How is Metro Volunteer Lawyers Supported?
by Dianne A. Van Voorhees
his year marks the 47th year of operations for Metro Volunteer Lawyers (formerly known as the Thursday Night Bar). A program of the Denver Bar Association, MVL works to bridge the gap in access to justice by coordinating the provision of pro bono legal services by volunteer lawyers within the Denver metro area to people who could not otherwise afford legal services for their civil legal issues.
How MVL Works
MVL is comprised of four full-time staff and a part-time Rovira Scholar — a fellowship created in honor of former Chief Justice Luis Rovira.
Our small staff wears a lot of hats, from working with clients and volunteers to organizing board meetings and preparing training materials.
We coordinate the provision of unbundled legal services and representation to clients through our monthly Family Law Court Program and Post-Decree Clinics. We also provide a walk-in law clinic at the Denver Indian Center. Mainly, MVL provides pro bono and low-fee legal services. This is accomplished with the help of our invaluable volunteers and interns — in the last year more than 465 volunteers helped MVL advance its mission.
In addition to support from the DBA, MVL is also supported by the Denver Bar Foundation’s annual Barristers Benefit Ball and Henry Hall Memorial Golf Tournament; Colorado Legal Services; COLTAF (the Colorado Lawyer Trust Account Foundation); the Fred & Jean Allegretti Foundation; Lois Ann Rovira; private donations; and the bar associations of the 1st Judicial District, Douglas/Elbert, Adams/Broomfield, and Arapahoe counties.
Volunteers Provide More Than 50,000 Hours in Legal Services
In the past year, our volunteers donated their time and expertise to handle 1,448 cases. MVL estimates that the time for services donated totaled more than $12.7 million. Here’s how it breaks down:
• Of the 1,448 handled, 416 were addressed through the Family Law Court Program or Post-Decree Clinics. Cases take, on average, about eight-and-a-half hours. With 3,536 hours spent at a billable rate of $225 per hour, that’s $795,600 donated.
• Non-clinic matters that we refer to volunteers took, on average, about 50 hours to handle. Those 953 cases generated about 47,650 volunteer hours; at a billable rate of $250 per hour that translates to nearly $12 million.
The MVL budget for the 2012–13 fiscal year is $286,000. Thus, the estimated percentage of annual expenses for MVL that are directed to overhead/administrative costs is about 1 percent compared with 99 percent of the expenses being attributable to providing services to MVL clients.
Thanks to the generosity of MVL’s volunteers, supporters, and partners, we were able to recruit and match a sufficient number of volunteer attorneys, law students, and legal professionals in 2012 to handle those 1,448 civil cases. Without our donors and our volunteers who give their money, time, and skill, we could not have helped so many people in need.
How Can You Help? 25K for 25 Years
The Barristers Benefit Ball, set this year for Derby Day on Saturday, May 4, is one of the signature fundraising events for MVL.
The Denver Bar Foundation’s Barristers Benefit Ball Committee is committed to raising an additional $25,000 to benefit MVL through its $25K for 25 Years challenge to commemorate the ball’s 25th Anniversary. To contribute, please visit our Giving First page at givingfirst.org/25for25.
Thank you for your support of our mission to provide free and low-cost civil legal services to those in need. I hope to see you at the 25th Annual Barristers Benefit Ball.
For more information and details about MVL volunteer opportunities, please visit our website at metrovolunteerlawyers.org. D
Dianne Van Voorhees is the executive director of Metro Volunteer Lawyers. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.