May 28, 2017

Run, Walk, Roll — Support Disability Law Colorado at This Year’s Colfax Marathon

Doing good has never been so fun! Support Disability Law Colorado by running, walking, or rolling in the Colfax Marathon. There is a race for everyone — there is a family 5K on Saturday, May 20, 2017 (dogs are welcome!), and on Sunday there is a 10 miler, half-marathon, full marathon, and corporate marathon relay.

The marathon relay is a great way to connect with your coworkers while getting out in the beautiful Colorado sunshine. You even get a medal at the finish! Just find five people for your team and register at www.runcolfax.org. Make sure to select Disability Law Colorado as your charity partner.

If running doesn’t sound so fun, you can still support Disability Law Colorado by making a tax-deductible donation. Contact Julie Busby at (303) 862-3505 for more details.

Colorado Gives: Volunteers Needed for Sturm College of Law’s Tribal Wills Project

Colorado Gives: CBA CLE Legal Connection will be focusing on several Colorado legal charities in the next few days to prepare for Colorado Gives Day, December 6, 2016. These charities, and many, many others, greatly appreciate your donations of time and money.

Each year, students from the Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver participate in the Tribal Wills Project (TWP). In January, March and May, TWP participants travel to a tribal reservation in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona or Montana for a week to draft wills, medical powers of attorney, living wills, and burial instructions for tribal members on a pro bono basis. This work is extremely important for the following reasons.

Under the American Indian Probate Reform Act (AIPRA), if a tribal member dies without a will and his or her interests in trust land total less than specified amount, such interests automatically pass to the tribal member’s oldest living descendant to the exclusion of his or her remaining descendants. If the tribal member is not survived by any descendants, such interests pass back to the tribe. This is often in contravention of the tribal member’s intent. In some instances, tribal members are unaware of these default provisions under AIPRA; in other instances, tribal members may be aware of the default provision but are without the means or resources to have a will prepared to avoid the foregoing results. TWP gives tribal members a voice so that desired family members are not excluded from inheriting interests in trust land.

Additionally, TWP provides a unique opportunity for law students to gain hands-on experience with real clients. Initially, a student is paired with a client to conduct an interview. Thereafter, the student prepares initial drafts of the desired documents, which are then reviewed by a Colorado supervising attorney. The student and attorney work through the revision process together, which provides an essential learning opportunity for the student. Once the documents appear to be in order, the documents are further reviewed by an attorney who is licensed in the particular state where the reservation is location. Once the documents receive final approval, the student participates in the execution process.

TWP was initially developed in February 2013 by John Roach, who is a Fiduciary Trust Officer for the Southern Ute Agency of the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians; former Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory J. Hobbs, Jr.; and University of Denver Professor Lucy Marsh, among others. The first trip occurred in March 2013 when the students and supervising attorneys travelled to the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute Reservations in southern Colorado. Since then, TWP has grown exponentially. Each year, students apply for limited positions on the TWP team; many must be turned away based on the limited availability of funds and supervising attorneys.

In January 2017, twenty students and four supervising attorneys will travel to two reservations outside of Phoenix, Arizona. Similar groups will travel to New Mexico in March and Montana in May. It costs approximately $15,000 to fund each trip, which is funded primarily by donations.

TWP is actively seeking volunteer supervising attorneys to assist with future trips. If you are unable to serve as a supervising attorney for any reason, you can still help by making a tax-deductible donation to TWP.

For more information, please contact Lucy Marsh at (303) 871-6285 or lmarsh@law.du.edu.

Join Metro Volunteer Lawyers’s “50 Hours for 50 Years” Challenge

MVL-50-Year-Logo (png) SmallerThis year marks the 50th year anniversary for Metro Volunteer Lawyers! In honor of its anniversary, MVL is encouraging lawyers to achieve 50 hours of pro bono service this year. MVL is a program of the Denver Bar Association and co-sponsored by the Adams/Broomfield, Arapahoe, Douglas/Elbert, and First Judicial District Bar Associations. MVL offers pro bono opportunities in such areas as Wills, Probate, POAs, Family Law, Guardianship/Conservatorship, and Consumer law. You can even sign-up to take a case conditioned on MVL finding you a mentor, or be a mentor yourself.

Reasons to Volunteer with MVL: 

  • Helping MVL clients is a rewarding way to serve the needs of the less fortunate in your community, helping work towards our constitutional mandate of providing equal justice under the law.
  • Advance the reputation of the legal profession.
  • Obtain practical legal experience.
  • Fulfill your professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least fifty hours of pro bono public legal services per year. Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 6.1.
  • You can receive CLE credits for pro bono work. Under C.R.C.P. 260.8, Colorado attorneys providing uncompensated pro bono legal representation may apply for 1 general CLE credit for every 5 billable-equivalent hours of representation, up to a maximum of 9 credits in each 3 year compliance period.
  • MVL provides attorneys with malpractice insurance for the cases they take through its organization.

Want to Help MVL in Other Ways? Donate!

MVL_donatebuttonYour tax-deductible donation to MVL can help the organization provide legal services to more low-income individuals in Colorado. Click the “Donate” button or visit ColoradoGives.org to find MVL’s donation page.

Read More About Metro Volunteer Lawyers and How to Get Involved at www.metrovolunteerlawyers.org.

Metro Volunteer Lawyers: MVL Honors Dianne Van Voorhees and Looks to the Future

Van Voorhees

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the MVL Blog on January 4, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

By Candace Whitaker, MVL Board Chair

After eight years as Executive Director, Dianne Van Voorhees leaves us on January 7 to serve the Arvada community as a part-time Municipal Court judge, and to start a private practice. Although we are all very happy for Dianne and this new phase of her legal career, she will be sorely missed at Metro Volunteer Lawyers. Dianne reflected recently on her tenure at MVL, stating “leading MVL has been one of my happiest experiences. Our clients get the assistance they need to prevent potentially devastating consequences. I am enormously proud of the staff, too. Our little team of 5 is responsible for ensuring that we could handle over 1400 cases this year. It is a pleasure to work with dedicated professionals, and we could not do it without our volunteers – our legal community is exceptional. I know that MVL will continue to thrive and grow, and I am excited to see what the future brings.”

How do you adequately thank someone who has given her heart and soul the past eight years for the betterment of Metro Volunteer Lawyers? “Thank you” doesn’t seem quite enough to recognize and honor the many contributions of Dianne Van Voorhees, but I’ll try to convey the debt of gratitude we owe her. In thanking her, let’s recall some of her many contributions and how they impacted MVL. From the outset, Dianne’s goal was to raise awareness of MVL within both the legal community and the community at-large. She was innovative on many fronts, including creating and maintaining MVL’s website and social media accounts, and involving MVL in the Colorado Gives Day from its inception and continuing participation, as well as using the Colorado Gives platform to allow individual fundraisers to solicit and collect donations for MVL electronically.

She also raised awareness of MVL by being acutely attuned to the legal community and attending every local meeting and event related to access to justice where she tirelessly advocated for MVL and its clients. Importantly, she achieved this not with an overbearing presence, but with a poise and warmth that reflects her personal and gracious nature. To refuse Dianne is unthinkable not for fear of repercussion, but because she is so highly respected. Having such a command of others based on integrity and mutual regard is a rare commodity these days, and one to be remembered and emulated.  Thank you for always being there for MVL and representing us well, Dianne!

While raising the profile of MVL, Dianne also expanded programming and created significant new programs. The Post-Decree Clinics, serving parents coping with parenting time, child support and maintenance issues, expanded beyond Denver and Jefferson Counties to include Adams and Arapahoe.  Dianne also added more law firm partners to the post-decree clinics, including the Attorney General’s Office, expanding the number of volunteers and the clients served. The Post-Decree Clinics are the only clinics of their type in Colorado and now accept approximately 260 clients annually. From the Post-Decree Clinic clients and volunteers, thank you, Dianne!

In 2012, Dianne, along with Danielle L. Demkowicz, MVL Board Member, also pioneered a monthly, walk-in clinic at the Denver Indian Center. As a descendant of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, the project was near to Dianne’s heart. Her experience with a wide variety of legal areas and specific experience with Native issues added depth to this clinic, and addressed the needs of a chronically underserved community, which Colorado’s Access to Justice Commission has identified as having one of the biggest gaps in access to justice. The first legal clinic was held on April 4, 2012 and continues as a monthly event.  From the Denver Indian Center and clients, thank you, Dianne!

As Executive Director, Dianne also managed staff responsible for acceptance of approximately 1,800 cases annually on a wide range of civil legal issues for clients who could not otherwise afford representation. She also managed over 400 annual volunteers, and expanded staff and capacity for interns and externs to work with MVL. Such administration is a daunting task, and Dianne researched and advocated for a new, scalable, relational case management system for MVL that also enhances and improves direct intake communication with Colorado Legal Services. This is a technological improvement that will carry MVL well into the future.

Dianne provided oversight to two essential MVL programs: the Family Law Court Program (“FLCP”) and the Rovira Special Programs created by the Rovira Scholar Fellowship, which Dianne helped develop. The FLCP assists pro se clients with uncomplicated, uncontested divorce or custody matters, where the other party is also pro se. The Rovira Programs are special programs and include the Power of Attorney Clinic, which partners with community nonprofits and low-income senior housing facilities to assist seniors with completing powers of attorney and living wills, and the Fostering Success Legal Clinic, a quarterly clinic aimed at helping current and former foster kids navigate legal issues.

Dianne’s responsibilities also included working closely with students, interns, the MVL Governing Board, the CBA/DBA, Colorado Legal Services, and the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network. Thank you, Dianne, for always making it look easy. You leave MVL a better organization for which we are forever grateful. Good luck and Godspeed, Judge Van Voorhees.

As for the future of MVL, we welcome Philip Lietaer as new Director.  Philip knows he has big shoes to fill (at least figuratively), and he is up to the task. Philip received a J.D. from the Western New England University School of Law, and a B.A. from the University of Western Ontario. His legal experience includes an impressive history of public service, including working with indigent clients at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, South Brooklyn Legal Services, and the Vail Center for Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles, California.  Philip also worked for the law firm of Goldstein & Lee, P.C. in New York City.

Philip is intimately familiar with the inner workings of MVL, having served in multiple positions within the organization. He first began working at MVL in 2013 as a Rovira Scholar Fellow. In 2014, he became Family Law Court Program Coordinator, where he has done an outstanding job working with clients with sensitive issues. About the FLCP Philip states, “I have had the opportunity to help many people in need while getting to work closely with many exceptional attorneys, students, paralegals, as well as our outstanding staff. Seeing our clients treated in a professional manner by a compassionate and capable legal professional, often providing a moment of dignity, has been one of the most rewarding aspects of this type of work.”

Philip states, “It is an honor to be selected as MVL’s new Director. I have come to know the organization very well, and I look forward to the honor and challenge of continuing to improve our ability to provide quality help to a large number of people in need.” We look forward to working with you, too, Philip.

Attorney Volunteers Needed for “Ask an Attorney” Sessions at Legal Resource Day

The Colorado Judicial Branch is hosting Legal Resource Day on Friday, October 2, 2015 for people representing themselves in court. This event will allow pro se litigants to visit the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center (2 E. 14th Avenue, Denver, CO 80203) to learn more about court processes, legal information, and resources through a series of informational clinics, “Ask an Attorney” sessions, tours, and vendors. There is no cost to attend the event.

We are looking for attorneys who would be interested in volunteering at the “Ask an Attorney” sessions. The sessions are in two-hour blocks: 10:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. and 12:45 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. The pro se litigant would have a chance to sit with an attorney for up to 15 minutes in the areas of family law and general civil law, to include evictions, small claims, money cases, etc. Chief Justice Nancy Rice will kick off Legal Resource Day at 10 a.m. with opening remarks welcoming participants and providing an overview of the informational sessions being offered.

If you would be interested in volunteering for either of the “Ask an Attorney” slots, please contact Brigitte Smith, Self-Represented Litigant Coordinator, at brigitte.smith@judicial.state.co.us or call 720-772-2503.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Volunteer Traveling to Meeting Was Employee for Workers’ Compensation Purposes

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Teller County, Colorado v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office on Thursday, April 23, 2015.

Workers’ Compensation—Volunteer as Employee—Coming and Going Rule.

Claimant is the president and incident commander for Teller County Search and Rescue (TCSAR). All employees of TCSAR, including claimant, are volunteers who receive no monetary compensation.

On May 10, 2013, claimant left his home in Florissant to attend a fire chiefs meeting in Divide. Before leaving, he contacted the Teller County dispatch to “mark in service,” thereby notifying Teller County that he was en route to the meeting. As he was driving, he was struck head on by an approaching vehicle and sustained severe injuries.

He filed a workers’ compensation benefits claim, asserting that as a volunteer he fell within the definition of “employee” set forth in CRS § 8-40-202(1)(a)(I)(A). The administrative law judge (ALJ) agreed and the Industrial Claim Appeals Office(Panel) affirmed.

On appeal, Teller County argued that (1) claimant’s actions did not fall within the statutory definition of “employee” because he was driving to a meeting and not actually performing duties or engaged in an organized drill or training when the accident occurred; (2) the Panel’s inclusion of “planning and preparation” activities under the definition of employee broadened the scope of the provision beyond the General Assembly’s intent; (3) the Panel engaged in improper fact finding in affirming the ALJ’s decision; and (4) claimant’s claim should have been barred by the “coming and going” rule.

The Court of Appeals was not persuaded by these arguments. Attending fire chief meetings was clearly a part of claimant’s position and duties as president of TCSAR. It was, contrary to Teller County’s argument, a part of the custom and practice of claimant’s position. In addition, the Court reviewed the record and found no improper fact finding by the Panel. Finally, the Court found that the circumstances here fell squarely in one of the many exceptions to the coming and going rule, which ordinarily does not allow workers benefits if they are injured coming from or going to work. The order was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

DBA Award Winners Announced; Chuck Turner Receives DBA Award of Merit

The Denver Bar Association announced the winners of its 2015 DBA Awards on February 24, 2015. Award recipients will be recognized at the annual DBA Awards Ceremony on July 9, 2015 at the Ralph Carr Justice Center.

chuck turner 300Charles C. “Chuck” Turner will receive the Award of Merit, the DBA’s highest honor, for his outstanding leadership of the DBA and CBA. The Award of Merit recognizes outstanding service and contributions to the DBA and the legal profession, rendered to improve the administration of justice.

The Honorable Ruben Hernandez, magistrate judge at the Denver Probate Court, will receive the Judicial Excellence Award. This award is given to members of the judiciary who exemplify outstanding service or make exceptional contributions to the improvement of the justice system.

Gillian McKean BidgoodGillian M. Bidgood has been selected to receive the DBA Young Lawyer of the Year Award. This award is given to a DBA member and attorney who is 37 or under or has been in practice less than three years. Ms. Bidgood is a shareholder in the Denver office of Polsinelli PC who practices employment defense. Ms. Bidgood is a contributing author to CBA-CLE’s Practitioner’s Guide to Colorado Employment Law.

MCHUGH_FORMAL_use_logoJohn M. McHugh will receive the Volunteer Lawyer of the Year Award. The Volunteer Lawyer of the Year Award is given annually to a DBA member who has performed extraordinary voluntary legal or community service. Mr. McHugh is an associate at Reilly Pozner LLP, where he practices complex civil and commercial litigation. Mr. McHugh is active with the Colorado GLBT Bar Association, and serves on that organization’s board of directors and membership committee.

Doug Wilhelm, 8th Grade history teacher at Hamilton Middle School in Denver Public Schools, will receive the Education in the Legal System Award. This award honors educators or schools that exhibit outstanding participation in legal and civics education. Mr. Wilhelm received the 9News 9Teachers Who Care award in November 2010 for his outstanding classroom work.

The Denver Bar Association Court Mediation Services Program will receive the Projects and Programs Award. This award acknowledges the immense efforts of programs that provide legal education, outreach, pro bono services or fundraising.

Congratulations to all the award recipients!

Metro Volunteer Lawyers: The Government Lawyer and Pro Bono: How Can I Help?

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the Metro Volunteer Lawyers blog on October 3, 2014.

MVLBy Nate Lucero, MVL Board Member

I’ve been practicing law for over 12 years now and I’ve spent my entire career in the public sector.  Why do I work for the government?  Because I, like many of my colleagues, have a genuine interest in public service.  What I’ve noticed throughout my career is that often times, public law offices are the biggest firms within their respective jurisdiction.

I’m sure that’s not news to anyone, especially those of us who work in the public sector.  So, why do I mention it?  Because, this means that our government law offices have some of the biggest pools of lawyers that can provide pro bono services within our respective jurisdictions and elsewhere.  I have heard many government lawyers give reasons for not participating in providing pro bono services.  Among those reasons, ironically, is the very reason we work for the government in the first place – i.e. “I meet my obligation every day since my daily practice involves public interest issues.”

The Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct (the “rules”) provide that every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services for those unable to pay.  That said, government lawyers may face a number of limitations including conflict of interest restrictions, limitations on the use of office resources and statutory restrictions.  Never fear, the rules provide some guidance by encouraging us to fulfill our pro bono public responsibility by delivering legal services at no fee or a substantially reduced fee to, among others, individuals, charitable, religious, civic, or educational organizations in furtherance of their organizational purposes, where the payment of legal fees would deplete the organizations resources or be otherwise inappropriate; delivering legal services at a substantially reduced fee to persons of limited means; or participating in activities for improving the law, legal system or the legal profession.

There are many ways in which we, as government lawyers, may fulfill our professional responsibility. Operating under the assumption that you, as a government lawyer, fulfill your obligation every day by simply going to work is a false assumption.  In fact, the comments to the rules indicate that this does not constitute compliance with the rule.  You would be surprised at the number of areas in which you may be able to lend your expertise to MVL, such as family law, landlord-tenant disputes, or probate to name a few.

I’m not trying to guilt anyone into providing pro bono services. I merely want to encourage you to consider it, and remember the reason you are a public sector attorney in the first place.  Of course, you will need to check with your employer to see what your office’s specific limitations are.  Once you’ve done this (and assuming you get a thumbs-up), consider helping with MVL’s Family Law Court Program, or having your office sponsor a Post-Decree Clinic coordinated and managed by MVL.  Working through MVL may address malpractice insurance concerns you have.  If you feel that you don’t have the expertise to handle a particular matter, no worries, MVL has a mentoring program for that.

I guess what I’m saying is be like Mikey and try it, you might like it.

Please see the article at http://www.cobar.org/tcl/tcl_articles.cfm?articleid=823 for the CBA’s policy for voluntary pro bono public service by government attorneys for guidance in establishing a policy for your public law office.

Nathan “Nate” Lucero is a Metro Volunteer Lawyers Board Member. With a dedication to public service, Nathan has made his career in the public sector, spending over ten years as an Assistant County Attorney in Adams County, Colorado prior to joining the Denver City Attorney’s office in 2014.  With Adams County, Nathan worked in human services for several years and spent the better part of his tenure with Adams County focusing on Land Use/Zoning, Prosecution of Code Violations, and Assessment Appeals.  Since working for the City and County of Denver, Nathan continues to focus on Land Use/Zoning and is expanding his repertoire to include Parks and Recreation and Environmental Law.

Don’t Miss Stir Cooking School on August 5 to Benefit CWBA

10563040_10152223678188803_7465217832007536902_nThe Colorado Women’s Bar Association is hosting Stir Cooking School on August 5, 2014 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Learn tricks of the trade while working side-by-side with professional chefs. This fun-filled event with cooking experience, gourmet food, and cocktails, benefits the CWBA’s lobbying and public policy efforts.

Register by August 1. Registration forms are available for download here. Participants can also RSVP on the CWBA’s event Facebook page. Or, call the CWBA at (303) 539-3994. Registration is $100 per person, but CWBA members registering at full price can bring non-members at $60 per ticket. The event will take place at 3215 Zuni Street in Denver.

Don’t miss this fun chance to learn cooking skills while benefiting the Colorado Women’s Bar Association!

Community Action Network School Supply Drive Starts July 21!

School Supply Drive Flyer(1)Each year, the Community Action Network holds a school supply drive to benefit the Denver Public Schools Educational Outreach Program, which provides assistance to homeless children in the Denver Public School System, including school supplies, breakfast and lunch assistance, uniforms, and more.

This year’s school supply drive starts Monday, July 21, 2014 and will run through Friday, August 1, 2014. Barrels for school supply donations have been set up in the lobby of the CBA/DBA and CLE offices at 1900 Grant Street on the 3rd and 9th floors. Donations may be dropped off from Firms may also participate in the drive by collecting school supplies in easy-to-carry boxes at their offices; Ricoh will pick up the boxes the week of August 4.

Items needed for this year’s drive include:

  • Backpacks of all sizes;
  • Pencils, pens, crayons, and markers;
  • Binders, notebooks, folders, and paper;
  • Scissors, rulers, staplers, staples, glue, and glue sticks;
  • Pencil cases;
  • Scientific calculators, compasses, protractors, and geometry sets;
  • Dictionaries and thesauruses;
  • Navy and red polo shirts in all kids’ sizes;
  • And more!

For information on firm donations, click here or contact Alexa Drago or Kate Schuster.

Denver DA Mitch Morrissey is Keynote Speaker at the 16th Annual Senior Law Day on July 19

Layout 1Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey is the keynote speaker for this year’s 16th Annual Denver Senior Law Day. As the chief prosecutor in Denver, he is responsible for the prosecution of more than 6,000 felony and 18,000 misdemeanor criminal cases every year, and is a staunch advocate for fraud prevention and education in the Denver community.

With incredible resources and educational workshops, this event is not only for seniors in the community, but also valuable for adult children and caregivers who are helping aging parents, relatives, or friends. The event is from 8:00 a.m. to 1:20 p.m. on Saturday, July 19 at the Denver Mart.

The 16th Annual Senior Law Day offers the public the opportunity to hear from experienced elder law attorneys and other professionals involved in elder care issues.  This year there are thirty-three unique, informative workshops to choose from that will help seniors learn how to better manage family and financial issues and prepare for retirement.

Workshops this year include “How Hospice and Palliative Care Can Save Your Life,” “Aging in Place – Maintaining Your Independence at Home,” “ Assisted Living and Nursing Home Issues,” “ Estate Planning: Wills, Trusts & Your Property,” “ Hanging Up the Car Keys for Good,” “ Living Wills, Advance Medical Directives, DNR Orders, Proxies, and End of Life Issues,” “Medicaid and Medicare 101,” “ Planning For Your Pets,” “Powers of Attorney and Guardianship & Conservatorship,” “ Social Security,” “To Marry or Not to Marry—That is the Question,” “ VA Benefits,” and “ What to do When Someone Dies.”

Attendees are also available to meet with an attorney at the “Ask-A-Lawyer” Session, a free 15-minute meeting with an attorney to ask about elder law and trust and estate issues. For more information on this and a full list of workshops, go to http://www.seniorlawday.org/denver.

Much of the content presented at Denver Senior Law Day also can be found in the comprehensive 2014 Senior Law Handbook, which is distributed free at the event. The Senior Law Handbook is supported through the generous contributions from organizations and law firms, including Rose Community Foundation—an organization that supports efforts to improve the quality of life throughout the Greater Denver community through its endowed grantmaking programs, and by advising and assisting donors who wish to make thoughtful charitable investments to better the community.

A $10 contribution is suggested but not required to attend the event. Registration is requested; call (303) 860-0608 or dial toll-free (888) 860-2531, or go online to register at  www.seniorlawday.org and click on the “Denver” tab. Business vendors and potential exhibitors should contact Sherrill Wolf at (303) 860-0608.

Full details on the event are available at  www.seniorlawday.org/denver.

Fostering Success Legal Clinic — Why MVL is Addressing the Needs of Foster Kids!

By Peggy Hoyt-Hock, MVL Board Member

Foster Children. . . What comes to mind when you read this term? When I think of foster children, I tend to visualize something out of Oliver Twist . . . a group of young kids, hanging together, with little supervision. Then of course, I think of Jane Eyre, Annie or Harry Potter. Upon further reflection, I recall a few friends and acquaintances,who have on occasion mentioned that when young, they were fostered until perhaps being adopted or otherwise growing into successful, professional adults.

Then, consider this statistic: In the US, just over 30 percent of typical kids obtain a bachelor’s degree by age 25. When compared to children from the foster care system this number drops to two percent! Until writing this blog, I was unaware of the gap; honestly never giving the topic much thought. This difference presents just one example of the significant challenges children who age-out of the foster system must face.

The phone call came out of the blue. A professional young attorney, in fact an MVL Rovira Scholar introduced herself. “I am calling to ask you to serve as a volunteer for the first MVL Fostering Success Legal Clinic in July.” I asked her to tell me more about it. In the course of our conversation, I confirmed my commitment and discovered that Leeah Lechuga had direct personal experience with the foster care system.

If time would allow, we would both place individual calls to each good hearted attorney we know asking them to volunteer for this new Fostering Success Legal Clinic. Since neither of us have time, we are publishing this blog.

MVL has been fortunate to have had our recent Rovira Scholar, Leeah Lechuga. She reached out to share some of the challenges faced by an individual who ages-out of the foster care system. Leeah is a young and dynamic Colorado attorney, who recently left MVL for a Clerkship in the 18th Judicial District. If you happen to see her there, please join us in thanking her for arranging to have MVL partner with others to establish the new MVL“Fostering Success Legal Clinic.”

Snippets of the interview follow:

Peg, Q: You have personal experience with having to navigate the system. Can you share what it was like?

Leeah, A: My experience with my only out-of-home placement was wonderful. My foster parents made my experience with the system transformative.

It was the other systems that were difficult, after I aged out — student financial aid, finding an apartment, buying a car — I felt lost and incompetent constantly. I also felt lost in other ways, particularly recognizing the value in healthy relationships and building a healthy community. That is so important, but it took me a long time to get here.

Peg, Q: What can you tell the attorneys who read this blog, and may consider volunteering for this clinic — particularly those who may not have volunteered with MVL before — with regard to specific knowledge, skills, or experience they need?

Leeah, A: Attorneys, your willingness to be there is the biggest thing.

It is followed closely by a willingness to be an open book. Most of the legal issues won’t be complex. But you never know what seemingly trivial answer will unlock a whole new level of understanding and way of thinking for these young people. Something you say may connect with something that was said or overheard in a previous encounter. You can be transformative.

If you have not signed up to help with this clinic yet, please do so now. Let’s see how many lives the “Fostering Success Legal Clinic” can help transform over time! If you are interested, please contact diannev@denbar.org.

This article originally appeared on the MVL blog on July 3, 2014.