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Chicago Women's Liberation Union: Legal Clinic
from Womankind April 1972

(Editors Note: The CWLU organized a Legal Clinic to help women deal with the sexism in the justice system. Most of the Legal Clinic's work involved family related problems.)

The CWLU Legal Clinic is in its fourth month of helping women with all kinds of legal problems. The Clinic workers — women lawyers, women law students, and other women interested in helping— have tried to relate to the women who come in an women first, not clients. This doesn’t mean women don’t get legal advice — it means we get it in a way we can understand and in the context of a human relationship, and for free.

Most of the cases have concerned women’s personal lives: divorce, child support, wife—beating, etc. There have also been some criminal cases and many creditor problems. The Legal Clinic is a legal advice operation. Cases are referred to lawyers rather than handled directly through the Clinic. So far all women who have needed lawyers have been referred to women lawyers throughout the city who take cases for reasonable rates and in some cases, for free.

An unexpectedly large number of women have come in complaining about lawyers they have already contacted (and often paid money to), who are doing nothing about their cases. The Legal Clinic staff is working out ways to deal with these situations, but to help prevent this oppressive situation from happening to more women, the Clinic has put out a few guidelines for women planning to contact lawyers in divorce cases:

  1. Insist on an understanding of what the case will cost. If the lawyer tells you it depends on whether its easy or complicated, get the range it might cost, and find out what makes it easy or complicated so you will know whether you’re being treated fairly later.
  2. Any tine you pay money, get a receipt and ask the lawyer to mark on the receipt what it’s for.
  3. Ask the lawyer for a copy of the divorce complaint and read it to be sure it says what you want it to say.
  4. If your lawyer has worked out a settlement agreement with your husband’s lawyer, ask for a copy and read it to be sure you’re getting what you want to get.

The Legal Clinic, located at 852 W. Belmont (just a block east of the Belmont El stop), is open to all women who need help of any kind with legal problems every Wednesday evening from 7—9pm.


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