The Legal Connector

Vol. 1, No. 1                                                                                         October 14, 2014
Something New!

This is the inaugural edition of The Legal Connector, a monthly newsletter designed to connect Twin Cities legal system dots--who's doing what; how they're doing it; and what's new or on the horizon.

 

We're offering The Legal Connector to the Twin Cities nonprofit legal and social services communities as a way of keeping everyone informed about things that affect civil legal access (that is, a person's ability to connect with a lawyer to protect basic human needs like shelter, personal safety, key family relationships and the like).

 

Recently, I was reminded of how all of us have become so incredibly busy doing our own respective good work that it's difficult, if not downright impossible, to stay abreast of developments that might impact such work. Given that Call for Justice, LLC has in many ways become a "hub" for legal system information, creating The Legal Connector was pretty much a no brainer!

 

So here we go with our first issue! It's a bit lengthy--there's much to report--and no doubt, we'll have some bugs to work out, but nonetheless I hope you enjoy it! Please feel free to forward to whomever.  

 

Because justice first requires access. 

 

Ellie 

Goings On:
Here are some happenings within the Twin Cities legal and social services landscapes.
In This Issue:



1. Pro Bono Expansion
Increased Efforts to Recruit from Mid-Sized Firms in Hennepin County
In June, Hennepin County judges and attorneys began meeting with mid-sized law firms in Hennepin County to recruit more pro bono attorneys to fulfill a variety of needs. This project, led by Tom Tinkham of Dorsey & Whitney and Chief Judge Peter Cahill, and coordinated by the Volunteer Lawyers Network, seeks to grow VLN's pro bono ranks by at least 125 attorneys. So far, a number of firms have met the challenge with new pro bono attorneys. We'll report at the end of the project on numbers and participating firms.

If you or your firm want to become more involved in pro bono, contact Ellie Krug at ellen.krug@callforjustice.org or Martha Delaney at martha@vlnmn.org
2. About to Launch!
WALA -- A Website Devoted to Messaging about Minnesota's Nonprofit Legal Providers
For more than two years, an ad hoc committee of the MSBA's Legal Assistance to the Disadvantaged (LAD) Committee has worked on messaging about the good work of Minnesota's many nonprofit legal providers. With the assistance of volunteer media consultants Joe Loveland of Loveland Communications, Don Reeder of the League of Minnesota Cities, and Justin Beganik of Beganik Consulting, the committee settled upon a messaging campaign entitled "We Are Legal Aid." With the wonderful guidance of Lindsay Davis, the MSBA's Access to Justice Director, the committee has created a website, www.wearelegalaid.org, which will be up and running on October 20, coinciding with the start of Pro Bono week. Additionally, WALA has set up a Twitter account, @wearelegalaid.org and Facebook!

Importantly, the messaging campaign seeks to help lay persons understand that many nonprofit legal providers (such as Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, the Children's Law Center of MN and many others) make up what's commonly called "Legal Aid." Additionally, a major goal of the campaign is to raise awareness about how Minnesota's many nonprofit legal providers protect a person's ability to access basic human needs.

Email Lindsey Davis at ldavis@statebar.gen.mn.us if you have stories to share about the great work of "Legal Aid" broadly defined. You can support this messaging by sharing the WeAreLegalAid.org link and by connecting with them on Twitter and Facebook.
3. Launched a Short While Ago--Free Online Legal Advice 
A New Way to Offer Pro Bono Services from Anywhere in MN!
Did you know that there's a website that allows low-income Minnesotans to obtain free legal advice via email exchanges with pro bono attorneys? There sure is!

 

Minnesota Legal Advice Online (MLAO) went live in mid-May and allows low-income Minnesotans (persons earning 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines [$23,300 for a single person and $47,700 for a family of 4]) to post civil legal questions for attorneys to answer. In turn, those questions remain open on the MLAO website for 14 days, during which attorneys can take the question and answer it. Because attorneys are volunteers, MLAO can't guarantee that a question will be answered. To date, 447 questions have been submitted to MLAO, of which 200 have been answered.

 

This is a wonderful new development in legal system access! Check out MLAO at www.mnlegaladvice.org or www.projusticemn.org/mlao. If you have questions, feel free to contact Jessica Nault at jnault@mnlegalservices.org.

 

Finally, MLAO needs pro bono attorneys. This is an incredibly easy way to give back (and an attorney gets CLE credit for participating in the program) and you can even answer client questions in your pj's at 2 a.m.!

4. Civil Gideon Project
Lawyers Spread the Word and MSBA President Kyle Sets a Goal

Yet another subcommittee of the MSBA's Legal Access to the Disadvantaged (LAD) Committee is working to spark dialogue about "Civil Gideon"--the idea that civil litigants should be appointed counsel in matters where basic human needs (like shelter or personal safety) are at risk. A number of states, such as New York, have implemented various forms of Civil Gideon. The LAD Civil Gideon subcommittee has created a power point on the topic and plans to present to various MSBA sections.  This very well may be the start of a real push to create a systemic Civil Gideon program in Minnesota!   

 

Indeed, in the October 2014 edition of the MSBA Bench & Bar, President Richard Kyle called for setting a goal of providing all Minnesota domestic abuse survivors with attorneys by 2016. (See President Kyle's remarks online at Bench & Bar of Minnesota)

 

If you'd like more information about the Civil Gideon subcommittee's work, or if you'd like to schedule a Civil Gideon presentation, contact either Sally Silk at Robins Kaplan (smsilk@rkmc.com) or Lindsay Davis at the MSBA (ldavis@statebar.gen.mn.us). The first Civil Gideon CLE will take place tomorrow, Wednesday, October 15th from 8-10 a.m. at the MSBA. Can't make it? Remote attendance is available. Click here for more information and registration. 

5. C4J Expanding to Greater Minnesota
The Legal Liaison Program Heads to Owatonna
Call for Justice operates the "Legal Liaison Program," which helps nonprofit legal providers and social service agencies to communicate about programs and needs. (A key feature of the LLP is our signature "speed networking" that enables program representatives to meet one another.)To date, 55 Legal Liaison organizations and individuals have enrolled in the LLP.

Because of the program's success, we've decided to expand it to greater Minnesota. Our inaugural "Greater MN LLP" will kick off in Owatonna on the afternoon of October 30. If you know of a southeast MN social service agency or legal provider who might want to attend that free program, please let Emily (emily.lindholm@callforjustice.org) know and we'll reach out.

6. Lavender Bar Association Greater Minnesota Fellows

First Recipients of Inaugural Fellowships Announced

The Minnesota Lavender Bar Association, the largest professional association of LGBTQ attorneys in the state, recently awarded fellowships that are part of a program aimed at increasing the visibility and leadership roles of LGBTQ attorneys in greater Minnesota. Lindsay J. Brice, a prosecutor in the Rochester City Attorney's Office, has been named an MLBA Senior Fellow. An MLBA Junior Fellowship has also been awarded to Dana Christensen, a staff attorney for Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid in St. Cloud.  

 

Look for more about Lindsay and Dana as they help the MLBA increase its outreach in greater Minnesota. For more information about the MLBA Fellowships or other MLBA programs, contact Kris Maul at kristian.a.maul@gmail.com.

7. MSBA Diversity Initiatives
Plans to Create Disability Subcommittee and Gather Attorney Self-Identification Data

Danielle Shelton Walczak, MSBA Director of Diversity, has been actively working on a number of diversity and inclusion projects.  

 

Among these projects is the formation of a Disability Subcommittee to address issues affecting Minnesota lawyers who have disabilities. Another initiative involves asking the Minnesota Supreme Court to expand the annual attorney registration process to include data about race, GLBTQ identification, and disability status. (As of the present, we have no way of ascertaining the number of Minnesota attorneys who are of color or from other traditionally marginalized communities.)  

 

Danielle has also created a great up-to-date calendar of diversity-related events. Go to the MSBA Diversity Events Calendar to see the complete list of events. Danielle's email is dsheltonwalczak@statebar.gen.mn.us

8. Task Force on Legal Education
MSBA Task Force Considers Licensed Legal Technicians and the Shortage of Rural MN Attorneys
A MBSA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education has been meeting regularly for several months.

Among the ideas the Task Force is considering is the concept of licensing legal technicians who can provide legal advice and services for specific subject areas where the need outpaces the supply of lawyers (for example, family law; did you know that more than three quarters of the people going through divorces in Hennepin County are unrepresented?). Washington state recently adopted a limited licensed legal technician rule; their first technicians will be licensed next year.

 

The Task Force is also addressing the shortage of lawyers in rural Minnesota. Other Midwest states--like Iowa and Nebraska--are tackling the problem through fellowships and subsidies; perhaps it's time for a similar program in Minnesota?

 

If you'd like to weigh in on these subjects, contact Ellie Krug at ellen.krug@callforjustice.org. The Task Force's report will be issued next summer. 

9. Summer Bar Exam Results Skewed?
Uniform Bar Exam Administered in 14 States Garners Interesting Results

We've received an anecdotal report that the pass rate for the summer Bar examination may be lower than the pass rate for the February exam. If so, this would be the first time this has ever occurred. We're also hearing of law school high achievers not passing the summer examination. The July exam is the first time Minnesota bar applicants were tested using the Uniform Bar Examination, which is now administered in 14 states. This is a developing story which could adversely impact access to justice for low-income people because there may be fewer new attorneys to serve them. We'll report further on this as we receive more information. 

People, Places & Things
News about personnel shifts, events, and other items of interest.
Interim Executive Director Hired

Welcome to Ginny Bell, the Interim ED of The Bricker Lavik Community Law Firm!

Some of you know that Call for Justice has been facilitating creation of a community law firm in St. Paul, which will train new law grads on best practices while serving people caught in a Justice Gap--those who make too much for Legal Aid but who can't afford market rate lawyers. This low bono law firm, named after the late Bricker Lavik from Dorsey & Whitney, will open third or fourth quarter next year. 

 

Effective October 1, Virginia (Ginny) A. Bell, a former partner with the Maslon firm, became the interim executive director of the BLCLF. Her task: help move the law firm from paper concept to bricks and mortar. We welcome Ginny and wish her all the best as she goes forward! You can reach Ginny at ginnyannbell@comcast.net.  

Sara Gonsalves 
New Leadership at the MN State Self Represented Litigant Service Center

Sara Gonsalves, who succeeded Susan Ledray, is the new Manager of the state Self Represented Litigant Service Center. Sara manages three locations which provide legal information to self-represented litigants in district court: MN Courts Self Help Center which provides information statewide, and the two walk-in Self Help Centers located in Hennepin Count--the Government Center and Family Justice Center. She can be reached at Sara.Gonsalves@courts.state.mn.us

Melissa Kantola
New Leadership at the Hennepin County Government Center Self-Help Center

Melissa Kantola is the new Supervising Attorney, Hennepin County Government Center Self-Help Center.  She succeeds Debra Swaden who retired on October 1. Melissa supervises a team of staff attorneys, paralegals, and senior court clerks who assist pro se litigants at the Government Center Self-Help Center on a variety of civil legal issues.  She can be reached at Melissa.Kantola@courts.state.mn.us.

Autumn Nelson
Announces Departure from Robins, Kaplan Miller & Ciresi L.L.P.

We're so very sad to report our friend and colleague, Autumn Nelson, the Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Pro Bono at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P., will be leaving at the end of this month. She's heading to Austin, Texas, just in time to avoid the snow! We'll miss you Autumn and we wish you the very best as you go forward! 

Webinar: "Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA) in Minnesota: The First 30 Years" 
A Product of the LAD IOLTA Prime Partners Subcommittee
Bridget Gernander, Executive Director of the Minnesota IOLTA Program, and Patrick R. Burns, First Assistant Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility, will present on the aspects of managing an IOLTA account. Additionally, attendees will learn more about the history of IOLTA and the MSBA Prime Partner Program where banks agree to pay interest above the current rate as a way of supporting nonprofit legal providers. This webinar will take place on November 13, 2014 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. 2.0 hours of Minnesota Ethics CLE credit will be applied for. For more information, visit the LSSS website. Contact Ann Conroy at aconroy@mnlegalservices.org with questions.
Free for the Asking!
MN CLE's Summary Guide on Free Legal Resources
In August, Minnesota Continuing Legal Education (MN CLE) issued a tri-fold brochure entitled, Summary Guide to Free and Subsidized Civil Legal Services for Low Income Clients.

This guide was developed through a collaboration between Minnesota Legal Services State Support and Call for Justice, LLC. It details by county Legal Aid service areas and lists other programs (such as the Children's Law Center of Minnesota) that have statewide reach.

Bulk copies of the guide can be ordered from MN CLE or from Call for Justice.
In Closing
We'd love to hear what you think of our first edition of The Legal Connector, so please email me with comments.

Stay tuned for our next issue on November 15! If you have an announcement or legal update that you'd like to submit for possible inclusion in our November edition, please contact Program Manager Emily Lindholm at emily.lindholm@callforjustice.org.

Sincerely,

Ellen (Ellie) Krug
Executive Director
ellen.krug@callforjustice.org
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Thanks to C4J Donors!!

Foundation Support:
The Dorsey & Whitney Foundation, F.R. Bigelow Foundation, Hennepin County Bar Foundation, Leonard, Street and Deinard Foundation, Ramsey County Bar Foundation, The Saint Paul Foundation.

Law Firms:

Aafedt, Forde, Gray, Monson & Hager, P.A., Arthur Chapman Kettering Smetak & Pikala, P.A., Barry, Slade & Wheaton, LLC, Bassford Remele, A Professional Association, Best & Flanagan LLP, Chestnut Cambronne PA, Cooper & Reid, LLC, Cousineau McGuire, Chartered, Dorsey & Whitney LLP, Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, Fish & Richardson P.C., Foley & Mansfield, PLLP, Fredrikson & Byron, PA, Gray Plant Mooty, Halunen & Associates, Henson & Efron, P.A., Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, Kennedy & Graven, Chartered, Larkin Hoffman Daly & Lindgren Ltd., Larson King, LLP, Lind, Jensen, Sullivan & Peterson, P.A., Lindquist & Vennum LLP, Maslon Edelman Borman and Brand, LLP, Mansfield, Tanick & Cohen, P.A., Merchant & Gould, Moss & Barnett, A Professional Association, Nilan Johnson Lewis PA, Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly LLP, Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P., Schwegman, Lundberg & Woessner, P.A., Stinson, Leonard Street LLP, Unger Law Office, Zelle Hofmann Voelbel & Mason LLP.

Businesses & Organizations:
Bestwestern Normandy Inn & Suites, Boston Scientific, Brending Electrolysis, Court Videographer Services, Inc., Greater Twin Cities United Way, Minnesota Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company.

Friends of Justice:

Vicki and Richard Carlson, Emily Cooper, David Couillard, John Daly, Martha Delaney, Paul Dieseth, Liz and Brian Dillon, Phyllis Doman, Charles Ferrell, Al and Ellen Fisher, Paul and Donna Floyd, Donald and Arvonne Fraser (in honor of Hon. Tom Fraser), Sara Galligan, Beth Garland, Elise Ginsburg, Jayne and Frank Harris, Catharine Haukedahl, Jacquelyn "Jacq" Hauser, Amy Walsh Kern, Ellen Krug, Mark Krug, Erin and Brian Lindholm, John Medeiros, Caitlin Miles, Alan Miller, Kathy Moran, Ari Murphy, Jean Nead, Melissa Otto, Gary Pederson, Kelly Phillips, David Piper, David Potter, Jill Prohofsky, Paul Quast, Thea Reilkoff, Liz Reppe, Brent Routman, Joseph Satter, Vanessa Tennyson, Dennis Tharp, Tom Tinkham, Mike Unger, Mary Vasaly, Ella Washington, Paul Wehrwein, Jodi Williams.