Diverse array of attorneys assist indigent clients at monthly clinic

On March 24, four attorneys from several different specialties came together for a common cause to help indigent clients with cases the attorneys themselves may otherwise never have encountered.

The attorneys and clients met during the monthly Detroit Legal Services Clinic, an initiative of the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association Foundation (www.detroitlawyer.org).

John C. Cardello of the Jaques Admiralty Law Firm, Sarah Luke from Wayne State University's Office of the General Counsel, area solo practitioner Linda Handren, and Klaudia Nikolli from Kitch (who normally works in commercial litigation) were on hand to assist thirteen clients who otherwise would have been unable to afford legal counsel.

The volunteers helped clients with issues including family law, civil procedure, setting aside defaults, and quiet title action.

Luke, who has been volunteering for the past year, said that she originally sought out the clinics because she was new to the city.

"Volunteering has given me a glimpse of how many people in Wayne County experience the legal system. Their experiences contrast greatly from my own professional experience as an attorney," she said. "The issues clients address through the clinic are often very personal, and their stories shed light on the many ways that social policies affect the lives of people living in poverty."

Clinic volunteers aren't asked to see clients' cases through to completion. Instead, they're on hand to explain the law as it relates to each client's case, along with basic concepts like what to expect when in court.

According to Handren, her initial concerns about meeting with clients with cases outside of her usual specialty were soon put to rest.

"Although I was a bit nervous about my ability to handle questions regarding areas of the law with which I'm unfamiliar, it turned out that both of the people with whom I spoke really just wanted a willing ear to listen to their issues," she said. "And I was able to give referrals and a bit of common sense advice as well."

Luke agreed.

"I'm not a family law attorney however, I found that many of the clinic's clients simply need help navigating the legal system or the bureaucracy of government administrative agencies," she said. "My reading comprehension skills and basic understanding of administrative and civil procedure have proven effective tools in addressing many of their concerns."

"When I run into a question requiring subject matter expertise, the clinic provides experts for me to consult on site," she added.

"We recognize the pivotal role our volunteers are playing in the lives of these clients, and with that in mind we do everything in our power to make their work with us easy and enjoyable," said DMBA Foundation Access to Justice Coordinator Dennis Donahue. "Between myself and our partners, there are always specialists on hand for those rare occasions when one of our volunteers run into a question they aren't comfortable handling."

"For the most part, though, an attorney's general knowledge of the law is all that's necessary to make a huge difference," he added.

Published: Fri, Apr 08, 2016