I have to admit, sometimes it is a challenge to talk with the lay community and not hear pointed criticism about lawyers and the profession. Too many people interface with lawyers only under the most difficult of circumstances: divorce proceedings and criminal matters. Television shows and law related novels account for far too many of the negative interactions from which our reputation is built. What is particularly disappointing, however, is there is a huge secret we all need to unlock in this community: all the good that lawyers do—either by pro bono services to the indigent or simply acts of kindness to the less fortunate.
Let me address just a few of those secrets right now. Even with a busy practice, families to raise, and countless other commitments, lawyers—members of the Denver Bar Association—regularly volunteer their time in activities like these.
Metro Volunteer Lawyers. This is the pro bono arm of the DBA that provides free and low-cost civil legal services to those in need in Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, Elbert, Gilpin and Jefferson Counties. MVL’s mission is “to bridge the gap” in access to civil justice in the Denver metropolitan area.
The MVL staff is a small team that works with volunteers and interns to ensure that they are in touch with their partners and the legal community at large. In 2013, MVL had 588 volunteer attorneys who handled 1,850 MVL cases and assisted several clinical clients.
MVL provides its clients free and low-cost legal services through numerous programs: direct referrals to individual attorneys for representation, the Family Law Court Program, the post-decree clinics, the Rovira Scholar special programs, and the legal clinic at the Denver Indian Center, among others.
If you want to volunteer for MVL, visit metrovolunteerlawyers.org or call 303-830-8210.
Community Action Network. CAN, as it is known, provides opportunities for DBA lawyers to reach beyond the legal community in the metropolitan area to give educational, legal, social and civic assistance to those in need. CAN also helps facilitate memberships on nonprofit boards and agencies. For example, CAN sponsors the annual Roll Out the Barrels Food Drive and works with Metro Care Ring, the largest lawyer-relief organization in Denver that directly serves needy families. CAN also sponsors the Kids in Need of Dentistry Toothbrush Drive. The annual drive collects thousands of toothbrushes for kids who otherwise may not own one.
Operating on the theory of many in the Denver community that “it’s easier to build a child than repair an adult,” CAN raises thousands of dollars through fundraising events. In the recent past, CAN has delivered hundreds of backpacks to homeless and disabled children in our community. Want to join the effort? Visit dbacan.com.
Wheels of Justice. This fun-loving group participates in an annual bike ride over several days solely to raise money for nonprofits in need. In 2014, I helped to present to the Children’s Hospital Foundation a check in excess of $360,000. Who says lawyers aren’t civil? Want to participate this year? Visit wheelsofjusticecycling.org.
Lawyers and Schools. Volunteer lawyers participate in conjunction with the Denver Public Schools to develop, sponsor and carry out programs such as Denver Regional Mock Trial Tournament, National Constitution Day, and “We the People” program that raises awareness of democratic principles and fosters better understanding of our form of government—among a host of similar initiatives. If you want to volunteer to work with the DPS on such programs or join our speakers’ bureau on legal issues, please contact Meghan Bush at 303-824-5303.
Access to Justice. This committee works on monthly pro se clinics on various legal issues, and works with the Colorado Poverty Law Clinic, weekly Lawline 9 program, coordinates the Denver Access to Justice Hearing, CLE trainings, updates the legal resource directory, operates an expungement clinic for juveniles and an Immigration legal clinic at College View Elementary. This Committee also works closely with Metro Volunteer Lawyers, Colorado Legal Services, Denver Wrap Around Project, Court Mediation Services, CLCV, Denver Pro Se Center and Specialty Bar Associations. Please contact Meghan Bush at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-824-5303.
In a profession that is often criticized for its lack of civility and professionalism, we need to tell our story and share the news of the good deeds we do.
In fact, thousands of lawyers in the DBA make a difference in this community each and every day.
Join us—we should have no secrets.