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About CLS

About CLS

Founded in 1966 by the Philadelphia Bar Association, Community Legal Services (CLS) has provided free civil legal assistance to more than one million low-income Philadelphians. Approximately 10,000 clients were represented by CLS in the past year. CLS assists clients when they face the threat of losing their homes, incomes, health care, and even their families. CLS attorneys and other staff provide a full range of legal services, from individual representation to administrative advocacy to class action litigation, as well as community education and social work. CLS is nationally recognized as a model legal services program.

CLS has eight legal units specializing in particular areas of civil poverty law.


CLS' Legal Units

Aging and Disabilities Unit

Aging and Disabilities Unit specializes in representing seniors and people with disabilities in a wide range of public benefits and consumer matters, including challenges to denials of Medicaid, Medicare, or disability benefits, decisions by managed care organizations to deny care, and violations of residents’ rights and quality-of-care requirements in nursing homes and personal care homes.

Employment Unit

Employment Unit represents clients with employment-related problems, including tackling barriers to employment, seeking unpaid wages, and preserving jobs. The unit advocates at the national and state levels on low-income workers’ rights issues such as preventing overbroad disqualifications of workers with criminal records.

Energy Unit

Energy Unit works to keep the utilities on for families by protecting the rights of low-income utility customers on service and payment issues, representing group clients on utility rate change cases and serving as the Public Advocate in representing all Philadelphia Gas Works residential customers.

Family Advocacy Unit

Family Advocacy Unit (FAU) represents individual parents, involved with the Department of Human Services (DHS), who are seeking to keep their children at home or to have them returned from foster care to a safe home. The FAU provides assistance and trainings to community groups, organizations and lawyers. The FAU also advocates on the national, state and local level for improvements in child welfare practices, services to families, and the dependency court system.

Homeownership and Consumer Law Unit

Homeownership and Consumer Rights Unit represents homeowners in disputes, residential mortgage foreclosures, fraudulent consumer practices, and issues with banking or check-cashing agencies. The unit uses advocacy and litigation to address the predatory lending crisis, abusive mortgage practices, and other banking issues affecting low-income families.

Housing Unit

Housing Unit represents private, public, and subsidized housing tenants in matters involving eviction, illegal lockouts, and substandard housing. The unit also uses systems advocacy and litigation to address issues ranging from lead paint elimination, to federal housing policy changes, to tenant eviction laws.

Language Access Project

Language Access Project works to ensure CLS services are available to Philadelphia communities with limited ability to speak, read, write, or understand English. The unit addresses legal issues specific to this population and collaborates with other units to represent individuals and families in challenging language barriers to benefits, services, and access to justice.

Public Benefits Unit

Public Benefits Unit represents clients seeking or facing termination of public benefits such as cash assistance, SSI disability, food stamps, or health insurance. The unit provides education and outreach services and advocates for improvements to the programs that provide these benefits at the federal, state and local levels.

SSI Unit

SSI Unit represents individuals in administrative hearings and federal court who have been denied SSI, a core Social Security benefit that provides monetary support to individuals with serious disabilities, including children. The unit also advocates at the national and state levels for fair, sustainable Social Security policies.

The Youth Justice Project specializes in holistic, age-appropriate, legal representation for low-income youth ages 16-24. In collaboration with youth-serving partners, the Youth Justice Project provides community-based legal training and representation, and advocates for systemic change at the local, state, and national levels to increase access to stability and opportunity for young people.