The Catholic University of America


Professor Ellen Scully received the Mirror of Justice Award on Oct. 28th
from the Pope John Paul II Guild of Catholic Lawyers

A 'Collaborative Hierarchy' that Still Delivers: 
Columbus Community Legal Services


You can move a legal clinic out of a neighborhood, but you can’t remove the impulse to serve from the legal clinic.
In a nutshell, that is the history of Catholic University’s legal clinic, Columbus Community Legal Services, now celebrating the 40th year of its founding in 1970.
Professor Ellen Scully was there almost from the beginning, joining the clinic in 1974 and serving as its director for 25 years. As the invited lecturer for the 2010 Mirror of Justice Lecture, sponsored by the Pope John Paul II Guild of Catholic Lawyers, Scully used the occasion to trace the history of the clinic and describe its early evolution.
“The choice was to create a neighborhood law office within the community,” said Scully during her Oct. 28th address. “Clients and students would teach each other. And that’s what happened.”
It was a highly successful model, one that imparted real-life lawyering skills to students while also addressing the problem of access to justice for many low-income area residents. Headquartered on North Capitol Street near Union Station for its first 24 years, the clinic won admiration and loyalty for its effective advocacy for clients.
Over the years its offerings expanded into family law and law regarding domestic violence. It grew and thrived, in part to remarkable stability among its faculty and staff members. In forty years of existence, the clinic has employed only 16 staffers and 18 or 19 faculty members.
“That’s a very low turnover in a very stressful environment,” noted Scully.
Describing its operation as a “collaborative hierarchy,” Scully said that the clinic’s 1994 relocation to its current home in the law school did not dilute its influence and reputation within the underserved community.
Clients who cannot afford or access legal help elsewhere still walk in the door every week, and the legal clinic still does what it can to respond, as it has for 40 years.
“Columbus Community Legal Services is a special place, reflective of the mission of the Church and the law school. Everybody is a stakeholder in it. It attracts special people,” said Scully.
After her remarks, Scully was presented with the 2010 Mirror of Justice Award from the Pope John Paul II Guild of Catholic Lawyers.