People’s legal problems often emerge as symptoms of other issues in their lives. For persons who can afford good legal help, that help can often help bring about a satisfactory solution to their immediate needs and good legal counsel can often help them eliminate other problems. And it is there that the lawyer’s role of counselor can be critical.
Christian Legal Society recognizes that part of the lawyer’s role is often the most important and that many people’s problems, legal and otherwise, are simply the result of spiritual issues that have been unaddressed in their lives. These might often be identified simply as a lack of a relationship with God or the lack of a close relationship with God. These problems, however, are often compounded for the poor. They can’t afford good legal help, as a counselor or otherwise.
God urges us to help the poor–indeed commands us to do justice. Among hundreds of verses in the Bible reflecting our responsibilities to the poor are these:
He has told you, oh man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
To help the poor is to honor God. Proverbs 14:31
You should defend those who cannot help themselves. Yes, speak up for the poor and needy and see that they get justice. Proverbs 31:8, 9
Christian Legal Society is trying to respond to these commands–to serve the poor with legal help but, perhaps more importantly the spiritual help necessary to eliminate the issues that often cause legal symptoms. To do this, we have established the Wichita Legal Aid Project. This project started on April 1, 2001, and involved sixteen lawyers who committed to approximately eight hours of training and thereafter to contribute three to four hours per month in providing legal counseling to those who are unable to afford it. The project works through three existing ministries in the Wichita area. They are Salvation Army, the Union Rescue Mission, and the Hilltop Urban Church. Each ministry has two sessions per month where lawyers appear and meet with anyone who shows up needing our assistance. We give legal advice but always attempt to pray with the individual, asking God to help them in their lives.
Often the most good done in these sessions is simply by providing a listening ear or by caring and showing as best we can the compassion of God. This often restores value to people who are downtrodden and emotionally drained. They don’t know where to turn. In approximately 70% of the cases, we can assist the individuals with a single visit by simply giving them advice as to their legal needs or where they might turn for additional assistance. The lawyers who volunteer are not necessarily experts in any particular area of the law. Rather, we simply know how to find out about things.