Holiday Stress? Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers Can Help

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Lawyers are exposed to unique stresses on the job, including secondary trauma from clients’ cases and difficulties, as well as the general environment of an adversarial system. With the addition of personal stresses and the holiday season, it can be a tough time.

Help and resources are available through the American Bar Association’s Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, which links to excellent articles about stress and related issues. Closer to home, Minnesota’s Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers (LCL) provides free counseling and referrals to resources, as well as mentoring, coaching, peer support and a fund that can help with medical appointments related to mental health or substance use treatment needs. LCL is also available for continuing legal education, law school presentations, and other programs upon request.

LCL helps lawyers, judges, law students and their immediate family members with any issues that cause stress or distress. Joan Bibelhausen, LCL’s executive director, said, “If you think it will get better on its own, it won’t. Call LCL. We’ll help.”

To contact LCL, call 651-646-5590, email help@mnlcl.org, or visit their website at www.mnlcl.org.   If you would like to talk to someone immediately, counselors are available 24/7. 

MN Unbundled Law Project: A New Era in Limited Scope Representation

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The Minnesota State Bar Association (MSBA), with Hennepin and Ramsey County Bar Association partners, are pleased to announce the new Minnesota Unbundled Law Project. The project is now available for clients and referrals at www.MNunbundled.org. Also known as limited scope representation, “unbundled” legal services allow an attorney and a client to customize legal services according to the client’s needs and budget. Services could be limited to a certain issue in a case, legal advice, review of court documents, or coaching a client who will provide self-representation.

The benefits of unbundled representation extend to both clients and attorneys. By paying an attorney to do only parts of a case where legal expertise is needed, the client saves money on legal fees and attorneys can use their time more efficiently. Time and energy are maximized for both parties because the attorney can provide information about the legal process and the client’s specific issues, in addition to identifying potential problems or hidden complications earlier in the process.

Those looking for unbundled referrals can get started at the Project’s website, www.MNunbundled.org, and find more information about what types of services they may want to hire an attorney to perform, as well as what to consider when deciding if unbundled representation is right for them.

The MSBA’s pro bono development director, Steve Marchese, in noting the importance of the project, said: “The Minnesota Unbundled Law Project brings together the work of the state’s largest bar organizations to increase access to limited scope/unbundled legal services for all Minnesotans. It provides an easily accessible platform for clients interested in more affordable legal options to connect with the attorneys interested in assisting them. We look forward to studying the results of this pilot so we can expand service to more people and more areas of practice throughout the state.”

Attorneys interested in being a participating provider can contact Steve Marchese directly at smarchese@mnbar.org.

Innovations for Clients: It’s a Community Effort!

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by Emily Good, Legal Projects Manager

November marks a season of reflection and gratitude. Here at State Support, we are incredibly grateful for the people who have supported and helped us with the launch of LOON, and the ongoing redesign of LawHelpMN.  

An important feature of the new LawHelpMN will be the “LawHelp Guide,” designed to help site visitors better pinpoint their legal issue and receive targeted fact sheets, resources and referrals by answering a series of branching questions. To create this innovative and responsive tool, we relied on expert legal review from Kara Rieke, Ann Cofell, Beth Goodell, Lars Markeson, Laura Wilson and Mark Iris. Their suggestions led to changes in how questions were structured to make the system both more accurate and easier to navigate.  

On October 1, staff from sixteen Minnesota legal services organizations began utilizing LOON (Legal Organizations Online Network) in their daily work. LOON enables legal services providers to make more accurate referrals through access to detailed, real-time data. LOON will also power the referral information that will be available to everyone on the new LawHelpMN.org, once launched. Our LOON ambassadors provided ongoing feedback as the platform was designed and implemented, participated in user testing, and communicated within their programs about LOON. They also spent many hours updating their organizations’ service listings to prepare for implementation, and are continuing to make adjustments and changes. We are incredibly grateful for your time, participation and enthusiasm.  

Earlier this fall, State Support worked with a consultant who conducted LawHelp Guide focus groups comprised of trusted intermediaries –  social workers, public librarians, and faith-based community members and leaders – in order to document their unique and important perspective as gateways to legal information and services for the communities they serve. In both Bemidji and St. Paul, we relied on a number of volunteers to guide participants through the site and document their experiences. Thank you to the following volunteers for their help: Josie Adkins, Debra Lawton, Madeline Buck, Pauline Afuso, Rebecca Hare, Sandy Nguyen, Anna Beadle, and Dr. Sue Ricker and her Social Work Research Methods course students from Bemidji State University. And thank you to the focus group participants, who took time out of their busy days to discuss and test the LawHelp Guide.

Because improved navigability and a more user-friendly experience are important goals of the website redesign, State Support’s website development vendor recently conducted “usability testing," a form of user testing that involves watching a user attempt to perform a series of defined tasks on the site. By observing users’ interactions with the site, we are better able to make improvements that address their needs.  Our user testers, including program staff from the HCBA and Greater Twin Cities United Way, provided time and critical feedback for which we are grateful. We are also thankful for the programs and individuals who helped us reach out to recruit users from the public, including Volunteer Lawyers Network, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, the Dakota and Ramsey County Law Libraries, the Minnesota State Law Library, and other partners who posted flyers and connected us with user testers.

Our steering committee is guiding implementation of the LawHelpMN rebuild project by asking questions and providing suggestions through regular meetings. Thank you to Luci Russell, Lisa Cohen, Bridget Gernander, Tom Walsh, Claire Comstock-Gay, Luce Guillén-Givins and Anne Hoefgen.

In addition, the advisory committee established by the Minnesota Supreme Court as the governance structure for the LawHelp Guide, provides vital support through its efforts to foster partnerships that ensure the stability of the project, as well as to establish evaluation criteria, data privacy and other important policies, and by securing funding to support the long-term success of the project in delivering effective civil legal assistance. Many thanks to the chair of the advisory committee, Jordan Martell, and its members, including Hon. Lucinda Jesson, Donna Gies, Olivia Jefferson, Melissa Kantola, Steven Marchese, Larry McDonough, Sharon Press, Liz Reppe, Drew Schaffer, Kelly Tautges, and Tom Walsh.

And finally, thank you also to those who have assisted State Support in the LawHelpMN redesign process and the creation of LOON whose names we may have missed.  This really has been a community-wide effort, and we are grateful to all those involved.

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.