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Nevada City, California, November 17, 2016 – What? Lawyers willing to work for free? Community Legal celebrates its second year in business providing free legal service. As a way of sharing information about this service with the community, Community Legal will host a Day of Giving Happy Hour at Matteo’s Public on Tuesday, November 29 from 5-9pm. This event is a midway point in Community Legal’s 2016 crowd funding campaign running on Indiegogo’s new non-profit web platform, Generosity. For more details on the campaign, visit Community Legal’s website at www.communitylegal.net.
Community Legal provided its first legal service in 2014, with three volunteer attorneys staffing a monthly free legal clinic. In 2015, Community Legal began to provide legal services weekly at its Nevada City office across from the courthouse.
Community Legal also created a new way of delivering legal service at nonprofit locations, with volunteer attorneys doing much of the work. Providing free legal service, Community Legal’s 23 volunteer attorneys take the load off of the one staff attorney. This has allowed the organization to provide a range of legal services on a tiny budget. Because the organization must be in business for 2 years before it qualifies for state and federal funding for legal service, they have relied over the past year on contributions from members of the community as well as a few small grants from local organizations and local agency contracts.
They partner with FREED Center for Independent Living by providing a monthly legal clinic at FREED’s fully accessible location, and provide legal clinics on location at the San Juan Ridge Family Resource Center, and at other Family Resource Center locations by appointment. Community Legal also provides occasional legal clinics at Hospitality House and other non-profit locations.
“We are committed to providing legal service that is not only physically accessible, but that helps people to feel at ease with an otherwise intimidating legal system,” says managing attorney Erin Noel.
Acknowledging that attorneys are often part of what makes the legal system intimidating, Noel explains Community Legal’s approach: “We know we attorneys have a lot to learn in order to work well with diverse clients, including people with mental illness. To achieve that, we offer monthly classes on working with the diverse populations we serve.” Community Legal has partnered with the Nevada County Bar Association and the Nevada County National Alliance on Mental Illness to offer monthly continuing legal education credit at its Nevada City location related to serving low income people, people with disabilities, and older Americans.
Noel adds, “In a rural community, legal problems often stem from relationships and breakdowns in communication between people. When parties to a dispute can get on the same page and work together, no problem is insurmountable.” Community Legal provides legal help in areas including landlord/tenant law, family law, wills and trusts, obtaining public benefits, disability rights, elder law, and other topics.