CCLI is a nonprofit small-law-firm incubator. Its mission is to increase the number of small law firms in Minnesota providing affordable legal services to clients who are financially ineligible for legal assistance through existing legal nonprofits. We do this by educating and mentoring recent graduates of Mitchell Hamline School of Law to help them develop innovative law practices serving underrepresented communities that face barriers to accessing legal services. CCLI participants work with experienced mentors who answer questions, consult on cases, and offer advice and suggestions on how to run a law practice.
Why a small-law-firm incubator? Because people of moderate means turn to small law firms for legal advice. More Minnesotans than ever find themselves in the “justice gap”–in need of legal advice or representation but not qualified for free legal services. Many new lawyers aspire to start their own law practices to meet the legal needs of underserved communities, but don’t always have the training, mentorship, and clients they need to be successful. And many experienced lawyers are eager to share what they’ve learned about running a small firm, yet find it hard to connect with newer lawyers who are interested.
CCLI aims to change all that. Over an 18-month period in a collaborative setting, we train recent graduates of Mitchell Hamline School of Law to develop innovative, efficient, client-focused practices that can deliver quality service at manageable cost. We enlist experienced lawyers to mentor and guide our participants in areas of substantive law, legal ethics, and best practices in running a law firm. And we are continually developing relationships with local lawyers, firms, nonprofits, bar associations, and community organizations so that when they refer potential clients to us, we can connect those clients with our participants who may be able to meet their needs.
While law schools and bar associations across the country are experimenting with similar incubator projects, CCLI’s model is unique. We are not a legal services agency or nonprofit law firm, but an educational nonprofit focused on mentoring and training. We want our new lawyers to pass through our program and emerge with their independent small law firms fully launched and ready to serve the needs of their chosen communities. And although the incubator program itself is based in the Twin Cities, we welcome new lawyers who want to serve the legal needs of communities in greater Minnesota.