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Adela Carlin

Adela Carlin

Adela Carlin spoke to Clearinghouse Review in New Orleans about her experiences as a community lawyer. She was in New Orleans to train other attorneys at the Shriver Center’s Community Lawyering Training Program in June 2013.

Adela is the Director of the Community Engagement Unit at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago (LAF). She has litigated complex custody, divorce, and domestic violence orders of protection cases as well as child protection cases in juvenile court and administrative hearings.

Carlin is the co-author of an article in the May-June 2009 issue of Clearinghouse Review, "Vigorous Representation of Undocumented Victims of Domestic Violence in State Family Court." She received the 2008 Jerold S. Solovy Equal Justice Award, which recognizes an exceptional LAF attorney, and was named one of the Distinguished Women Leaders of 2011 by La Raza newspaper. She graduated from the University of Illinois College of Law in 2000. Carlin grew up in Little Village, a neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. She is fluent in Spanish.

Describe some of your community lawyering work.

I have participated in domestic violence advocacy work, which is much more than representing a client in court. We call it “community lawyering” because it requires knowing what’s important to the client and then, if others are going through the same thing, what we can do to change it. In Cook County, domestic violence survivors have resources, but they’re not all in the same place. So one of the things that I have worked on is trying to build coalitions of domestic violence agencies and advocates so that we’re all aware of what’s going on, sharing information and opening our doors to the clients that are coming to ask for help. That’s what I’ve learned to do as a community lawyer.

Why do you teach at the Community Lawyering Training Program?

I want to encourage others to push the envelope a little bit and not to feel comfortable with what we are good at and what has worked in the past but to look for new strategies and new challenges.

What have you learned as a community lawyer?

One of the things that I learned is that you can take a big problem like “POVERTY” and actually break it down into actionable items, things that you can accomplish along the way. I belong to a leadership council whose goal is to increase resources for a suburb of the Chicagoland area. That’s a huge goal, so as a group we broke it down. We said, “We want to have transportation available.” And then we moved on to, “We want it to be free, and we want it to be available for certain purposes like going to the doctor, to court, to a work interview.” It’s exciting to see it happen. When you share it or you facilitate a discussion about it, you get great results.

You can contact Adela Carlin at

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