By Jennifer M. Schindele
The Idaho Volunteer Lawyers Program (“IVLP”) is a program of the Idaho Law Foundation, a nonprofit organization with a mission to increase access to legal services and enhance public understanding of the law. IVLP provides a safety net for low-income and at-risk Idahoans facing a civil legal issue who cannot afford legal representation by connecting them with a volunteer attorney with the desire to assist. IVLP screens applicants, recruits volunteers, and coordinates clinics and case assignments.
Currently, the IVLP team is comprised of Jennifer Schindele, Director, Jenni Jordan, Project and Information Services Manager, Becky Freeman, Case Coordinator, Yzabella Eggers and Beamee Kimball, Intake Coordinators, and Stesha Powers, Administrative Assistant.
Applications, Screening, and Referrals
In 2022, IVLP received 3,371 applications from individuals seeking legal assistance. This year, IVLP is on track to receive approximately 4,000 applications as each quarter so far approximately 1,000 applications have been submitted. Once received, the applicant is screened to determine if he or she needs legal aid or if he or she could benefit from other forms of help such as rental assistance or law enforcement. If the applicant does need legal assistance, the IVLP intake coordinator screens the applicant to determine if he or she is financially eligible for the program. If financially eligible, IVLP will attempt to facilitate a connection between the applicant and a volunteer attorney.
Providing Access to Legal Services
Last year, over 400 Idahoans received advice and counsel from volunteer attorneys over the phone. Additionally, over 300 Idahoans received advice and counsel through in-person legal clinics. Most, but not all of the in-person legal clinics were held in libraries. Providing legal assistance through library clinics makes assistance more accessible to vulnerable populations. IVLP also placed cases for full representation with volunteer attorneys. While not all eligible applicants are able to receive legal assistance, overall IVLP was able to assist 846 low-income Idahoans in 2022. Over 51 percent of these cases were family law related with 15 percent being wills and probate cases and 11 percent being bankruptcy or debt defense.
Pro Bono Opportunities
IVLP provides numerous opportunities for attorneys to perform pro bono work including, but not limited to, telephone advice and counsel clinics, in person clinics held primarily in libraries, one-time events, and cases for full representation. Clinic opportunities are posted on the Idaho Law Foundation website and can be found here: https://app.joinpaladin.com/!/idaho-volunteer-lawyers-program/opportunities/. All full representation cases needing attorney volunteers are listed on the Pro Bono Opportunities website here: https://www.idahoprobono.org/. If attorneys are interested in accessing the Pro Bono Opportunities list, they can contact Jennifer Schindele or Jenni Jordan.
Pro Bono Week
Every October, the American Bar Association (“ABA”) holds a week-long celebration for pro bono. Pro Bono Week is an opportunity to show appreciation for the remarkable pro bono work being done by volunteer lawyers and legal professionals. The upcoming Pro Bono Week is October 23-27. According to the ABA, pro bono work is a professional responsibility and an individual ethical commitment of each lawyer. Numerous organizations are celebrating pro bono week through outdoor events, video contests, and social media campaigns.
Idaho attorneys also recognize the importance of pro bono work in our state. Idaho Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1 dictates that every Idaho attorney should aspire to render at least 50 hours of pro bono service each year. Many Idaho attorneys are committed to pro bono by volunteering their time and expertise for those in need. This year for Pro Bono Week in Idaho, IVLP will kick off with a free continuing legal education presentation and a reception for those committed to pro bono work. The week will be filled with various clinic opportunities, by telephone and in-person, with the goal of providing legal assistance to numerous low-income Idahoans.
Jennifer M. Schindele is the Director of the Idaho Volunteer Lawyers Program. After spending over 16 years practicing family law, Jennifer joined IVLP. Jennifer earned an English degree at the University of Idaho and completed law school at the University of Idaho College of Law. Jennifer enjoys spending time with her family, playing soccer, and exploring Idaho’s outdoors.