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CLS' 50th Anniversary

CLS' 50th Anniversary

2016 marks Community Legal Services' (CLS) 50th anniversary. We are excited to celebrate 50 years of excellence in legal aid, and 50 years of strengthening our community. We are grateful that we have reached this exciting milestone. Thank you to our friends and supporters, who have worked alongside us to open the doors to justice for so many people.

Our History

"The CLS lawyers are crusaders, not Supermen. They do not step into phone booths and come out dressed to fight injustice. They work within the system which is the beauty and irony of the situation."           - Philadelphia Magazine, 1970

"As early as 1969, CLS attorneys have been arguing and winning cases before the  U.S. Supreme Court. CLS has won so many cases in state and federal courts that it was found to be 'the most successful of all legal services programs.'" - Philadelphia Lawyer, 2001




Chartered in 1966, CLS has become widely recognized as one of the largest, most experienced, and most respected legal services programs in the nation.

In 1964, a young Philadelphia lawyer named William R. Klaus participated in a Philadelphia Bar Association study on the needs of the poor. For the first time, he was exposed to Philadelphia neighborhoods in need. "Gathering the information for the report for the Bar was an eye-opener, being led through North Philadelphia, South Philadelphia and West Philadelphia . . . and seeing life as it really was," Mr. Klaus recounted. "I hardly knew about life in those communities."

Advocacy for the poor became Klaus’ obsession, the focus of his passion and enthusiasm. At that time, he was in private practice, but dedicated every spare moment to law in the public interest. His work on the Bar Association report, Law and the War on Poverty in Philadelphia, paved the way for the birth of Community Legal Services (CLS) and the legal services movement. Learn more.

Read the Spring 2016 issue of The Philadelphia Lawyer to learn more about our past, present, and future.


Our Impact

Through direct legal representation, systemic advocacy, and community education, Community Legal Services (CLS) helps thousands of people each year. Learn more about our work and our impact on the community.

Recent Victories and Other News

Check out our news and events page to read about the exciting things we have been doing.