February 22, 2019

The Roaring 20s Barrister’s Ball is the Bee’s Knees!

By Jeremy Ramp and Steve Cook

“And I like large parties. They’re so intimate.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Who doesn’t like a large party? It’s that time of year—so dust off your best party clothes, your dancing shoes, and brush up on your Charleston as we roar back to the Roaring 20’s for the Barristers’ Benefit Ball. Please join us on April 12th at 6:00 p.m. for an evening of conversation, cocktails, dinner and dancing with 400 to 500 of your closest friends! We are pleased to announce the new venue this year is Mile High Station at 2027 West Colfax Ave. in Denver. With the Roarin’ 20’s theme, you know it’ll be the bee’s knees.

This year’s program is all about encouraging our attorneys and friends to attend, have fun, celebrate our community’s success in volunteerism,and raise money for Metro Volunteer Lawyers (MVL).

MVL’s 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.” MVL is the DBA’s flagship program, in partnership with the First Judicial District (Jefferson and Gilpin Counties), Adams/Broomfield, Arapahoe, and Douglas/Elbert Bar Associations. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind program with metro-wide support that serves as a model and inspiration for other programs around the country. MVL holds the Family Law Court Program, post-decree clinics, the Denver Indian Center Legal Clinic, and power of attorney clinics throughout the Metro Area. It provides free legal counsel to clients in cases in domestic/family law, landlord/tenant, adoption, guardianship/conservatorship, bankruptcy, and social security. For the past 50-plus years, MVL has served thousands of our vulnerable community members in need. In doing so, MVL provides a platform for lawyers to fulfill our professional responsibilities under Rule 6.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct and to put into action the oath we took when we had the privilege of becoming Colorado lawyers.

The Barristers Benefit Ball is the annual fundraiser for MVL. Your participation in this event is crucial to MVL’s mission and making all of the wonderful work possible. Please contact Amy Sreenen, ASreenen@cobar.org, to purchase a table, tickets, and sponsorship opportunities for this great event. We rely on YOU and your support to make this event a success.

All are welcome, whether your attorney registration number is 53 or 53,000, or anywhere in between. Reminders will be sent out up to the event, but we encourage all of you to sign up early and make the pledge to come and join us for a great evening. YOU can make it a roaring success!

This article began with a quote from The Great Gatsby and ends with one too, reflecting on the fact that we are incredibly fortunate to be part of this profession, this bar, and this community:

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Colorado Gives: Metro Volunteer Lawyers Provides Representation to Low-income Coloradans

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 4, 2018. These charities, and many, many others, greatly appreciate your donations of time and money.

Metro Volunteer Lawyers (MVL) is a program of the Denver Bar Association and is co-sponsored by the Adams/Broomfield, Arapahoe, Douglas/Elbert, and First Judicial District Bar Associations. MVL is committed to bridging the gap of access to justice by providing pro bono legal services to people who could not otherwise afford legal assistance.

MVL offers pro bono opportunities to attorneys, especially in the areas of estate planning, guardianships and conservatorships, family law, and consumer law. By volunteering with MVL, attorneys can receive valuable experience while assisting Colorado’s most vulnerable populations with their legal needs. 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.

Give your expertise, as well as supporting MVL with a cash donation. Checks may be made out to Denver Bar Foundation. For more information or to donate, contact Tammy Ely via email or by calling (303) 824-5376. You can also submit an online application to volunteer.

Colorado Gives: Metro Volunteer Lawyers Provides Representation to Low-income Coloradans

Colorado Gives: CBA CLE Legal Connection will be focusing on several Colorado legal charities this week in honor of Colorado Gives Day—Tuesday, December 5, 2017. These charities, and many, many others, greatly appreciate your donations of time and money.

MVL-50-Year-Logo (png) SmallerMetro Volunteer Lawyers (MVL) is a program of the Denver Bar Association and is co-sponsored by the Adams/Broomfield, Arapahoe, Douglas/Elbert, and First Judicial District Bar Associations. MVL is committed to bridging the gap of access to justice by providing pro bono legal services to people who could not otherwise afford legal assistance.

MVL offers pro bono opportunities to attorneys, especially in the areas of estate planning, guardianships and conservatorships, family law, and consumer law. By volunteering with MVL, attorneys can receive valuable experience while assisting Colorado’s most vulnerable populations with their legal needs. 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.

Give your expertise, as well as supporting MVL with a cash donation. Click here to donate and/or submit an online application to volunteer.

Colorado Gives: Metro Volunteer Lawyers Provides Representation to Low-income Coloradans

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.

MVL-50-Year-Logo (png) SmallerMetro Volunteer Lawyers (MVL) is a program of the Denver Bar Association and is co-sponsored by the Adams/Broomfield, Arapahoe, Douglas/Elbert, and First Judicial District Bar Associations. MVL is committed to bridging the gap of access to justice by providing pro bono legal services to people who could not otherwise afford legal assistance.

MVL offers pro bono opportunities to attorneys, especially in the areas of estate planning, guardianships and conservatorships, family law, and consumer law. By volunteering with MVL, attorneys can receive valuable experience while assisting Colorado’s most vulnerable populations with their legal needs. 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.

Give your expertise, as well as supporting MVL with a cash donation. Click here to donate and/or submit an online application to volunteer.

Toni-Anne Dasent Named Executive Director of Metro Volunteer Lawyers

toni-anne-dasentThe Denver Bar Association is pleased to announce Toni-Anne Dasent as the new director of Metro Volunteer Lawyers (MVL). She assumed her responsibilities on August 22, 2016.

Dasent holds a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Windsor, Canada, where she also served as director and group advisor of the university’s Community Legal Aid Program. She went on to become a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada in Ontario, and after spending some time working for Canada’s largest law firm, she relocated to Colorado in 1994.

Shortly after moving to Colorado, Dasent started as an intake volunteer for the Legal Aid Society (now Colorado Legal Services). After passing the bar exam, she continued to work as a volunteer attorney, devoting her energies to Project Safeguard in Judge Brian Campbell’s Denver courtroom. There, she assisted clients who were seeking restraining orders. Her dedication to helping underserved populations with their civil legal matters fueled her longstanding commitment to volunteering with MVL’s Family Law Court Program and taking on individual cases in a pro bono capacity.

Dasent is well-versed in MVL’s 50-year history and wants to ensure that the organization remains a dynamic force in promoting a more equitable society. “As director of MVL, I am looking forward to working with a dedicated and knowledgeable team to continue to provide access to justice for those in our community who would otherwise not be able to obtain fair and competent legal representation,” commented Dasent. She feels fortunate to have a team that works with Colorado Legal Services to assist many clients through the Family Law Court Program, Pro Bono Attorney Program, Post Decree Clinic, Power of Attorney Clinic and Legal Clinic at the Denver Indian Center. “I am grateful for the dedication and hard work of the current and past team members and past directors who have achieved so much in their time,” she said.

For Dasent, MVL is more than a job: It is a passion infused with responsibility. “My intent is to steadfastly promote those aspects of legal services in which we excel and work toward achieving greatness in those areas where there is room for improvement,” she explained. “I look forward to working with the Denver Bar Association and Colorado Legal Services in this new capacity and to continuing to provide exemplary services to our community.”

Bill Walters to Receive DBA Award of Merit at Annual Awards Ceremony

The Denver Bar Association is hosting its annual ceremony to recognize the recipients of its 2016 DBA Awards on Wednesday, June 29, 2016, at the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center. The winners of the 2016 DBA Awards are:

  • Bill Walters — Award of Merit
  • Maureen Watson — Young Lawyer of the Year
  • Jerry Pratt — Volunteer Lawyer of the Year
  • Metro Volunteer Lawyers’ Power of Attorney Clinic — Outstanding Programs/Projects
  • The Honorable Shelley Gilman — Judicial Excellence Award
  • Jerry Conover and Howard Rosenberg — Founders Award
  • Norman Campbell, Barbara Chamberlain, Lucy Marsh, Anthony Yuthas and Jon Nicholls — Outstanding Sustained Volunteer Award

3521Bill Walters will receive the DBA Award of Merit. The Award of Merit recognizes outstanding service and contributions to the DBA and the legal profession, rendered to improve the administration of justice. Walters is a past president of the DBA, past president of the CBA, former board member for CBA-CLE, past chair of the Colorado Lawyers Committee, past Chair of the Legal Aid Foundation of Colorado, and a member of the Colorado Nonprofit Corporation Code Revision Committee. Walters is a former partner at Heizer Paul LLP, where he specialized in representing nonprofit organizations, including trade and specialty organizations. Walters has been a frequent lecturer on many topics, including legal risk management for directors and officers, contract law, copyright and trademarks, legislative intellectual property, employment law, computer contracts, social media, hotel negotiations, and antitrust law.

Maureen Watson will receive the Young Lawyer of the Year Award, which is given to a DBA member and attorney who is 37 or under or has been in practice less than three years. Watson is currently general counsel at CQG, Inc., and is the Executive Council Chair of the DBA Young Lawyers Division. Prior to her work at CQG, Inc., Watson was an associate at Fennemore Craig, P.C., where she practiced primarily in the areas of business torts and personal injury. Watson was a contributing author for the 2014 Annual Survey of Colorado Law.

10071Jerry Pratt will receive the Volunteer Lawyer of the Year Award, which is given annually to a DBA member who has performed extraordinary voluntary legal or community service. Pratt is a solo practitioner at the Law Offices of Gerald D. Pratt in Lone Tree. Pratt has over 33 years of trial experience in both civil and criminal cases, serving as lead counsel in a wide variety of cases, including professional liability, products liability, personal injury, insurance bad faith, construction claims, insurance defense, and criminal defense. He has also devoted a significant part of his practice to legal ethics and is a member and past chair of the CBA Ethics Committee. He is a frequent speaker at CLE programs.

Gilman (Formatted)The Honorable Shelley Gilman will receive the Judicial Excellence Award, which is given to members of the judiciary who exemplify outstanding service or make exceptional contributions to the improvement of the justice system. Judge Gilman was appointed to the Denver District Court in 1998, where she has presided over domestic, civil, and criminal cases. Prior to her appointment, she practiced in several county trial offices and the appellate division of the Colorado State Public Defender. She was also in private practice in Denver, specializing in juvenile, criminal, and appellate matters.

MVL at 45Jerry Conover and Howard Rosenberg will receive the Founders Award. Conover and Rosenberg were founding volunteers of the Thursday Night Bar, the weekly legal aid clinic that has now become Metro Volunteer Lawyers.

Norman Campbell, Barbara Chamberlain, Lucy Marsh, Anthony Yuthas and Jon Nicholls will receive the Outstanding Sustained Volunteer Award. The Outstanding Sustained Volunteer Award honors long-term commitment to pro bono legal representation through Metro Volunteer Lawyers in furtherance of access to justice, while consistently showing outstanding professionalism and dedication to helping those of limited means. The five recipients have demonstrated years of commitment to MVL. Norman Campbell is a solo practitioner in Brighton. Barbara Chamberlain was the Executive Director of Metro Volunteer Lawyers for many years. Lucy Marsh is a professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, where she has received the DU Law Star Excellence in Teaching Award. Anthony Yuthas is a solo practitioner focusing on bankruptcy law. Jon Nicholls is one of the founders of the Thursday Night Bar, and is also Of Counsel at Nicholls & Associates in Denver.

MVLMetro Volunteer Lawyers’ Power of Attorney Clinic will receive the Outstanding Programs/Projects award, which is given to programs that provide legal education, outreach, pro bono services or fundraising. The Power of Attorney Clinic pairs volunteer attorneys with elderly clients wishing to complete advance planning documents, allowing the clients to give legal authority to trusted friends or family members to arrange their financial or medical affairs.

To register for the DBA Awards Ceremony, click here, call (303) 860-1115, or email lunches@cobar.org.

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 Announces Philip Lietaer as New Director

LietaerThe Denver Bar Association is pleased to announce Philip Lietaer as the new director 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 leadership.

Lietaer, a native of Canada, holds a J.D. from Western New England University School of Law and a B.A. from the University of Western Ontario. In 2013, he moved to Colorado with his wife, Jessica, who is a federal attorney, and their two dogs. They are now the proud parents of a baby girl, Adelaide Quinn Lietaer.

Prior to joining MVL in 2013, Lietaer worked at a number of other public interest organizations, including Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, South Brooklyn Legal Services, the Massachusetts Justice Project and the Vail Center for Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles. He also worked for the immigration law firm of Goldstein & Lee, P.C. in New York City. “Working at these organizations has, in part, given me an understanding of different strategies implemented at various legal services organizations and what it takes to successfully run and manage a program like MVL,” said Lieater.

Lietaer embarked on his career at Metro Volunteer Lawyers as a Rovira Scholar Fellow. In early 2014, he went on to become the Family Law Court Program Coordinator. For Lietaer, MVL is more than a job: It is a passion infused with responsibility. As he commented, “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.”

Lietaer looks forward to building upon MVL’s ability to provide quality help to a large number of people in need. “Philip knows that he has big shoes to fill (at least figuratively), and he is definitely up to the task,” said MVL Board Chair Candace Whitaker.

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.

Barrister’s Benefit Ball 2015 — A Journey Through Fire and Ice

The 27th Annual Barrister’s Benefit Ball, benefiting Metro Volunteer Lawyers, was held on Saturday, April 25, 2015, at the Marriott City Center. Guests enjoyed cocktails, dinner, face painting, and dancing in support of MVL.

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This year’s theme was Fire and Ice.

 

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MVL Executive Director Dianne Van Voorhees poses with Nathan Lucero during the cocktail hour.

 

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John Albertson, Patrick Flaherty (CBA/DBA Executive Director), and Janet Drake (incoming DBA president and BBB planning committee member) take a picture break during the cocktail hour.

 

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The face painting was a fun diversion.

 

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Guests enjoy camaraderie during the cocktail hour.

 

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Dinner is served.

 

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Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Nancy Rice busted a move on the dance floor.

 

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The night was a success! If you missed the Barrister’s Benefit Ball, you can still donate to Metro Volunteer Lawyers here.

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.

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.