Access to Legal Services

Lonnie D. (Chip) Nunley, III, Chair

Vice chair:       Tara L. Casey

Members:
Marie Appleby
Hon. Yvette A. Ayala
Polly Chong
Jennifer Grace Dean
Alexandra S. Fannon
Razan J. Fayez
Jennifer A. Fulmer
Paul Garrett
Rachel E. Jones
Valerie L’Herrou
Adrienne M. Sakyi
James W. Speer
Susan Stanford-Stoney
Crystal Y. Twitty

Ex-officio:        Mark D. Braley, LSCV Executive Director

VSB staff:        Karl A. Doss, VSB Access to Legal Services Director

2016-17 Priorities

The Access Committee identified the following priorities for 2016-17:

  • Demystifying pro bono by addressing the apparent fear that lawyers seem to have about doing pro bono.
  • Incentivizing pro bono participation by Virginia lawyers.
  • Making pro bono service easier for volunteer lawyers.
  • Recognizing “pro bono champions” by presenting them with certificates or lapel pins (similar to LSNV’s  “6.1 Society” in which volunteer lawyers are presented gold, silver and bronze lapel pins based upon the amount of pro bono service provided).
  • Developing a means of tracking of pro bono hours.
  • Developing a mentoring program for pro bono lawyers.
  • Increasing media coverage of access to justice issues in Virginia Lawyers Weekly and local newspapers, including the business benefits of pro bono.
  • Developing a targeted campaign to promote pro bono service similar to Florida’s “One” campaign.
  • Provide more information/training to the bar re. Rule 6.1 and what service does and does not qualify as pro bono per the Rule.
  • Possibly drafting proposed amendments to Rule 6.1 to clarify the definition of pro bono.
  • Engaging lawyers to do pro bono work in “non-jailable” criminal matters in which indigent defendants are not eligible for the appointment of a public defender/court appointed counsel.

Meetings:

The Committee met in Richmond on 8/31/2016, 1/31/2017, and 5/9/2017 and during the joint Pro Bono Conference/Virginia Legal Aid Conference in Hampton on 10/26/2016.

Over the course of the Bar Year, the Access Committee worked on a variety of access to justice issues through its subcommittees.

  • Awards Subcommittee – reviews nominations for and recommends recipients of the Legal Aid, Oliver Hill Law Student Pro Bono and Lewis F. Powell, Jr., Attorney Pro Bono Awards (Chair – Rachel Jones; Members – Polly Chong, Crystal Twitty). Met on 8/23/2016 and 4/4/2017.
  • Pro Bono Training/CLE Subcommittee – recommends topics, presenters, and speakers for various Access Committee-sponsored trainings and events including the annual Legal Aid Luncheon and Pro Bono Conference (Chair – Tara Casey; Members – Hon. Yvette Ayala, Mark Braley, Paul Garrett, and Chip Nunley).  Met on 2/28/2017 and 3/28/2017.
  • Rules Subcommittee (formerly Unbundling of Legal Services Subcommittee) – develops a proposal for amendments to the Rule of the Supreme Court of Virginia re. unbundling of legal services and emeritus attorneys (Chair – Ali Fannon; Members – Valerie L’Herrou, Chip Nunley, James McCauley, advisory member; John Whitfield, advisory member).  Met on 9/29/2016, 12/5/2017, 4/5/2017.
  • Alternative Delivery Systems Subcommittee – a new subcommittee formed at the May 2017 Access Committee meeting to consider the role of nonprofit law firms, legal incubator programs, and LRAP programs “deploying” attorneys to rural areas in Virginia and other innovative means of delivering legal services to low income persons in addressing the justice gap  (Chair – Valerie L’Herrou; Members -  Hon. Yvette Ayala, Jennifer Dean,  Razan Fayez, and Chip Nunley). First meeting was scheduled for 7/12/2017.
  • Funding Subcommitteeexplores opportunities to increase public and private funding of Virginia’s legal aid offices (Chair – Chip Nunley; Members - Marie Appleby, Mark Braley, and Tara Casey). No meetings in 2016-17.
  • Social Media Subcommittee – develops policy, establishes guidelines, and provides oversight  of the Access Committee’s potential use of social media for outreach to the Bar and members of the public concerning access to justice issues, pro bono trainings, events  and service opportunities  (Chair – Jennifer Dean; Members – Karl Doss, Chris Fortier, advisory member). No meetings during the 2016-17 bar year.
  • Online Pro Bono Website Subcommittee – assists Access to Legal Services Director to develop strategies for lawyer recruitment and public marketing strategy for Virginia.freelegalanswers.org. (Chair – Karl Doss; Members – Marie Appleby, Hon. Yvette Ayala, Tara Casey, Chip Nunley, and Adrienne Sakyi) No meetings during 2016 -17 bar year.
  • Legal Education Access Subcommittee – considers how to increase access to justice by reducing barriers posed by the cost of a law school education for students and graduates interested in public sector careers.  (Chair - Open; Members - Mark Braley, Jennifer Dean, Valerie L’Herrou and Chief Magistrate Yvette Ayala; and Clarence Dunnaville, advisory member). No meetings during 2016 – 17 bar year.  Subcommittee was suspended.

During regular Access Committee meetings, subcommittees would report on their work and receive input from the entire committee. Over the course of the year, the committee and subcommittees heard about and discussed access to justice issues with numerous guests, including Michael Robinson, VSB President; Doris Causey, VSB President-elect;  James McCauley, VSB Ethics Counsel; Gale Cartwright, VSB Director of Member Compliance; John Whitfield, Co-chair Virginia Access to Justice Commission and Executive Director, Blue Ridge Legal Services; David Neumeyer, Executive Director, Virginia Legal Aid Society(VLAS); Kristine Smith, Pro Bono Director, VLAS; Frances White, Pro Bono Project Coordinator, VLAS; Chris Fortier, Chair- elect, VSB Young Lawyers Conference; Hon. S. Bernard Goodwyn, Justice, Supreme Court of Virginia; Shantelle Argyle, founder, Open Legal Services, Salt Lake City, UT; and Jonathan Short, Executive Director, Route 1 Legal, Alexandria.

Virginia.freelegalanswers.org:
Virginia.freelegalanswers.org, the online, interactive, pro bono question and answer website, will note its one year anniversary on August 22, 2017.   The Virginia State Bar hosts the website, which is one of over thirty Free Legal Answers sites that the ABA launched since 2016.  Free Legal Answers provides legal information and assistance to low and moderate income Virginians in civil legal matters.  Eligible clients are Virginia residents who have income levels of 250% of the federal poverty guidelines (or a household income of just over $29,000 per year for a single adult).  This eligibility threshold is higher than that for legal assistance by legal aid offices and most non-profit legal service organizations. Clients register for the website by logging in and answering a series of questions regarding their income, residence and assets. Once they have been approved to use the service, they may post questions on three different civil legal issues/matters over a twelve month period.  Attorneys who are licensed and in good standing with the Virginia State Bar may register to provide limited scope, pro bono assistance after reviewing questions in the Free Legal Answers queue, selecting a question to answer, and responding to the question based on applicable Virginia or federal law. The client and attorney may engage in an online dialogue and even share documents and photos via the website. Attorneys remain anonymous during the interaction with the client and their service on the website is covered by malpractice insurance provided by the ABA and the National Legal Aid & Defender Association.  Once the question has been answered, the attorney closes dialogue and clients are sent a customer service survey.  Free Legal Answers is convenient for the clients and volunteer attorneys as they may access the service anytime and anywhere they are able to log onto the internet – even from their smartphones.

During the early months of Free Legal Answers, the VSB Access to Legal Services Committee, with the support and assistance of VSB leadership, commenced a campaign to share information about the service to the public and recruit volunteer lawyers.  The VSB Communications Department created a Free Legal Answers logo and marketing materials and the Access Committee developed and distributed business cards, flyers, brochures and pamphlets for the public on Free Legal Answers and other low cost legal resources and heavily promoted the website on social media.  These efforts have seen significant growth in the number of clients (779 including 450 registered clients), volunteer lawyers (222) and questions asked (375) and answered (365) as of July 10, 2017.  Client feedback from customer service surveys have been overwhelmingly positive.

Amendments to the Rules re. Emeritus and Unbundling of Legal Services:
On May 9, 2017, the Access to Legal Services Committee considered amendments to Part One, Rule 1:5 (Counsel – Unbundling of Legal Services) and Part Six, Section IV, Paragraph 3 (Classes of Membership – Emeritus Rule) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia. 

The amendment to Par One, Rule 1:5 would allow attorneys to make limited appearances in civil court proceedings per written agreement between counsel and the limited scope client upon filing and serving of the appropriate notices with the court and opposing counsel/parties specifying the matters, hearing, or issues in which the limited scope representation is being provided.   During the January 31 meeting, the Access to Legal Services Committee raised concerns about potential implications that the amendments to the Unbundling Rule might have upon ghostwriting and notice upon opposing counsel.   These concerns were shared by the Virginia Access to Justice Commission during its March meeting.  After receiving input from VSB Ethics Counsel James McCauley, the Access Committee determined that no further changes to the proposed amendment to the Unbundling Rule were necessary and, since the Access Committee had previously approved the amendment, no additional action was taken. The Unbundling Rule was referred back to the Access to Justice Commission which endorsed the amendments at its June meeting.  The matter will be referred to the Supreme Court of Virginia for final consideration.

The Access to Legal Services Committee also considered of the Emeritus Rule.  The Committee recommended that the emeritus lawyers should no longer be required to be supervised by a supervising attorney when providing pro bono services; however, they must be affiliated with a Qualified Legal Services Provider (i.e., legal aid or a nonprofit legal services organization).  Additionally, emeritus lawyers must certify their QLSP affiliation and whether or not they are currently covered by professional malpractice insurance annually.  The amendment further provides that to receive emeritus status, retired attorneys must submit to a competency review and provide the VSB Executive Committee with a letter from their physician certifying the applicant’s competency. Retired and associate attorneys applying for emeritus status must also fulfill any outstanding MCLE obligations.   The Committee unanimously approved the amendments to the Emeritus Rule and the proposed rule was submitted for public comment, ending on June 30, 2017 and for consideration by Bar Council at its October 2017 meeting. 

Pro Bono Reporting:
During its meeting at the October 7, 2016, the Virginia State Bar Council narrowly voted to not endorse the Virginia Access to Justice Commission’s proposed amendments to Paragraph 18 of Part 6, Section IV of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia and the comments to Rule 6.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct concerning pro bono reporting despite the proposed amendments receiving the unanimously endorsement of the Access Committee and 80% positive feedback during the public comment period. These amendments provided for the annual reporting of pro bono hours and donations by Virginia lawyers to support programs that provide the direct delivery of legal services to low-income persons. The Access to Justice Commission decided to go forward with the pro bono reporting proposal at its March 2017 meeting without Bar Council’s endorsement and submitted its recommendation for pro bono reporting for consideration by the Supreme Court of Virginia.

Free and Low Cost Legal Resources in Virginia Pamphlet:
In February 2017, the Access Committee published the Virginia State Bar "Free and Low Cost Legal Resources in Virginia".  This eight page pamphlet is a guide for helping low-and modest-income Virginians find legal assistance and includes options for assistance by counsel and options for self-represented litigants. The VSB shall make the pamphlet available to legal aid offices, court clerk offices, law libraries, social service organizations and other venues where the public might go to obtain information about options for low cost assistance by counsel and self-help resources in civil cases.  Initially 4,000 copies of the pamphlet were printed and approximately 3,000 copies have been distributed. A pdf of the pamphlet is also available for downloading/printing on the VSB website. 

Conferences, Webinars, Seminars, and Presentations:
The 2016 Virginia State Bar Pro Bono Conference was held on October 26, 2016, in Hampton in conjunction with the Virginia Legal Aid Conference. This was the third time these events were held together, and attendees were welcome to attend sessions at either conference. The Pro Bono Conference featured CLE presentations “Representing Domestic Violence Survivors: Protective Orders and Pro Bono”; “Handling Uncontested Divorces: Nuts and Bolts for Pro Bono Lawyers”; and “Introduction and Demo: Virginia.freelegalanswers.org”.

In order to increase outreach to and recruitment of pro bono attorneys as well as to provide training to legal aid lawyers, public defenders and court appointed attorneys on matters of substantive law, the Access to Legal Services Committee collaborated with legal aid organizations, law firms, non-profit legal services organizations, and bar associations to offer several webinars and seminars during the 2016-17 bar year.  Attorneys who attended VSB Access Committee sponsored or co-sponsored programs certified that they will either accept a pro bono referral from a legal aid or non-profit pro bono legal services provider or make a financial contribution to one of these organizations.  The Access Committee also conducted non-CLE programs for law students, social workers and members of the public and supported webinars developed by the Virginia Lawyer Referral Service, VSB Young Lawyers Conference, and the VSB Intellectual Property Section. 

Unless otherwise indicated, the following programs were sponsored by or co-sponsored by the VSB Access to Legal Services Committee:

Webinars (CLE and Non-CLE)

  • Virginia Lawyer Referral Service Webinar (Part 1): Introduction, Mission and Ethical Considerations, September 14, 2016 (Sponsored by Virginia Lawyer Referral Service)
  • Serious Illness, the Law and Pro Bono Service, Part 1: Social Security Disability Cases, September 20, 2016 (Co-sponsored with Legal Information Network for Cancer)
  • Virginia Lawyer Referral Service Webinar (Part 2): Criminal Law, Wills , Estates and Trusts, September 28, 2016 (Sponsored by Virginia Lawyer Referral Service)
  • Serious Illness, the Law and Pro Bono Service, Part 2: Virginia Landlord-Tenant Law, October 4, 2016 (Co-sponsored with Legal Information Network for Cancer and Central Virginia Legal Aid Society)
  • Best Practices for Guardians ad Litem, October 11, 2016 (Sponsored by the VSB Young Lawyers Conference)
  • Young Lawyers Conference Mentoring Program Webinar on Law School Admissions and the LSAT, November 9, 2016 (Sponsored by the VSB Young Lawyers Conference Mentoring Network – Non-CLE)
  • Serious Illness, the Law and Pro Bono Service, Part 3: Relief from Creditors, November 17, 2016 (Co-sponsored with Legal Information Network for Cancer)
  • Public Information Webinar: What to Do When You Cannot Afford a Lawyer, November 29, 2016 (Non-CLE)
  • Serious Illness, the Law and Pro Bono Service, Part 4: Simple Life Planning Documents, February 14, 2017 (Co-sponsored with Legal Information Network for Cancer)
  • Serious Illness, the Law and Pro Bono Service, Part 5: Simple Trusts, March 2, 2017 (Co-sponsored with Legal Information Network for Cancer)
  • Immigrant Families and Public Benefits Under a New Presidential Administration, March 31, 2017 (Co-sponsored with Virginia League of Social Services Executives, Virginia Poverty Law Center, Legal Aid Justice Center, Charlottesville Office of Human Rights, Arlington Department of Social Services – Non-CLE)
  • Serious Illness, the Law, and Pro Bono Service, Part 6: Who Pays for Nursing Home Care and What Happens When No One Pays?, April 18, 2017 (Co-sponsored with Legal Information Network for Cancer and Virginia Poverty Law Center)
  • Conflicts and Confidentiality for IP Lawyers – Issues in Prosecution and Litigation, April 19, 2017 (Sponsored by VSB Intellectual Property Section)
  • Drive to Work/Access to Justice Webinar: New Legislation re. Driver's License Fees and Fines, June 27, 2017 (Sponsored with Drive to Work – Non-CLE)

Seminars

  • Bridging the Justice Gap Through Pro Bono: Welcome to Virginia.freelegalanswers.org, (Co-sponsored with Metropolitan Richmond Women’s Bar Association), Hunton & Williams, May 17 , 2017

CLE Presentation Co-sponsored by VSB Access to Legal Services Committee

  • Grace and Justice on Death Row, VSB Annual Meeting Showcase CLE Program, June 16, 2017 (Co-sponsored by VSB Conference of Local Bar Associations, VSB Diversity Conference, and the VSB Access to Legal Services Committee)
  • How Attorneys Can Promote and Advance Access to Justice, VSB Annual Meeting Showcase CLE Program, June 16, 2017 (Co-sponsored by Virginia Access to Justice Commission, VSB Access to Legal Services Committee, VSB Conference of Local Bar Associations, VSB Diversity Conference, VSB Senior Lawyers Conference, VSB Young Lawyers Conference, Greater Richmond Bar Association, Legal Information Network for Cancer, and the Old Dominion Bar Association)

CLE Presentations Sponsored by Other Committees/Organizations

  • Presentation: Pro Bono at Your Fingertips:Virginia.freelegalanswers.org, Law over Lunch, University of Richmond Carrico Center for Pro Bono Service, October 18, 2016
  • Presentation: Introduction and Demo: Virginia.freelegalanswers.org, Portsmouth Bar Association, November 28, 2016
  • Presentation:  Introduction to Virginia.freelegalanswers.org, South Hampton Roads Bar Association, January 17, 2017
  • Presentation:  The Justice Gap, Pro Bono & Virginia.freelegalanswers.org, Vanderpool, Frostick, and Nishanian, Manassas, February 7, 2017
  • Presentation: VSB Access to Legal Services: Working with You to Address the Justice Gap Through Pro Bono & Virginia.freelegalanswers.org, Bar Leaders Institute, February 10, 2017
  • Presentation:  I Know I Should Do Pro Bono, I Want to, But I Don’t Know Where to Start, VTLA Annual Convention, March 30, 2017
  • Presentation: Pro Bono at Bat:  Never a Sacrifice When Everyone Wins, Local Government Attorneys Spring Conference, April 27, 2017
  • Presentation: Rule 6.1, Pro Bono and Virginia’s Justice Gap,  VSB Young Lawyers Conference Immigrant Outreach Committee CLE: Immigration Bond and Custody Proceedings, George Mason University School of Law, June 12, 2016
  • Presentation:  Bridging the Justice Gap Through Pro Bono: Welcome to Virginia.freelegal answers.org, Newport News Bar Association, June 13, 2016

Public Information, Law School and Non-CLE Presentations

  • Presentation:  Virginia State Bar Access to Legal Services, Prince William County Bar Association Pro Bono and Volunteer Recognition Luncheon, November 4, 2016
  • Presentation:  Free and Low Cost Legal Resources in Virginia, In-service Training for Office of the Attorney General Programs and Outreach Staff, January 5, 2017
  • Presentation:  Virginia State Bar Access to Legal Services, Metro Richmond Women’s Bar Association Public Services and Pro Bono Luncheon, February 1, 2017
  • Presentation: The Justice Gap, Pro Bono & Virginia.freelegalanswers.org, Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorder Commission, March 7, 2017
  • Presentation: Addressing the Justice Gap Through Virginia.freelegalanswers.org and Other VSB Access to Justice Initiatives, Public Guardian and Conservator Advisory Board Meeting, March 23, 2017
  • Public Interest Career Fair, Liberty University School of Law, March 27, 2017
  • Presentation: Addressing the Justice Gap Through Virginia.freelegalanswers.org and Other VSB Access to Justice Initiatives, Commonwealth Council on Aging Meeting, April 12, 2017

 

Awards and Recognition:

On October 26, 2016, during the Pro Bono Conference, the Committee presented the Lewis F. Powell, Jr., Pro Bono Award to the Harrisonburg law firm Hoover Penrod, PLC.  VSB president Michael Robinson was the master of ceremonies and Jeffery Robinson, Deputy Legal Director and Director of the Center for Justice, American Civil Liberties Union, gave the guest remarks. More than 250 people attended this event.  The Committee also introduced the Frankie Muse Freeman Organizational Pro Bono Award at the Pro Bono Conference.  The award is named for Danville native and civil rights attorney Frankie Muse Freeman.  Ms. Freeman was the lead attorney on the NAACP’s landmark housing lawsuit, Davis et al vs. St. Louis Housing Authority, which ended legalized racial discrimination in public housing in 1952. The Freeman Award will recognize Virginia organizations that provide exemplary pro bono legal services to underserved Virginians.  Ms. Freeman, who was 99 years old at the time, attended the event and was the honorary first recipient of the Freeman Award, which will be presented for the first time in 2017.

On June 16, 2017, during the Legal Aid Award Luncheon at the VSB Annual Meeting, the Committee presented the Oliver White Hill Law Student Pro Bono Award to Amber Strickland of the University of Virginia School of Law and the Legal Aid Award to Angela Ciolfi, Director of Litigation and Advocacy with the Legal Aid Justice Center.  Don Saunders, Vice President of Civil Legal Services with the National Legal Aid & Defender Association in Washington, D.C., provided guest remarks.  Over 100 persons attended this event.

Finally, during the Legal Aid Luncheon, the Access to Legal Services Committee unveiled the “Pro Bono Hero” lapel pin with “ESQ” in a superhero shield and Certificate of Appreciation to recognize volunteer attorneys who answer at least 15 questions posed on Virginia.freelegalanswers.org or provide otherwise noteworthy pro bono service that the Committee believes should be celebrated. The Access Committee hopes that recipients will display the certificate and wear the lapel pin as representations of their role in increasing equal justice in Virginia, and as reminders of how even seemingly small acts of justice can make a big difference in the life of a person in need of legal assistance.

Other activities:

  • Virginia State Bar Access to Legal Services Facebook page.  The VSB Access to Legal Services Facebook page, which launched in August 2015, continues to grow.  The page provides information about access to justice issues, training, and pro bono service opportunities in Virginia.  Since its debut, the page has 420 “likes” (or members/subscribers) and is viewed hundreds of times each week.  During the week of May 6 - 13, 2017, the page’s six posts had a reach of over 12,000 persons and were shared over 30 times.  Karl Doss is the administrator for the page, Tara Casey is the editor, and Jennifer Dean is the moderator.
  • Virginia Access to Justice Commission. Mark Braley, Tara Casey, Chip Nunley, and Karl Doss continue to serve on the Virginia Access to Justice Commission.  Ms. Casey is the chair of the Pro Bono Committee; and Mr. Doss is the chair of the Pro Bono Coordinating Consortium.  Mr. Nunley and Mr. Doss are members of the Pro Bono Committee; Mr. Braley is a member of the Judicial Education Committee; and Mr. Braley and Mr. Doss are members of the Outreach and Education Committees.
  • Legal Services Corporation of Virginia Board of Directors.  Chip Nunley, Jay Speer, and Karl Doss serve on the LSCV Board of Directors.
  • Virginia Bar Association Pro Bono Council. Virginia Bar Association president Pete Johnson appointed Chip Nunley, Mark Braley, and Karl Doss to serve on the VBA Pro Bono Council.
  • Greater Richmond Bar Foundation.  In May 2016, Karl Doss was appointed to a three year term as a member of the Board of the Greater Richmond Bar Foundation.
  • VSB Solo & Small Firm Practitioner Forums and Other Appearances. Karl Doss provided information about pro bono and access to justice issues at the VSB Solo & Small Firm Practitioner Forums in Winchester on September 19, 2016 and Emporia on October 23, 2016. Mr. Doss also provided information at the VSB Tech Show on April 24, 2017 and the Admissions & Orientation Ceremony on June 7, 2017.

Departing members:  Adrienne Sakyi; Susan Stanford-Stoney

New Members (2017-18):  Joanna Suyes

Officers (2017-18):  Chip Nunley, Chair; Tara L. Casey, Vice Chair


Jennifer Fulmer was appointed to complete the term of Susan Stanford-Stoney after Ms. Stanford-Stoney was appointed as Judge of the Fairfax County General District Court.

Updated: Jul 20, 2017