CLARO Frequently Asked Questions

Civil Legal Advice and Resource Office

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is CLARO?
A: CLARO is the Civil Legal Advice and Resource Office. CLARO gives free legal advice to New Yorkers about debt collection issues. CLARO also helps unrepresented defendants with consumer debt cases in New York City Civil Courts. CLARO is open once a week in each of the five boroughs. For more information on where and when CLARO sessions take place, please click on your borough in the tabs above.

Q: Do you charge for your services?
A: No. CLARO services are free, and you may come to CLARO programs as many times as you need. Please note that Staten Island CLARO only serves low-income residents of Richmond County.

Q: What kind of issues can you help me with?
A: We provide free legal advice to people with consumer debt issues. Consumer debt cases include for example: credit card debts, medical debts, student loans, car loans, and store credit cards. If you need advice on another kind of issue, please take a look at our Information Links page for a list of services around New York that provide free legal advice to clients on a range of issues.

Q: Who organizes CLARO?
A: CLARO is organized through the New York State Unified Court System's Access to Justice Program. Each borough's CLARO program is run independently by a team of people from bar associations, academic institutions, and legal services organizations. For more information on who is involved with each borough's CLARO program, please take a look at our Partners page, or click on your borough in the tabs above for the contact information of that borough's program administrator.

Q: Who do CLARO lawyers work for?
A: The consumer law experts, attorneys, and students who staff CLARO are all volunteers.

Q: Is information I share with CLARO staff confidential?
A: Yes. CLARO and all the volunteers are bound by the New York State Rules of Professional Conduct.

Q: Do I need to make an appointment?
A: No. You can just come to the CLARO program in your borough and see one of the volunteer attorneys. For more information on where and when CLARO programs operate, please click on your borough in the tabs above. We do try to see everyone who attends CLARO sessions but we have limited time and capacity, so please come as early as possible to ensure that you get seen that day.

Q: When should I come?
A: We primarily help people who are being sued in Civil Court, so you should come as soon as you find out a lawsuit has been filed against you. We will help you at any stage of your case, so you can also come if you are getting letters or phone calls from debt collectors, if you think you are about to be sued, or if you had a lawsuit in the past that is still causing you problems.

Q: What do I do if I have a lot of debt but don't have a case in court?
A: If you think you are likely to be sued very soon, you can still come to CLARO and get advice.

Q: What should I bring to CLARO?
A: Bring everything you think might be helpful to the volunteer attorney reviewing your case. Please bring a copy of your complete court file and all correspondence relating to your debt. Also bring a copy of your credit report if you have it.

Q: What if I don't have my complete court file?
A: You can get a copy from the Clerk's Office in Civil Court. You will need to make copies to take away so bring lots of quarters with you for the copy machine. You should do this before coming to CLARO.

Q: Should I bring my credit report?
A: If you have one, yes. If you do not have one you can get one for free by completing and mailing this form to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. For more information take a look at

Q: If I have to go to court, will you provide a lawyer to represent me?
A: Unfortunately CLARO does not provide lawyers to represent defendants in court. CLARO provides limited legal advice on how to proceed with your case and prepares court documents for you if necessary. CLARO volunteer attorneys explain the court process and what you can expect on your court date. After your court date you can come back to CLARO again and we can help you with the next steps.

Q: Can I prepare an Answer or an Order to Show Cause by myself?
A: Yes, you can, but we recommend coming in to speak with a volunteer attorney first so that you can get help preparing the court documents for your case.

Q: Can I file for bankruptcy through the CLARO program?
A: No. We do not give advice regarding bankruptcy. If you think you might be eligible for bankruptcy and would like to learn more, LawHelp is a good resource for information you may find helpful.

Q: Can I see a lawyer in your office?
A: No. CLARO Programs only operate through the auspices of the Civil Court in the five boroughs. For more information on when and where please click on your borough in the tabs above.

Have a question that isn't listed here?

Please click Contact in the tabs above and we will be happy to answer your question.