Bridging the Justice Gap
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Lawyer Referral

Lawyer Referral services match persons needing legal assistance with qualified, experienced attorneys who practice in the area of their legal issue.  The Hennepin and Ramsey County Bar Associations operate the two primary referral services in the metro area, which meet American Bar Association guidelines.

1. The Hennepin County Lawyer Referral and Information Service (612-752-6666, website) uses “market rate attorneys” who promise to take into account the client’s financial ability to pay when setting their fees. The caller pays $30 for the service, but the first half hour with the attorney is free. The Referral Service makes the appointment with the lawyer directly and then gets back to the caller with date and time. This service doesn’t screen for income levels. Note: there is no $30 service fee for personal injury, malpractice, workers compensations and Social Security Disability issues.

2. Hennepin County also has a “Low Fee Family Law Project,” (612-752-6666) where there is no service fee for the initial visit. This service does screen for income, and it serves Hennepin, Ramsey, Anoka and Dakota County residents between 125-250% of the Poverty Guidelines. The project is designed to help the “working poor,” and it requires that the client pay a $500 retainer. After that, the attorney charges $55/hr. The client must have verifiable income.

3. The Attorney Referral Service of Ramsey County (651-224-1775, website) will schedule a 30 minute consultation with an attorney in exchange for a $30 administrative fee. The fee doesn’t apply for Social Security Disability cases or for cases where the attorney might get paid out of a settlement, such as personal injury or worker’s compensation. The attorney will charge for his/her time after the 30 minute initial consultation.

4. The Attorney Referral Service also operates a “Modest Fee Service” (email: ars@ramseybar.org) with private attorneys who provide low bono services. This serves Ramsey County residents between 125-250% of the Poverty Guidelines; the caller pays a $20 referral fee. The client must pay up to $600 for a retainer; after that the attorney charges $55/hr. Participating attorneys cover Family Law, Consumer Issues, Immigration, and Real Estate Foreclosure.

Other lawyer referrals may be made to various private law firms that operate pro bono (no charge for attorney time) programs which serve low-income individuals and families. The law firms have their own processes for selecting cases. In some instances, Legal Aid will refer a potential client to a private law firm where the client isn’t eligible for Legal Aid.

 

Brief Legal Advice

Another way of helping low and moderate-income people with their legal needs is through the use of “brief legal advice.”

Traditionally, lawyers were ethically bound to handle every legal issue involving a particular client—otherwise, the lawyer could be criticized for not fully representing the client.  More recently, lawyers have been allowed to help clients with only select issues—such as writing a letter for the client—even if the legal dispute continued without the lawyer being further involved. This is called “brief legal advice.” It’s a way of giving low and moderate-income people access to the civil legal system.

On a daily basis, VLN, the Hennepin County Bar Association and other organizations provide brief legal advice at the Hennepin County Courthouse, and at the Housing and Family Courts in Hennepin County. Every Tuesday from 1-4 p.m., Ramsey County attorneys provide brief advice at the Ramsey County Law Library.

There are many other scenarios in which attorneys will provide brief legal advice. This includes legal clinics. Click here to see legal clinics in Hennepin and Ramsey Counties.

 

Specialized Nonprofit Legal Providers

Several nonprofit legal providers in Hennepin and Ramsey Counties deliver targeted legal services to specific populations in-need.

AIDS and HIV Advocates—Minnesota AIDS Project
The Minnesota AIDS Project legal services program provides advice, direct representation and referrals for HIV-related legal matters including estate planning, discrimination, social security, immigration and employment-related concerns.  Participants must be HIV-positive and complete the legal intake process.

The Minnesota AIDS Project provides free direct representation or consultation (by either staff or volunteer attorney) to clients who have income below 300% of the federal poverty guidelines when the legal issue stems directly from an individual’s HIV status

If the legal issue is not HIV–related, the legal services team will provide referrals to other services or advocacy resources. They also provide referrals to volunteer or low–fee attorneys and other legal services providers, when appropriate. Minnesota AIDS Project legal services provide estate and disability planning services for a fee for clients who are HIV–positive but who have income above 300% of the federal poverty guidelines.  Call AIDSLine Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. at 612–373–AIDS or email mapaidsline@mnaidsproject.org.

Asylum Assistance—The Advocates for Human Rights
The Advocates provides free legal representation for low-income asylum seekers in Minnesota, North & South Dakota.  The first step to getting free legal help from The Advocates is to call the intake phone line at 612-341-9845. The Advocates does not do intake interviews for walk-in clients.  You must call to start the intake process.  Learn more here.

Foster Children Advocates—Children’s Law Center of Minnesota
Children’s Law Center of Minnesota provides free legal assistance to children who are either wards of the state – “legal orphans” – or have been removed from their homes because they are in need of protection.  It also offers assistance to foster children who request help.  Call 651-644-4438 or request assistance online here.

Immigration—Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota
The Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota offers immigration legal assistance to low-income immigrants and refugees.  Cases are initially heard through their intake line Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 12-1:30 p.m. or Thursdays from 6-7:30 p.m. Call 1-800-223-1368 to speak with intake specialists.

Landlord-Tenant Law—HOME Line
HOME Line provides landlord-tenant advice in person and via a telephone advice line to Hennepin County (outside Minneapolis) and Ramsey County.  It limits its services to Minneapolis residents to foreclosure problems affecting tenants. However, HOME Line does serve other parts of Hennepin County and all of Ramsey County. HOME Line does not usually represent people in court.  There are no income restrictions on HOME Line’s services. As a result of program restrictions, Minneapolis residents can get telephone advice at a charge of $25.00 per twenty minutes of advice.  However, this fee doesn’t apply to residents of Ramsey County.  They can be contacted at 612-728-5767. Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays.

Mediation—Community Mediation Services
Community Mediation Services facilitates conflict conversations in Hennepin County and the West Metro area.  CMS provides low-cost or free assistance in reaching resolutions.  Mediators help individuals and families engage in discussions and dispute resolutions. Disputes handled include builder/homeowner disputes, business/consumer disputes (for issues involving less than $7,500), employee/employer disputes, family conflict/decisions, landlord/tenant and more.  Mediators are neutral and trained in helping the parties come to resolutions. Contact 763-561-0033 or email staff@mediationprogram.com.

Because justice first requires access.