Name of Non-Profit Agency:
State of Connecticut Judicial Branch
Why is this assistance important to these clients?
Even though the Volunteer Attorney Program does not income qualify the participants, these parties do not have access to competent legal counsel. Many have lost their jobs or are under-employed and are forced to make the choice between paying their mortgage or hiring an attorney. The economic turndown has created a new class of indigent self-represented parties, many of whom have some means to support their families, but have little or no access to discretionary funds.
Who are the clients?
The clients are any self-represented party who needs legal help in the area of family, foreclosure, contract collections or small claims** law. The criteria for participation is that the client must have a legal issue or question in the subject area and may not be represented by an attorney at the time they meet with the volunteer attorney. The program does not income qualify participants and the participant needn't have a case pending or a case pending in the Judicial District court location where the program is running. **The Small Claims program is administered in cooperation with the Connecticut Bar Association (CBA).
What legal problem do these clients face?
As the Volunteer Attorney Programs are available in the areas of family, foreclosure, contract collections and small claims law, clients may be facing a range of problems including but not limited to divorce, custody, child support, contempt, civil unions, grand-parent rights, loan modifications, foreclosure, foreclosure mediation, credit card debt, and contract collections.
What legal strategies do the pro bono lawyers use to assist the clients?
The volunteer attorneys provide the self-represented parties with a range of options that may be appropriate to help resolve their problem. They advise them on specific legal procedures and answer specific legal questions about "Should I?" or "What would happen if?" types of questions. The attorneys utilize the other resources provided by the Judicial Branch such as the Law Libraries and the Court Service Centers to further assist parties.
If the pro bono attorney will be appearing for the client, in what court or other forum will that appearance be?
The Volunteer Attorney Program does not require the attorneys to file appearances on behalf of the parties they meet with and provide advice to.
What are the outcome goals of this assistance?
The participants are able to get their legal questions answered and leave the session with a clear idea of what options are available to them and what the consequences of those options are. The self-represented party leaves the session more informed and educated.
What time commitment is required to do this pro bono work?
Depending on the Judicial District court location, the program runs either once a week or two times per month for a 2- or 3-hour period. Volunteer attorneys are generally asked to select between three and five dates over a 1-year period.
Where is the pro bono work done? (For example, at a legal aid office or at the pro bono attorney's office.)
The Volunteer Attorney Program runs in the Judicial District courthouse in a courtroom (if available) or a hearing room.
Give a short (1-paragraph) case example:
A party to a divorce action may not understand what their rights are to the marital assets or what type of relief they can seek from the court. The volunteer attorneys advise them on what types of pendente lite or post-judgment relief they may be able to ask the court to order. Similarly, in a foreclosure action, the volunteer attorneys may advise clients on such issues as Foreclosure Mediation, loan modifications, foreclosure scams, HAMP Affidavits and HUD certified counselors. In contract collections and small claims, the volunteer attorney may advise the party on how to file an answer and discuss what types of defenses they can file and whether they admit they owe the debt and can pay.
If it is important that a pro bono lawyer already has particular legal background or training, please describe.
The application process for the Volunteer Attorney Program asks the attorney to indicate how many years they have been practicing law and how many years of experience they have in the subject area. The attorneys are also asked to provide the name of a professional reference. The Program does not require a minimum number of years of experience in the subject area, but the volunteers are required to demonstrate some experience.
What training is provided to pro bono lawyers doing this work?
Training was provided for the volunteers in the foreclosure Volunteer Attorney Program(s) through a cooperative effort between the Judicial Branch and the CT Fair Housing Center as the number of attorneys experienced in foreclosure defense was insufficient to support the needs of the program. Historically, training has not been provided in the family programs. Online training is provided through the Connecticut Bar Association for the small claims program and online training is also available for contract collections.
Who provides the training?
The CT Fair Housing Center and the Judicial Branch provided training to the volunteer attorneys who participate in the foreclosure programs. CT Fair Housing conducts regular foreclosure clinics for defendant homeowners in foreclosure cases and a similar training is provided for the volunteer attorneys. The Connecticut Bar Association provides the training for small claims and the training for contract collections is available on CTLawHelp.org.
Where is the training held? How long does the training last?
Regional trainings are held throughout the State. The training generally lasts from 2-3 hours.
Who are the adverse parties (if any) for this type of work (for example, landlords, spouses, banks, government entities)?
The adverse parties include banks, landlords, spouses, custodial/non-custodial parents, boyfriend, girlfriend, debtors, landlords, tenants, etc.
At what time of day is the pro bono work done (example evening clinic)?:
The Volunteer Attorney Programs generally run in 2 or 3 hour blocks in the morning or the afternoon.
Does this pro bono work require full admission to practice in Connecticut?
Yes. The volunteer attorneys must be a member of the bar in good standing in accordance with Practice Book section 2-65.
Can the training be attended remotely (webinar or teleconference)?
The foreclosure training cannot be attended remotely via teleconference or webinar. However, regional training sessions are scheduled to accommodate participants from different parts of the state. The contract collections and small claims training can be viewed online.
When is the next training (after October 1) and how often is training offered?
The CT Fair Housing Center conducts foreclosure clinics for homeowners. The training was adapted for the volunteer attorneys. Attorney Jeff Gentes, Foreclosure Prevention Attorney at the CT Fair Housing Center, conducts the Foreclosure Prevention Clinics. Currently, clinics are being offered in Hartford and Fairfield throughout 2013. Additional clinic dates will be announced as they’re scheduled.