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.

Mayor and Local Housing Advocates Launch "More Representation Minneapolis"

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The Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN) and Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid (MMLA), along with a group of twelve area law firms, have joined forces to combat the growing problem of unrepresented litigants in housing court. Their initiative - More Representation Minneapolis - will bring an increased cohort of pro bono attorneys to the aid of low-income tenants in eviction defense and rent escrow/tenant remedy actions in 2019. VLN and MMLA will anchor the More Representation Minneapolis project, which has a short-term goal of adding 25 additional attorneys to VLN’s network, and increasing their housing representation work by 20 percent.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said the project will help prevent unfair evictions by utilizing the existing resources in our legal community, and it dovetails with the $150,000 in his 2019 proposed city budget to launch a pilot project to fund legal services for low-income renters facing displacement.

Speaking to the Star Tribune, Luke Grundman, managing attorney of the housing unit at MMLA, said, “People have nowhere to go. If you have an eviction on your record, it’s almost impossible [to find housing].”

Read more about More Representation Minneapolis in the Minnesota Lawyer.

Disability Law Center Deputy Director Featured in Minnesota Lawyer

Pamela Hoopes

Pamela Hoopes

This summer Minnesota Lawyer announced its 2018 Diversity & Inclusion honorees as part of its commitment to diversity in our judicial system. Honorees were named in legacy, individual and group categories.

During the month of October, the magazine will celebrate the contributions of these recipients by featuring them individually. Currently featured in the individual category is honoree Pamela Hoopes, deputy director/legal director of the Minnesota Disability Law Center (MDLC) of Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid.

Hoopes’ contributions to diversity and inclusion span 20 years, during which she has championed the rights of disabled Minnesotans, primarily by helping them gain access to the courts. She supervises MDLC’s legal work, in addition to lending her experience as a trainer on disability law. Read more about Hoopes in Minnesota Lawyer.

CMLS and MMLA Add Perspective to Prospect of Funding Cuts

Minnesota Lawyer recently reached out to Central Minnesota Legal Services (CMLS) and Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid (MMLA) for a feature about community concern over the prospect of funding cuts to legal aid.

Commenting on the income disparities legal aid lawyers face, as well as the challenges in retention for programs, Cathy Haukedahl, executive director of MMLA, said: “If we can make some improvement where we are a little more competitive, we would have more retention. That would benefit our clients and most of our folks would be happy to stay because they love the work they do.” The hope is that a small boost in state funding would make this possible.

At the same time, for programs like CMLS, the prospect of losing funding from the federal Legal Services Corporation (LSC), could have a dramatic impact. Executive director Jean Lastine noted, "There wouldn’t be an immediate shutdown or anything but we’d probably lose half our lawyers." While concerned, she pointed out it is not the first funding crisis legal aid programs have faced.  Read the full article.