Hennepin Lawyer Spotlights LawHelpMN.org

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The July/August edition of Hennepin Lawyer magazine features an article on the newly redesigned LawHelpMN.org, by Tom Walsh, executive director of Volunteer Lawyers Network. Appropriately placed in a section titled Community Connections, LawHelpMN 2.0: The Supercharged Legal Resource and Referral Tool for Lawyers and the Public, makes a case for the usefulness of the site for the entire community: pro bono attorneys, legal navigators, the public and any advocate looking for a meaningful range of legal resources and referrals.

Notably, Walsh’s piece introduces the reader to the site’s pivotal tool, the LawHelpMN Guide, and with it, a user’s ability to generate personalized results (legal education materials, links, legal services) based on their unique situation. Read the full article.

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.

Housing Court Project Study Shows How Legal Help Can Prevent Homelessness

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The cover story in this month’s Bench and Bar of Minnesota is proof positive that the Housing Court Project in Hennepin County is preventing homelessness and family instability on a regular basis. The article, authored by Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid’s Luke Grundman, along with project colleagues Muria Kruger of Volunteer Lawyers Network and Tom Tinkham former Dorsey and Whitney trial partner, describes the project and a recent study examining its effectiveness.

For the past 18 years, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid (MMLA) and Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN) have maintained a legal clinic at the Hennepin County Courthouse offering eviction advice and full representation, as well as help negotiating settlements and preparing expungement petitions. Recently, the city of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, and the Pohlad Family Foundation have provided significant financial support to bolster this vital court project. The clinic is staffed by 11 attorneys from MMLA, and in 2017 alone, nearly 150 volunteer attorneys from VLN provided 1,400 hours of legal service.

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The study on the project’s impact compared results for tenants who were unrepresented to those who received limited advice or help and then to those who received full representation. Eleven random court calendar days were selected for review. Results demonstrated that those represented in eviction proceedings have better outcomes and those fully represented have even more positive outcomes. Read more in Bench and Bar of Minnesota.

Coming Soon: The New Year Brings a New LawHelpMN.org

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The highly anticipated launch of the recently rebuilt LawHelpMN.org is just around the corner! In a short time, site visitors will find a clean modern look, a new guided tool for gathering curated legal resources and referrals and familiar and thoughtfully improved features such as the self-help library and the provider and clinic directory. Months of feedback, user testing and behind the scenes work from the staff at State Support and our website developer, Electric Citizen, will soon become a reality for frequent users of the site, as well as those discovering it for the first time.

Here’s a preview of key features from the soon-to-be launched site:

  • Navigational Assistance/Targeted Resources and Referrals: The LawHelpMN Guide
    The LawHelpMN Guide (the Guide) is designed to deliver a customized set of self-help resources and referrals that address an individual’s specific legal concern or problem. These curated results are generated in response to an individual’s answers to a series of simple questions within the Guide intended to: 1) narrow their legal topic, and 2) assess their potential eligibility for services based on a variety of factors including location and income.

  • Password Protected Online Database: LOON (Legal Organizations Online Network)
    LOON was developed to house up-to-date information about legal services available across Minnesota.  Service listings in the database include information about case types and priorities, case acceptance guidelines, clinics, and eligibility criteria. LOON usage began late last year within the legal services community to enable legal services providers to make more accurate referrals amongst each other through password-protected access to detailed, real-time data. Once the rebuilt LawHelpMN.org site launches, LOON will also power the referral information available to site visitors using either the Guide or the providers and clinic directory.

  • Expanded Continuum of Services: Access to Justice for All Minnesotans
    Offering meaningful referrals along a continuum means including referrals that are tailored to the individual’s circumstances across a broad range of services, such as legal aid organizations, legal clinics, law libraries, self-help centers, alternative dispute resolution services, and private attorney referral programs. Some recently developed or expanded services that will now be available as referrals on LawHelpMN.org include the Minnesota Unbundled Project, Community Mediation Minnesota, and the Low Fee Family Law Project.

The LawHelpMN.org redesign was conducted in partnership with Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, the Volunteer Lawyers Network, and the Minnesota Judicial Branch. The project is made possible through grant funds from the Legal Services Corporation Technology Innovation Grant Program, the Minnesota Legal Services Advisory Committee, the Minnesota Court Technology Fund, and the Minnesota Justice for All Project.

Here at State Support, it is our sincere hope that as the legal services community begins using the new LawHelpMN.org, you will share your feedback with us. Let us know what’s working, what you love, or if you find technical bugs or glitches, at statesupport@mnlegalservices.org or through the contact form on the new site.