State Support Announces "In the Know with Legal Aid" Podcast Series

Legal Services State Support is pleased to announce the first episode in its new podcast series "In the Know with Legal Aid." Legal projects manager Emily Good suggested the approach as another innovative way to provide learning opportunities and resources to the legal aid community.

 Emily Good, Legal Projects Manager

Emily Good, Legal Projects Manager

The podcast format is a popular, informal way to present topical content that's shorter - typically 20 - 30 minutes - and can be listened to conveniently anytime. With the new series, State Support hopes to facilitate discussions on emerging civil legal issues that might get lost in a longer CLE, or are more time sensitive, and to share the expertise and insight of legal aid staff members statewide. For those interested in being interviewed for a podcast, the casual prerecorded format allows greater flexibility, minus the stress of a live presentation.

To suggest a podcast topic, or presenter, contact Emily Good at egood@mnlegalservices.org. Themes can include practice issues and considerations, legal challenges for which a full training might not be needed, and important rules updates or regulatory changes that are not major overhauls. The podcast can also include links and notes related to the discussion that will appear along with the recording.

In the first episode, staff attorney Meghan Maes of Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS) explains how one parent can go about getting a passport for a child when the other parent either isn’t available or isn’t cooperative. Emily and Meghan talk about Minnesota statutes, State department forms, and declaratory judgments.

Listen here:  Podcast 1: Passports and the Single Parent and find future installments on State Support's site.

Rise in Minnesota Volunteer Attorneys

Minnesota Lawyer recently covered the marked surge in legal services volunteerism, speaking with staff from Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid (MMLA) and Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN).

"Over the last couple of months, we’ve seen an increase in attorneys wanting to volunteer,” said Kirsten Olson, staff attorney and pro bono director at MMLA in Minneapolis. “That includes solo practitioners, larger-firm attorneys and even people who are out of the main legal arena right now such as retired attorneys and those working in education.”

One of the areas seeing vigorous interest is immigration law. “I think it does have to do with the election,” said Olson. “A lot of people say their interest in getting involved right now has been triggered by the change in the political environment and the ways that laws are being interpreted.” Olson also mentioned disability rights, gender justice and senior issues as areas of interest from volunteer attorneys.

Julie Thelen, development coordinator with the Volunteer Lawyers Network in Minneapolis noted, “We have monthly training sessions for about 800 volunteer lawyers every year. There’s a lot of demand for help serving undocumented (immigrant) clients, as well as need for lawyers who work in family and employment law.”

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Both organizations, and most that coordinate volunteer lawyers, offer in-person training in specialized areas of law as well as printed materials. Staff tailor work to direct volunteer skills where they’re needed, and many organizations offer malpractice insurance.

The ProJusticeMN.org website aggregates volunteer opportunities for many of the state's legal services organizations and offers a case placement tool, opportunities to quickly offer legal advice online, and a guide for pro bono opportunities, among other services. Read the full article.

 

CMLS and MMLA Add Perspective to Prospect of Funding Cuts

Minnesota Lawyer recently reached out to Central Minnesota Legal Services (CMLS) and Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid (MMLA) for a feature about community concern over the prospect of funding cuts to legal aid.

Commenting on the income disparities legal aid lawyers face, as well as the challenges in retention for programs, Cathy Haukedahl, executive director of MMLA, said: “If we can make some improvement where we are a little more competitive, we would have more retention. That would benefit our clients and most of our folks would be happy to stay because they love the work they do.” The hope is that a small boost in state funding would make this possible.

At the same time, for programs like CMLS, the prospect of losing funding from the federal Legal Services Corporation (LSC), could have a dramatic impact. Executive director Jean Lastine noted, "There wouldn’t be an immediate shutdown or anything but we’d probably lose half our lawyers." While concerned, she pointed out it is not the first funding crisis legal aid programs have faced.  Read the full article.