Founders of Community Legal Services saw pressing need and jumped right in


– Photo courtesy of Thomas M. Cooley Law School

Last year some compassionate, concerned citizens, mostly attorneys, observed that — despite the heroic efforts of existing agencies — the need for no-cost legal services was increasing. Tough economic times had long been having an effect, and as the law continues to increase in complexity, legal problems which might have started during the toughest of times stubbornly continue to need addressing even as economics improve. On the flip side, resources were shrinking.

The group decided that they would not just sit back and wait for someone else to do something. They undertook the work necessary to start a non-profit, Community Legal Services (CLS), which would supplement existing legal assistance programs. Many of those programs have limitations on what they can help clients do, and CLS intends to supplement existing legal assistance programs, offering direct legal representation to those who would not otherwise be able to afford it. The nature and structure of the new non-profit will allow it flexibility in providing assistance.

After much preparation, CLS was introduced to the legal community in October 2012, and now the public will have an opportunity to find out about what the group offers at an open house to be held Jan. 31, 5:30 p.m., at the Grand Rapids campus of Thomas M. Cooley Law School. Cooley’s pro bono programs will assist with legal services, as will several of the current board members, including volunteer Executive Director Dustie DeVille.

CLS is proud to introduce its services to the area covered, which includes Allegan, Ionia, Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon and Ottawa counties.  The public is invited to join local politicians, judges, attorneys and community leaders at the event, which will offer light refreshments as well as a silent auction.

Attendance is free, but monetary donations of whatever size will be accepted at the reception. CLS is also looking for volunteers to contribute in a variety of capacities, but especially as pro bono attorneys, and there will be an opportunity at the open house to sign up.

Speakers for the brief program (beginning at 6:15 p.m.) will include three recipients of the State Bar’s highest pro bono award: the Associate Dean of Cooley Law School’s Grand Rapids Campus, Nelson P. Miller; attorney Steven L.  Williams of Kenneth T Saukas PC; and 17th Circuit Court Judge Daniel V. Zemaitis. Kelly McGrail of the West Michigan Tourist Association will emcee.

Those who are unable to attend but who would like to make a donation should contact Dustie DeVille at or 616-929-5716. RSVPs to the Jan. 31 event are welcome
Event underwriters already signed on include Blakeslee & Son, Inc., Dr. James Farmer III, D.C., Exams Express, Inc., and Vibrant Vines.



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