VLN, connecting clients in need with volunteer attorneys.
Volunteer Lawyers Network matches low-income clients with volunteer attorneys for free civil legal services. Services range from advice to full representation. While our main service area is Hennepin County, we also offer select services on a metro-wide or statewide basis. Please call us at 612-752-6655 for further information.
OUR MISSION is to promote access to justice and the administration of justice by providing legal services to low-income people primarily in Hennepin County through volunteer lawyers.
This year marks 45 years of a powerful partnership between the private bar and Volunteer Lawyers Network. Together we have helped vulnerable individuals and families in our community navigate a complex legal system and enforce their legal rights to safety, shelter, stable family relationships and livable wages.
YOUR support will prevent the disenfranchising and debilitating effects of injustice!
WITH YOUR SUPPORT VLN VOLUNTEERS:
Frequently Asked Questions:
|I would like to volunteer; what kind of opportunities you have?|
|How do I get started?|
|I am not licensed in the state of Minnesota. Are there ways I may a volunteer?|
|What type of time commitment does volunteering involve?|
|I don’t want to go to court – may I still volunteer?|
|I’m a law student or a paralegal student, are there volunteer opportunities for me?|
|What kinds of resources does VLN offer volunteers?|
|Do you offer any other support? I am new to volunteering in this area of law.|
|I would like to volunteer in the area of bankruptcy but haven't done them before; what can I do to prepare for my first VLN bankruptcy case?|
|How does VLN screen clients?|
|I don't have an office, where can I meet with my VLN client?|
|How do volunteer attorneys exert client control?|
|How may I ensure that I have malpractice insurance coverage through VLN?|
|How do I respond on my attorney license form as to my malpractice coverage?|
|What kind of conflicts checks do you recommend for those attorneys providing legal advice at clinics?|
|I would like to start a new VLN clinic. Can you tell me how I would go about doing that?|
|How will my volunteer work be recognized?|
Our areas of greatest need are in family, bankruptcy and criminal expungement law.
If you are bi-lingual (especially in Spanish or Somali), please let us know, as we have Spanish- and Somali-speaking clients who need your help!
To get started, complete the online volunteer application form. We screen all new volunteers with the Board of Professional Responsibility prior to their taking a case with us. We will let you know when your application has been approved.
To sign up for specific opportunities, please come to one of our new volunteer orientations, held once every six weeks or so. Check our Event Calendar for the next volunteer orientation. (You may come to the orientation before your application has been approved.) In the meantime, you may also check out our current specific opportunities.
Unlicensed attorneys may volunteer in many of the same ways that law students and paralegals volunteer with us. The best way to find out how to volunteer is to come to one of our new volunteer orientations.
The time commitment depends on what type of case or service you provide. Per our board, to be considered an active volunteer, every twelve months you would take a full representation case, staff four clinic shifts (typically 1-2 hours), staff six phone advice shifts, or give at least ten hours of volunteer work in other ways (research, recruiting volunteers, board service, etc).
We have many opportunities for volunteering that focus on providing clients with advice and assistance that do not include participating in litigation or court room work.
Yes. We have many opportunities for assisting attorneys, including at legal advice clinics, one-on-one workshops, and working with clients prior to their meeting with the attorney (e.g., to get their paperwork ready).
We have many checklists, outlines, flowcharts, seminar materials and online resources for the issues that are most common to people in poverty. For a good introduction to online resources, checkout: www.lawhelpMN.org (created by the Minnesota Legal Services Coalition). Also, we have three great (five- to seven-minute) training videos which provide an excellent overview of online resources. Please take a moment to watch these teaching tools and/or review the overview of all the trainings.
Note: You will need QuickTime player to view and hear these trainings. It is available for free download at: http://www.apple.com/quicktime/download/.
Besides client screening (for financial and issue eligibility) and malpractice insurance coverage, we provide:
I would like to volunteer in the area of bankruptcy but haven't done them before; what can I do to prepare for my first VLN bankruptcy case?
Thank you for considering volunteering in the area of bankruptcy; it is one of our areas of greatest need! If you have not done a chapter 7 bankruptcy case before, you can take some steps to get ready before your first case by:
1) Watch our bankruptcy webinar (which provides a great overview of chapter 7 bankruptcies for low income people): Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
3) Become admitted to federal court (MN Federal District Court Local Rules). (In the blue box right below you will see the Petition for Admission and petition for admission procedure.)
Once you have a case, we will provide you with a mentor attorney; you may also use our New Hope bankruptcy software.
We have trained staff take phone calls from persons seeking legal help. Our staff determine whether the clients meet issue and income eligibility criteria established by our board.
Income eligibility: For most full representation services, clients’ household income must be at or below 125% of the federal poverty guidelines. For bankruptcy, bankruptcy adversary proceedings and letters to creditors the guideline is at or below 200% FPGs. For most other brief services, clients’ household income must be at or below 300% FPG.
Issue eligibility: Each type of issue has different criteria. For full representation cases, we have procedures in place to make sure clients’ issues have merit, including attorneys who screen cases for merit. For brief services on most issues, we gather the client’s paperwork prior to your meeting with the client.
You are welcome to use our offices to meet your VLN client. You may also choose a public location that is mutually convenient for you and the client, such as a library.
With paying clients, attorneys often use fees as one way to ensure that clients do not pursue frivolous claims. With pro bono clients, there are other ways to achieve the same objectives, including withdrawing. For a complete description, see our August 2006 Tip of the Month on Preventing Frivilous Claims.
All attorneys are covered by VLN malpractice insurance as long as they have a completed and approved attorney application on file with us, and are assisting a VLN client who is registered in our database.
See our October 2006 Tip of the Month on Annual Reporting of Professional Liability Coverage.
With advising a client at a clinic, you are conflicted out only if you recognize that you have a conflict. You do not have to run a conflicts check prior to giving legal advice. After giving legal advice, it’s best practice to keep a list of the clients you advised, so you can make sure you do not inadvertently later represent the other side. This conflict would not extend to other members of your firm. See Rule 6.5 of Minnesota's Rules of Professional Conduct.
VLN recognizes the work of our volunteers in several ways, including:
All proposed clinics must meet certain standards set by our Clinics and Quality Control committee. We are not currently starting any new clinics, but may do so in the future.