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TCL > February 2001 Issue > Legal Night at the Center

February 2001       Vol. 30, No. 2       Page  37
Pro Bono Success Stories

Legal Night at the Center
by Elisabeth Arenales

The Colorado Center on Law and Policy ("Center") is a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of the poor, working poor, and other vulnerable populations. The Center also engages in public education, the objective analysis of state fiscal issues and their impact, and class action litigation. The Center focuses primarily on issues affecting poor and working poor families and individuals, with a major emphasis on the successful implementation of welfare reform and on ensuring that all Colorado citizens have access to affordable, quality health care. Another of the Center’s goals is to help people access systems and services that offer safety nets for those in need and to provide the support necessary to allow those people to move into a position of self-sufficiency.

The Center recruits pro bono attorneys to staff a monthly legal advice and referral program serving the low-income neighborhood near its office. The Center also serves as a legal resource to advocacy groups and pro bono lawyers involved in welfare reform and healthcare cases, as well as coordinates and assists pro bono attorneys in class action litigation when negotiation and advocacy fail.

The Center works in coordination with El Centro Bienestar San Jose, a community center; the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association; Colorado Women’s Bar Association; Colorado Asian/ Pacific American Bar Association; Catholic Charities; and Colorado Bar Association Young Lawyers Division. Volunteers also include a corps of students from the University of Denver College of Law, supervised by their volunteer program coordinator Suzanne Bruce, a United Way employee who came to the Center looking for a volunteer program and stayed.

Legal Night at the Center

One of the methods the Center uses to promote its goals is the "Legal Night at the Center." Legal Night at the Center is a walk-in legal advice and referral clinic held every third Tuesday of the month from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. at El Centro Bienestar San Jose (623 Fox St., Denver). Many clients who call or walk into the Center are referred to Legal Night for brief advice and referral on immigration, domestic relations, landlord-tenant, and employment law. The clinic serves a large Spanish-speaking population, as well as other members of the diverse neighborhood.

Between twenty and twenty-five people are served at Legal Night each month. Without the clinic, many would have no alternative assistance. Recently, a woman came into the clinic to get a second opinion on some advice she had received elsewhere. She had been told that she need not be present for a custody hearing in a California court. Had she not been able to speak to the pro bono attorneys at the Center, she might have lost custody of her children. The Center was able to find an attorney in California to represent the woman’s interests in court.

The clients are not the only people who benefit from Legal Night. The clinic has a faithful group of volunteer attorneys and law students who love the work and, as a result, have forged a solid camaraderie. They work together on the cases and talk with one another about their career experience. For the law students, it is a great welcoming into the legal community, as well as a good networking experience. The clinic appreciates new volunteers and welcomes them into the group.

To volunteer for Legal Night at the Center, contact Elisabeth Arenales at (303) 573-3719.

Please send us your pro bono success stories to share with our readers. Contact Jo Ann Viola Salazar, CBA Director of Public and Legal Services, at (303) 824-5310; (800) 332-6736; e-mail her at:

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