You are reading

Court Square non-profit offers low-cost legal services

CUNY School of Law

Feb. 23, 2017 By Hannah Wulkan

A year-old experimental program based out of a local law school is looking to create more affordable legal services in an effort to bridge the “Justice Gap.”

The Court Square Law Project, working out of space within the CUNY Law School at 2 Court Square, aims to provide legal services to those who do not make enough to hire an attorney, but make too much to qualify for free services. On average, lawyers in New York charge upwards of $300 per hour for their services, but the CSLP tries to charge about a third of the market price, typically around $100 per hour.

The Project launched in early 2016, after a task force within the New York Bar Association determined that there were too many qualified law school graduates and too few jobs.

The task force pointed out that most private practice attorneys could not afford to charge less than about $300 per hour, which is to expensive for most to afford.  Meanwhile, Legal Aid and similar non-profit firms are free for those who earn very little.

This creates what is referred to as a “justice gap,” leaving many New Yorkers to represent themselves in court, and often losing out because they do not have the knowledge and skills to represent themselves well.

The start up costs were funded by donations from 19 major law firms throughout the city, and the Project was given space within CUNY Law School to set up its offices. The program was launched in collaboration with the New York Bar Association.

“Many New Yorkers make so little that they actually qualify for free services. But many more make a living that cuts them off from access to free legal services,” explained coordinating attorney Naree Sinthusek. “We were created to help those people, and nothing like us exists anywhere else in the country.”

In the last year, the Court Square Law Project has helped about 80 clients with cases ranging from divorce proceedings, civil issues, evictions, estate planning, and more, Sinthusek explained.

“We initially tried to say that we represent moderate income New Yorkers, but that means about 99 percent of people,” Sinthusek explained, pointing out that most people have some kind of debt or are supporting a family or simply can not afford to pay upwards of $300 per hour for simple legal help, even if they make a good salary.

Sinthusek explained that the goal of the project is to spread affordable legal services throughout the country over time.

The project has 11 fellows, all recent law school graduates, working for it at any given time. Each class of fellows is expected to stay on for one or two years, before moving on to another law practice.

Sinthusek said that she hopes to see former fellows setting up their own practices throughout the city, while maintaining the philosophy of keeping their services affordable. The Law Project hopes to foster this mission by helping the recent fellows obtain free or discounted software and resources to help them get started.

She added that she hopes to see former fellows come back and mentor future generations of fellows as well.

“This is all still very new, and is very much an experiment to see if one can charge less and still make a living,” Sinthusek said. “We are seeing what works and what does not and constantly adjusting.”

In addition to providing discounted services and fostering a new generation of lawyers, Sinthusek said that the CSLP aims to offer as much free information on its website as possible as well, in an effort to help those who might need advice.

The site already has links to various legal advice sites and journals, and Sinthusek said that the group is working to develop info graphics and checklists to help guide people through the legal process, such as a checklist for what to do if buying a house or having a child.

“We want everyone to go forward in life, and treat the legal profession as they would treat physical health,” Sinthusek said. “You go to the doctor for check ups, you go to the mechanic so your car doesn’t explode, and you go to a law firm to make sure you are legally protected.”

For more information on the Court Square Law Project visit http://www.courtsquarelaw.org.

email the author: [email protected]

One Comment

Click for Comments 

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Gunman who fired shots at the Ravenswood Houses in Long Island City remains at large: NYPD

Police from the 114th Precinct in Astoria and PSA 9 are continuing their search for a gunman who allegedly opened fire at the Ravenswood Houses in Long Island City last month.

The incident occurred during the early morning hours of Wednesday, Jan. 18, when officers responded to a 911 call and a ShotSpotter activation for multiple shots fired at 21-25 35 Ave. at the Ravenswood Houses NYCHA complex just after 2 a.m., according to authorities.

Popular places where you can watch the Super Bowl in Queens

Feb. 2, 2023 By Tammy Scileppi

Hey, football fans! Game time is fast approaching, and across the city and here in Queens, you can feel the excitement brewing as the two teams prepare to take the field on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 12. So, kick back and watch the big game, and don’t miss Rihanna’s exciting performance during halftime. 

Borough president hears from community members on budget needs throughout Queens

During a two-day public hearing on the mayor’s 2024 preliminary budget, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. listened to testimonies from 14 community board representatives, community stakeholders and members of the public on where the money should be spent in Queens. 

The public hearings were held both in-person and via Zoom on Monday, Jan. 30, and Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Queens Borough Hall. The testimonials will be used to develop the Queens Borough Board’s FY24 preliminary budget priorities in the coming weeks. 

‘He didn’t deserve to die’: Borough President Richards leads emotional candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards held a candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols outside Queens Borough Hall Monday, Jan. 30 after Nichols’ death at the hands of police officers in Memphis, Tenn., made national headlines for the brutality in which the officers beat him.

Almost immediately after news broke about Nichols’ death, the Memphis police officers who beat him to death were fired and charged with murder. The police department released the body cam footage of the fatal beating on Jan. 27, but many people, including some at the vigil, have refused to watch it due to its extremely graphic nature.

Long Island City teen sentenced in fatal shooting of ‘beloved’ school teacher at Queensbridge Houses in 2020: DA

A Long Island City man on Friday, Jan. 28, was sentenced to 19 years in prison for the 2020 fatal shooting of a public school social studies teacher who was out walking his dog when he was caught in the crossfire during a confrontation between gang rivals in broad daylight, just blocks from his home, according to Queens District Attorney’s office.

Ike Ford, 19, of 12th Street, in Long Island City, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the first degree before Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Holder. The teacher, George Rosa, 53, was shot in his abdomen by a stray bullet fired by Ford, who was just 17 years old at the time of the shooting but was sentenced as an adult given the severity of the crime, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.