Editor’s Note: In 2016, The Center for Family Justice launched The Justice Legal Center, Connecticut’s first legal incubator. The incubator–part of a growing national trend- welcomed five attorneys interested in launching solo legal practices committed to social justice and supporting victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence. As the JLC prepares to welcome its second class of attorneys, we asked Attorney Clarissa Matthews Lee, part of the first JLC’s first class, to tell us about her experiences.
CFJ: How did your experiences as a JLC attorney help you support victims of domestic or sexual violence?
Clarrisa Matthews Lee: The Justice Legal Center offers a holistic approach to handling the complex concerns and issues that come with assisting victims of domestic and sexual violence. The collective resources offered to the victims through the Center for Family Justice, along with the training and education that the Justice Legal Center has provided to myself and the other on-site attorneys, has allowed me to be more effective as their legal counsel.
CFJ: What did working with CFJ’s clients teach you about the challenges they face as they attempt to navigate the judicial system?
CML: Every family is unique, therefore a listening ear and a pen to take notes are essential! Many of the (clients’) concerns are similar, but the effects on the families are often different. Most of the families we service are unaware of their rights and their lack of knowledge places them at a disadvantage. The court system is congested with families that don’t have a legal GPS to guide them to a safe destination. Therefore, the resources provided by CFJ are essential.
CFJ: How did being part of Connecticut’s first legal incubator help you establish and build your law practice?
CML: I have experienced three phases during my time in the legal incubator program that has helped me establish my law practice: In the first phase, I was given guidance and timelines to establish my company as a legal entity, obtain malpractice insurance, setup proper bank accounts and help me find my niche. In the second phase, I was offered training and opportunities to put my education and experience into practice. Phase three forced me to be forward thinking and to analyze my bottom line as a business owner.
CFJ: What are some of the lessons you take with you as you leave the program that were particularly beneficial ?
CML: The leadership at the JLC taught me to keep an open mind and never be afraid to ask for help. Iron sharpens iron, so always be prepared to communicate and grow. Its the blueprint to our success!
For information about becoming part of CFJ’s next JLC class, attorneys admitted to practice law in Connecticut should contact Legal Incubator Coordinator Jennifer Ferrante at JFerrante@CenterforFamilyJustice.org