Law students offer free legal help to low-income clients - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Law students offer free legal help to low-income clients

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In this economy, many families can't afford to hire an attorney to deal with things like housing issues, divorce, or foreclosure. But more lower income families are getting legal help for free. Students at local law schools are stepping up.

Andrew Lucchetti is only a 2nd year law student at the University of Richmond, but he's already getting court experience helping families who can't afford an attorney.

Said Lucchetti, "They just don't feel so alone when they go to court. They're more confident in the situation. It gives them hope."

Lucchetti volunteers for a University of Richmond Law School clinic, where they take on real family law cases supervised by attorney-professor Dale Margolin.

Margolin explains how the clinic helps under-served clients. "If they had cases in court, they would appear by themselves, they would not have a lawyer, and they would not get what they're looking for."

The UR Family Law clinic is working 25 cases, ranging from divorce, to custody, to domestic violence. Clients must live in Richmond and be unable to afford an attorney. Said Margolin, "It's discretionary and we generally don't turn people away. Usually if people come to us, they can't afford to pay for a lawyer."

A leaning tree is in Rosa Key's neighbor's back yard in Charlottesville, but threatening to fall on her grandson's bedroom. She says she couldn't get the neighbor to remove it, so she turned to the University of Virginia Law School clinic.

Said Key, "It worries me a lot. He can't sleep in his bedroom because he's scared the tree will fall on the house at any time."

UVA law student Richard Connaroe is working on Key's case for free.

Connaroe gets real-life legal and courtroom experience. Families who qualify can get help with housing and consumer matters, fighting foreclosures, and a wide variety of other legal issues. A client's income must be not more than 125% of the poverty line to qualify for aid from the UVA clinic.

Said Connaroe, "What we do is we try to resolve their problem. Preferably, we try to do it out of court, but a good amount of time we go to court."

The College of William and Mary law school's website offers information on it's clinics, which deal with taxes, domestic violence, special education, veterans benefits, and the Innocence Project, which investigates inmate claims of innocence.

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