An Introduction to Handling Pro Bono Bankruptcy Cases at VLP
Thank you for agreeing to represent a VLP client pro bono. VLP has a small office with approximately 14 staff members and we make every effort to assist our pro bono attorneys. Please do not hesitate to call VLP at 617-423-0648 with any questions. Below is some of the assistance we are able to provide to you on your case:
Prior to being referred to you, a VLP staff member has evaluated the case and determined that it can be referred. Please feel free to contact the particular VLP staff member who authored the referral memo with any factual, legal substantive or procedural questions.
At the time of referral, VLP sends the client and you two different letters. The letter to the client asks the client to call you immediately to schedule an appointment. VLP asks the client to keep and arrive on time for appointments. The letter also asks the client to cancel any appointment that he or she cannot keep.
Please let VLP know if you have not heard from the client within two weeks of receiving your copy of the referral letter. You should feel free to call the client, rather than wait for the client to call you. If, at any time, you have difficulty contacting a client, please let a VLP staff member know. VLP will write and call the client to ensure that the client contacts you immediately.
VLP clients are indigent and are often dealing with a myriad of legal, social and financial problems. They are usually negotiating a variety of state and federal programs and may be confused by the various acronyms and appointments they have scheduled. Some VLP clients sometimes miss appointments. Some VLP clients fail to call the attorney to let the attorney know that he or she will be unable to keep an appointment. VLP deeply regrets any time you may spend waiting for a client or time you lose because a client has missed an appointment. VLP staff members regularly meet with clients and understand your frustration. We suggest scheduling appointments on the telephone, calling to remind the client a day or two before the appointment, asking the client to confirm an appointment, and/or sending the client a letter confirming the appointment. This is time consuming but may save you time in the end. It is beneficial to ask your client to leave any children at home. It is also beneficial to explain that any family member or friend who accompanies the client will not be part of your attorney-client meeting for confidentiality purposes.
Some VLP clients suffer from mental or physical impairments that affect their ability to make or keep appointments. It is helpful, in such a case, to speak with whomever will be transporting the client to an appointment directly. If you find that you need any assistance with a particular client, please do not hesitate to contact VLP. VLP has a limited number of taxi vouchers available for exceptional circumstances.
Most VLP clients are very grateful for pro bono legal services. You are positively impacting the lives of your client as well as his or her family. VLP appreciates your generosity, patience and sensitivity working with clients with demanding legal and social needs.
Every few months, you will receive a call or email from a VLP staff member asking for an update on a particular case you are handling. VLP obtains updates for every open case. We are happy to communicate with you in whatever form is easiest for you. Please let us know if you prefer email or telephone calls and we will accommodate your requests. Martha Williams at ext. 131 (firstname.lastname@example.org) coordinates the case update process and can be contacted directly with any questions.
VLP retains interpreters as independent contractors to assist you outside of Court, including attorney-client meetings and telephone calls. We assign interpreters to cases before they are referred. You may contact the interpreter directly and request that he or she schedule a meeting, contact the client for a telephone conference, or to interpret on any other occasion. The interpreters bill VLP directly and are paid directly. Please contact Jessica Rubin-Wills at ext. 129 with any questions or issues regarding interpreters. A Court or administrative body is obligated to provide interpreters without cost to the client or attorney. Please arrange for an interpreter for the client with the specific Court or administrative body. Because an interpreter assigned by a Court or administrative agency may only be available to interpret during the hearing, you may want to request a VLP interpreter to accompany you to a hearing for pre- and post-hearing client discussions. If you need any assistance, please contact the VLP staff member who authored the referral memo for your client's case.
VLP has one large, one medium and one small conference room available for you to use during regular business hours. We also have two computer stations with the BestCase bankruptcy software available. To reserve space, please contact the front desk at ext. 120.
Whenever possible, a VLP pro bono attorney should obtain a fee waiver from the Court to waive any fees or costs pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws c. 261, § 27A that can be waived. VLP recognizes that there are some costs inherent in the pro bono representation of a client in civil litigation, e.g. copying, stationery, postage, etc. This is particularly difficult for a solo practitioner or attorney in a small office. You are welcome to use our postage meter as well as copier. We recognize that this may not be convenient for you. VLP has limited funds to assist with litigation costs. Please contact Martha Williams at ext. 131 to discuss your particular situation or needs. VLP is unable to reimburse attorneys for mileage or parking.
Some pro bono attorneys want to retain the services of a particular expert to evaluate the client or case or to testify. Mass. Gen. Laws c. 261, § 27A allows for the payment of such expenses though the Courts. VLP has limited funds to pay for such legal expenses. In some cases, VLP will ask the client to pay directly for such expenses. In other cases, VLP will ask the client to reimburse VLP if the client is successful in his or her litigation, for example, SSI and SSDI appeals. Please discuss any such expense with Lynn Girton, Chief Counsel, before making such expenditure.
VLP offers several free in-house trainings. You are welcome to sign up for any training that you would like to attend. You may do so on our events registration website, http://www.vlp.volunteerhub.com.
VLP pro bono attorneys are invited to attend MCLE and Boston Bar Association CLE trainings at a reduced cost. To make arrangements to do so, please contact the referral coordinator at ext. 129.
- Organization: VLP
- Date Created: April 25, 2011