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Monthly Insights: Free Help is Available for Civil Legal Matters

Emily Harrison Weir | Published on 1/4/2023

Civil Legal Aid

Are you having trouble with an unemployment claim? Do you want to know what rights nursing home residents have? Are you worrying about being evicted? These are the kinds of situations handled by Community Legal Aid (CLA).

Thomas Hulley, a staff attorney in CLA’s elder law unit in Northampton, gave the Monthly Insights/News You Can Use presentation in November. “Too often, the way people are treated in the justice system depends on whether they can afford a lawyer who will help protect their basic rights,” he said. But his office’s services are free, so that’s not an issue.

The office provides free legal help with non-criminal problems. This civil legal aid is available for all residents of Western Massachusetts aged 60 or more (as well as for low-income residents who are younger). 

“Just call us,” Hulley emphasized. “You don’t need to know whether your concern fits exactly what we do. Contact us and we’ll help or try to refer you to someone who can.” He can be reached at or by calling 855-252-5342.

CLA advocates can help with a wide range of situations, including those summarized below. 

  • Housing issues such as eviction, homelessness, and housing discrimination

  • Appeals of decisions concerning Medicare, Social Security, food assistance, and other public benefit programs

  • Employment law issues, such as unemployment claims and wage or employment discrimination

  • Family law, which includes domestic violence, divorce, and custody issues

  • Elder law topics, which include housing rights, Social Security, Medicare, disability, elder abuse/exploitation, and advanced directives, such as health care proxies and powers of attorney.

  • CLA’s subsidiary, Central West Justice Center (CWJC), helps people seeking humanitarian-based immigration relief, low-wage workers with employment-related legal matters, and individuals and families trying to access public benefits.

Hulley also recommended these additional resources:

  • Connects Mass residents with information about critical health and human services available in their communities

  • Can help identify civil (non-criminal) legal aid resources based on location and/or area of the law, among other resources.

Illustration credit: Courtesy of CLA