CMLS and Hennepin County Establish Full-time Position at Domestic Abuse Service Center

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For the past year, lawyers from Central Minnesota Regional Legal Services (CMLS) have provided free legal advice and representation to those seeking orders for protection on three days each week at the Hennepin County Family Justice Center. By meeting with domestic violence victims on the day of their court hearing, CMLS attorneys are able to provide vital support that can make a profound difference.

Beginning in March, funding for a full-time attorney position will allow CMLS and the county attorney’s office to provide wrap-around services to victims and their families on an expanded basis from the current project.  With a lawyer based in the Domestic Abuse Service Center, much more time can be spent at the beginning of the legal process, which according to Lilo Schluender, supervising attorney with CMLS, “…can have a huge impact on whether a victim is going to be believed and get the protection they need.”

Community Mediation Minnesota: Single Entry Point for Statewide Conflict Resolution Services

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The newly formed Community Mediation Minnesota (CMM) is a statewide network of certified nonprofit service providers with skilled mediators ready to help Minnesotans resolve conflicts.  From neighbor disputes to family quarrels, schoolyard bullying to workplace harassment, CMM offers a range of services for individuals, groups, and communities.

CMM member organizations include Community Mediation & Restorative Services, Inc., Conflict Resolution Center, Dispute Resolution Center, Mediation and Conflict Solutions, Mediation and Restorative Services, and Restorative and Mediation Practices. By requesting a mediation or additional information through the CMM collaborative, a person will be connected to the member organization best able to serve them, thus creating a single point of entry for anyone seeking mediation or restorative services. The public can request a mediation at communitymediationmn.org or by calling 833-266-2663.  CMM will even contact the other side to see if mediation is a mutually acceptable option.

CMM also provides remote mediation services for greater Minnesotans using Zoom technology. Regardless of the parties’ locations in Minnesota, or even in other states, CMM can facilitate a mediation.

The soon-to-be-launched rebuild of LawHelpMN.org, will include referrals to services such as CMM for those who may want to try to resolve their problem outside the court system. Because mediation is an alternative to going to court, not all cases are appropriate for it. However with many conflicts involving neighbors, landlords and tenants, family relationships, parenting time, workplace issues and businesses and consumers, mediation may be a convenient and affordable option for resolving disputes and allowing all participants to be heard and to have control over the outcome.

More information about mediation and brochures for public distribution can be requested at outreach@communitymediationmn.org.

Innovations for Clients: Increasing Access to Justice for All Minnesotans

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By Betsy Parrell, Supervising Attorney

As State Support’s work on rebuilding the LawHelpMN.org website continues, excitement is building for the new navigation tool it will feature: the LawHelp Guide. The LawHelp Guide is designed to deliver a customized set of self-help resources and referrals that address an individual’s specific legal concern or problem. These curated results are generated in response to an individual’s answers to a series of simple questions intended to: 1) narrow their legal topic, and 2) assess their potential eligibility for services based on a variety of factors including location and income.

In keeping with the strategic goals identified during last year’s Justice for All strategic planning, the LawHelp Guide is intended to improve the ability of Minnesotans to connect with the legal services most relevant to their particular situation, and for which they are most likely to be eligible, along a “continuum of meaningful and appropriate services.” Offering referrals along that continuum includes referrals that are tailored to the individual’s circumstances across a broad range of services, such as legal aid organizations, legal clinics, law libraries, self-help centers, alternative dispute resolution services, and private attorney referral programs.

Offering referrals along this continuum also means recognizing the needs and challenges of low- and moderate-income people who aren’t financially eligible for traditional legal aid services, as well as those who may want to try to resolve their problem outside the court system.  It is a particularly advantageous time to be developing the LawHelp Guide because of important recent developments in Minnesota intended to help close those gaps:

  • The Low Fee Family Law Project has expanded its reach statewide, matching those whose limited incomes exceed legal aid guidelines and who are likewise not eligible for pro bono legal services with attorneys who are interested in serving modest-means family law clients at a reduced rate.

  • The recently established Minnesota Unbundled Law Project connects individuals looking for low-cost legal options with private attorneys offering limited scope or “unbundled” legal services, an arrangement that allows an attorney and a client to customize legal services according to the client’s needs and budget.

  • Six nonprofit mediation and conflict resolution service providers across Minnesota have banded together to form Community Mediation Minnesota. Their services are available statewide, and now include remote mediation availability.  Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post featuring Community Mediation Minnesota to learn more!

As we near the launch of the newly rebuilt LawHelpMN.org in early 2019, State Support anticipates continued collaboration and innovation with service providers across a continuum of services to facilitate an ever- expanding access to justice for those seeking civil legal assistance in Minnesota.    

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.