Legal Aid's Legacy of Wraparound Services for DV Victims

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In We Arm Them With Lawyers, Attorney at Law magazine generously provides space for a monthly article on Legal Aid’s work. In this issue, We Arm Them With Lawyers reveals Legal Aid’s longstanding commitment to Minnesota’s domestic violence victims.

Using an approach referred to as "wraparound services," Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid's domestic violence work includes everything from family law advice and orders for protection, to basic necessities such as food, security, housing, health care, consumer protection, and emergency benefits. More recently, MMLA has collaborated with shelters, medical clinics, and community organizations to make access to a legal services safer and easier.

In 2008, MMLA - St. Cloud joined in the formation of the now nationally recognized Stearns County Domestic Violence Partnership, which advises the Stearns County Felony Domestic Violence Court (DVC). “Before this project, the violent offender had a right to a public defender but the victims had no lawyer they could talk to about anything,” says Legal Aid Deputy Director Ann Cofell. “The DVC gives them that lawyer. It gives them a voice in the system.”  Read more in Attorney at Law magazine.

Minnesota Legal Advice Online: Brand New Look and Easier to Use

A few months shy of its third anniversary, State Support's popular pro bono legal advice website has a brand new look, and greatly improved usability for clients and lawyers. Freshly redesigned, Minnesota Legal Advice Online (MLAO), funded by a grant from the Court Technology Fund, is fully mobile-responsive – a critical element with 30% or more of its users arriving on a tablet or smartphone.

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.

Starting on March 23rd – the first week the redesigned site went live – 50 new questions were posted by clients. Volunteer lawyers are needed to answer questions and help keep pace with the rate of client submissions. State Support's current volunteer lawyers are busy closing out questions from the old iteration of the site, but more lawyers are sought to make sure people who need advice are getting it.

Minnesota Legal Advice Online site is a great way to engage in pro bono work. Like a brief advice, walk-in, or phone-in clinic, volunteer lawyers provide limited scope representation. There is no ongoing client relationship, and the time commitment is easy to manage – login and respond to questions when you have time, for as long as you want. The web-based platform has the added benefit of allowing lawyers to read and research a question before responding, if necessary.

Questions cover all areas of civil law, and range from procedural matters such as “how do I present evidence in my case?” to more subject specific issues like “I have a power of attorney for my brother who is in jail; the landlord won’t let us get his belongings from the apartment, what can I do?”

As with other pro bono programs, lawyers can earn CLE credits for participating. For every 6 hours of time volunteered through MLAO, lawyers can get 1 credit, with a limit of 6 credits redeemable for reporting requirements in Minnesota. Pro bono hours on the site also count towards the NorthStar Lawyers program. The site has a function that allows lawyers to enter and track the hours they spend responding to questions.

To sign up, visit www.mnlegaladvice.org and select “Lawyer Sign-up” from the top menu bar. If you have further questions, contact Emily Good at egoodmnlegalservices.org. We would love to have you volunteer!

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.