News for the Wyoming Legal Aid and Access to Justice Community | Volume 2, Issue 1
February 28, 2014
In this issue:
Building Justice One Case at a Time
In October 2013, the Wyoming Center for Legal Aid (the Center), in partnership with the Wyoming State Bar, launched the “I’ll Do One” initiative. Since its launch, Wyoming attorneys have volunteered their time and talents to represent those in need of legal assistance who otherwise would not have access to an attorney.
The initiative encourages attorneys to commit to take at least one pro bono case for full representation. The Center reviews client applications for placement with an attorney. Referrals are then made to volunteer attorneys that have signed up to take a case.
Representing a client through the I’ll Do One program can make a life-changing difference in someone’s life. But there are also benefits for the attorneys who volunteer. Attorneys who accept a case through the Center are covered by Center’s professional liability insurance for the case at no cost to the attorney, and the attorney can claim CLE credit for the pro bono hours. Additionally, attorneys handling pro bono cases can seek reimbursement of case related expenses from the Wyoming State Bar.
The Center is also excited to announce that new resources for pro bono attorneys will soon be available. The Center is building a portal on our website for pro bono attorneys. The Center plans to launch the new portal on April 1, 2014. The portal will contain a variety of resources for pro bono attorneys, including substantive law organized by topic and an attorney tool-kit with resources useful anytime an attorney goes to court. Attorneys who sign up for the I’ll Do One will be provided with login information and access to this resource when the portal goes live in a month.
With the support of the Center and our resources, we hope that attorneys across the state will find it easier than ever to provide pro bono services. Many attorneys have already taken a variety of important cases. From helping a disabled individual maintain housing to representing a grandmother to obtain guardianship of the children she cares for, Wyoming lawyers are building justice one case at a time.
Rule Change Makes it Easier to Claim CLE Credit for Pro Bono
Good news for attorneys taking pro bono cases! Beginning January 1, 2014, the allowance for CLE credits for pro bono work generously increased. Rule 4(g) of the Rules for Continuing Legal Education now allows for an attorney to receive a maximum of five hours of continuing legal education credit each year for providing pro bono public service. This is an increase from the previous limit of only three hours of credit per year.
CLE credit may be earned at the rate of one credit hour for every two hours of pro bono service, including the following services:
- Performing pro bono public service (this includes direct representation, limited scope representation, walk-in legal clinics, and Skype clinics, to name a few opportunities)
-acting as a mentor for another attorney who is performing pro bono public service, and
-acting as a mentor for an eligible law student
This makes it easier to earn pro bono credit and is much more generous than the previous rule.
Claiming CLE credit for pro bono services is also more convenient than ever. Attorneys just need to submit the form verifying the number of hours of volunteer service they provided. There is a separate CLE form to claim pro bono hours on the Wyoming State Bar’s website. Attorneys can log into their bar page to access the form.
Many attorneys have already utilized this new rule to claim credit for volunteering at the Center’s walk-in legal clinics, Skype clinics, and for direct representation. We have had only positive feedback from attorneys about this rule change, and the Center is thrilled for this renewed recognition of the importance of pro bono and new incentives for attorneys who help the underserved across Wyoming.
Center Provides Support for Attorneys Helping Veterans
The Center, in partnership with the Wyoming State Bar, has increased attention on the legal needs of our state’s military veterans. With the large number of returning service members, this need continues to increase.
The response from attorneys willing to volunteer their time to help veterans has been overwhelming. In order to provide support for attorneys helping veterans, the Center, in coordination with the State Bar, is hosting an upcoming free CLE. The CLE will be held on March 27, 2014 during the noon hour. This CLE is for attorneys who would like to learn about the issues that arise in handling a divorce for a military or veteran family. The CLE will discuss military benefits, including military retirement benefits, and how those benefits may be divided. Also learn about additional resources and information that are available to help attorneys better understand and spot issues while handling a divorce for a military or veteran family.
The Center will continue to offer a variety of training opportunities for pro bono attorneys, including additional trainings on topics related to the legal needs of veterans. The Center proudly supports Wyoming attorneys who are helping heroes.
Center Grants Vital to Expansion of Legal Services
The Center has many programs and initiatives and provides a wide range of resources and benefits to low-income Wyomingites. But did you know that, in addition to the Center’s own programs, the Center is the leading funder for civil legal aid in Wyoming?
For the current fiscal year, the Center awarded more than $830,000 in grants to non-profit, legal service providers around the state. We currently have four grantees who receive those funds; Legal Aid of Wyoming, Inc., Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Wyoming Children’s Law Center, and the Teton County Access to Justice Center.
Over the past year, the Center’s funds have expanded the availability of legal services to areas of the state that have never before had a legal aid attorney that was accessible. This allows more low-income individuals to receive the legal help they need in areas such as Rock Springs and Gillette.
In the past two years, more than 5,000 individuals have received some form of legal assistance from an attorney through the Center and Center funded programs and countless more have received information, referral, or other benefits. Each month an average of 300 callers receive help from the statewide legal advice and intake hotline, funded by the Center, which makes legal assistance accessible to low-income Wyomingites, regardless of how far they live from the nearest legal aid office. Center grants support a wide range of services that would simply be unavailable without the Center’s funds.
The Center awards grants on an annual basis. The Center will release the next Request for Proposal on March 14, 2014. Beginning March 14th, interested persons or programs will be able to access the RFP on the Center’s website at www.legalhelpwy.org.
A Win-Win Approach to Advocacy
Cliient story contributed by Bethia Hyatt, Staff Attorney at Legal Aid of Wyoming, Inc., Rock Springs Office
Susan* first came to Legal Aid of Wyoming after being served with an Order to Show Cause. She was separated from her husband and had just moved. This move prompted her estranged husband to file the Order to Show Cause. When Susan came to Legal Aid of Wyoming seeking help, neither she nor her husband had an attorney and the situation had become extremely contentious with the parties unable to even talk to each other.
Susan’s case was accepted by Legal Aid of Wyoming, who successfully defended the Order to Show Cause. After the hearing, the attorney convinced the parties to have a discussion and work together to come up with a workable agreement for custody and visitation. The parties were able to set aside their differences with the help of the attorney in order to come to an agreement.
Because of the attorney’s ability to get the parties to work together, the attorney was able to complete the parties’ divorce in only about three months and with only one court appearance. Without the assistance of an attorney, this case likely would have lasted much longer. This case was a success because everyone was a winner, the parties reached a mutually acceptable agreement that was the best fit for them and the attorney and court’s time was spared without the need for multiple hearings and extended litigation. In family law, sometimes the lines of winning and losing can become blurred, but everyone involved walked away from this case a winner.
*Names have been changed.
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