Meet Paul Chavez, Senior Attorney and Pro Bono Director at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR) and the friendly staff attorney at GLIDE’s Drop-In Legal Clinic.
Paul is on hand and on-site at GLIDE two days a week during Clinic hours (currently Monday and Thursday, 2:00 – 5:00pm) to assist GLIDE clients on a walk-in basis with any issue they may have, free of charge. These issues can include anything from housing discrimination to assistance with criminal record expungement or an immigration case. Paul assists wherever he can, either personally representing clients or seeing that their matters are referred to another attorney or agency better suited to help. Sometimes a client comes in with a matter that does not have a legal solution. Paul is still there for them, listening to and affirming their concerns with an eye to helping them move on with their lives.
“For a lot of clients there’s not a legal remedy,” explains Paul, “but I’m able to sit down and help them work through whatever that problem or issue is, so we can get to a result together.”
As the latest addition to its array of wraparound services, GLIDE’s Drop-In Legal Clinic began operation on a pilot basis in September 2013, powered by the initiative and dedication of Charlie Crompton. Inspired by GLIDE’s work and values, Charlie left his position as a litigation partner at the prestigious law firm of Latham & Watkins to devote himself full-time to the development of a free walk-in legal clinic on-site at 330 Ellis Street that would extend GLIDE’s ethic of radical inclusion and unconditional love. In December 2014, Governor Jerry Brown appointed Charlie to a judgeship on the San Francisco County Superior Court. Before leaving, Charlie helped arrange the new partnership with LCCR, on whose board he had served for years.
In managing GLIDE’s Drop-In Legal Clinic, Paul and LCCR take up where Charlie Crompton left off. “We don’t limit it by issue area, so whatever the issue is we’ll try to give advice or a good referral. That’s based on the same model that Charlie had, which is to advise and [where particular expertise is lacking] refer people with a warm handoff to another nonprofit that actually works in that area.”
Of the several hundred clients already served by the Clinic, there are also those whose legal problem might be unusual and require a creative solution. “Sometimes there are problems that are just a kind of one-off legal issue that I know other nonprofits aren’t going to be able to quite cover,” says Paul, who gives as an example a client who had been contacted by a court in Texas with the news of an inheritance. “They wanted him to show up in person,” he explains. “He doesn’t have very stable housing, so getting to Texas was a big issue. But through some of our contacts here we were able to find counsel in Texas willing to go through that process for him pro bono. That was a big win. There was nobody else who would have been able to do that.”
This anecdote exemplifies the effectiveness and commitment of LCCR, a national social justice organization founded in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy in an effort to bring the nation’s lawyers into the African-American–led struggle for civil rights and racial equality then underway.
Paul calls the new partnership between LCCR and GLIDE “a great match,” noting the common origins for both organizations in a civil rights mission. “We share a similar history of civil rights advocacy from the early 1960s,” notes Paul. “That’s our history: to push forward civil rights and serve the marginalized and provide legal services to the most vulnerable among us.”