DMBA Foundation supports free legal clinics

Volunteer attorneys, staff needed

Not everyone in the metro Detroit area can afford the services of an attorney, but almost every adult needs proper legal consultation at some point in their lives.

In an ongoing effort to insure that underserved metro Detroiters have access to an attorney when they need one, the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association Foundation (DMBAF) has been providing free monthly legal clinics since February of this year. The next such clinic, focused on family law issues, will be held on Thursday, June 25 at the Fellowship Chapel Banquet and Conference Center in Detroit.

The clinics are coordinated by the Foundation in partnership with the Wayne County Self-Help Center, the Third Circuit Court, the Wayne County Legal Resources Consortium, and volunteers from area law firms. More than 80 clients have been seen at the clinics since February.

Attorneys and staff from Butzel Long have volunteered to be part of the June 25 clinic, which will begin at 11 a.m. with a panel discussion focused on child support and paternity issues. Other volunteers will include attorney Tim Guerriero of Northville, staff from Lakeshore Legal Aid, and several student attorneys from the Free Legal Aid Clinic.

"The Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association has been giving back to the people of metro Detroit almost since our founding and this commitment has been continued by our foundation," explained Dennis Donahue, Esq., the Access to Justice programs administrator for the DMBAF.

"That said, we wouldn't be able to hold these clinics at all if it weren't for the generosity of our area's attorneys and their firms. I'd like to thank everyone who has volunteered so far for their outstanding commitment to pro-bono work," Donahue added.

During past clinics, participants have been able to consult with attorneys on issues ranging from landlord-tenant disputes and expungements to family law. Participating attorneys and staff help by answering questions, helping draft motions, and directing clients to additional services as needed.

"We make it clear to the clients that our volunteer attorneys aren't available to take their issue to court," Donahue said. "However, we do make every effort to connect clients with the services they'll need if further legal action is warranted."

In addition to area attorneys, local paralegals and support staff also play a prominent role in the new clinics.

"By including paralegals and other support staff, we make more efficient use of every volunteer's time," said DMBAF Executive Director Lorraine Weber. "And we are very grateful to the firms which have 'loaned' us members of their support teams, as well as to the individuals who have helped make our clinics so successful."

The DMBAF and its partners plan to continue offering the free clinics on the fourth Thursday of every month for the foreseeable future. The clinics generally run approximately three-four hours and include a light lunch and orientation before client consultations begin.

"The clinics are a wonderful opportunity to meet the State Bar's required thirty yearly hours of pro-bono service while providing a valuable service to people in our area who truly need our help," Donahue said. "We'd like to firmly establish, and perhaps increase the size of our clinics and the number of people we can help and we invite our area's attorneys and their support teams to help us do just that."

Attorneys and other legal professionals who are interested in volunteering to take part in an upcoming clinic are encouraged to contact Dennis Donahue at ddonahue@detroitlawyer.org or 313-961-6120 ext. 210.

In addition to the Detroit Legal Services clinics, the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association Foundation (DMBAF) supports a diverse mix of programming and advocacy including Access to Justice initiatives, and For The Seventh Generation (www.fortheseventhgeneration.org), which matches donations of services and goods to needy foster children, families, and teens in the metro Detroit area.

The Foundation's 11th annual Dennis W. Archer Award for Public Service will be presented to Chief Judge Gerald E. Rosen and Judge Steven Rhodes (retired) of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District on Thursday, November 19 at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Sponsorship opportunities are available; call Executive Director Lorraine Weber at (313) 961-6120, ext. 206 for details.

For more information about the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association and its Foundation visit: www.detroitlawyer.org or call (313) 961-6120, ext. 206. For more information about For The Seventh Generation visit: www.fortheseventhgeneration.org or call (313) 961-6120, ext. 2014.

Published: Tue, Jun 23, 2015

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