Our Unique Role
NCLEJ's vision is a society in which low-income individuals and families have the support they need to maintain a decent standard of living and take full advantage of opportunities to better their lives.
We pursue this vision by assuring that all low-income people can gain access to all of the vital public benefits and services for which they are eligible. When current laws and program practices are not sufficient, we work diligently for effective reforms.
We work throughout the country to achieve our goals with a combination of on-the-ground litigation and policy advocacy.
Where We Work
NCLEJ was founded in 1965, in the heyday of the civil rights movement. From the very start, NCLEJ staff joined with southern civil rights lawyers in landmark cases, worked with community-based organizations around the country, won ground-breaking victories in the courts, and achieved major reforms in legislation and agency policies and practices. Through these early successes, NCLEJ demonstrated that the law can be a powerful instrument for improving the lives of the most disadvantaged members of our society.
For the past 47 years, NCLEJ has led the way in advancing economic justice across the country; securing systemic reform in the delivery of income support and related human services; and safeguarding important legal and constitutional rights.
Among the many challenges confronting NCLEJ today is the sad reality that in this, the richest country in the world, tens of millions still live far below the poverty line. And millions more can barely make ends meet.
Thanks to the support of its generous donors, NCLEJ works to ensure that:
- Parents have access to the assistance they need to feed their families and plan for self-sufficiency;
- People can get jobs that pay enough to support themselves and their families because they have access to quality childcare and essential education and training;
- Women making the transition from welfare to work have full protection against sexual harassment and discrimination; and
- People with mental and physical disabilities, or limited language proficiency, are not discriminated against as they seek to access benefits programs or secure education and training for meaningful employment.
NCLEJ’s staff of award-winning lawyers has many years of experience. NCLEJ multiplies the impact of its staff by collaborating with major law firms, as well as civil rights, civil liberties, women's rights, immigrants' rights, and other legal advocacy organizations.
NCLEJ is a leader in working collaboratively outside of litigation, both through formal and informal arrangements. NCLEJ staff excel at forging new partnerships by educating other advocates about emerging issues and advocacy strategies, presenting at conferences, convening groups of advocates over critical issues, disseminating publications widely, and expanding the use of its national listservs and website.
I’m a long-time and enthusiastic supporter of NCLEJ. In the 1980s, as a lawyer in private practice, I went to
court to block wrongful government restrictions that would have hamstrung NCLEJ’s work. I did that to protect
NCLEJ's unique ability to use the law to ensure fair legal treatment for low-income people and ensure that both government agencies and private actors meet their legal obligations to NCLEJ's clients. NCLEJ has kept up its good work, and I’ve been a loyal donor since then. I hope you'll join me in supporting a truly high quality and dedicated organization.
— RICHARD COTTON, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND GENERAL COUNSEL, NBCUNIVERSAL
I feel that NCLEJ fills an important gap in our democracy, where those who are in need and marginalized are so
often forgotten. NCLEJ’s commitment both to pursuing social and economic justice today and training and
mentoring the next generation of public interest lawyers will ensure that its legacy continues. I like being connected with NCLEJ's impressive group of supporters from the public interest, corporate, legal, and academic worlds!
— DEAN PENELOPE ANDREWS, ALBANY LAW SCHOOL