VLN provides many skill-based and legal resources to support your high-quality services to your VLN clients. If you need help beyond what is provided below, please contact the case placement coordinator or resource attorney in the area where you are volunteering.
Our Volunteer Handbook includes information about the relationship between VLN and volunteer attorneys, recommended case handling protocols, E-filing and E-serving, and current needs in our various areas of service. (Last updated January 2017.)
Essential Skills and Knowledge for Counseling and Problem-Solving
The Essential Skills and Knowledge for Counseling and Problem Solving manual includes information relevant to helping pro bono clients, such as understanding the different types of poverty, building rapport, helping a client overcome specific barriers to participating in the case, how race and other factors intersect with poverty, and ensuring effective communication. Many of the skills are, of course, directly applicable to paid work as well! (Last updated January 2017)
Essential Skills and Knowledge for Counseling and Problem Solving at Clinics
Serving clients at clinics is more challenging because of the limited time in which to assess and address a client’s issue. The Essential Skills and Knowledge for Counseling and Problem Solving at Clinics will address itself to applying skills in a clinic setting. (To be completed by the end of February 2017)
Helping Clients in Poverty Overcome Barriers to Equal Justice
This essential three-page summary includes the most important concepts from the 4.0-hour Breaking Poverty Barriers to Equal Justice curriculum, based on the work of Dr. Donna Beegle. For the additional impact of race, see The Impact of Race in Pro Bono Services.
CLEs at VLN
For a listing of upcoming CLEs, please visit vlnmn.org/events. Our CLEs include:
- Trainings on substantive law issues common to people living in poverty
- Monthly Making a Difference for Pro Bono Clients (highly recommended for all volunteers)
- Monthly Race and the Legal System: Tools for Constructive Conversations (in partnership with the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers)
- A growing library of On-Demand CLEs that you may watch at a time and place of your convenience.
Credit for Pro Bono (including Mentoring)
Attorneys volunteering through VLN may report one CLE credit for every six hours of pro bono work through VLN. This includes, for example, volunteering on full representation cases, at clinics, and/or to mentor another VLN volunteer. For every three-year reporting cycle, attorneys volunteering through VLN can claim up to six credits this way. For more information, see CLE Credit for Pro Bono.
Malpractice Insurance Information
VLN provides malpractice insurance for all pro bono representations undertaken through VLN. To qualify for VLN’s malpractice insurance, an attorney must have completed a registration form, been approved for volunteering, and have a client obtained through VLN. Obtained through VLN includes clients seen at VLN clinics or referred to the attorney as a VLN client by a VLN staff person.
Retiring or retired attorneys (62+ years old) with emeritus status may provide pro bono legal representations to VLN pro bono clients without having to pay the annual registration fee necessary for an active license to practice law. See Become an Emeritus Pro Bono Attorney through VLN and the Affidavit of Emeritus Status.
Volunteer Librarians Coalition Wiki
The Volunteer Librarians Coalition Wiki contains sample pleadings, step-by-step instructions, forms, and other resources in many areas of poverty law. The wiki is free to use, but volunteers must register to access many of the available resources.
The VLN Clinics Wiki is contains legal resources for legal advice and brief legal services, referral resources, information about VLN clinics and our community partners, and detailed information about VLN’s services.
External Helpful Sites
LawHelpMN.org provides answers to legal questions, contact information for legal aid offices, links to courthouses and local community organizations. The site features fact sheets written for low-income clients about poverty law issues. These handouts can help explain legal issues to clients or be used as a starting point to educate attorneys of new legal topics.
Public Access to Minnesota Court Records
The Minnesota Court Information System allows access to the Register of Actions (sometimes referred to as the Docket) for most civil and criminal cases. MNCIS is useful when trying to determine the status of a case or upcoming hearing dates. Please note that some cases (e.g. paternity cases) are not accessible through the online MNCIS system.
Court Forms for Self Represented Litigants
The Minnesota Judicial Branch maintains a library of forms and instructions on a wide variety of civil law cases.
ProJusticeMN.org provides sample pleadings, online document assembly tools, and recorded trainings on a wide variety of poverty law issues. VLN highly encourages all of our volunteers to register with and use ProJusticeMN.org. Access to the website is free, but registration is required.
Hennepin County Bar Association
The Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN) is the pro bono arm of the Hennepin County Bar Association. For decades, the HCBA has had a unique partnership with VLN, providing core funding and promoting VLN as HCBA members’ primary resource for connecting with opportunities to fulfill pro bono obligations. More information about the benefits of bar membership and how to join can be found online.