October 01, 2020 #LRIS2Know

State Bar of Michigan Lawyer Referral Service Helps More than 400 with Special COVID-19 Helpline Panels

By Laurin' C. Roberts Thomas and Anne Vrooman

When the pandemic related State of Emergency was declared by the Governor of Michigan in March, the State Bar of Michigan called on its members to step forward to serve people with crucial legal needs affected by COVID-19.  The Bar created two special initiatives, the Frontline Responders Legal Helpline and the COVID-19 Rapid Response Helpline.  Using the Lawyer Referral Service platform as the organizing tool, the helplines were operational within just a few days.  Helpline requests were prioritized as they were screened and processed by Lawyer Referral Service Call Center Representatives.

More than 225 attorneys answered the call, and to date have served more than 400 people.

The Frontline Responders Legal Helpline matches frontline responders with attorneys who have volunteered to provide crucial legal documents at no charge. Medical and financial powers of attorney, simple/statutory wills, and the peace of mind that comes along with those documents have been provided to frontline responders. Communication about the special initiative was sent to hospitals, medical associations, police departments and media contacts to let frontline responders know about the program and how to access services.  Frontline responders who have used the helpline have expressed deep gratitude that lawyers reached out to serve them during the pandemic crisis.

Some positive client testimonials rolled in:

“Put in the First Responder Help Line Request & was contacted that same day by Nicole. After a short Q&A she referred me to an attorney to take care of a will. I contacted the attorney the next day & his office has sent me the necessary paperwork to complete.”

“This was a fantastic service to offer to frontline medical staff. Thank you. It has really been helpful and a relief to get help to get my estate organized. I am very good at helping others but not myself.”

The COVID-19 Rapid Response Helpline was developed after meeting with Bar Association Section chairs to identify key practice areas that would likely have increased need as a result of the pandemic. The initial practice areas include estate and disability planning, guardianship, custody and parenting time, garnishment defense and other consumer matters, labor and employment, and unemployment.  Attorneys who volunteered to serve on this panel agreed to contact the consumer within 4 hours, or by 10 AM the next morning if it was received late in the day.  Any consumer with a pandemic related matter is eligible for this helpline service. The rapid response is greatly appreciated by consumers, as many consumers believed that the closure of law offices and courts meant that lawyers were not accessible.  As one consumer summed it up, “I received a phone call literally 2 hours after completing the form!”

The Frontline Responders Legal Helpline and the COVID-19 Rapid Response Helpline will remain in effect until the State of Emergency is lifted by the Governor. Once the helplines are no longer in place consumers will be served by Lawyer Referral attorneys.  Volunteers on both Helplines have been encouraged to continue their service by joining the Lawyer Referral Service.

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Laurin' C. Roberts Thomas

LRS Manager

Laurin' C. Roberts Thomas is the LRS manager at the State Bar of Michigan. She can be contacted at (517) 346-6335 or lcthomas@michbar.org.

Anne Vrooman

Director

Anne Vrooman is the Director of Research and Development at the State Bar of Michigan. She can be reached at (517) 346-6300.