Legal Aid Service of Northeastern MN Introduces New Volunteer Attorney Program

LASNEM logo.jpg

Legal Aid Service of Northeastern (LASNEM) is pleased to announce the expansion of its services to include a new Private Attorney Involvement (PAI) program. LASNEM’s new PAI program follows the dissolution of the Volunteer Attorney Program (VAP).  

LASNEM and VAP, which have operated as separate nonprofits for nearly 40 years, both provide low-income individuals in Northeastern Minnesota with civil legal services. LASNEM achieves its mission through its staffed lawyers and support staff, and VAP achieves this mission by engaging private attorneys to provide pro bono assistance. LASNEM will now house both objectives under one roof to improve the client experience, save money, and create additional capacity to help more people.  

Working together with VAP on this transition ensures that LASNEM can provide increased services for more people who truly need help. LASNEM is creating one easily accessible point of entry to receive help, and staff will work quickly to provide the level of service needed. LASNEM is building capacity to decrease the justice gap in the region.

LASNEM’s PAI program is primarily funded through the State of Minnesota, but also receives significant funds through the federal legal aid program, and through independent foundations. With limited resources available to fund these programs, this move consolidates regional resources to more effectively support people in need. 

To all who have supported the efforts of VAP over the years, either by offering your time and energy through pro bono legal services to those less fortunate, or by singing your heart out at the annual fundraiser, thank you. Thank you for your commitment to providing legal assistance to those who desperately need it. When public interest attorneys and the private legal community work together, we have the best chance for success in bridging the justice gap. The continued support of local, northeastern Minnesota legal communities is critical to working towards justice for all.  

LASNEM and VAP invite attorneys to contact LASNEM to learn more about volunteer opportunities, including legal clinics, community education, and representation on cases in areas of the attorney’s interest. Benefits for volunteers include CLE credits for pro bono hours, recognition through the Minnesota State Bar Association, recognition from regional justice partners and free CLE training opportunities.

LASNEM is currently staffing its PAI program, and will be the exclusive PAI program operating in the region by October 31, 2019. Attorneys interested in volunteering can email LASNEM’s PAI Program at pai@lasnem.org. Individuals in need of legal services can visit www.lasnem.org or call the office at 800-933-1112.

LawHelpMN: Commitment to Improvement and Advancement for Our Clients

LawHelpMN Guide Logo-01.jpg

By J. Singleton, Program Manager

On February 1, 2019, State Support launched a redesigned LawHelpMN.org featuring the new LawHelpMN Guide. Our work didn’t stop there though. Since launch, we’ve continued to improve the website with a dedicated development budget that turns user feedback and website analytics into tangible advancements. For example, we’ve added functionality that allows users to filter their Guide service results based on their preferences, share their Guide results via text or email, and use the Providers and Clinics Directory to print off custom referral sheets. 

A key component of our continuous improvement goals is a 6-month review of the Guide’s questions. We use analytics to determine when it seems like users are confused or are not finding the information they need. In one instance, we discovered that most people who chose the “Kids, Teens, and School” legal topic had questions about custody, which is included under the “Family” legal topic. While the Guide was still able to direct users to the appropriate custody resources, it wasn’t the most direct route to those resources. To help users get to the right section of the Guide earlier in the process, we will be changing “Kids, Teens, and School” to “Youth Rights and Education” to make the kinds of issues included in that topic clearer. 

During our 6-month review, we also identify and add new resources and adjust the Guide to make sure users can find those new resources readily. In our first six-month Guide revision we wanted to make sure low-income inventors and owners of small businesses and nonprofits knew they might be able to get legal assistance through LegalCORPS. To accomplish this, we are adding a new series of questions to identify people who have a legal issue related to their invention, non-profit or small business. We also crafted questions to identify additional situations in which Community Mediation Minnesota would be a good referral. 

If you have suggestions about how to make LawHelpMN a better resource, please let us know!  

Cover Story: Bench & Bar of Minnesota Features LawHelpMN

0819-cover_web Bench and Bar.gif

This month, the official publication of the Minnesota State Bar Association features an in-depth article on the newly revamped LawHelpMN.org and the impetus in the legal community to create a “no wrong door” resource for civil legal issues statewide. Access to Justice Made Easy (Well, Easier) by Bridget Gernander is the August cover story for Bench & Bar of Minnesota.

In the article, Gernander, program manager of the Legal Services Advisory Committee (LSAC), introduces readers to the defining new feature of the site — the LawHelpMN Guide — explaining how it employs the latest technology to provide built-in legal issue spotting. She also touches on the expanded functionality of the site’s database and its inclusion of new referral services that address provider gaps for modest-income Minnesotans. By describing the path that led to the site’s redevelopment and its aspirational access to justice goal, Gernander encourages adoption of the site as a one-stop referral source, while affirming its relevance and hoped-for impact. Read the full article in Bench & Bar.

Judge Susan Miles to Close Statewide Conference With Session on Mindfulness at Work

Senior Judge Susan Miles

Senior Judge Susan Miles

In just four weeks registration will officially open for the 2019 Legal Services Statewide Conference: Addressing Disparity: A Way Forward. Running from Wednesday evening, October 23, through noon Friday, October 25, conference sessions will explore the effects of racial, economic and other disparities on our clients and ourselves.

The Honorable Susan Miles will deliver Friday’s closing plenary session, Mindful Ways to Relax at Work and Keep Your Wits About You. Judge Miles is a Senior Judge, retired in 2018 from the Tenth Judicial District Court.

Her address to the legal services community will focus on bringing mindfulness to work. This session will be a thoughtful closing to a conference full of deep thinking about racial justice and other challenges facing legal services staff and clients. Judge Miles will provide tips on how to increase concentration and calm, and rise above the temptation to react to pervasive distractions in our personal and professional lives, through demonstration of effective use of breathing techniques and intentional pauses. Based on her own professional experience, she will discuss how mindfulness practices can enhance emotional and physical resilience, improve cognitive functioning, and connect us more positively to other people.

Judge Miles was elected to the Tenth Judicial District Court in 1996 and was chambered in Washington County until she retired in 2018.  Judge Miles served as president of Minnesota Women Lawyers, the Minnesota District Judges Association and the Minnesota District Judges Foundation, and as Assistant Chief Judge of the Tenth Judicial District of Minnesota, chair of the Washington County Bench.  An active meditation practitioner for over 13 years, she has been qualified by the University of Massachusetts Medical School to teach Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, which she teaches at the University of Minnesota.  Her current business efforts are aimed at helping legal professionals connect with a sense of inner calm and clarity and she has presented to dozens of legal groups on the topic of bringing mindfulness to work.

Judge Miles joins two other featured presenters for this year’s conference: Resmaa Menakem, keynote speaker and trainer on Thursday, and Emily Baxter, kick-off presenter on Wednesday. Registration for the 2019 Legal Services Statewide Conference officially opens on Wednesday, September 4th!