Connecticut Legal Services (CLS) is a not for profit law firm dedicated to improving the lives of low-income people by providing access to justice.
CLS is a law firm, a social services agency, and a community resource that solves urgent problems affecting low-income people. We are the largest legal aid agency in Connecticut. CLS’ service area includes 58% of Connecticut’s poverty population living in 122 communities—every place that isn’t part of greater Hartford or New Haven. CLS also collaborates with New Haven Legal Assistance Association and Greater Hartford Legal Aid to provide seamless services to every community throughout Connecticut.
We do not handle criminal cases—if poor people are charged with a crime, they generally are entitled to a free public defender (provided by the government). But for most other kinds of cases, low-income people do not have a government-funded lawyer, and they usually cannot afford to pay for a private attorney. Most often, poor people only have access to a lawyer if they can get help from a legal aid lawyer.
Our 47 lawyers, with the help of paralegals, legal assistants, and volunteers work on about 5,500 cases per year (we carry about 2,000 ongoing cases into every year, and open another 3,500 during the year). Many more people need help than we can serve. We focus on cases for people who are not able to represent themselves adequately, and where the legal issue has merit—cases in which our lawyers can have a significant impact. We also provide legal counseling in a very high volume of cases, and collaborate with other agencies to maintain legal education materials that are accessed (on paper and on the web) approximately 500,000 times a year. Read stories from the people we’ve helped.
CLS is a full-service law firm for low-income people where we provide comprehensive services. The most recent Legal Needs Study found that low-income households in Connecticut have 3.8 civil legal problems each year. As a result, although people come to us focused on one crisis situation, our staff often discover that we also can help clients resolve additional problems before they too become crises.
For a summary of the cases CLS handles, view our distribution of cases page
The largest grants supporting CLS’ operations are funded by
- IOLTA (Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts)
- A dedicated funding line in the state budget
- A surcharge on state court filing fees collected by the Judicial Branch. All of these grants are made and administered by the Connecticut Bar Foundation. CLS also has significant funding from federal grants, state agencies, municipalities, United Ways, foundations, and law firm, corporate, and individual gifts. Please consider making a donation to CLS
CLS has an annual budget of approximately $11 million, the vast majority of which pays for our 71 employees (we have very low overhead). While we offer our staff a supportive benefits package, we remain significantly below our attorney salary goal of comparability with the state Public Defenders. Read the latest annual report
CLS was formed in 1977 through the merger of six regional legal services providers. We have six full-service offices: Bridgeport, New Britain, New London, Stamford, Waterbury, and Willimantic. CLS also has four satellite offices: Meriden, Middletown (also the administrative office), South Norwalk, and Vernon.
CLS’ corporate structure is a non-membership, non-stock, not for profit corporation exempt from federal and state income taxes. We have a volunteer board of directors including lawyers, people with social services experience, client representatives and others; and a volunteer advisory council that consults with and assists CLS in our funding efforts.