Community Legal Services is one of the nation’s most successful civil legal services programs, focusing on individual representation and systemic and law reform advocacy. CLS staff serves as catalysts to change for our clients in low-income communities throughout Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and often nationally. A career or internship with CLS is an exciting, enriching and challenging experience where you will be able to insure low-income individuals and families obtain equal access to justice and make systemic change.
CLS attorneys are nationally recognized experts in their areas of specialty. Our attorneys are regularly quoted in and contribute to local and national media such as the Philadelphia Inquirer, the New York Times, National Public Radio, and major network and cable news broadcasts. Additionally, CLS attorneys have testified before the U.S. Congress and are regularly consulted on legislation at the local, state and federal level.
CLS Social Workers play a critical role in the delivery of legal services at Community Legal Services, whether it is building relationships with clients or building coalitions across agencies. Working with seniors, homeowners, parents and tenants, CLS Social Workers provide significant legal assistance, advocacy, planning, and counseling. They develop working relationships with clients and their families and connect them to critical resources to help address current legal issues and prevent future legal problems. In addition, CLS Social Workers can be seen organizing cross system collaborations, providing educational workshops, developing new resources, and advocating for policy change.
What types of jobs are available with CLS:
CLS offers a variety of employment opportunities for attorneys, social workers, interns & externs (summer & school-year), paralegals, and administrative and development staff. CLS regularly hosts attorney fellowships and annually seeks candidates interested in CLS sponsorship and support for submission of application for fellowship with a variety of fellowship funding organizations.
CLS also provides diverse field placement opportunities for students of social work in the areas of general practice, family advocacy, and housing. Social work interns gain valuable insight into the intricacies of social work practice in the legal setting, including both direct service and systems advocacy. Field placement activities may include individualized case management, home visits, client advocacy, coalition meetings, and court hearings. In addition, CLS social workers provide interns with one-on-one supervision, educational opportunities, and the ability to network with experts in the field.
What are the types of issues and area of focus does CLS work on?
As a large, urban program in the nation’s 5th largest city, CLS offers substantial opportunities for staff to accept the exciting challenge of delivering high quality legal services to a diverse client population. Our advocacy includes direct representation as well as policy advocacy, community education, and impact litigation. CLS provides excellent training and professional growth for all staff because of the richness of the advocacy that is provided to our clients.
Annually CLS serves more than 11,500 eligible clients, providing assistance on diverse and overlapping civil legal problems which include:
- social security/SSI
- consumer protection
- domestic violence
- public assistance
- child welfare
- employment problems
- public utility access and rates
- medical assistance
- veteran’s benefits
- civil rights
- food assistance (SNAP/Food Stamps)
- rights of limited English proficient individuals
CLS has closed its application process for sponsorship for 2019 Independence Foundation, Skadden Foundation and Equal Justice Works Fellowships.
If you are interested in being considered for a law school funded fellowship or other fellowship program, please send an email to the co-chairs of the Attorney Hiring Committee, below. You should include a resume, a description of the fellowship program and any sensitive time deadlines CLS should know about in order to fully consider your request for sponsorship.
Community Legal Services, Inc. (CLS) sponsors law students and current judicial clerks for fellowships funded by the Independence Foundation, the Skadden Fellowship Foundation, Equal Justice Works, the Open Society Foundations, the Stoneleigh Foundation, the Borchard Fellowship in Law & Aging, and other fellowship programs (including fellowships offered directly by law schools). Fellows work closely with our experienced staff attorneys and are directly supervised by a more senior attorney. Fellows carry their own caseload and gain valuable experience in providing a wide range of services, from brief advice and counsel to representation at administrative hearings, judicial proceedings, and appeals. Fellows are also deeply involved in our policy and systemic advocacy work. Past fellows have provided crucial advocacy for our clients, contributed greatly to CLS’ development as a legal services organization, and many have become long-term members of our staff.
We encourage applications from all interested persons, especially those with diverse backgrounds and experiences based on age, race, ethnicity, cultural identity, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression, sexual identity, disabilities, socioeconomics, and proficiency in languages other than English.
Applying to become a Fellow:
CLS invites law students beginning their third year, recent law school graduates, and those with judicial clerkships to apply for sponsorship for a fellowship.
Interested applicants must submit the following:
- Cover letter describing your interest and experience in public interest and poverty law and any ideas you may have for a fellowship proposal. Please note that it is not necessary to have a specific proposal at the application stage.We welcome information about how your background and/or experiences might contribute to the diversity, vitality, and perspective of our staff and legal services practice.
- Two brief legal writing samples
- Law school transcript
- Contact information for three (3) references
We encourage interested applicants to consult with us if they have an idea for a fellowship proposal.
CLS interviews fellowship applicants to evaluate if your interests and background are a match for our program’s needs. If you are selected, CLS will work very closely with you to design the final fellowship proposal to match your interests with the needs of our units and with the requirements of the funder.
CLS does not provide fellowship funding. We will work with you to secure funding from another source, such as a foundation or your law school’s own programs.
Selection criteria that will be considered in evaluating applicants for sponsorship include:
- demonstrated passion for, interest in and commitment to public interest and poverty law;
- a demonstrated ability to providing the highest quality legal services to individual clients;
- excellent legal analysis and research, writing and oral advocacy skills;
- an interest in policy and advocacy work;
- strong networking, relationship building and communications skills;
- sound professional and legal judgment;
- a high level of commitment to racial justice and serving low-income communities and clients
Resources for those interested in applying for fellowships include:
Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising at Harvard Law School
Yale Law School: Public Interest Careers Guide and Public Interest Fellowships Guide
Boston College Law School Public Interest Fellowships
Summer 2020 Law Student Internship
Important Note: CLS intends to resume law student hiring in late January 2020. CLS will not accept 1L applications until January 15, 2020. No interviews will be set up until after that time. If you have any questions about the timing of your application, please contact Caroline Buck or Lydia Gottesfeld.
Community Legal Services of Philadelphia offers a summer internship program for approximately 20 students that have completed their first or second year of law school.
CLS offers a rich and exciting summer internship experience. Our law students receive exceptional training and the opportunity to work with some of the most talented legal minds in civil legal services. Students are placed in a specific CLS unit, and also have the opportunity to learn through special programming throughout the summer about the other areas of CLS’s work. All CLS interns will have the opportunity to work directly with clients, engage with the communities we serve, and contribute to systemic advocacy efforts to advance economic and racial equity.
At CLS, we are actively engaged in dialogue regarding how legal services organizations can contribute to and further racial justice for low-income communities. CLS has a Diversity and Inclusion Committee that structures this conversation as CLS continues to find ways to enhance its legal practice model.
CLS is also committed to ensuring our staff, including our law student interns, reflect the clients and communities we serve. We strongly encourage law students from diverse backgrounds to apply for our internship. In your cover letter, we invite you to tell us how your unique background and/or experiences can contribute to the diversity, vitality, and cultural perspective of our legal practice, staff, and clients.
CLS is invested in achieving a diverse staff that is reflective of the clients and communities we serve. The Law Student Internship experience is a critical career stepping stone at CLS, as many of our law student interns eventually are selected as Attorney Fellows. CLS has established a scholarship fund called the Senator Roxanne Jones Summer Law Student Fellowship for law students of color with financial need to enable future leaders in public interest law to spend their summer interning at CLS. Scholarships are available on a competitive basis to eligible law student who accept an offer to intern with CLS.
Internships at CLS are otherwise unpaid. Students whose socio-economic circumstances are such that an unpaid internship would be an exceptional hardship are encouraged to disclose this in their cover letter or reach out to one of the co-chairs of the law student hiring committee. CLS will work with our students to find sources of funding and obtain housing for the summer in Philadelphia if needed.
Students who are interested in later applying for post-graduate legal fellowships with CLS should apply to our summer program. In recent years, CLS has been host to attorney fellows sponsored by Skadden, Independence, Equal Justice Works, and other fellowship funders. The experience gained during the summer and contacts made during an internship at CLS can be invaluable in the fellowship application process.
To apply for a summer internship, please submit the following https://clsphila.org/careers/ :
- Cover letter addressing interest and experience in public interest and poverty law/racial justice advocacy
- Law school transcript
- List of three (3) references
Second-year law students are welcome to apply for a 2020 summer internship on a rolling basis but currently CLS is not actively considering additional 2L candidates, until after January 15, 2020. CLS also will not review any 2020 summer internship applications submitted by first-year law students until after January 15, 2020. We ask that first-year students refrain from submitting applications through our website until after January 15, 2020.