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.

Legal Aid's Board President Offers Perspective on LawHelpMN.org

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In a special feature to the July edition of Minnesota Lawyer, Sara G. McGrane, president of the Board of Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid and president of Felhaber Larson, writes compellingly about how the redesigned LawHelpMN.org offers a creative approach to the justice gap in the state.

In her article, Offering access to justice for all, she likens the site, and specifically the new Guide tool, to a GPS style navigation system for legal needs. “The Guide’s logic tree streamlines the data based on the user’s answers, and soft factors gauge which kind of help is the best match.” With the new Guide tool, a LawHelpMN user is able to find a very direct pathway to customized legal information and referrals based on their specific issue and location.

McGrane writes, “I hope my fellow attorneys will venture to the website and familiarize themselves with the guide. It’s an important statewide resource, and it will help us make headway in providing fair and equitable access to the legal system for all Minnesotans.”

To read the full article, log on at Minnesota Lawyer.

Legal Aid Speaks Out On Screening Inaccuracies Affecting Minneapolis Renters

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Luke Grundman, managing attorney with Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, and other tenant advocates, have been working toward solutions to the affordable housing shortage in Minneapolis. They’re asking policymakers to overhaul the current tenant screening process, which frequently blocks low-income renters from finding an apartment. Inaccuracies about criminal records, credit history and evictions in a tenant’s screening report, for example, can mean the difference between getting an apartment or not. And fixing a mistake with one tenant screening agency doesn’t automatically resolve it with other agencies.

“It puts a lot of weight on the consumer or tenants to dispute reports, and a lot of tenants don’t have the time to do that,” Grundman said. “Their application has been denied and they’re waiting for this investigation to be conducted. … There’s no incentive for tenant screening organizations to get it right in the first place.” Read more in the Star Tribune.

Minnesota Pro Bono Lawyers Are National Leaders

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A recent Star Tribune article lauds the dedicated and exemplary work of Minnesota’s pro bono attorneys and explains the activism that led to its strength. Minnesota is leading the country with pro bono stewardship from firms like Faegre Baker Daniels — honored in May by the American Bar Association — Fredrikson & Byron and Dorsey & Whitney, to name a few.

”In 2017, 928 Minnesota lawyers contributed 50 or more hours of pro bono work — more than 106,000 hours,” said Steve Marchese, public service director of the Minnesota State Bar Association.

That spirit of volunteerism and commitment to justice for all is also at the core of the pro bono work being done by Volunteer Lawyers Network, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, and the Advocates for Human Rights.

“Our mission is to protect and promote the basic human needs of people in poverty through the power of legal volunteers,” said VLN’s executive director Thomas Walsh.

Read the full article: Minnesota lawyers' dedication to pro bono work has made the state a national leader.