WHAT IS THE VOLUNTEER LAWYER NETWORK, INC.?
The Volunteer Lawyer Network is the organization charged by the Indiana Supreme Court with promoting and organizing pro bono legal services in Indiana’s Pro Bono District B. There are twelve pro bono districts in the state of Indiana, and each judicial district has a responsibility to provide for the access to quality pro bono civil legal services by persons of limited means. Our district, District B, includes the counties of St. Joseph, Elkhart, Kosciusko, Laporte, Starke, and Marshall.
DOES MY MALPRACTICE INSURANCE COVER THESE CASES?
Our program provides malpractice insurance coverage for the pro bono cases you handle through our program. Therefore, it is not necessary that your malpractice insurance carrier cover these particular cases. If you receive notice of any possible legal action taken against you involving one of our cases, you must notify our office immediately in order that we comply with the notification requirements of our insurance carrier.
HOW IS MY NEW CLIENT CHOSEN?
Your new client qualified for our program based upon the information in his or her application. Most of our applications are taken directly from the client either by telephone or email. Although our program does not receive federal funding, applicants will be considered financially eligible only if their income falls below 200% the federal poverty guidelines issued each year by the Department of Health and Human Services, with very few exceptions.
Applicants’ legal issues are prioritized on a case-by-case basis with top priority given to cases that may result in homelessness; involve the safety and health of children; or involve domestic violence. Additionally, we have matched your client’s needs with your individual attorney expertise. Because of the limited legal services options in our community, your assistance is greatly appreciated and is often the last option for your client.
AM I PERMITTED TO ASK FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES IN MY PRO BONO CASES?
Yes. Although you are representing your client at no fee, you are permitted to ask the court, when appropriate, for attorney’s fees.
WHAT IS THE SCOPE OF MY REPRESENTATION OF THE CLIENT?
When the program refers a client to you, the information you receive from our program will indicate whether the client is in need of advice only; assistance with filling out of forms; or legal representation. If you accept a client for legal representation, you have the same obligations to the client as if the client retained you. However, if you are only providing the client with advice or assistance in filling out forms, your obligations to the client are limited by the exact scope of your assistance. However, you must secure the client’s informed consent to the limited scope of the representation as required by Rule 1.2(c) of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct.
WHAT HAPPENS IF A CASE REQUIRES LITIGATION COSTS?
Program attorneys should request fee waivers in most cases. However, clients of our program are expected to pay for any filing fees when a fee waiver request is not granted by the court. Program attorneys are not expected to cover such costs.
HOW DO I LET YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CASE?
At the end of the year, we will send to you a simple status form that we ask you to fill out and send back to our program. This form will ask how each case was resolved, whether or not the case is still ongoing, and how many hours you have worked on each case. We also encourage you to report your hours and give us information on the resolution of each case earlier in the year as you are able.