January 01, 2012

Behind the Scenes at a Volunteer Lawyer Program

LeBreon Simone Washington

Volunteer lawyer programs. Volunteer lawyer projects. VLPs. Whatever you called them, just about every bar association nationwide has one, and at some point, just about every lawyer I know has been recruited to serve as a volunteer with one. With our hearts in the right place, we commit to handling a few cases here and there, usually simple matters within our realm of expertise or ability. Nothing special. I bet you probably assume that your local VLP is a simple charitable “matching operation” with which attorneys sign up and wait to be paired with a client in need. Short of the few cases you handle, you probably have never given any real thought to the underlying mechanics of your local VLP or what purpose it truly serves. Don’t feel bad. You aren’t alone. I was the same way until I found myself in between jobs and agreed to spend an entire summer volunteering in-office with the Mobile Bar Association VLP. By the end of the summer I learned that VLPs do more than serve as a charitable outlet for the legal community. They are key components in making sure that everyone, regardless of financial means, has access to quality legal representation.

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