Pro Bono Attorney Got Her Start at Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid

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Now an employment law associate at Best & Flanagan, LLP, Ashleigh Leitch credits her early experiences with Legal Aid in Willmar and the Minnesota Disability Law Center (MDLC) as crucial to her awareness of disparity and her commitment to justice.

Her inspiring story and subsequent work are featured in this month’s Attorney at Law Magazine Minnesota. In Getting It Done For Legal Aid, by Leykn Schmatz, Leitch recalls the guidance she received from deputy director Ann Cofell and how her work with clients changed her mind and heart. “Working at Legal Aid in my hometown helped me to recognize my privilege,” says Leitch.

Today Leitch is more committed than ever in supporting the mission of Legal Aid. After several years as a firm captain in The Fund for Legal Aid’s Associates’ Campaign, she joined the co-chair team last year. “The private bar needs to pick up as much funding and pro bono work as we can. We all took the same oath, we’re in it together, and we need to do our part to support Legal Aid. It’s our obligation.” Read the full article.

SMRLS' CEO Explains Why LawHelpMN is a Boon for the Legal Aid Community

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The September edition of the Ramsey County Bar Association’s (RCBA) Barrister Newsletter includes a feature by Jessie Nicholson, chief executive officer of Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, in which she writes about the importance of LawHelpMN.org as a singular and comprehensive resource for civil legal issues in Minnesota.

In her article, A Boon for the Legal Aid Community: The New LawHelpMN.org (page 4), Nicholson focuses on the site’s primary functions, and notably, its newest tool, the LawHelpMN Guide. Created to give users a custom experience, the Guide matches them with the most relevant legal information and referrals based on their specific question, circumstances, and location.

“The staff here at Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS) have enthusiastically embraced the new LawHelpMN and are involved firsthand in making sure information about our services at SMRLS is up-to-date, accurate, and immediately available, ensuring that those who need us can find us. As a nonprofit we are sometimes limited in the services we can provide. LawHelpMN’s Provider and Clinics Directory puts targeted referrals and specific information about other organizations at our fingertips.”

AARP and Pollen Name Jessie Nicholson to Their 50 Over 50 List for 2019

AARP Minnesota and Pollen invite you to meet their 2019 50 Over 50 honorees — 50 Minnesota leaders over 50 who are writing their own rules about aging. These incredible individuals are making an impact in many ways—driving the engines of opportunity in the business world, creating art and helping others do the same, affecting change in their communities, and finding new ways to upend the status quo as leaders in their work and fighters against the tired stereotypes around aging. For the fourth consecutive year, AARP and Pollen are proud to honor these leaders.

Among this year’s honorees is Jessie Nicholson, chief executive officer of Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services. Nicholson was recognized in the Nonprofit category as a “Rights Defender” and her work protecting the civil and legal rights of low-income Minnesotans for over 35 years is highlighted. She and her fellow honorees will be celebrated at the McNamara Alumni Center on Thursday, October 17.

The 50 Over 50 list celebrates and recognizes Minnesotans over the age of 50 who have made significant contributions and achievements in their communities. People from across Minnesota visited 50Over50MN.org to nominate leaders in their community in one of five categories: arts & culture, nonprofit, business, community building, and disruption. A transparent cohort of distinguished peers then took on the near impossible task of narrowing down the list to fifty of the most inspiring and accomplished leaders from across the state.

Legal Aid Service of Northeastern MN Introduces New Volunteer Attorney Program

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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.