Serving The Most Vulnerable New Yorkers In All Five Boroughs
The Legal Aid Society’s Civil Practice offers essential civil legal services to families and individuals with nowhere else to turn. Our efforts ensure that hardworking New Yorkers can earn a living wage, have a safe place to sleep, and can receive vital health benefits for themselves and their families.
Every year, our Civil Practice takes on over 47,500 individual legal matters benefiting more than 126,000 New Yorkers. Every day, our staff fights unlawful deportations, protects tenants from harassment, and secures essential services for disabled students.
The Civil Practice operates out of a network of neighborhood and courthouse-based offices in all five boroughs. Our specialized units and projects offer clients legal help in a wide variety of matters, including:
Community Development Project – Provides legal representation, education, advocacy, and other support to foster grassroots community development in New York City. We strengthen marginalized communities and resist the displacement of hardworking residents by promoting entrepreneurship by marginalized individuals, representing nonprofit organizations that provide essential services, and supporting tenant groups that work to develop and preserve affordable housing.
Consumer Law Project – Provides representation, legal assistance, legal advocacy, and education to clients who are vulnerable to the abusive practices of unscrupulous lenders and creditors, handling issues such as access to financial services, debt collection, bank liens, debt settlement company abuses, credit fraud, identity theft, wage garnishment, medical debt, bank account freezing, and student loans and combating economic abuse for domestic violence survivors.
Education Law Project – Provides essential legal advocacy to families of children with disabilities in need of special education support and services. The Project assists families with navigating the complex New York City special education system through parent training, consultation, and direct representation at due process hearings. The Project also assists non-disabled children with issues relating to enrollment and school discipline and suspension issues.
Elder Law Practice – Offers comprehensive legal assistance to senior citizens through a telephone intake system and by Housing Court referrals. The Practice provides an interdisciplinary legal-social work framework for securing lasting solutions to the often complex legal scenarios facing low-income seniors.
Employment Law Unit – Provides legal services to low-wage and unemployed workers. Most cases involve unemployment insurance, wage and hour violations, and workplace discrimination, including discrimination based on past involvement with the criminal justice system and labor trafficking.
Family/Domestic Violence Practice – Provides legal services to individuals, families, and survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking throughout the City. This Practice handles family court matters as well as divorces and immigration cases. We provide legal representation in Family Court, Supreme Court, and Immigration Tribunals, crisis intervention, safety planning, and short- and long-term counseling. These services help clients achieve stability, autonomy, and economic self-sufficiency in a safe environment. We play a leadership role in advocating for family law-related legislation.
Foreclosure Prevention Project – Serves homeowners facing the loss of their homes as well as renters in buildings subject to foreclosure.
Government Benefits and Disability Advocacy Project – Helps the neediest New Yorkers obtain and maintain the government benefits to which they are entitled, such as public assistance and Medicaid, and, together with our Law Reform and Health Law units, addresses income inequality through advocacy and class action litigation, and ensures that the agencies administering public benefits programs do so with the fairness and due process required by law. The Disability Advocacy Project provides legal services to children and adults who experience problems with the Social Security Administration.
Health Law Unit – Operates a Statewide helpline and assists low-income individuals and community advocates with a range of legal issues, including problems with: eligibility for public health insurance programs; denials or reductions of health care benefits and services; access to health care services for individuals who are uninsured; federal health care reform; medical debt issues; and disability rights and discrimination.
HIV/AIDS Representation Project (H/ARP) – Serves persons living with HIV and AIDS in the areas of government benefits, family law, consumer law, housing, estate planning, discrimination, and other general civil matters. The Project maintains linkages with and can offer referrals to health services, HIV/AIDS education, counseling, substance abuse, and comprehensive case management. H/ARP conducts regular intake and outreach at designated hospital clinics as well as at our Brooklyn and Harlem offices.
Homeless Rights Project – Works continually to establish and maintain the right to shelter, assistance, and services for homeless families and individuals in New York City. The Homeless Rights Project protects and enforces the legal rights of homeless families and individuals in New York City. The Project does this through a combination of: Litigation on behalf of groups of clients, direct client representation, operation of a daily, toll-free hotline, and regular outreach in emergency housing facilities. The Project also serves as counsel to the Coalition for the Homeless.
Housing Law Practice – Offers critical legal services to prevent homelessness among the city’s most vulnerable families and individuals, including representing clients facing eviction in nonpayment and holdover proceedings in housing court. Through this work, we keep hardworking New Yorkers in affordable housing, get unsafe housing violations corrected, obtain and preserve rent subsidies for clients, fight illegal rent overcharges, and prevent evictions. These efforts prevent homelessness and displacement and save the city and State millions of dollars each year in averted shelter costs alone.
Immigration Law Unit – Promotes family reunification and family stability through comprehensive citywide immigration legal services. Immigration Law Unit staff represent low-income immigrant adults and youth in obtaining lawful status, applying for citizenship and defending against deportation/removal before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and in immigration court and federal court.
Law Reform Unit – Builds upon the needs of individual clients to effect systemic changes through litigation and advocacy that benefit large numbers of clients with similar legal problems. Through class action litigation and other affirmative litigation, we seek to enforce the rights of many similarly situated persons or to establish new legal rights. The unit’s active affirmative law reform litigation docket includes cases that benefit virtually the entire population of low-income New Yorkers.
Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic – Provides legal representation and advice to low-income taxpayers in disputes with the IRS and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. The Clinic operates a helpline in English, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese.
The Reentry Project – Provides advice and legal representation for clients who are reentering the community. The Reentry Project focuses primarily on housing and benefits issues that arise during incarceration. Assistance includes providing eviction prevention services while clients are incarcerated; assisting in cases commenced while they are incarcerated that could lead to eviction immediately upon their release; and ensuring that they can return to their apartments upon release with minimum disruption, in order to enable them to reintegrate into the community and restart their lives.
Single Stop Program – Provides intake at community-based organizations and CUNY locations throughout New York City. The Single Stop Program, funded by the Robin Hood Foundation, is stationed at 16 sites that are specifically chosen to reach out to families within their own neighborhoods and at locations where they already receive other social or child care services.