John Whitelaw rejoined Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (CLASI) as its first Advocacy Director in December 2017. In this position, he works with our advocates statewide to pursue creative strategies to address systemic problems faced by our clients. John also manages CLASI’s Public Benefits Unit, Elder Law Program, and Fair Housing work.
John has more than thirty years of experience representing low-income and other vulnerable clients in various legal aid programs. Previously John was Co-Director of the Aging and Disabilities Unit at the North Philadelphia office of Community Legal Services, Inc. (CLS) of Philadelphia. He was with CLS for almost twenty years. John worked for CLASI in Wilmington (1995—1997) and other legal aid programs in Beckley, WV (1990-1995) and Minneapolis, MN (1987-90). He also worked for the Federal Public Defender Association in Philadelphia in the Capital Habeas Unit (1997-1998).
For much of his career, John has represented clients in matters involving government benefits (TANF, General Assistance, Food Stamps or SNAP, and Medical Assistance) and the Social Security Administration. John has represented claimants at all administrative levels and in federal and state court. He has also been a presenter at many national and regional trainings. He previously traveled all over the country as a trainer on SSI and Social Security Disability matters for the AARP National Training Project.
John also participates in many coalitions and provides advice and technical assistance to community partners as well as regional and national advocacy organizations. Locally, these include the Delaware Continuum of Care, Housing Alliance Delaware, the Delaware Manufactured Home Owners Association (DMHOA), and the Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence (DCADV). Nationally, John is involved with groups including Justice in Aging, the National Health Law Program (NHeLP), and the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR), in their efforts to protect and advance the rights of seniors, people with disabilities, and people with low incomes.
In 2023, John was appointed by the Supreme Court of Delaware to the Board of Bar Examiners, which oversees the testing and procedures for admission to the Delaware Bar.
In 2023, John received the Legal Aid Attorney Award from the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives, in recognition for the significant time he spends providing help and advice to other attorneys throughout the country especially on issues facing low-income SSI recipients. In 2016, John was awarded the CLS Equal Justice Award for his work in Philadelphia. In 2014, he received the PLAN Excellence Award, presented by the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network. He also received the Suzanne H. Kaye award for advocacy from the Linda Creed Breast Cancer Foundation in 2013, as well as a Philadelphia Intelligencer Unsung Hero Award in 2012 and the HIAS Community Service Award in 2004. In 2009, John was named a “Philadelphia Super Lawyer.”