The Volunteer Lawyers Project is pleased to regularly host undergraduate, graduate, and law school students for a variety of internship experiences. Interns typically provide valuable public service by interviewing and presenting legal information to clients. VLP, though, also makes an effort to tailor opportunities and responsibilities to each intern’s respective interests, goals, and amount of time available. Internship time commitments range from 9 hours per week to full time. Prospective interns should note that academic credit for their work at VLP is dependent upon the policies of his or her academic institution.
No matter how interns choose to become involved with VLP, they can expect their experiences here to enhance their understanding of Maine's civil legal system and of the impediments people of low income face as they attempt to resolve often overwhelming legal matters. Interns will learn how VLP and other nonprofit legal services providers work to ameliorate such impediments, as interns themselves make valuable contributions toward this goal.
The important work performed by interns at VLP includes the following:
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 pro se 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, FED’s, small claims, family law initial hearings, case management conferences, mediations, pretrial and final hearings 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
Volunteer Lawyers Project
PO Box 547
Portland, ME 04112
Direct Phone Line: 400-3223
Phone: 774-4518, ext. 1223