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American College of Trial Lawyers Grants $50,000 to CLS

Youth Justice Project

American College of Trial Lawyers Grants $50,000 to CLS

The American College of Trial Lawyers (ACTL) has awarded a $50,000 grant to the Youth Justice Project of Community Legal Services of Philadelphia (CLS).

CLS’s Youth Justice Project (YJP) seeks to transform the way legal services are provided to vulnerable youth ages 16-24 who face significant challenges, including high rates of unemployment and deep poverty, homelessness, and involvement in the child welfare and juvenile/criminal justice systems.

Through significant outreach and legal clinics in communities around Philadelphia, YJP aims to increase access to justice for vulnerable young people who may otherwise be completely disconnected from support, services, and legal assistance. CLS’s holistic model of representation identifies the multiple legal problems young people may face, giving youth a true opportunity to stabilize their lives and move past the legal obstacles that keep them in poverty.

Through this grant, YJP will ensure success for youth by providing expungements that lead to employment and education opportunities; connecting youth with public benefits that keep them safe and healthy; and helping young parents provide the best care for their families. YJP will simultaneously advocate for systemic changes that open the doors to opportunity, stability, and success for youth who would otherwise fall through the cracks.

“The Youth Justice Project is making the legal system accessible to impoverished youth, and the Foundation of the American College of Trial Lawyers is pleased to join this effort to ensure the delivery and quality of legal services to these youths,” said American College of Trial Lawyers U.S. Foundation President Charles H. Dick, Jr. “The work YJP is doing aligns with the Foundation’s mission to improve the administration of justice to those most vulnerable.”

 “Youth in Philadelphia need higher access to opportunity, including jobs and education,” said CLS Executive Director Debby Freedman. “This grant from the American College of Trial Lawyers will make opportunity a reality for so many vulnerable youth.”

Said YJP co-director Jamie Gullen, “We are honored to receive this award from the American College of Trial Lawyers. It will allow us to expand our reach, ensuring that even more of Philadelphia and The Commonwealth’s most vulnerable youth access the legal services they need to thrive, while also helping to spread our project’s model to communities around the country.”

CLS’s Youth Justice Project, which has been in operation since 2016, also receives funding from the PNC Foundation and Pennsylvania Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA).  

About the American College of Trial Lawyers: The American College of Trial Lawyers is composed of the best of the trial bar from the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico and is widely considered to be the premier professional trial organization in North America. Founded in 1950, the College is an invitation only fellowship. The College thoroughly investigates each nominee for admission and selects only those who have demonstrated the very highest standards of trial advocacy, ethical conduct, integrity, professionalism and collegiality. The College maintains and seeks to improve the standards of trial practice, professionalism, ethics, and the administration of justice through education and public statements on important legal issues relating to its mission. The College strongly supports the independence of the judiciary, trial by jury, respect for the rule of law, access to justice, and fair and just representation of all parties to legal proceedings.

About Community Legal Services of Philadelphia: 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. As the City’s oldest and largest legal services program, CLS represented approximately 9,500 clients 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. For more information, contact 215-981-3700 or visit

About CLS’s Youth Justice Project: Launched in January of 2016, the Youth Justice Project (YJP) provides holistic representation and engages in community-based outreach to ensure that young people transitioning to adulthood are able to connect to the services they need to gain stability and access opportunity. The YJP has a particular focus on working with youth who are most marginalized, including youth of color, youth who have been in the child welfare, juvenile, or criminal legal systems, youth experiencing homelessness, and LGTBQ+ youth. The YJP also works with partners to push for changes to laws, systems, and policies to ensure that young people are able to connect to the opportunities they need to thrive. For more information, contact or visit