Established in 1966, Volunteer Lawyers Network, Ltd. (VLN) is a 501(c)3 non-profit which provides civil legal services to low-income people through volunteer attorneys. VLN’s mission is to protect and promote the basic human needs of people in poverty through the power of legal volunteers.
Potential clients reach out to VLN either by calling our intake line, coming to our weekly walk-in intake session or going to one of our many community legal clinics and seminars. Our staff evaluates each case’s facts for service through VLN, and then evaluates the potential client’s income, assets and household size to determine what level of service, if any, we can provide. If the client qualifies, they are matched with an attorney who will advise them, answer questions, fill out paperwork, make phone calls or write letters on their behalf, help them prepare for trial, represent them in court or provide many other services depending on their legal issue and income – lower-income clients are generally eligible for more extensive free services.
Volunteers become involved through their employer or an individual commitment to working with clients experiencing poverty. They may see clients at a regular clinic shift, provide phone advice, take cases on for full representation or provide mentorship for other volunteers, among other specialized volunteer opportunities. Our volunteers enjoy free training in working with clients experiencing poverty, training on specific legal issues, malpractice insurance for VLN cases, CLE credits for pro bono work, waived license fees for retired attorneys, regular social events and many more benefits.
Our goal is to reduce and eliminate the barriers people experiencing poverty face when they are confronted with a legal issue. Our hundreds of trained volunteers work with thousands of clients each year, helping them navigate a complex legal system to protect their rights, their families and their hard-earned income.
In Fiscal Year 2018, 692 volunteer attorneys provided 8,914 services, the majority of which were offered at our free legal clinics located across the Twin Cities Metro. Based on client household data, our services changed nearly 20,000 lives, including the lives of 7,800 children.
We partner with myriad local and national organizations dedicated to fighting poverty and protecting the rights of marginalized people, including immigrants, refugees, the LGBTQ+ community, people experiencing homelessness, the working poor, tenants, single parents and more.
Based on 2018 surveys, 91 percent of legal clinic clients said they were treated “very well” or “well” by VLN and their attorney. This number jumps to 96 percent for clients who received phone advice or full representation.