In 2011, over 134,000 cases were filed to collect consumer debt in New York City Civil Courts. The plaintiffs, mostly credit card companies and debt buyers, were represented by lawyers in nearly 100% of those cases. Less than 3% of the consumer defendants had an attorney, and they often didn't understand that they had valid defenses to raise. The result of such cases is not difficult to imagine.

The Civil Legal Advice and Resource Offices (CLARO) responds to this crisis by providing limited legal advice to low-income New Yorkers being sued by debt collectors. Rather than representing these individuals in court, the CLARO Programs' volunteer lawyers and consumer law experts meet with visitors and advise them on how best to represent themselves in their court cases. Specifically, the CLARO Programs help visitors by explaining the court process, reviewing their case files, preparing court papers and giving advice on other consumer debt issues. This knowledge makes an enormous difference in case outcomes, as you'll see in the video below.

CLARO Programs operate through the auspices of the New York City Civil Court, serving consumers in all 5 boroughs. Through partnerships with the Court, bar associations, academic institutions, and legal services organizations, CLARO tries to increase access justice for unrepresented litigants. But they depend on volunteer lawyers and law students to staff them. CLARO clinics need your help.

To learn more about CLARO, consumer debt law, and how you can make a difference, visit the NYC Consumer Debt Defense Project today. An exciting joint project of Pro Bono Net and MFY Legal Services, the NYC Consumer Debt Defense Project is an online community for consumer debt experts and pro bono volunteers alike. We hope to see you there soon!