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TCL > January 2006 Issue > Q&A: Colorado’s Access to Justice Initiatives and Programs—Part I

January 2006       Vol. 35, No. 1       Page  67
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Access to Justice

Q&A: Colorado’s Access to Justice Initiatives and Programs—Part I
by Prepared by the ATJ Commission Education Committee

(Chair, Ilene Bloom)

The Access to Justice column provides information about poverty law and other areas of the law as they relate to low-income clients; reports on the Access to Justice Commission and local and national Access to Justice Committees; and testimonials from lawyers about their pro bono experience. Readers interested in contributing an article on legal services, pro bono, and Access to Justice topics should contact Kathleen Schoen at

The Colorado Access to Justice Commission is an independent entity that was formed in 2003 with the support of the Colorado Supreme Court, the Colorado Bar Association, and the Statewide Legal Services Group. The Mission of the Access to Justice Commission is to develop, coordinate, and implement policy initiatives to expand access to and enhance the quality of justice in civil legal matters for persons who encounter barriers in gaining access to Colorado’s civil justice system.


The Access to Justice Education Committee would like to test your knowledge about the history of legal aid and current opportunities for free legal assistance to low-income individuals throughout Colorado. For example, did you know that attorneys in Colorado can earn Continuing Legal Education ("CLE") credit for doing pro bono work? Or that the University of Colorado ("CU") School of Law offers tax clinics for the general public? Or that Colorado Legal Services ("CLS") has—wait! Read more to test your knowledge and to learn more about current access to justice initiatives throughout Colorado, and then contact Kathleen Schoen at (303) 824-5305 or to get involved. Part II of this Q&A will be published in the February 2006 issue of The Colorado Lawyer.

Q: What organization started in 1966 when members of the Denver Bar Association ("DBA") volunteered to do intake on Thursday nights to help low-income individuals find pro bono lawyers?

A: The Thursday Night Bar Program. (The name was changed in 1998 to Metro Volunteer Lawyers.)

Q: How are client referrals made to Metro Volunteer Lawyers?

A: Prospective clients must first contact the Denver office of CLS at (303) 837-1313, or visit their offices at 1905 Sherman Street, Suite 400, to begin an intake process.

Q: Name at least three types of cases that Metro Volunteer Lawyers accepts.

A: Family Law, Probate, and Consumer. (Other cases include: Housing, Bankruptcy, Estate Planning, Immigration, and Social Security Disability/SSI.)

Q: Which local bar associations sponsor Metro Volunteer Lawyers?

A: Adams/Broomfield, Arapahoe, Denver, Douglas/Elbert, and the First Judicial District.

Colorado Law Schools

Q: Which CU School of Law graduate received the Volunteer Lawyer of the Year Award on June 6, 2005, from the DBA?

A: Elsa Martinez Tenreiro.

Q. How long has the CU Legal Aid & Defender Program been serving the public?

A: Since 1948.

Q: How many legal clinics does CU have, and what are they?

A: Nine. Civil Litigation, Criminal Defense, American Indian Law, Appellate, Advocacy, Entrepreneurial Law, Natural Resources Litigation, Juvenile Law, and Wrongful Convictions.

Q: Which law school started the first clinical law program in the United States?

A: The University of Denver ("DU") Sturm College of Law, which has a long tradition of promoting public service and legal practice among its students. This dates back to the establishment in 1904 of its "Legal Aid Dispensary"—the first clinical law program in the country.

Q: Name three of the Student Law Clinics at the DU Sturm College of Law.

A: Tax, Civil, and Criminal. (Other clinics include: Arbitration and Mediation, Civil Rights, and Disability Law Clinic.)

Q: How many lawyers participate, pro bono, in the Wills Lab at DU law school—each lawyer helping one law student do a Will, Living Will, and Durable Powers for a legal aid client under the overall supervision of Professor Lucy Marsh?

A: Normally, there are from twelve to eighteen attorneys participating in the Wills Lab.

Colorado Legal Services

Q: What year did CLS begin in Colorado?

A: 1925.

Q: How many offices does CLS have statewide, and where are they located?

A: Fifteen. Alamosa, Boulder, Buena Vista, Colorado Springs, Denver, Durango, Fort Collins, Grand Junction, Greeley, Monte Vista, Northwest Project (including Frisco, Hayden, Gunnison, and Leadville), and Pueblo.

Q: Who argued the first CLS case to make it to the U.S. Supreme Court, and what year did that happen?

A: The first CLS case to go to the U.S. Supreme Court was Shea v. Vialpando.1 It was litigated by Jim Kin and Tom Armour. Lawyers from the Center on Social Welfare Policy and Law helped on the case.

Q: What is the URL for the CLS website? Name three ways advocates can use the website. Name three ways clients can use the website.

A: The URL for the CLS website is Advocates can use the website to: (1) find out about upcoming trainings, including CLEs; (2) to get the latest poverty law news; and (3) to find resources in the library that will help them in their work. Clients can use the site to: (1) find self-help legal materials in several areas of civil law, including bankruptcy, divorce, and housing issues; (2) to learn of pro se clinics in their geographic regions; and (3) to find out where they can find legal assistance.

Continuing Legal Education

Q: What is the recent rule change in Colorado that allows for CLE credit for pro bono work?

A: Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure ("C.R.C.P.") 260.8.

Q: Under C.R.C.P. 260.8, how many CLE credits can be earned during each three-year compliance period?

A: Nine.

Pro Bono Programs

Q: Boulder County Legal Services annually recognizes a local attorney for his or her "dedication, energy, and enthusiasm in undertaking volunteer legal service to the less fortunate of Boulder County." What is the name of this award, and what is its origin?

A: The John Marshall Award. The John Marshall Award was created in the early 1980s to recognize a local attorney for his or her "dedication, energy, and enthusiasm in undertaking volunteer legal service to the less fortunate of Boulder County." The award, which is presented annually, recognizes an attorney who demonstrates an outstanding commitment to "pro bono public service," to honor the memory of John Robert Marshall, an attorney who served the poor with competence and compassion.

Q: Name three local bar associations that support their pro bono programs financially, as well as through donations of time by individual attorneys?

A: The Northwest Colorado Legal Services Project has three local bars that do this: the Continental Divide Bar, Northwest Colorado Bar, and Seventh Judicial District Bar.

Q: What services are available to pro bono attorneys through local pro bono programs?

A: Some of the services include mentoring, sample pleadings, reduced-price CLE programs, CLE credits for pro bono work, access to CLS trainings, and the CLS website.

Q: What nonpartisan nonprofit is a consortium of more than forty Denver area law firms that provides pro bono opportunities to lawyers who want to improve conditions for children and the underprivileged through systemic change?

A: The Colorado Lawyers Committee, which was founded in 1978 by several Denver law firms, now includes more than 1,000 lawyers in forty-five Denver metro law firms. Lawyers who do not practice with these law firms also are welcome to participate in Colorado Lawyers Committee projects.

Q: What pro bono organization undertakes systemic change projects in these issue areas: poverty and public benefits, education, civil rights, immigration, children’s issues, community development, and criminal law?

A: The Colorado Lawyers Committee has more than fifteen active task forces working on issues in these areas.2

Q: What nonprofit organization uses a team approach to pro bono legal projects, where lawyers from several different law firms work together to assist underrepresented populations?

A: The Colorado Lawyers Committee has anywhere from fifteen to twenty task forces, most of which include lawyers from three or four law firms. Volunteer opportunities are available for both litigators and non-litigators.


1. Shea, 416 U.S. 251 (1974).

2. Additional information on these projects and volunteer opportunities is available at

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