The Third Branch
Pro Bono initiatives gets volunteer boost
By Lisa M. Winkler, DCLRC Librarian
In January, training sessions were held in the Dane County Courthouse for volunteers who serve more than 500 self-represented litigants a year at two ongoing pro se legal assistance clinics: Small Claims Assistance Program (SCAP) and Family Law Assistance Center (FLAC). Both programs offer bilingual Spanish assistance twice a month.
The training sessions for volunteer attorneys, paralegals, and coordinators were divided into segments: an ethics topic, a substantive issue, and a third part which included input from the respective court manager and logistics of running the clinic itself. Each training sesson was approved for three CLE credits, including one ethics (EPR), and we sweetened the sessions with treats and coffee.
This annual training provides an important opportunity to bring together varied perspectives from within the justice system. Advocates, practitioners, court management, and court officials are together in one room. Ideas are discussed, procedures are questioned, and most importantly information is shared so it can be delivered to the growing stream of pro se litigants in the courthouse. Volunteers give their time and expertise in order to bring justice within the reach of those who struggle to comprehend even basic court procedures. In turn, the volunteers are rewarded with the satisfaction of helping those in need. Timely information from the training prepares the volunteers to provide accurate information about Dane County court actions, which then helps those without any legal counsel to better navigate through the court system.
The idea is simple. Attorneys and paralegals commit to staffing a two-hour clinic throughout the year. The implications of this are profound. These men and women actively enable access to justice through the clinics on a weekly basis.
The SCAP and the FLAC are made possible by a partnership of the Dane County Bar Association, Dane County Legal Resource Center, and the State Bar of Wisconsin. We thank all of those people who have and continue to volunteer with our pro se legal clinics in Dane County and we celebrate your contributions to accessing justice.
Speakers at the Dane County Volunteer Training Sessions:
Family Law Assistance Center - Jan. 14, 2014
- Prof. Marsha Mansfield, clinical professor, UW-Madison Law School - Ethics of Legal Clinics and FLAC Training
- Dan Floeter, Dane County lead commissioner - Commissioner Stipulated Divorce Process: One Year Later
- Holly Kuhl, Dane County Family Court manager - How to Avoid the Most Common pro se Filing Errors
Small Claims Assistance Program - Jan. 15, 2014
- Jeff Brown, State Bar of Wisconsin Pro Bono coordinator - Ethics & Limited Scope Representation in Legal Clinics
- Assistant Attorney General John S. Greene, director of Consumer Protection Unit - Overview of Wisconsin Consumer Protection Laws
- Jill Anderson, Dane County Civil Court manager - How to Avoid the Most Common pro se Filing Errors
- Associate Professor Sarah Orr, UW Law School Consumer Law Clinic - Identifying Consumer Protection Issues and Consumer Law Clinic Students
- Jennifer Binkley, managing attorney at Community Justice Inc. - SCAP Training