legal volunteers.

Q & A

 

Benefits of Volunteering

What insurance courage do I receive?

You can receive free liability and professional malpractice insurance coverage.

What about MCLE?

You can receive discounted or free access to MCLE accredited training seminars.

Will court reporting fees be reimbursed?

You can receive reimbursement for court reporting fees through the Transcript Reimbursement Fund.

What career advancement opportunities will there be?

You will have the opportunity to network with other professionals. For example, you will get access to mentor attorneys, poverty law experts, and other professional volunteers.

What impact will I have?

You will enjoy the satisfaction of helping low-income individuals and families enhance their lives.

What is my obligation?

You are awarded the opportunity to meet your ethical obligations as an attorney.

Interested in volunteering?

For more information or to get involved, contact Andrew Kucera with the form below.

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