CWLU's Legal Clinic was organized in 1971, when there were few women
lawyers and the entire judicial system was permeated by the kind of
blatantly open gender discrimination that is much less common today.
Staffed by women lawyers and law students, the Clinic was open one night
a week in the evening.
the cases that the Legal Clinic handled involved divorce, child support
and domestic violence. The Clinic also dealt with criminal and creditor
facing divorce, the Legal Clinic did more than just explain the divorce
laws. The Clinic helped women see that the non-legal issues were just
as important: learning how to do tasks formerly handed by their husbands,
going back to work while dealing with childcare and coping with friends
who still saw the woman as part of a "couple".
also provided help for women who wanted to use the courts to enforce
the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Getting
the government to enforce these laws is frustrating and time consuming
and can lead to retaliation by discriminatory employers. The Legal
Clinic made sure that women understood the obstacles they would have
to overcome to win.
number of women came to the Clinic to complain about lawyers whom
they had hired and paid, but who were doing nothing to advance their
cases. The Clinic attempted to help, but made it clear that prevention
was the best strategy. They counseled women to get financial details
from their attorneys clearly laid out from the beginning, to insist
on proper payment receipts and to have access to all divorce complaints
and settlement papers.
Clinic also referred people to trusted women lawyers who worked for
reasonable rates or even for free.