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.

Cover Story: Bench & Bar of Minnesota Features LawHelpMN

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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.

SMRLS' Executive Director Interviewed in Bench & Bar

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In a brief and insightful interview with Bench & Bar of Minnesota, Jessie Nicholson, chief executive officer of Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS), talks about her decision to pursue a legal career and the youthful inspiration that still influences her today. Read Meet Jessie Nicholson: ‘Never forget where you came from.

Free Webinar: Making Effective Referrals Beyond Legal Aid

Earlier this month, State Support held a training for legal services staff who work with intake and make referrals using the new LawHelpMN.org and it’s powerful LOON (Legal Services Online Network) database. One of the training components was a presentation by panelists from four of Minnesota’s newer legal services programs for people who aren’t financially eligible for traditional legal aid services or those needing service beyond the scope of legal aid. This one-hour segment was recorded and is now available as a free webinar for advocates wanting to familiarize themselves with these new programs in order to make more accurate and meaningful referrals.

The webinar includes information on the following organizations: