Minnesota Celebrates National Pro Bono Week

October 21 – 27, 2018, marks National Pro Bono Week —the American Bar Association’s annual celebration in recognition of the efforts of current pro bono volunteers, and its hopes for increased support and collaboration. Pro bono plays a vital role in closing the justice gap by helping to increase the number of low-income individuals who can get legal advice at crucial moments.

Locally, pro bono “hubs” are being hosted by several corporate legal offices where volunteer attorneys will gather to answer questions on the Minnesota Legal Advice Online (MLAO) platform. MLAO’s web-based format helps eliminate the geographic and time barriers often faced when seeking legal assistance. Clients who live in remote areas, lack reliable transportation, or work night shifts can access legal clinic-style services that would otherwise be unavailable. Lawyers can respond to questions from clients anywhere in Minnesota, from wherever the lawyer is located.

On October 24th, join the Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN) for its Pro Bono Week Happy Hour at Lakes and Legends Brewing Co. in Minneapolis. The event will celebrate the volunteers, donors and staff that make pro bono happen in Minnesota. Visit the ProJusticeMN calendar for more information and other happenings during Pro Bono Week.

Minnesota Legal Advice Online & ProJusticeMN Featured in Bench and Bar

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October's edition of Bench and Bar of Minnesota features all things pro bono. Among them, legal aid's options for the busy Minnesota lawyer: Minnesota Legal Advice Online and ProJusticeMN.  These time-saving and innovative online outlets for assisting low income Minnesotans are explained in a featured article by State Support's Emily Good.

MN Legal Advice Online is a virtual legal clinic with a flexible commitment. Through an email conversation, volunteers select submitted questions they want to answer based on their subject matter knowledge. The site easily tracks volunteer hours for CLE credit or North Star Lawyer certification.

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ProJusticeMN.org, a website supporting pro bono attorneys and legal aid attorneys, assists volunteers in finding a pro bono case or project, or an upcoming legal training. The site also has an extensive poverty law resource library with practice manuals, document assembly tools, interview guides, and settlement checklists for different areas of law. Read the full article in Bench and Bar.

Minnesota Legal Advice Online: Brand New Look and Easier to Use

A few months shy of its third anniversary, State Support's popular pro bono legal advice website has a brand new look, and greatly improved usability for clients and lawyers. Freshly redesigned, Minnesota Legal Advice Online (MLAO), funded by a grant from the Court Technology Fund, is fully mobile-responsive – a critical element with 30% or more of its users arriving on a tablet or smartphone.

MLAO's web-based format helps eliminate the geographic and time barriers often faced when seeking legal assistance. Clients who live in remote areas, lack reliable transportation, or work night shifts can access legal clinic-style services that would otherwise be unavailable. Lawyers can respond to questions from clients anywhere in Minnesota, from wherever the lawyer is located.

Starting on March 23rd – the first week the redesigned site went live – 50 new questions were posted by clients. Volunteer lawyers are needed to answer questions and help keep pace with the rate of client submissions. State Support's current volunteer lawyers are busy closing out questions from the old iteration of the site, but more lawyers are sought to make sure people who need advice are getting it.

Minnesota Legal Advice Online site is a great way to engage in pro bono work. Like a brief advice, walk-in, or phone-in clinic, volunteer lawyers provide limited scope representation. There is no ongoing client relationship, and the time commitment is easy to manage – login and respond to questions when you have time, for as long as you want. The web-based platform has the added benefit of allowing lawyers to read and research a question before responding, if necessary.

Questions cover all areas of civil law, and range from procedural matters such as “how do I present evidence in my case?” to more subject specific issues like “I have a power of attorney for my brother who is in jail; the landlord won’t let us get his belongings from the apartment, what can I do?”

As with other pro bono programs, lawyers can earn CLE credits for participating. For every 6 hours of time volunteered through MLAO, lawyers can get 1 credit, with a limit of 6 credits redeemable for reporting requirements in Minnesota. Pro bono hours on the site also count towards the NorthStar Lawyers program. The site has a function that allows lawyers to enter and track the hours they spend responding to questions.

To sign up, visit www.mnlegaladvice.org and select “Lawyer Sign-up” from the top menu bar. If you have further questions, contact Emily Good at egoodmnlegalservices.org. We would love to have you volunteer!