|The Colorado Lawyer|
Vol. 28, No. 2 [Page 19]
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Lend-A-Lawyer, Inc. Annual Report: 1997-1998
Annual Report: 1997-1998
Lend-A-Lawyer; Inc. was established in June 1990 as a Colorado Bar Association ("CBA") presidential project during Christopher Brauchli's term as president of the CBA. The program is governed by a Board of Directors comprising fifteen members appointed by the CBA President for three-year terms. The Board meets quarterly. The purpose of the program is to provide legal assistance to the indigent in the less populated areas of the state on a pro bono basis.
Originally the program reached out to law firms, requesting that they donate a firm attorney's time to the program for a four- to six-month period. That is how the program got its name. Once the program was established in a few of the rural communities, it became increasingly apparent that the cost of office space, equipment, and clerical assistance was more than the self-supporting program could afford. In 1994, Colorado Rural Legal Services ("CRLS") Director Mario Rivera agreed to share office space with Lend-A-Lawyer participants, provided the Lend-A-Lawyers accept CRLS cases up to 50 per-cent of their caseload. In the past year, the program has grown to include two local pro bono programs, Boulder County Legal Services and Project Safeguard in Denver;
The communities now being served by the program are Alamosa, Boulder; Denver (Metro Volunteer Lawyers and Project Safeguard), Durango, Fort Morgan, Grand Junction, Greeley, La Junta, and Montrose.
The program assists in providing legal services to hundreds of clients annually. Lend-A-Lawyer volunteers continue to be placed in CRLS offices and some local bar pro bono programs. They are assigned cases by CRLS and the local pro bono coordinator, and take court-appointed cases where available. Volunteers receive a $750 per month stipend.
Lend-A-Lawyer attorney volunteers are not permitted to practice law outside of the program during their placement in the program. All Lend-A-Lawyer volunteers must be actively licensed to practice law in the state of Colorado. Volunteers are required to commit to a six-month term. Supervision of Lend-A-Lawyer volunteers is provided by the managing attorney of the CRLS office or pro bono program to which they are assigned. A Lend-A-Lawyer Board member is assigned to each volunteer and provides supervision on pro bono and court-appointed cases. Malpractice insurance is provided by CRLS for all CRLS cases. Lend-A-Lawyer, Inc. provides malpractice insurance for all non-CRLS cases handled by the Lend-A-Lawyers.
The program is self-supporting. It is financed by legal fees collected on court-appointed cases, stipend reimbursement, and other contributions. Recruitment efforts are made by an ongoing ad in The Colorado Lawyer. Newly admitted attorneys are provided with information about the program at their swearing-in ceremony. This annual report will be placed on the Internet this year to increase the program's visibility (it will be posted on the CBA homepage at www.cobar.org).
The Lend-A-Lawyer program is the only such program of its kind in the United States. Although it has undergone some changes, it has been operating continuously since its establishment.
Board of Directors
The Board of Directors for Lend-A-Lawyer; Inc. serves both in an advisory and policy-making capacity1 The Board meets on a quarterly basis. As advisor to the CBA staff administrator and all Lend-A-Lawyer volunteers, the Board sees that the purposes of the program are carried out. As a policymaker, the Board sets policies that guide the operation of the overall program. Additionally the Board has a number of specific responsibilities, some of which are as follows:
1. Working closely with the CBA Staff Administrator in a variety of areas, including recruitment, training, and insuring the financial well-being of the program.
2. Acting as mentors and providing supervision to volunteers on cases that are not supervised by the program that house the Lend-A-Lawyer
8. Conducting all interviews for new recruits to the program.
4. Maintaining contact with law firms for the purpose of fundraising.
5. Maintaining contact with the law schools in the state to recruit third-year law students as possible future volunteers.
6. Reviewing, developing, and designing training materials for use by the Lend-A-Lawyers in the field.
7. Reviews the policies and procedures of the program as well as the structure of the program on an annual basis to determine if the program is meeting the needs of the communities that it serves. A whole day retreat is held once a year for the purpose of improving the effectiveness of the program.
Recruitment efforts are made by an ongoing ad in The Colorado Lawyer. The program also advertises on the Internet through the CBA’s homepage (www.cobar.org). Board members present information about the program to Denver University and Colorado University third-year law students once a year to promote their future participation in the program, and to emphasize the importance of doing pro bono work as part of an attorney's obligation to the court and the profession. The program is currently receiving an average of from two to three applications per month.
There is a need for additional recruitment efforts due to the increased number of entry-level positions that have been available to new attorneys around the state. Twenty-five applications were received during the fiscal year; which began on September 1, 1997, and ended August 31, 1998. Three of the applications received were from out-of-state attorneys interested in relocating to Colorado, and twenty-two applications were from in-state attorneys. Seven of these applicants participated in the program during the last fiscal year along with Tom Nelson (the ongoing Lend-A-Lawyer in Montrose).
Local Bar and Judiciary Participation
Local bar associations have remained involved in the program. They have participated by providing supervision and mentoring to the Lend-A-Lawyer in their areas on non-CRLS cases, and in some instances have provided financial backing to the program.
Judges from around the state have been instrumental in supporting the program by assigning court appointed cases to Lend-A-Lawyers in their area when available. Judges also have played a big role in encouraging the support and participation of local bar members. All legal fees generated by any Lend-A-Lawyer from court-appointed case fees are paid directly to Lend-A-Lawyer, Inc. by the State Court Administrator's Office.
The program has continued to grow over the last fiscal year, adding two new locations to the program: Boulder County Legal Services and the Project Safeguard office in the Denver area. The communities now being served by the program and an overview of the locations are outlined below.
The Lend-A-Lawyer assigned to Alamosa is housed in the Alamosa CRLS office. The Alamosa CRLS office serves the Twelfth Judicial District, which includes Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Mineral, Saguache, and Rio Grande Counties. Due to the lack of a supervising CRLS attorneys there are no placements in this location at the present time. This location is funded by CRLS.
The Lend-A-Lawyer assigned to Boulder is housed in the Boulder County Legal Services office. This office serves Boulder County and the Twentieth Judicial District. The Boulder County Legal Services office is affiliated with Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Denver This is a new location to the program and has been very successful in serving the legal needs in Boulder. Tanya Shimer was the Lend A-Lawyer in this office.
There are two Lend-A-Lawyers assigned to Denver. One is housed in the Denver Bar Association Metro Volunteer Lawyers Program office. This program serves the First, Second, Seventeenth, and Eighteenth Judicial Districts, which include Adams, Arapahoe, Denver, Douglas, Gilpin, and Jefferson Counties. The Denver Bar Foundation approved a $9,000 budget to be used to reimburse the stipend paid for a Lend-A-Lawyer in this location. Funding has been approved for the fiscal year 1998-1999. Susan Hayes and Kenneth Wohl have been the volunteers in this office over the last fiscal year.
The second Lend-A-Lawyer assigned to Denver is housed in the Project Safeguard office. Project Safeguard provides legal services to people in crisis, mainly domestic violence victims. They have offices in Denver, Adams County, and Arapahoe County. This is a new placement and has been very successful in assisting the needs of the communities the program serves. Jason Bachlet was the Lend-A-Lawyer in this location.
The Lend-A-Lawyer assigned to Durango is housed in the Durango CRLS office. The Durango CRLS office serves the Sixth and the Twenty-second Judicial Districts, which include Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma, and San Juan Counties. The Durango position has been vacant this year, due to the cut in Legal Services Corporation ("LSC") funding to CRLS. These cuts ended the ability of CRLS to reimburse any of the stipend paid in the Durango location. In 1998 there were no court-appointed cases available to the Lend-A-Lawyer in Durango, which is the source of stipend reimbursement in this location. It is hoped that the Lend-A-Lawyer would be assigned CRLS cases up to 50 percent of their caseload, with the rest of the time being devoted to court-appointed cases. The court-appointed case fees would be adequate to support the stipend paid to the Lend-A-Lawyer in this community. The program will continue to search out different avenues for funding in this location.
The Lend-A-Lawyer assigned to Fort Morgan is housed in the Fort Morgan CRLS office. The Fort Morgan CRLS Office serves the Thirteenth Judicial District, which includes Logan, Morgan, Phillips, Sedgwick, Washington, and Yuma Counties. The Lend-A-Lawyer who served in Fort Morgan during the fiscal year was Joe Wallis. This location is funded by court-appointed case fees and CRLS.
The Lend-A-Lawyer assigned to Grand Junction is housed in the Grand Junction CRLS office. The Grand Junction CRLS office serves the Twenty-first Judicial District, which includes Garfield and Mesa Counties. The Lend-A-Lawyer who served in Grand Junction during the fiscal year was Kevin Sullivan. This location is funded partially by CRLS stipend reimbursements and legal fees generated by court-appointed cases. This year, the program in Grand Junction did not receive the court-appointed case fees necessary to reimburse the stipend paid. Fortunately, CRLS was able to reimburse the stipend expense for this location.
The Lend-A-Lawyer assigned to Greeley is housed in the Greeley CRLS office. The Greeley CRLS office serves the Nineteenth Judicial District, which covers all of Weld County. The Lend-A-Lawyer who served in Greeley during this fiscal year was Colin Wilson. This location is funded by CRLS. Court-appointed cases are not available in the Greeley location.
The Lend-A-Lawyer assigned to La Junta is housed in the La Junta CRLS office. The La Junta CRLS office serves the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Judicial Districts, which include Bent, Cheyenne, Crowley Kiowa, Kit Carson, Otero, and Prowers Counties. There were no Lend-A-Lawyers who served in La Junta during this fiscal year due to the lack of a supervising CRLS attorney. This location is funded in part by court appointments and in part by CRLS.
The Lend-A-Lawyer assigned to Montrose has been housed in the Montrose CRLS office. The Montrose CRIS office closed its doors on September 15, 1998, due to the reorganization of CRLS as a whole. This was in response to the cutback in LSC funding. The Montrose office serves Delta, Hinsdale, Montrose, Ouray, and San Miguel Counties. The Lend-A-Lawyer who has served in Montrose during this fiscal year was Thomas Nelson. Tom has been with the program in Montrose since May 1995. He is a retired attorney who lives in Montrose.
As mentioned below with the generous contribution from Holland & Hart, LLP, this office will be relocated and continue to operate as before. There will be some changes to the program and the services it will provide in conjunction with the Grand Junction CRLS office, such as the pro se divorce clinic that the Lend-A-Lawyer will continue to present on a weekly basis. The local court has offered a room in the old courthouse for use by Lend-A-Lawyer. This location has begun to support itself through court-appointed cases. Court appointed case fees will be the future financial backing of this program.
Several other rural communities, pro bono programs, and community service groups are considering a Lend-A-Lawyer. The Lend-A-Lawyer Board reviews all requests/proposals submitted and determines if a Lend-A-Lawyer will be sent out to the requesting community. The ability of the community to support the Lend-A-Lawyer's office needs, the possibility of court appointments or stipend reimbursements, and the time available to the CBA staff administrator continue to play a role in staffing considerations.
Legal Services and Pro Bono Funding
The Current Crisis: The Effects of Recent Legal Services Corporation Funding Reductions
In response to a one-third cutback in federal funding for Colorado's civil legal services programs for the poor, which occurred effective January 1996, the CBA asked Chief Judge Vollack to establish a blue-ribbon committee to (1) explore the issues of developing and implementing an effective plan for raising critically needed funds for Colorado's legal services programs; (2) make recommendations to the Supreme Court on ways to increase the amount of pro bono service performed by lawyers throughout the state of Colorado; and (3) explore the role of judges in encouraging lawyers to engage in pro bono service. Chief Justice Vollack then asked the Judicial Advisory Council of the Colorado Supreme Court to study these issues and make appropriate recommendations to the Colorado Supreme Court. In turn, Council Chair Justice Rebecca Love Kourlis established a Legal Services/Pro Bono Subcommittee of the Judicial Advisory Council, which began meeting in January 1997 to address these items. The following information has been taken from the report of the Legal Services/Pro Bono Committee to the Judicial Advisory Council.
Most states, including Colorado, continue to seek new sources of funding for legal service and pro bono providers. In 1996, the Colorado Statewide Legal Services Planning Group (consisting of COLTAF, the Legal Aid Foundation, the state's legal service projects, and the CBA) requested a small increase in the county court filing fees from the state legislature through Senate Bill 96-94 and modest increases in attorney registration fees from the Colorado Supreme Court. Senate Bill 96-94 was projected to raise approximately $1.1 million, and the attorney registration fees were projected to raise approximately $350,000 to support civil legal services for the poor. Neither bill passed. In 1997, the Planning Group drafted and supported Senate Bill 97-73, which sought a $1 million appropriation to fund legal services efforts for victims of domestic violence. Senate Bill 97-73 met the same fate as Senate Bill 96-94, passing in the Senate and passing in the House Judiciary Committee, but failing in the House Appropriations Committee. A similar measure, but without provisions for an actual current year appropriation, was proposed again to the 1998 Colorado General Assembly in House Bill 98-1388. This also passed in the House Judiciary Committee, but failed in the House Appropriations Committee.
Pro Bono Funding
Colorado is currently one of only sixteen states that fails to provide any funding for legal services programs through (1) court fees or fines, (2) state appropriations, or (3) an earmarked increase in attorney registration fees. Such funding is provided in twenty states through court fees and fines, in nineteen states through state appropriations, and in two states through attorney registration fees.
Funding for pro bono offices comes from a variety of sources, including COLTAF, local bars, local governments, legal services programs, community grants (such as United Way), Victim-Witness Assistance Law Enforcement grants, and private donations. No state monies are used to find these efforts. The only offices that receive federal funding are those linked to a federally funded provider
Since 1975, funding for Colorado's legal services programs has been provided in substantial part by the federal Legal Services Corporation. However, because the issue of funding for legal services has become highly politicized, obtaining continued federal funding has been difficult. In 1982, federal funding decreased by 25 percent from an annual appropriation of $321,300,000 to an annual national appropriation of $241,000,000. Then, after increasing gradually for fourteen years, this appropriation was cut by one-third in 1996 to an annual appropriation of $278,000,000. Although state funding for Colorado's civil legal service programs was provided briefly in the mid-1970's, no state funding has been provided in recent years. Because of the recent cutbacks in federal funding, however; a coalition of interested parties in 1996, 1997, and 1998 urged the General Assembly to enact legislation to provide state funding again for civil legal services programs. Such efforts have been unsuccessful.
The Council urges the Colorado Supreme Court to take an increasingly active role, together with the CBA, in the leadership and coordination of continued efforts to secure statewide funding for Colorado's legal services programs. Such leadership and coordination have been critical in those states where recent efforts to secure funding have succeeded.
Because of the uncertainty of federal and state funding, the Council recommends a variety of other sources of funding be maintained or initiated to assure adequate funding for Colorado's legal services programs. It recommends that Rule 1.15 of the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct ("Colo. RPC"), which establishes COLTAF, should be continued in order to assure continued funding for legal services and pro bono from the interest generated on lawyer's trust accounts.
It further recommends that the Colorado Supreme Court take the lead in continuing to explore the feasibility of increasing attorney registration fees in order to raise additional finds for the civil legal services programs. The CBA requested an increase of approximately $25 per attorney in 1996, but the Supreme Court has declined to adopt this recommendation.
Additionally, as has been recommended in other states, the Council recommends that both lawyers and judges should be urged to consider designating unclaimed class action finds to be used by Colorado's legal services programs. Under the cy pres doctrine, such allocations could increase resources for legal services programs.
Finally, the Council recommends that Congress and the judicial branch study the use of sliding scale fees as a potential mechanism for providing legal services to clients of legal services programs and pro bono lawyers. Although clients whose representation is paid with LSC funds may not be charged a fee for representation, the Council believes it is worth exploring the possibility of charging a modest sliding scale fee to both legal services and pro bono clients whose representation is provided or supported by other sources of funds. Some lawyers believe that clients who pay a modest fee for representation will better appreciate the legal services they receive. Others, however, are not convinced that such a potential source of finding would either generate enough money to be administratively feasible or would result in greater appreciation of the legal services provided.
Additional Program Funding
When seeking funding for the Lend-A-Lawyer program there are many things to consider When program funding comes from grants, or LSC funding, there are restrictions placed on the types of cases that can be accepted. The Lend-A-Lawyer program has been a self-supporting program since its inception in 1990. This has allowed the program to operate without restriction and has been very useful in cases where conflicts would have prevented indigent clients from receiving equal representation. This has been helpful mainly in those cases where there are two people in the same case needing representation, such as representation in a divorce proceeding. Once one of the parties has contacted or obtained assistance from the local legal services office, the second party cannot be represented by that office due to possible conflict. In those situations, the Lend-A-Lawyer has been able to represent the second party without fear of conflict.
With the cuts in LSC finding, it has become more difficult for CRLS to provide the stipend reimbursement in all of the locations that currently house a Lend-A-Lawyer. Each location being served by Lend-A-Lawyer has a great need for the services the program provides. A subcommittee of the Lend-A-Lawyer Board of Directors was formed once again to reach out to the larger law firms in the state and ask for their assistance. The subcommittee recruits larger Denver law firms to Adopt-A-Community in the state for one six-month period or one fill year, which is two Lend-A-Lawyer terms. This $5,000 or $10,000 contribution covers the stipend reimbursement and a small annual administrative fee for the rural community of their choice.
The law firm of Holland & Hart, LLP; has been the first firm to step forward and provide assistance by adopting the community of Montrose, Colorado, for a six-month term. The Montrose CRLS office was closed as of September 15, 1998. Had it not been for the generous donation by Holland & Hart, LLP, it would have become necessary to discontinue placing a Lend-A-Lawyer in the Montrose community. This contribution enabled the Lend-A-Lawyer to find alternate housing and supervision for the program in the Montrose location, and it will now be able to continue to provide the much-needed legal services to this community.
Kevin Sullivan was the Lend-A-Lawyer in the Grand Junction CRLS office. He is currently a staff attorney in the Grand Junction office. Here is what he had to say about his experience with the program.
While the life of a Lend-A-Lawyer does not offer immediate financial gains, the experience and knowledge one obtains is invaluable. It's like being thrown out into the icy water to learn to swim, only with a lifejacket close by so you don't drown. You are exposed to numerous clients with diverse problems. This not only forces you to learn all of those areas of law that you tried to avoid in law school, but some you actually wanted to take.
"The client skills that one gains, as well as learning substantive law demand that you get up to speed fast. There is no better teacher than life. Law school may prepare you for that appellate brief but it does not prepare you for the experience necessary to analyze from ten to twenty different matters each week, all of which are different, in a five-to-ten-minute discussion with a client."
Tanya Shimer was the Lend-A-Lawyer in the Boulder County Legal Services ("BCLS") office. About her experience as a Lend-A-Lawyer, Tanya says:
"Six months have passed and I have completed my commitment to Boulder County Legal Services as their first Lend-A-Lawyer The experience has been both exhausting and energizing, inspiring and heart-wrenching. I have represented a wide variety of clients with diverse legal problems. I represented victims of domestic violence in permanent restraining order hearings; tenants being evicted under the Forcible Entry and Detainer statutes; and disabled tenants to ensure they get the reasonable accommodations the law requires. I have worked with child support enforcement, helping single parents resolve issues related to the collection of their child's support. Some clients had issues with public benefits, including problems with the Housing Authorities or the newly required work contracts. I helped clients with elder law issues; fair debt collection actions; bankruptcy; the garnishment of income; and wills, trusts, and powers of attorney. Additionally I represented clients in dissolution actions, from Friday morning hearings on the emergency docket to permanent orders. I worked hard as a Lend-A-Lawyer.
In exchange for this hard work, I have been given an unforgettable experience, growing both professionally and personally. I volunteered my time at Boulder County Legal Services and received in return the gifts of friendship, patient mentor-ship, and of learning from competent professionals. I am left with the satisfaction that I have worked to ensure that justice in our democracy is served equally - and not by the thickness of a person's wallet. Through my experience as a Lend-A-Lawyer, I have learned not only about being an attorney, but also about being a human being. Indeed, as a Lend-A-Lawyer at BCLS, I learned most, both professionally and personally from my clients' courage in the face of incredible obstacles having to do with the most fundamental of needs - a home, a family, food for a hungry child."
Due to funding cuts and reorganization efforts, the CRLS office will not be able to reimburse as much of the stipends paid as it has in the past. The need for lend-A-Lawyers in the CRLS offices remains. Other avenues of stipend reimbursement will be vital over the next year to ensure the financial stability of the Lend-A-Lawyer program.
The Colorado Bar Association provides a part-time staff person to coordinate and administer the program. New locations to the program are asked to reimburse the monthly stipend paid to the Lend-A-Lawyers of $750 per month ($4,500 per six-month term) and a $1,000 per year administrative cost. This provides full-time attorney representation for $10,000 per year; per location.
Lend-A-Lawyer, Inc. spent just under $8,000 to operate the program over the last fiscal year. Should the program receive more contributions from law firms, it would allow the program to place volunteers in locations where CRLS is no longer able to reimburse the stipend paid. Additional funding also would enable the program to expand into other rural communities that are in desperate need of legal services for their indigent population.
A breakdown of the program expenses and revenues (reimbursements) for the 1997-1998 fiscal year follows:
|Mileage expense Reimbursement
|Insurance & Fees
|Colorado Rural Legal Services
|Pro Bono Programs
The CBA would like to thank the Lend-A-Lawyer, Inc. Board of Directors for 1997-1998 for their commitment to the continued success of this program. Over the last fiscal year, the Board's hard work and dedication has promoted the on-going growth of the program, which has provided much needed legal services to indigent people around the state. Our thanks goes to: Maggie Atkinson, Christopher Brauchli, Lynn Cannon, Sue Corning, Diane S. King, Judge M. Jon Kolomitz, Randall Lococo, H. Barton Mendenhall, Zach Miller; Drew Moore, Judge Frank Plaut, Sharon Plettner; Mario Rivera, Ann Walker, Gina Weitzenkorn, and CBA Staff Administrator Barb Martin.
Statistical Information/Cases Handled
1. Consumer2. Criminal (court-appointed)3. Employment4. Family5. Juvenile6. Health7. Housing8. Income9. Individual Rights10. Miscellaneous
There were approximately 500 CRLS clients served by Lend-A-Lawyers placed in Colorado Rural Legal Services offices. There were approximately 860 pro bono program clients that were served, and twenty-five court-appointed cases were handled throughout the year. Types of cases handled by Lend-A-Lawyers over the last fiscal year included:
l. The Officers and Board of Directors for 1997-1998 are as follows: Officers: Hon. Frank Plaut, President; Christopher Brauchli Vice President Treasurer; Randall Lococo, Secretary; Diane S. King, Immediate Past President. Directors: Maggie Atkinson, Sue Corning, Hon. M. Jon Kolomitz, H. Barton Mendenhall, Zach Miller; Drew Moore, Sharon Plettner, Mario Rivera, Ann Walker; Gina Weitzenkorn. Ex-officio Member: Lynn Cannon, COLTAF.
© 1999 The Colorado Lawyer and Colorado Bar Association. All Rights Reserved. Material from The Colorado Lawyer provided via this World Wide Web server is protected by the copyright laws of the United States and may not be reproduced in any way or medium without permission. This material also is subject to the disclaimers at http://www.cobar.org/tcl/disclaimer.cfm?year=1999.