VLN & Pro Bono

In its commitment to access to justice for all, the Hennepin County Bar Association provides a variety of services for the public, both through the association's own programming and through significant support of the Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN).

There are many opportunities for HCBA attorneys to become involved in providing pro bono and low bono services to those in need. Contact Dana Miner, Director of Legal Services, at dminer@mnbars.org or 612-752-6627 for additional information about any of these programs.


Volunteer Lawyers Network

VLN matches low-income clients with volunteer attorneys for free civil legal services. Services range from advice to full-representation. The primary service area is Hennepin County, but select services are provided on a metro-wide or statewide basis. VLN lawyers provide legal services for low-income client areas that impact basic human needs, such as housing, bankruptcy, family, debt collection, etc. They do not service criminal matters, personal injury, worker's compensation, legal or medical malpractice, or any other fee-generating issue. VLN may be contacted at 612-752-6655 or online for further information. 

HCBA Pro Bono and Low Bono Programming

The HCBA provides five direct services to the public by way of legal help.
-Lawyer Referral and Information Service
-Misdemeanor Defense Project
-Legal Access Point
-Low Fee Family Law Project
-Commitment Defense Project

Lawyer Referral and Information Service
LRIS connects those with legal issues to one of 200 private attorneys practicing in over 50 areas of law. Lawyer Referral can also provide callers with general information about the legal process and community resources. The LRIS is recognized for its high quality by the American Bar Association, and has been helping individuals find solutions to their legal issues for over 60 years.

Misdemeanor Defense Project
Through the Misdemeanor Defense Project, the HCBA provides an attorney at each of the four Hennepin County Court locations each weekday during misdemeanor arraignment. The attorney is available to any individual scheduled for arraignment that day to answer questions about how the courts work, about legal rights, and about other substantive law matter of concern. Clerks, prosecutors, judges, or public defender screeners can easily direct the public to the attorney volunteer for the day.
The clerk of court announces the Misdemeanor Defense Project when the rights are read in court. This opportunity may allow the individual to proceed pro se (without legal representation) on the basis of independent legal advice from lawyers familiar with misdemeanor charges and court processes. The individual may also choose to have the MDP attorney represent him or her in the legal matter. The individual and attorney will, in such cases, agree on cost of services.

Legal Access Point
The Legal Access Point, or LAP Clinic, is a drop-in, first come, opportunity for clients to consult with an attorney on matters of legal concern. Individuals receive, without charge, a 15-minute consultation. The Lawyer Referral Service co-sponsors LAP with the Volunteer Lawyers Network in conjunction with the Hennepin County District Court's Self Help Center.
A volunteer attorney from LRIS is on site in the Self Help Center each weekday for two hours, from 9:00-11:00 a.m. and on Mondays from 1:00-3:00 p.m. During this time-slot there is no financial screening for service. A volunteer attorney from VLN is then available from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. daily and also from 1:00-3:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. During VLN timeslots, clients undergo low-income screening. During these shifts, attorneys will not handle criminal or family law legal concerns,.
At no charge, attorneys will help the client understand the issue around the legal concern, identify possible options, and describe how to take the next steps in pursuing the issue. The attorney may refer an individual to other legal or other service providers if that is the best option.

Low Fee Family Law Project
A part of the Lawyer Referral Service, this program is designed to allow affordable representation to the working poor, with income just above the financial bracket where services are available through other legal services providers. Service is provided where volunteers and clients can be matched. A variety of conditions apply. Interested individuals should contact LRIS at 612-752-6666.

Commitment Defense Project
In Hennepin County, any individual who is under petition for commitment is entitles to legal representation without charge. This representation is provided through the Commitment Defense Project, which is administered for the county by the HCBA. About 35 attorneys experienced in working with individuals in the commitment process work with CDP. When the court is petitioned for commitment, the individual is assigned to the Commitment Defense Project and immediately assigned attorney representation.

Contact Dana Miner, Director of Legal Services, at dminer@mnbars.org for information on any of these programs. 
2020 Excellence Awards
Dec 19, 2019
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HCBA Centennial Pro Bono Challenge
Jun 25, 2019
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