Working With Interpreters

While many of our clients speak multiple languages,  English may not be their first language, so we need help to communicate important legal processes and concepts. April’s tip provides valuable pointers on working with interpreters.



Representing Clients who have a Mental Illness

The 25-year old American with Disabilities Act provides protections for the many among us with mental illness.1 Mental illnesses are medical conditions that may disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others, and daily functioning. Because individuals with mental illnesses have higher rates of poverty (their illness can be so debilitating as to prevent them from working), most pro bono attorneys will eventually be helping clients with mental illness.2 The following provide some guidance for providing legal services to clients with a mental illness (hereinafter referred to as just “clients”).

VLN December 2015 Tip of the Month – Working with Clients with Mental Illness

Cold Weather Rule

As we enter into Minnesota’s “cold weather period”, energy customers can avail themselves of the Cold Weather Rule protections to prevent heat shutoffs through the winter. The Cold Weather Rule is not a bright line rule preventing utility disconnections. Instead, it establishes a framework for the customer to establish payment arrangements to avoid a utility disconnection.

Submitted by: Chris Hanrahan

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pdfdownload2 November Tip of the Month –Cold Weather Rule

Cancellation of Debt

March’s Tip of the Month focuses on the IRS tax form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt. Around this time of year, clients begin to see these forms in their mailbox and they often come as a surprise. This tip identifies why the form is issued, some exclusions that may apply and if a client is still legally responsible for the debt. Read more >>

Submitted by: Margaret Henehan, Nancy C. Dreher Fellow

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pdfdownload2 March Tip of the Month –

Unpaid Wage Claims

VLN clinics serve a number of clients involved in disputes with former employers over unpaid wages. The timing of an employee’s pay depends upon the circumstances of the employment termination. Different statutes, albeit with similar remedies, apply to wage claims depending on whether the employee quit or resigned, or whether the employee was discharged or terminated by the employer. This month’s tip provides basic information to assist attorneys in assessing wage claims and determining the applicable law. Read more >>

Submitted by:Glendon Drew, Volunteer Lawyers Network

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pdfdownload2 December Tip of the Month – Unpaid Wage Claims

Criminal Expungement Law Update

Minnesotans are facing one of the toughest housing markets and employment markets since we started tracking the statistics.  Criminal records prevent people from competing for jobs or obtaining safe, affordable housing and force them to rely on public assistance to survive. Expungement provides a second chance for those who have rehabilitated, allowing them to become productive members of our community. The June 2014 Tip of the Month highlights recent legislative changes to the expungement law, tips on how you can apply the new law to your client’s case to help give him or her a second chance. Read more >>

Submitted by: Chris Hanrahan, Resource Attorney, Volunteer Lawyers Network

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pdfdownload2 June Tip of the Month – New Criminal Expungement Law Update

New Online Intake!

We are excited to announce our new online intake option for clients seeking services in the areas of bankruptcy, family, housing, and criminal expungement. Unlike our phone lines, which are confined to certain hours of the day, our online intake form is available to potential clients with access to the internet 24/7. Applicants for our services have told us they appreciate being able to apply anytime, having an alternative to calling, and saving the time of holding for a staff person. The form also gives potential clients information about our services.

Of course, not all of our clients have internet access or are as comfortable on a computer as on a phone. Standard phone intakes will continue to assist these individuals and possibly with less wait time as others go to our website instead.

Not only an advance in customer service, the online intake form saves staff time too, as they are reviewing information rather than obtaining it firsthand.

Stay tuned – the online intake form will be in Spanish by mid-summer as well as cover more VLN issues!

In the meantime, if your client has a bankruptcy, family, housing or criminal expungement issue, and has access to the internet, you now have two options to refer them to VLN:

Two other online resources

As noted in earlier tips, two other tools to help clients get the services they need are: