May 21, 2019

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.

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  1. […] of Metro Volunteer Lawyers. He assumed his new responsibilities upon outgoing Executive Director Dianne Van Voorhees’s departure from the organization on January 7, 2016, after an eight-year record of laudable […]

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