By Louis Diaz,2014-05-15 14:20
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    Volunteer Lawyers Network Strategic Plan: July 1, 2009 June 30, 2014

Purpose: This strategic Plan sets forth the goals and the strategies for achieving those goals

    to guide the Board and staff of VLN in the operation of VLN through June 2014.

    The Executive Director is charged with annually preparing a plan of action to

    implement this Strategic Plan and the Secretary is charged with overseeing the

    implementation and updating of the annual plans and this Strategic Plan.

    Overview: The Strategic Plan starts with a statement of VLN’s mission followed by a

    discussion of six key areas of focus identified by the Committee to achieve that

    mission: (1) Legal Services, (2) Volunteers, (3) Personnel, (4) Governance, (5)

    Finance, and (6) Relationships with Outside Entities. Within each of these areas

    of focus, guiding principles and initiatives are set forth. The Plan concludes with

    a section on implementation.

    Mission: To promote access to justice and the administration of justice by providing legal

    services to low-income people primarily in Hennepin County through volunteer


    Tag Line: When using the VLN logo, it may also be followed by the tag line: Connecting

    Clients in Need with Volunteer Lawyers.

I. Legal Services

    A. Guiding Principles

    1. High quality legal services to low-income persons is the core of VLN’s mission;

    2. The goals of VLN should be consistent with the protection of basic human needs,

    including but not limited to:

    a. Shelter (including housing and real estate).

    b. Sustenance (including employment (and unemployment compensation);

    Bankruptcy (and letters to creditors); Debtor rights (including consumer civil

    lawsuits and garnishment issues); Criminal Expungements; Tax; Administrative

    Law (especially DHS reconsideration cases); Non-consumer tort defense; Spousal

    Maintenance (advice only).

    c. Safety (including OFPs/Restraining Orders; Marital Dissolutions).

    d. Child custody (including Parental access/visitation; Adoption; Juvenile advice;

    Establishment of Paternity).

    3. On a regular basis VLN will continue to review these focus areas of law to determine if

    other program areas should be added.


    4. VLN shall use its best efforts to maximize client outcomes in all cases. The Clinics and

    Quality Control Committee will regularly review available best practices literature and

    implement best practices appropriate for VLN.

    For example, in advice and brief service cases, implement procedures which help the

    clients follow the lawyers’ advice and increase the client’s chance to have a successful

    outcome. These include:

    a. Provide written information to clients concerning their legal problem, e.g., generic

    legal fact sheets.

    b. Write clients notes or letters on the legal and factual analysis of their matter and

    next steps the client should take.

    c. Provide more brief service where appropriate, including making phone calls,

    writing letters, getting information from agencies, assisting in filling out forms,

    and other limited tasks which may help solve the client’s legal problem.

    d. Develop protocols for identifying and addressing specific client limitations that

    are associated with less favorable outcomes such as limited English proficiency,

    inability to read and write, mental illness, etc.

    e. Develop follow-up procedures to: a) provide the client with additional

    information, or to get additional information from the client; and b) determine

    whether client was able to follow the advice and whether a favorable outcome

    was achieved.

    These best practice standards and procedures should be included in new attorney trainings.

    B. Initiatives

    1. Level of Service VLN will create internal procedures to effectuate guidelines below.

     VLN seeks to assist as many clients as possible given the volunteer attorney time

    available. When determining which service to provide a client (e.g., full representation,

    brief services, legal advice), VLN shall consistently evaluate which service, as defined by

    the Legal Services Advisory Commission, will most effectively and efficiently maximize

    client outcome:

    1a. Brief service by a volunteer attorney is preferred when it is sufficient to resolve

    the client’s issue (e g., in those situations in which well-drafted pleadings can on

    their own significantly affect the outcome of a case).

    2b. Extended representation by a volunteer attorney is preferred when it is necessary

    to protect a basic need. Some factors to consider in determining whether

    representation should be provided include:

    i. The extent to which full representation is necessary to maximize client


    ii. The extent to which power imbalances would be likely to affect case

    outcome, e.g., :

    ? The presence of an attorney on the other side of the case

    ? The complexity of the law related to the client’s issue


    ? The complexity of the procedures that the client must follow to


    iii. The extent to which the individual is unlikely to be able to pursue the

    matter without the assistance of an attorney due to language barriers,

    mental or physical handicaps, mental illness, lack of understanding of the

    legal system, etc.

    iv. The extent to which the client, if able, has demonstrated a commitment to

    participating in the litigation, as evidenced by return of completed

    paperwork on a timely basis and/or payment of a nominal administrative


    v. The timeliness of the client’s request for services and VLN’s ability to

    find an attorney to assign to the client.

    3c. Legal advice only serves an important function in VLN’s delivery of legal

    services, including when:

    i. It is an efficient and/or timely way to connect client and attorney

    (especially in situations in which a client needs assistance immediately or

    has access or transportation issues);

    ii. The client receives legal advice about merits of the case (which intake

    staff cannot do);

    iii. The client does not qualify for other VLN services (because the case is not

    within VLN’s areas of service or the client does not meet income or

    residency guidelines); and

    iv. VLN cannot provide the client with an attorney for whatever reason,

    including when the client’s case does not have merit.

    d. Legal referral services are an important service to the community and are

    provided when, for whatever reason, a higher level of service is not possible.

    (Definitions of legal services are in the end notes.)

    2. Client Eligibility. A key part of VLN’s provision of effective legal services is to

    determine how to serve those in the greatest need. A part of this determination includes

    determining client income and asset eligibility so as to: serve as many people as possible;

    not compete with the private bar; and not tax VLN resources.

    Staff will, on an ongoing basis and pursuant to the supervision of the Executive

    Committee, review eligibility guidelines to determine whether changes are appropriate.

    The Executive Committee will make recommendations to the board of directors for final


    3. Client Investment. Client participation is essential to maximize client outcomes. VLN staff will seek to establish client investment prior to connecting them with a volunteer

    attorney in various ways, which may include asking clients to: get their paperwork to

    VLN in advance; attend a class on their legal rights and VLN processes; make their own

    copies of documents, and, in limited circumstances, pay small administrative fees.

    II. Volunteers


    A. Guiding Principles VLN is committed to providing its clients with excellent legal services and, whenever possible,

    positive outcomes. While this relies in part on VLN internal procedures, it also depends on the

    quantity and quality of the services the volunteers provide.

    B. Initiatives

    1. Recruiting. Under the direction of the Volunteer Committee, VLN staff will continue to

    recruit new volunteers using best practices for volunteer recruiting, identifying and

    addressing specific challenges that prevent attorneys from volunteering, and offering

    quality trainings and mentor services to address attorney concerns about practicing in

    areas of law new to them. The Volunteer Committee will establish annual recruiting

    goals and develop strategies and promotional activities with VLN staff to achieve the

    annual goals. New recruitment materials will be developed to reflect the core areas of

    service as outlined in this plan.

    2. Retention. Under the direction of the Volunteer Committee, VLN staff will continue to

    implement volunteer retention strategies, including regular contact with existing

    volunteers and volunteer recognition programs. The Volunteer Committee will review

    existing retention programs with VLN staff on an ongoing basis and work to develop new

    retention strategies and guidelines regarding deployment of VLN staff resources for

    retention versus recruitment.

    3. Trainings and Expectations. Under the direction of the Volunteer Committee, VLN staff

    will provide clear expectations and adequate training and support to volunteer attorneys.

    4. Review of Volunteers. Under the direction of the Clinics and Quality Control

    Committee, and to monitor client experiences of our volunteer attorneys’ services, VLN

    staff will conduct routine evaluations of services. In addition, VLN staff will report to the

    Clinics and Quality Control Committee on at least an annual basis any client grievances

    as well as their resolution. VLN staff will use positive client feedback for volunteer

    retention as much as possible.

    5. Best Practices. Under the oversight of the Clinics and Quality Control Committee, VLN

    staff will keep abreast of best practices in the field and implement them appropriately.

    The Clinics and Quality Control Committee will review available best practices studies

    and make recommendations for VLN staff implementation. The Board of Directors will

    review quarterly data reports, which show the numbers of services provided by level of

    service and area of law, and will review the Clinics and Quality Control Committee’s

    recommendations on an annual basis.

III. Personnel

    A. Guiding Principles VLN is committed to retaining high quality staff and as such aspires to provide competitive staff

    compensation and incentives. VLN endorses appropriate oversight of non-attorney staff by

    attorneys as provided by the ABA Guidelines for Pro Bono Programs (Standard 4.8).


Currently VLN has Family and Housing Law Resource Staff Attorneys. The focus of the staff

    attorneys is to provide support to volunteers, not the direct provision of legal services.

    B. Initiatives

    1. Attorneys on Staff. VLN will strive to retain Resource Attorneys on staff and continue

    the focus on volunteer support, not direct services, especially in critical areas of law.

    Given the current client needs, VLN will explore the feasibility of hiring a Bankruptcy

    and/or Civil Resource Attorney.

    2. Development, Staff Compensation, Retention Strategy. The executive director will:

    a. Propose to the executive committee a plan for executive director transition.

    b. Consult with an efficiency expert and/or business analyst to review different

    models that would assist VLN to do its work as efficiently as possible.

    c. Within budget confines, routinely review other ways to reward employees and

    support morale.

    d. Periodically, work with one or more board members to review the VLN employee

    manual to ensure policies and procedures are in compliance with state and federal

    laws and staff retention and compensation strategies meet best practices and

    promote staff retention.

IV. Governance

    A. Guiding Principles

    VLN seeks to comply with best practices as they relate to governance in order to bring the

    highest quality services to clients as possible.

    VLN’s Bylaws were revised in 2009 to achieve best practices and increased efficiencies by


    ? Specific directives to maintain a board composition of greater ethnic, gender and

    skills diversity;

    ? Establishment and enforcement of board meeting attendance standards;

    ? Restructuring of officers’ duties and terms to encourage healthy rotation of positions

    and meaningful participation; and

    ? Establishment of a finance committee to increase the board’s oversight and

    understanding of the organization’s financial situation.

B. Initiatives

    1. The first fiscal year board meeting will include an annual board orientation as described

    in Addendum B.


    2. At each year’s executive committee annual retreat, the executive director will present a

    proposed annual plan. This proposed annual plan shall be developed with staff input,

    derived from the strategic plan and complementary to the budget, with specific

    quantifiable goals including specific duties of the volunteers and the staff. The executive

    committee shall approve a plan and present to the board at the first board meeting of each

    fiscal year.

    3. The Executive Committee shall annually revisit the organization’s bylaws to evaluate

    ongoing effectiveness of achieving board best practices.

    4. Each of the VLN working committees will develop a charter, based on a uniform


    5. Staff may propose the creation of new committees or other committee changes to the

    Board of Directors for final approval based upon establishment of the demonstrated need

    for same.

V. Finance

    A. Guiding Principle The board, as well as appropriate committees of the board, will closely monitor the fiscal health

    of the organization; it will do so in connection with preparing annual budgets; and it will

    establish and maintain adequate reserves.

B. Initiatives

    1. Finance Committee. As provided in the revised by-laws, VLN will create a standing

    Finance Committee. The committee will include the treasurer, an outside financial expert,

    staff members, and other interested board members. The committee will meet from

    September to June of each fiscal year. The duties of this finance committee will include

    the following:

    a. Improve accessibility of VLN’s financial reports and facilitate the board’s

    financial knowledge and understanding of the organization;

    b. Establish a reasonable timeline by which the preliminary budget will be presented

    to the Executive Committee and the final budget presented to the board for voting.

    c. Participate in creating the annual budget and recommend priorities for the coming

    year’s budget.

    d. Participate in coordination with the Executive Committee to develop a sequence

    of steps (i.e., contingency plan) to be taken if income is under budget.

    e. Provide recommendations as to whether and when VLN shall employ additional

    fundraising staff (internal or external) and/or otherwise increase fundraising.

    f. Review the annual audit before such time as the treasurer presents it to the board.


    g. Establish a goal and implementation plan for VLN’s financial reserves.

    2. Budget Narrative. The executive director will timely send board members the proposed

    budget with: 1) a narrative document that describes the underlying assumptions of the

    budget as well as deviations from the prior year; and 2) a “budget fundamentals sheet”

    reminding people of some of the key budget provisions contained in the budget each year.

    VI. Relationships with Outside Entities

    A. Guiding Principles VLN staff time should primarily be used to further VLN’s commitment to providing its clients

    with excellent legal services. VLN staff should, given priorities and resources, have appropriate

    dialogue and collaboration with other organizations providing legal services to low income

    persons, law firms and the Courts to improve the network of delivery of legal service to low

    income persons.

    B. Initiatives

    1. Considering current priorities and resources, staff will develop a plan for the appropriate

    level of interaction with the legal services organizations, law firms and the courts for

    review by the Executive Committee.

    2. In developing its plan, staff will give priority to recruiting and developing lawyer and law

    firm volunteers and support. Staff should be mindful of the findings of Supporting

    Justice II, A Report on the Pro Bono Work of American’s Lawyers, American Bar

    Association, 2009; including that training and CLE credit for pro bono are powerful

    incentives to encourage greater pro bono activity.

    VII. Implementation

    1. The Executive Director will annually prepare a plan of action to implement the

     objectives of the Strategic Plan.

    2. The Secretary will oversee the implementation and updating of the annual plans and

     the Strategic Plan. The Secretary will submit a report to the Executive Committee at

     quarterly meetings and to the full board on at least a quarterly basis providing a status

     report addressing:

    ? Are initiatives being met? If so, report on success;

    ? If not, why? Does staff have sufficient resources to achieve?

    ? Are the timelines being met? Do they need to be changed?

    ? Are the goals and initiatives still realistic? Are changes recommended?

    ? Should priorities be changed?

     3. In June 2013, the Chair will appoint a new strategic planning committee to create the

     strategic plan to guide VLN from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2019.


    Approved and adopted by unanimous board vote on May 7, 2009.


    Alysia Zens, BLN Board Chair 2008/09

     1 Legal Services Advisory Commission defines Legal Advice: Contact between attorney and client where the attorney provides only legal advice to the client (e.g. the advocate reviewed the

    relevant facts, interpreted the facts presented by the client, applied the law to the facts presented

    and counseled the client concerning his or her legal problem). Advice Only service would

    include legal advice clinics and legal advice hotlines where no follow up work is done on behalf

    of the client.

     2The Legal Services Advisory Commission defines Brief Service as: Advocate provides limited

    services for client without participating in formal proceedings (e.g. letter or phone call to a third

    party, or preparation of a routine legal document). Brief Service would include assisted pro se

    clinics where forms are completed with the client, but the client is not represented in court.

     3The Legal Services Advisory Commission defines Extended Representation as: Representation

    or preparation for litigation (whether in court or an administrative tribunal) or extended

    transactional representation. Examples include:

    ? Negotiated Settlement without Litigation Counsel negotiated and reached an actual

    settlement on behalf of a client without any court or administrative actions pending.

    Should be reserved for cases in which the program conferred with another party to reach

    a resolution of the client’s legal problem.

    ? Negotiated Settlement with Litigation Counsel negotiated and reached an actual

    settlement on behalf of a client while a court or formal administrative action was pending.

    ? Administrative Agency Decision Counsel represented a client in an administrative

    agency action that resulted in a case-dispositive decision by the administrative agency

    after a hearing or other formal administrative process.

    ? Court Decision Counsel represented a client in a proceeding that resulted in a case

    dispositive decision by the court.

    Extensive Service Counsel undertook extensive research, preparation of complex legal

    documents, extensive interaction with third parties on behalf of an eligible client, or extensive

    on-going assistance to clients who are proceeding pro se. This would also include cases where

    extensive work is done on behalf of a client, but the client withdraws from representation or

    becomes income ineligible.

    Addendum A

    Strategic Planning Process As one of her first actions as 2008-2009 Board Chair, Alysia Zens appointed a committee to

    undertake strategic planning.


She appointed Jonathan Bye (Partner, Lindquist & Vennum and VLN vice Chair) as the Chair of

    the strategic planning committee and the following as members of that committee:

    ? Matt Boos (Shareholder, Fredrikson & Byron; VLN Chair 2006/07)

    ? Lawrence Buxbaum (Executive Director, Hennepin County Bar Association)

    ? Karen Canon (Associate General Counsel, U.S. Bank; VLN Chair 2003/04)

    ? Bricker Lavik (Senior Counsel, Trial Group and Director of Pro Bono Program,

    Dorsey & Whitney; VLN Chair 1992/93)

    ? Fred Ojile (Managing Partner, Messinger & Ojile, PLLP; VLN Secretary 2008/09)

    ? Dan Tyson (Best & Flanagan, VLN Chair 1996/97)

    ? Alysia Zens (Dorsey & Whitney, VLN Chair 2008/09)

From July 2008 through April 2009, the Committee, both as a whole and as various

    subcommittees, met on numerous occasions to consider VLN as it currently exists, where it

    should be going over the next five years, and how it should get there. In doing so, the

    Committee assessed the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of VLN and sought the

    input of representatives of its various constituencies, including current and former Board

    members, current and former Executive Directors, executive officers of the Hennepin County

    Bar Association and the Hennepin County Bar Foundation, law firm pro bono coordinators,

    fundraising consultants, judges and other judicial personnel, representatives of other legal service

    providers, and VLN staff.


    Addendum B



? Upon nomination and confirmation of a new board member, an officer or previous board

    member and VLN staff member (Executive Director or Assistant Director) shall meet with

    said new member for approximately one hour to provide and review the following:

    1. Board Member Manual;

    2. VLN Mission Statement;

    3. Fiduciary Duties of a Board Member;

    4. Bylaws;

    5. Strategic Plan;

    6. Annual Plan

    7. Most Relevant Governance Policies (such as Conflict of Interest);

    8. Financial Statement and Budget

? All new board members should be asked to attend the MAP for Nonprofits Board Boot Camp 1basic training session.

? Each initial board meeting of the new fiscal year (typically in August/September) shall be an

    extended meeting held in the evening and will include the following:

    1. Short Business Meeting

    2. VLN Volunteer Orientation presentation 23. Customized Board Boot Camp or an alternate volunteer presentation

    4. Board/Staff Mixer (if this is not feasible, arrangements should be made for times for

    the board and staff to get acquainted)

    ? Officers or nominated officers are encouraged to attend the MAP for Nonprofits Advanced

    Board Boot Camp or Board Chair Training.

    ? The Finance Committee shall participate in the free Financial Needs Assessment offered by

    the Nonprofits Assistance Fund on an as needed basis.

    ? The Board of Directors shall consider participating in the Financial Clarity for Nonprofit 3Boards training also offered by the Nonprofits Assistance Fund.

     1 This two hour session is offered a variety of dates and times (and webinar) at a cost of $35.00. 2 This is an onsite board training/workshop conducted by MAP for Nonprofits and usually costs $500-700. 3 Includes advance meeting with staff/treasurer, review of finances and onsite BOD training ($200).


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