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:

MN Unbundled Law Project: A New Era in Limited Scope Representation

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The Minnesota State Bar Association (MSBA), with Hennepin and Ramsey County Bar Association partners, are pleased to announce the new Minnesota Unbundled Law Project. The project is now available for clients and referrals at www.MNunbundled.org. Also known as limited scope representation, “unbundled” legal services allow an attorney and a client to customize legal services according to the client’s needs and budget. Services could be limited to a certain issue in a case, legal advice, review of court documents, or coaching a client who will provide self-representation.

The benefits of unbundled representation extend to both clients and attorneys. By paying an attorney to do only parts of a case where legal expertise is needed, the client saves money on legal fees and attorneys can use their time more efficiently. Time and energy are maximized for both parties because the attorney can provide information about the legal process and the client’s specific issues, in addition to identifying potential problems or hidden complications earlier in the process.

Those looking for unbundled referrals can get started at the Project’s website, www.MNunbundled.org, and find more information about what types of services they may want to hire an attorney to perform, as well as what to consider when deciding if unbundled representation is right for them.

The MSBA’s pro bono development director, Steve Marchese, in noting the importance of the project, said: “The Minnesota Unbundled Law Project brings together the work of the state’s largest bar organizations to increase access to limited scope/unbundled legal services for all Minnesotans. It provides an easily accessible platform for clients interested in more affordable legal options to connect with the attorneys interested in assisting them. We look forward to studying the results of this pilot so we can expand service to more people and more areas of practice throughout the state.”

Attorneys interested in being a participating provider can contact Steve Marchese directly at smarchese@mnbar.org.

Access to Justice in Minnesota: An MSBA Report

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The Minnesota State Bar Association (MSBA) and its Legal Assistance to the Disadvantaged (LAD) Committee published the 2017-18 Access to Justice Report for Minnesota. The report highlights initiatives undertaken by the MSBA and LAD Committee in partnership with the Minnesota Judicial Branch, legal aid providers, volunteer attorney programs, and other stakeholders.

Among the highlights:

  • Minnesota partners are creating an interactive online portal to direct people to resources to meet their civil legal needs.
  • An amended Minnesota rule promotes legal aid's receipt of unclaimed funds in state class actions.
  • An MSBA delegation opposes elimination of the federal Legal Services Corporation which funds legal aid programs. 
  • A new statewide Low Fee Family Law Project matches clients of modest means with attorneys.
  • A coordinated response to legal needs in the event of a natural or human-made crises in Minnesota is being developed. 

Read more about these initiatives and other activities that help improve equal justice for all in our state.