Clinics & Projects

Consumer Debt Clinic

This project allows volunteer lawyers to help low-income, unrepresented debtors by assisting them with civil debt-collection lawsuits. The Consumer Debt Clinic provides access to justice to lower-income litigants through volunteering. At the clinic, the Consumer team interviews clients at different stages of representation, including an initial interview, an advice interview based on the Plaintiff’s evidence, and an exit interview. The team also analyzes the opposing party’s evidence and advises clients based on applying the relevant law to the evidence. The team negotiates with the opposing counsel to achieve a fair settlement for a client. The team also drafts any necessary motions or pleadings for clients and presents cases to the clerk magistrate (i.e., a small claims trial).


Attorneys provide clients Limited Assistance Representation (LAR), meaning they are only involved in the case for that dayNot trained in LAR? Watch a training and read required materials.



  • Must be a licensed Massachusetts Attorney


  • VLP staff arrives at 10 a.m., an hour before the first court session. VLP sets up a table in the hallway, and potential clients come by and ask for assistance.
  • VLP paralegals do an intake to ensure their case fits our priorities and that the litigant is financially eligible.
  • If the litigant is eligible, they become a client, and we find a volunteer to represent them.
  • Over the next 2-4 hours, the volunteer will work with the client to resolve the case, review documents obtained from the creditor, negotiate with the opposing party and do a magistrate hearing if needed. The volunteer will need to fill out a Notice of Limited Appearance (NLA) that will be filed with the court by VLP.
  • Once the case is resolved, the volunteer fills out an “assistance provided form” to tell VLP what happened in their case and fill out a Notice of Withdrawal of Limited Appearance (NWLA) that the volunteer must file with the court before leaving the clinic


  • VLP staff attend court on Zoom and provide our contact information to potential clients.
  • The court calls the list of cases, and if a litigant says they would like to speak with VLP, their case gets a continuance of 1-2 months. During that time, the litigant contacts VLP. We do an intake with them to ensure their case fits our priorities and that the litigant is financially eligible.
  • If the litigant is eligible, they become a client and we present their case to our panel of volunteers forpossible representation.
  • Once a volunteer picks up a case, they are able to see all the documents we collected from the client,details about their case and referral memorandum. The volunteer will need to fill out a Notice ofLimited Appearance (NLA) and file it with the court. It is the volunteer’s responsibility to counsel theclient, negotiate with the opposing party to reach a resolution of the case, and represent the client attheir magistrate hearing if needed.
  • Once the case has been resolved, volunteers will fill out a Notice of Withdrawal of Limited Appearance(NWLA) and file with the court immediately after
    Time commitment: 1-3 months and 5-8 hours spent on the case.



  • Limited Assistance Representation (1 hr 11 min)
    • These materials describe best practices for maintaining your limited representation.
    • After you complete the one-time training, you are certified to take a case for a limited period or limited purpose (e.g., a court mediation or court hearing).
  • Consumer Debt Defense Training (1hr 4 min)
    • This training is on the basics of debt collection defense
      The training will cover the background of consumer debt collection and how the industry functions
      A detailed look at how to defend consumers in debt collections cases, with a focus on Small Claims Court, where most debt collections cases are brought) and how to get involved in VLP’s Consumer Unit
  • The Big Deal with Small Claims (20min)
    • This animated training will walk you through Lawyer for the Day at VLP
  • NLA and NLWA Documents


VLP asks that all first-time volunteers sign up under the shadowing slot to begin to ensure volunteers have a sense of how the clinic are structured before they start taking cases alone.



  • Limited Assistance Representation means you start and finish with your client on the same day; no further commitment to court proceedings or legal services is needed. 
  • Mentorship: Our newer attorneys learn from more experienced attorneys, and more seasoned lawyers get the chance to mentor and guide new attorneys and students.  
  • Networking: Meet fellow attorneys in your area of practice and connect with other legal professionals. 
  • Vouchers for discounted MCLE Training are available upon request for pro bono attorneys who actively work with us. The Volunteer Lawyers Project provides primary malpractice insurance for all pro bono work. 


The Volunteer Lawyers Project provides primary malpractice insurance for all pro bono work.

to sign up

For one or more clinic sessions

For more information

Contact Pro Bono Manager Emelia Andres