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Metro Volunteer Lawyers
- Metro Volunteer Lawyers' Mission is to bridge the gap in access to justice by coordinating the provision of pro bono legal services by volunteer lawyers within the Denver Metro Area to people who could not otherwise afford legal services for their civil legal issues.
You can see a Prezi presentation about volunteering with MVL by following this link: http:prezi.comvrnfikcvfjdgwhy-you-should-be-a-metro-volunteer-lawyer
From Thursday Night Bar to Metro Volunteer Lawyers
MVL was established in 1966 by a group of young Denver Bar Association lawyers. They called it the "Thursday Night Bar Program" (TNB) because the founding volunteer attorneys met with clients each Thursday evening at Legal Aid offices in northwest Denver or in the Five Points neighborhood. The attorneys provided what help and advice they could in person on Thursday nights, then met the next morning to discuss the clients' matters and assign themselves or other lawyers they recruited to carry on with the numerous matters that could not be completed during the Thursday night sessions. Approximately twenty attorneys volunteered in the first year. The efforts of these original lawyer participants continued and strengthened a long tradition of volunteerism and public service by lawyers all across Colorado. TNB was renamed Metro Volunteer Lawyers (MVL) in 1998 to reflect the program's growth and expansion. MVL is now the pro bono program that provides civil legal services to financially-eligible applicants in eight Metro Denver Counties.
Today, MVL is a staffed department of the Denver Bar Association. It serves poor and near-poor citizens of seven Metro Denver Counties via 1) funding and volunteer lawyers, paralegals, and other professionals supplied through the efforts of five Metro Denver local bar associations, and 2) Four full-time staffers including: an Executive Director (attorney), a Legal Services Coordinator,a Family Law Court Program Coordinator (attorney), a Program Coordinator, and volunteers interns. MVL is the oldest continuing program of its kind in the United States.
Metro Volunteer Lawyers is a department of the Denver Bar Association which is a 501(c) 6 non-profit. The Denver Bar Association's Tax ID is 84-0389860. The Denver Bar Association has formed a 501(c) 3 non-profit foundation named the Denver Bar Foundation and it can accept charitable tax deductible gifts on behalf of MVL. The Denver Bar Foundation's Tax ID is 74-2554415.
Executive Director Statement
I was asked a few years ago about what I thought is the biggest issue facing the legal profession today. From my perspective, it is simply Access to Justice. At MVL, we focus on coordinating legal professionals to provide pro bono services to those in need. And, we collaborate with our community partners to provide resources, and pro se guides to the community. But, there is an ever-growing gap in access to justice for those who cannot afford legal counsel and we are always faced with the challenge of trying to plug the proverbial holes in the proverbial dam.
-Dianne A. Van Voorhees, Executive Director, Metro Volunteer Lawyers
MVL coordinates the provision of free and low-cost civil legal services to people in the Denver Metro Area. Colorado Legal Services (CLS) initiates all intakes for MVL. CLS refers matters to MVL that CLS does not or cannot handle if, on the basis of first impression, the matter appears to be of the type that MVL could refer to private attorneys or serve through MVL's Family Law Court Program or Post-decree Clinics.
MVL's 2013 Goals include the following:
- Maintain and enhance our current programs
- Strengthen our recruitment and retention methods to maintain and develop our volunteer panel
- Continue to address the challenges that the increase in available volunteer attorneys and the increase in need for legal assistance pose for administration by strengthening our MVL Board standing committees and by increasing committee participation.
- Continue to develop Board effectiveness in recruiting, fundraising, educating the legal community about MVL volunteer opportunities
- Continue cultivating strong relationships with our partner bar associations.
- Continue to develop new fundraising efforts to address to increase our budget to increase our ability to serve more clients
- Identify additional collaborative partners
- Collaborate with our partners to create and implement service delivery tools to address gaps in services
Board Chair/President Statement
Access to justice for the most vulnerable segments of our population is a defining legal issue of our time. Too often, children, the elderly, the disabled, veterans, immigrants and those without the financial wherewithal to seek help in our complicated and intimidating legal system simply slip through the cracks. Their civil legal issues range from divorce, child custody and child support to bankruptcy, guardianship and landlord/tenant issues among others. This problem is illustrated by the shocking statistic that, in 2013, almost 75% of new domestic relations cases are being filed by pro se parties.
Metro Volunteer Lawyers (MVL) exists "to bridge the gap in access to justice by coordinating the provision of pro bono legal services by volunteer lawyers within the Denver Metro Area to people who could not otherwise afford legal services for their civil issues." We accomplish important mission through a variety of programs throughout the greater Denver Metropolitan Area.
MVL refers qualifying individuals to volunteer attorneys for pro bono legal services. MVL also assists clients with relatively uncomplicated divorce or custody matters through the Family Law Court Program and individuals with post permanent orders issues through Post-Decree Clinics. Additionally, MVL provides a monthly walk-in legal clinic at the Denver Indian Center and has recently launched a new clinical program for adoptions.
In 2012, we were able to assist over 1,488 individuals with their legal issues. Each of those clients is a significant success story about how someone in need was paired with someone willing to help for the greater good. This results in net positives for our volunteer attorneys, our clients, our organization, and for the community as a whole. However, the sheer volume of those in need continues to grow and outpace MVL's limited resources. Our challenge now is to essentially do more with less and we will meet this challenge by continuing to improve our methods, increase our efficiency, take advantage of new technologies, pursue new revenue sources and recruit new volunteers.
Overcoming the significant gap in access to justice will require creativity, new ways of thinking and all of our best efforts. Together, I am confident that we will meet this challenge.
Jake C. Eisenstein, 2013-2014 Chair, MVL
Increased demand for pro bono legal services impact MVL in its ability to provide enough volunteers to assist people in need.
MVL's top 5 needs:
-Volunteer attorney mentors
-Improved database to make coordination of applicants and volunteers more efficient
-Additional resource support for our volunteers to help them to conduct their pro bono cases
-Additional resources for the pro se litigants that we cannot assist
"On those rare days when I question why I became an attorney in the first place, I open my middle drawer of my desk and pull out thank you notes I've saved from former MVL and Project Safeguard clients and I am reminded of the good attorneys can do for people," she said. "So, I know first-hand how important MVL is for low income individuals in need of legal assistance in Denver."
The Fred & Jean Allegretti Foundation recently approved a grant to benefit MVL in the amount of $7,500. To tell us about her decision to ask the foundation's Board of Directors to support MVL with a generous donation, Kimberly Allegretti explained, "I have been an attorney in Colorado for almost 20 years and have volunteered with MVL in the past so I am familiar with the great work that MVL does. The past few years I have been too busy to volunteer with MVL as much as I'd like because of other volunteer commitments and so I thought a donation would be in order this year.
"The [Fred & Jean Allegretti] foundation's board was impressed with the mission and work of MVL and they agreed. Over the past few years, the grants provided by the [Fred & Jean Allegretti Foundation] have transitioned from larger donations to huge national charities into smaller donations for local groups with a more targeted focus. We believe this allows our small foundation to have a greater impact in improving the lives of individuals."
- Kimberly A. Allegretti
Metro Volunteer Lawyers ("MVL") is a department of the Denver Bar Association which is a 501(c) 6 non-profit. The Denver Bar Association's Tax ID is 84-0389860. The Denver Bar Association has a 501(c) 3 non-profit foundation: the Denver Bar Foundation and it accepts charitable tax deductible gifts on behalf of MVL. The Denver Bar Foundation's Tax ID is 74-2554415.