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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.
- 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.
In the spring of 2012, MVL began working with the Denver Indian Center to provide a walk-in clinic each month. The project was initiated by two Native American attorneys: Dianne Van Voorhees, MVL's Executive Director, and Danielle L. (Moore) Demkowicz, MVL Board Member. Both attorneys have experience with a wide variety of legal areas and specific experience with Native issues and wanted to serve the community. The first legal clinic was held on April 4, 2012 and soon became a monthly event. The Clinic meets in the Denver Indian Center in Lakewood, CO, on the first Wednesday of every month. Metro Volunteer Lawyers sponsors and coordinates volunteers for the Clinic. It is a walk-in Clinic, and several attorneys volunteer to spend the evening answering questions and providing referrals to legal resources in the community. Last year, 31 attorneys volunteered as part of the clinic.
MVL, through the Rovira Scholar Special Programs, is partnering with community non-profits and low-income senior housing facilities to assist seniors with complete powers of attorney and living wills. Without these essential documents, distressed family members often have to go through expensive court proceedings in order to ensure that the right medical and financial decisions are being made on behalf of a incapacitated loved one. Seniors who complete powers of attorney and living wills through MVL will be able to avoid the court proceeding, choose a trusted person who will make those decisions, and give them guidance on what they would want if they are no longer able to act for themselves. At the Power of Attorney Clinic, volunteer attorneys assist seniors with completing the documents, including having them witnessed and notarized. The Clinic meets monthly at different times and locations.
MVL is very excited to announce our newest clinic. MVL is partnering with the Asian Pacific Development Center to help address the legal needs of Denver's Asian and Pacific community. This clinic will be similar to the walk-in clinic we operate at the Denver Indian Center. Please stay tuned for developments!
Maintaining and even increasing the number of clients served by recruiting more attorneys to take pro bono cases remains a top priority for MVL. In addition, MVL always works to provide better quality service to clients by identifying gaps in services, expanding our effective programs, and generally improving on the processes and procedures used to assist clients and refer cases. This year, MVL is updating its case management system. The update will allow us to communicate more effectively with clients and volunteers. It will also provide us with a much more reliable means of tracking and analyzing our statistics. Case management data should reflect an increase in the number of clients served. Recruiting efforts should yield an average or increase in the number of volunteers entered into our database and an increase in the number of volunteers who actually serve clients each year.
To learn more about MVL's new and ongoing projects, please visit our blog: http://www.metrovolunteerlawyers.org/whatismvl/mvl-blog-posts/
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 is the only program within the Denver Metro Area that provides volunteer attorneys to people in need of full representation or limited representation for their general civil legal needs. Having a lawyer often helps a person to identify and resolve legal issues without going to court. Having a lawyer can also help a person to resolve court cases more efficiently and fairly than persons representing themselves. The provision of legal services helps stabilize families, saves taxpayers money, reduces the number of cases clogging the courts, and helps people move toward self-sufficiency and full participation in society. During the 2014 calendar year, approximately 416 volunteer attorneys took 1,783 MVL cases. Of those cases, approximately 124 were Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases that were referred to the bankruptcy attorneys on our list who are
willing to accept a maximum of $400.00 in legal fees. The majority of the other cases were handled on a pro bono basis. Most MVL cases are domestic relations matters. Other case types include consumer, bankruptcy, landlord tenant, real estate, wills/POA, guardianships, conservatorships, probate, and tax issues. MVL does not handle criminal matters of any kind. For more information, visit MVL's website at www.metrovolunteerlawyers.org.
MVL's 2015 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, assists elderly clients with a Power of Attorney clinic, and will start a new walk in clinic at the Asian Pacific Development Center.
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
MVL coordinates the provision of free and low-cost civil legal services to people in the Denver Metro Area. MVL serves people who are living at or below 125% (free legal services) - 150% (low-fee legal services) of federal poverty guidelines. Over 12% of Colorado's population is financially eligible (earn less than 125% of the federal poverty level) for free legal services from Colorado Legal Services (CLS) or MVL. Here's a summary from the U.S. Census about poverty in MVL's service area as of 2014: Douglas County: 4.0%; Broomfield County: 6.1%; Elbert County: 6.0%; Gilpin County: 10.3%; Jefferson County: 8.6%; Arapahoe County: 11.8%; Adams County:
14.2%; Denver County: 18.9%. Income rates have dropped and poverty levels have risen all across Colorado in recent years, meaning more people are eligible and in need of our services than ever before.
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
"Working at MVL has given me first-hand experience of the sheer volume of low-income individuals the organization helps. People who would otherwise be lost and without recourse are given valuable legal assistance. Seeing people without the ability to pay for an attorney be treated with dignity is one of the most rewarding parts of working for MVL."
-Philip Lietaer, Family Law Court Program Coordinator, Metro Volunteer Lawyers
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."
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.