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CONTACT: Anita Aboulafia 212-267-6646, ext. 225,





DECEMBER 12, 2007 – NEW YORK, NY – The New York County Lawyers’ Association (NYCLA) has announced the launch of two pro bono programs – Project Restore, which will provide pro bono counsel for ex-offenders who challenge denials of employment licenses, and Manhattan CLARO (Civil Legal Advice and Resource Office), an advice only program for pro se defendants with consumer debt matters in Civil Court cases.


In acknowledgement of the programs’ critical importance, NYCLA President Catherine A. Christian declared, “When I became President, I made a commitment to expand NYCLA’s pro bono program. These two innovative projects continue NYCLA’s leadership role in advocating for access to justice for all.”


The chair of NYCLA’s Pro Bono Committee, Lisa Cleary, added, “I am extremely pleased that NYCLA will further its mission of expanding access to justice by supporting these two very important programs. In doing so, NYCLA will continue to serve our under-represented populations and provide much needed pro bono legal services to ex-offenders seeking gainful employment and to those burdened by consumer debt issues.”


Project Restore

The absence of gainful employment is recidivism’s most apparent proximate cause. Currently, it is estimated that 89 percent of recidivists are unemployed at re-arrest. An employment license can restore an ex-offender to the labor market with viable credentials. Given that a persistent barrier to sustainable work is the discretionary denial of licenses based solely on prior convictions, Project Restore will provide counsel to those applicants who have been denied licenses as a result of adjudicated criminal history predating the employment license application. For many of these clients, a NYCLA volunteer will be their first advocate for something significantly positive.


Jobs requiring licenses include: barbers, cosmetologists, security guards, teachers, physician’s assistants, realty agents, pet groomers, telemarketers, nurses, plumbers, insurance adjusters and pawnbrokers. In addition to licenses, these jobs require registration or certification, and a background check by both the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


Organizations that will refer their clients to Project Restore are: the Community Service Society of New York, The Fortune Society, ICARE (Interfaith Coalition of Advocates for Reentry and Employment), the National H.I.R.E. Network (Helping Individuals with criminal records Reenter through Employment and the Women’s Prison Association).


Manhattan CLARO (Civil Legal Advice and Resource Office)

This project was created in partnership with Fordham Law School’s Lincoln Square Legal Services, Fordham Law School’s Feerick Center for Social Justice and Dispute Resolution, and City Bar’s Committee on the Civil Court. The partnership is an expansion of an existing program that launched two years ago in Kings County with Brooklyn Law School, City Bar and the Brooklyn Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyer Program.


Low- and moderate-income New Yorkers have a pressing need for legal assistance on a host of consumer law issues, particularly consumer debt. The Civil Court of New York needs volunteer lawyers to assist the ever-growing numbers of pro se litigants as consumer debt cases have overwhelmed the Civil Court. The docket has grown exponentially (accounting for the largest portion of Civil Court matters) and now comprises 53 percent of all cases. Civil Court consumer debt cases can be overwhelming for pro se litigants; for example, many litigants learn of the suit after their wages have already been garnished or their bank accounts frozen.


Training sessions for Project Restore and Manhattan CLARO will take place in early 2008. The programs will begin in February 2008.


NYCLA ( was founded in 1908 as the first major bar association in the country that admitted members without regard to race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual identity. Since its inception, it has pioneered some of the most far-reaching and tangible reforms in American jurisprudence and has continuously played an active role in legal developments and public policy.