Consumer Law Program

In New Jersey, civil cases in which the amount in dispute is less than $15,000 are handled in the Special Civil Part. These cases are processed on an expedited schedule and low-income clients alleged to owe a debt often represent themselves pro se. Litigants have difficulty navigating the court system and need help to identify relevant issues and deadlines in their cases. Through VLJ’s Consumer Law Program, lawyers help pro se litigants with pending matters in Special Civil develop a case strategy, negotiate payment plans, and draft pleadings. 

Who can participate?

Prior experience in consumer law or with matters in the Special Civil Part is not required. VLJ has training materials on consumer law and Special Civil procedure, as well as sample pleadings and forms.  Volunteers without prior experience are required to review the training materials before volunteering the first time.  A VLJ staff attorney is present at all Consumer Law Program clinics to provide assistance and support to volunteers. 

What do volunteers do at the clinic?

Cases in the Consumer Law Clinic typically involve a failure to pay a debt. Clients are referred to the walk-in Consumer Law Clinic by Essex County Courthouse staff and other community partners. VLJ staff conduct a brief intake onsite to assess the litigant’s legal issue and retrieve any available documentation of the case from E-courts. Clients are then placed with a volunteer attorney who meets with a client for approximately 30-60 minutes to provide advice and limited services. Clients who require further assistance may be referred back to VLJ for additional services.  Clinics are held the first three Tuesdays of every month (from 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM) at the Essex County Hall of Records in downtown Newark.  Validated parking is available for volunteers. 

How to sign up

To become a volunteer with VLJ’s Consumer Law Program, please fill out VLJ’s volunteer registration form.