MVL Intern Goes Pro
by Dianne A. Van Voorhees
Executive Director, Metro Volunteer Lawyers
For the past 40 years, Metro Volunteer Lawyers, formerly Thursday Night Bar, has been matching volunteer attorneys with pro bono clients. The founders of our organization looked to the Lawyers’ Canons of Ethics as their guiding principles in carrying out their community service, stating: "We hope to galvanize as a profession to show this community we intend to discharge to the best of our responsibility an obligation we feel we owe"; and that the legal profession is "a branch of the administration of justice and not a mere money-getting trade."
Today, Metro Volunteer Lawyers and its volunteer professionals carry on in that same spirit of community service. MVL relies solely on the volunteer efforts of metro area attorneys who take the pro bono and low-fee cases. Without volunteer attorneys, many needy community members would have no access to the justice system.
This past year, volunteer Jonathan LeCount (pictured) interned full-time in our offices for more than two months to assist with the Family Law Court Program. He was a Suffolk University Law School graduate who consistently had been on the Dean’s List, and had been awarded the SPILG Fellowship. Following graduation, he came to Denver to study for and take the July 2007 Bar exam. After the exam, Jonathan took a much-needed vacation and then led a backcountry trip in the Rocky Mountains for the Colorado Youth Program, a nonprofit summer camp. He returned to Denver to volunteer for Metro Volunteer Lawyers while he waited for his Bar results. He says that he joined MVL so that he could become involved in the local legal community, gain hands-on family law experience and meet people.
According to Jonathan, the highlight of his experience at MVL has been the opportunity to represent his first client as a pro bono attorney. "I represented the client during the permanent orders hearing of a Dissolution of Marriage case, only days after Colorado’s swearing-in ceremony for new attorneys. The fact that I was finally an attorney never really set in until I entered my appearance in court for the first time."
As Jonathan learned, an MVL case can offer new attorneys the opportunity to obtain courtroom experience. It also can provide all lawyers opportunities to practice outside their regular practice areas. Should an attorney accept a case in an area of law outside his or her normal practice, other experienced attorneys are available for consultation. Of course, we welcome and encourage lawyers to take cases that are within their regular practice areas as well.
The statewide goal under the Colorado Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1 is to aspire to complete at least 50 hours of voluntary pro bono public service each year. Meeting the goal isn’t always easy, and Metro Volunteer Lawyers is here to help. Attorneys can earn free CLE credits for representing pro bono clients referred by MVL. We provide the affidavit paperwork. In addition, MVL maintains legal malpractice insurance for each pro bono referral we place.
We are grateful to Jonathan for his hard work and dedication. The hours he spent assisting the staff and volunteering his time to MVL clients in family law courts were invaluable. In a letter to MVL about his volunteer experience with us he wrote: "I have had an amazing time volunteering for Metro Volunteer Lawyers. The staff is very knowledgeable, friendly and supportive, which makes the decision to continue doing pro bono work for MVL an easy one, even after I will have moved on to other adventures." We are so glad that he will continue to be a part of the MVL team.
If you are an attorney in the Denver metropolitan area, please volunteer to take a pro bono case. If you want to help a lot of people in a short amount of time, you can sign up to volunteer to cover specific dates guiding pro se litigants and representing clients on a limited basis through the Family Law Court Program. Contact me at (303) 866-9378 or firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up. We look forward to having you on the team.
Editor’s Note: Jonathan was offered a job, which he excitedly accepted, working as a law clerk and judicial assistant in the 18th Judicial District for Hon. Vincent R. White. Judge White said that Jonathan’s volunteer experience with MVL was a significant factor in his decision to hire him.