Volunteer Lawyers Project - Internships and Volunteer Opportunities

Job Title: Volunteer Lawyers Project
Company: Volunteer Lawyers Project
Category: Internships

For thirty years, the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) has worked to make "justice for all" a reality in Maine. To transform justice from an ideal to a reality for many low-income Mainers, the VLP depends on volunteers.

A variety of opportunities exists to participate in the delivery of legal services, allowing members from the community to participate, as well as undergraduate and law students. Most community members and students work on our statewide legal aid hotline as client interviewers. Volunteers range in age from 19-91, and come from all backgrounds: Retirees and students, community members wishing to learn about the law and attorneys who are practicing law, those who are working but finding time to volunteer to those who are determining their career paths. All are playing a vital role in the delivery of services.

The hotline is the first point of contact for people seeking legal assistance. Using toll free and local lines, low-income people across the state call the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) for legal assistance. The VLP responds to their calls by providing free information, assistance and pro bono representation. Family law, debt matters and unemployment are just a few areas of legal concern that prompt individuals to contact the Volunteer Lawyers Project.

Empowering people to assert their rights, extending the protections of the law to everyone, and using the law to change lives for the better is what every Mainer deserves. We provide the necessary training and supervision that enable volunteers to become the critical link between those in need and the services provided by the VLP.

Since the project began, volunteers have contributed over 40 million dollars worth of free legal assistance to indigent Mainers. Even with this impressive record, the work is far from done, particularly in these times. Although the most need is on our hotline, we also have a strong need for administrative assistance, data entry, web development, outreach, public relations, and fundraising.

You can actually help someone facing the struggles as described below. Consider the various opportunities described below and call our program today!

  • Roughly 30% of Maine's citizens live below 200% of the federal poverty level, half of all Mainers read at or below an 8th grade level and low-income households experience one or two problems a year that require some legal intervention.
  • At least one party is without legal representation in 80% of all family matters in Maine Courts. Both parties are without legal representation in 50% of all family matters in Maine courts.

1. DAYTIME CLIENT INTERVIEWING: This experience highlights the many unmet civil legal needs faced by the low-income community in Maine. The types of legal problems faced by the client population and addressed by our volunteers vary; with family matters, bankruptcies, foreclosures, and unemployment cases being the most common. Through your efforts, the VLP is better able to respond to the clients, offering essential legal information, pro se assistance, and/or referrals. Significant emphasis is put on providing legal information in order to enhance a clients understanding of the situation. Your involvement is critical in assessing the legal matters, providing the direct link to legal staff and assisting clients in understanding their rights, responsibilities and options. MONDAY-FRIDAY (specific time periods)

2. COURTHOUSE ASSISTANCE PROJECTS: The Courthouse Assistance Project (CHAP) provides assistance to eligible low-income clients dealing with family law matters. Interns are responsible for completing an initial financial interview and preparing the clients to speak with the pro bono attorneys. Interns are also trained to assist clients with completing some of their family law forms. In addition, volunteers observe and assist attorneys when they are directly working with clients. The high volume of need limits the amount of time spent with each client. If clients need more advanced services, it is often recommended that they connect with the VLP Statewide Helpline (run by attorneys and law students). CHAPs are currently located in Portland, Biddeford & Lewiston District Courts AUGUSTA: WEDNESDAYS, 1-4 PM, PORTLAND & LEWISTON: THURSDAYS, 1-4 PM & BIDDEFORD: FRIDAYS, 1-4 PM.

3. COURT OBSERVATIONS: The VLP will arrange as many court observations as possible on such matters as domestic violence final protection from abuse hearings, evictions, small claims, family law initial hearings, case management conferences, post judgement motions and others. ONGOING THROUGHOUT THE YEAR

4. SUMMER LECTURE SERIES: PTLA staff attorneys and other area attorneys provide mini-trainings on a variety of legal topics ranging from family law, housing, public assistance, consumer issues, disability, children’s legal issues, migrant and Native American Indian law, pro bono work while in private practice and other topics. ONGOING THROUGHOUT THE SUMMER (efforts are also made throughout the school year to invite interns to any open staff training sessions)

5. CASE REVIEW SESSIONS: Interns are invited to attend weekly staff case review sessions as we discuss certain case issues and how to proceed. Active participation in the discussions is encouraged. WEDNESDAY AFTERNOONS

6. PROJECTS: Interns are encouraged to assist staff with various projects that would be useful to the intern, staff, client and/or project. Discussion and guidance is provided with emphasis on the student taking a substantial lead. ONGOING

7. MEDIA & ADMINISTRATIVE RESPONSIBILITIES: Volunteers may be asked to assist staff with web and social media work, as well as various administrative tasks including data entry. ONGOING

For more information or to apply, contact Lin Martin-Hunt, Volunteer Coordinator at lmartinhunt@vlp.org or 207-400-3223


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