Minnesota Celebrates National Pro Bono Week

October 21 – 27, 2018, marks National Pro Bono Week —the American Bar Association’s annual celebration in recognition of the efforts of current pro bono volunteers, and its hopes for increased support and collaboration. Pro bono plays a vital role in closing the justice gap by helping to increase the number of low-income individuals who can get legal advice at crucial moments.

Locally, pro bono “hubs” are being hosted by several corporate legal offices where volunteer attorneys will gather to answer questions on the Minnesota Legal Advice Online (MLAO) platform. MLAO’s web-based format helps eliminate the geographic and time barriers often faced when seeking legal assistance. Clients who live in remote areas, lack reliable transportation, or work night shifts can access legal clinic-style services that would otherwise be unavailable. Lawyers can respond to questions from clients anywhere in Minnesota, from wherever the lawyer is located.

On October 24th, join the Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN) for its Pro Bono Week Happy Hour at Lakes and Legends Brewing Co. in Minneapolis. The event will celebrate the volunteers, donors and staff that make pro bono happen in Minnesota. Visit the ProJusticeMN calendar for more information and other happenings during Pro Bono Week.

Want a Training? Co-Sponsorship Model Offers More Options

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State Support has a strong history of planning and hosting our own statewide training events in collaboration with partners in the access to justice community. In the past year, we've expanded that foundational work with an exciting, additional form of collaboration: our new co-sponsorship model.

One of State Support’s strengths is leveraging technology across Minnesota, and we prioritize collaboration requests that extend a training’s reach across the state's civil legal services and pro bono communities. With our new co-sponsorship model, State Support hopes to collaborate with programs that may already be planning an event, and thereby expand its impact to reach other legal services programs. The topic you’ve identified as important to your program staff is likely something of interest to the broader community, and by working together we can utilize our expertise to help bring the training to a statewide audience.

State Support is still available for collaboration following our “traditional model,” in which you contact State Support with a training suggestion, you help us refine the topic and brainstorm speakers, and then we take it from there. Whether following our traditional model or our new co-sponsorship model, State Support’s success in offering the most meaningful and relevant trainings depends on hearing from the community about training topics you are interested in and trainers you would recommend. As always, State Support's training offerings focus on civil legal topics and skills development targeted towards legal services staff and volunteers.

The best way to let us know what trainings you’d like to see — or work with us on — is by completing our training suggestions form, which gathers all the relevant information so we can move forward faster: goo.gl/forms/KAPkAACCHs2UClK62.

MMLA's North Minneapolis Collaborations Featured in Attorney at Law Magazine

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Thanks to funding from philanthropic, social services, and government sources, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid (MMLA) has four new projects in two locations to serve the needs of North Minneapolis residents. 

At NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center, Legal Aid's newest medical-legal partnership had more than 50 patient referrals in the first two months, underscoring the unmet need.

"Referrals come directly from health care staff," says staff attorney, Glen Drew. "I see so many health concerns that neither doctors nor lawyers can solve on our own. This is an opportunity for us to ask the right questions and make some headway on broader social questions and problems."

Legal Aid's work in the NorthPoint Social Services building also includes an attorney-staffed economic development project that recently hosted a criminal expungement workshop. A few blocks away at 800 West Broadway, Legal Aid holds office hours several times a month for pro bono workshops, as well as a Hennepin County based project focused on eviction prevention.

Because of the partnership between neighborhood social service agencies and legal aid, northside residents can access legal help without taking extra time off work or paying for transportation downtown. They can meet with a lawyer in the same building where they receive other services, and with professionals they already trust. Read the full article in Attorney at Law Magazine: "Legal Aid and Community Partners Collaborate in North Minneapolis."

Access to Justice in Minnesota: An MSBA Report

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The Minnesota State Bar Association (MSBA) and its Legal Assistance to the Disadvantaged (LAD) Committee published the 2017-18 Access to Justice Report for Minnesota. The report highlights initiatives undertaken by the MSBA and LAD Committee in partnership with the Minnesota Judicial Branch, legal aid providers, volunteer attorney programs, and other stakeholders.

Among the highlights:

  • Minnesota partners are creating an interactive online portal to direct people to resources to meet their civil legal needs.
  • An amended Minnesota rule promotes legal aid's receipt of unclaimed funds in state class actions.
  • An MSBA delegation opposes elimination of the federal Legal Services Corporation which funds legal aid programs. 
  • A new statewide Low Fee Family Law Project matches clients of modest means with attorneys.
  • A coordinated response to legal needs in the event of a natural or human-made crises in Minnesota is being developed. 

Read more about these initiatives and other activities that help improve equal justice for all in our state.