Denver Bar Association
November 2007
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The Evolution of the Thursday Night Bar

by Steven J. Hahn

Metro Volunteer Lawyers is the oldest continuing program of its kind in the country. Originally known as the "Thursday Night Bar," MVL was started in 1966 by members of the Denver Bar Association, the University of Denver College of Law and the Legal Aid Society, which met Thursday nights to provide pro bono legal services to indigent people in Denver. Today, MVL has grown into a legal assistance program with three full-time staff members and a full-time executive director, who is a licensed attorney. MVL has found a home with Colorado Legal Services, and the two programs share office space, with CLS handling initial client intake and screening for financial eligibility.

The heart and soul of the program is direct one-on-one legal representation of qualifying clients. In 2006, the program placed nearly 850 clients with volunteer attorneys in the metro area. One of the greatest needs is in the area of domestic relations. In 2006, MVL placed 169 family law cases; 366 Social Security appeals; 68 consumer cases; 89 bankruptcy cases; 18 real estate and 28 landlord/tenant or other housing cases; 36 immigration cases; 94 wills, estates, powers of attorney, guardianship, conservatorship or probate cases; and eight tax or tort cases. Nearly half of these cases were in Denver city and county.

In addition, MVL operates the Family Law Court Program, which offers assistance in a short-term clinical setting. Here, accepted clients who have non-contested divorce or custody cases meet with MVL staff and file pro se. Volunteer attorneys represent those clients at the permanent orders hearing. The Family Law Court Program runs in Adams, Arapahoe, Denver and Jefferson counties, and allows attorneys to volunteer their services on a more limited basis. In 2006, 479 clients were assisted through the Family Law Court Program.

The MVL governing board consists of 18 members from the judicial districts of Adams/Broomfield, Arapahoe, Denver, First Judicial District and Douglas/Elbert. The representatives from the Denver Bar Association are Steve Hahn, Rich Harris, Jerremy Ramp, Rocco Dodson, Jon Nicholls and Tony Damon.

Despite the phenomenal success of MVL, the legal needs of its clientele are constantly increasing and MVL has not found a way to keep up. The panel is in desperate need of volunteer attorneys. MVL would like to remind attorneys of the opportunities available under Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 260.8. This rule allows attorneys to obtain one hour of CLE credit for every five hours of uncompensated pro bono cases, up to a maximum of nine hours per reporting cycle.

MVL regularly sponsors low-cost CLEs for attorneys willing to volunteer their time. MVL also finds mentors for DU law students to represent indigent clients. MVL could use the help of a lawyer just like you. Contact Patricia Trujillo at patt@denbar.org to volunteer, so that you can help someone who would not otherwise have access to our legal system.


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