As attorneys living and practicing in the Colorado, we have been given much. We are wealthier than 99 percent of the world and at least 80 percent of our fellow Americans. We seldom have to worry about how we are going to pay our mortgage next month, and we never have to worry about how we will feed our children tomorrow. We know how to solve problems, and given our education, we rarely have our legal rights trampled on by others. Whether by birth or by hard work (or both), it is undeniable that we are privileged and blessed.
Because we have been given much, I firmly believe that it is our moral (and professional) obligation to give to others. And the Colorado Supreme Court agrees: Rule 6.1 of our Rules of Professional Conduct provides that “Every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least ﬁfty hours of pro bono publico legal services per year.” As attorneys, we have the perfect platform to make a difference in the day-to-day lives of others by helping them right the wrongs they are facing.
I am confident that virtually every attorney who is reading this article will agree with the sentiments I expressed above. In my experience, most attorneys enjoy doing pro bono work when presented with the opportunity. But sometimes finding those opportunities is not easy from the perch of our ivory towers. Fortunately, we have a wonderful organization in Colorado that can help willing attorneys find those opportunities: Metro Volunteer Lawyers (MVL).
MVL is a program of the Denver Bar Association. It recruits and coordinates volunteer lawyers to perform free and low-cost legal services for the poor who live and work in Adams, Broomfield, Arapahoe, Denver, Elbert, Douglas, Jefferson and Denver counties. MVL is also co-sponsored by the Adams/Broomfield Bar Association, Arapahoe Bar Association, Douglas/Elbert Bar Association, and the 1st Judicial District Bar Association. For the past several years, I have been able to serve on the MVL Board and to see first-hand the amazing work that MVL does. In 2016 alone, MVL was able to accept 1337 clients in need with a no-cost or low-cost attorney.
The demand for pro bono assistance is huge. Every month, MVL must turn away many people with important and challenging legal problems because it does not have enough attorneys volunteering. Signing up to take a case through MVL is easy. Simply follow this link: denbar.org/Metro-Volunteer-Lawyers/Metro-Volunteer-Lawyers-Programs/Referral-Sign-Up. Once you sign-up to take on a case pro bono or low-fee, MVL staff will try to provide you with a case that fits your criteria (case type, county preference, etc.). Once an appropriate case is identified, you will be provided with the client’s intake documentation. The client will also receive a letter with your contact information with a recommendation that he or she contact you. MVL informs the client that it is not guaranteed that you will take the case, as a conflict of interest, for example, could occur. The decision whether you can and will take the case remains with you.
There are two added bonuses to attorneys who take cases through MVL. First, you can receive CLE credits for pro bono work. Under C.R.C.P. 260.8, Colorado attorneys providing uncompensated pro bono legal representation may apply for one general CLE credit for every five billable-equivalent hours of representation, up to a maximum of nine credits in each three-year compliance period. Second, MVL provides attorneys with malpractice insurance for the cases they take through the organization.
My term on the MVL Board has now come to an end, but my involvement with this amazing organization has not. I will continue to volunteer whenever and however I am able in order to make a difference in the day-to-day lives of others by helping them right the legal wrongs they are facing. Will you join me?
Teresa Locke was an attorney with Holland & Hart, LLP from 1995 to 2016, beginning her career as an associate and becoming a partner in 2004. In January 2017, she opened The Locke Law Firm, PC with her husband, Darin, who is also a lawyer. She is licensed to practice law in both Colorado and Missouri. For the past several years, she has focused her practice on litigating and resolving complex family law disputes. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.