There is a well-known saying, "beware the Ides of March." March 15 this year was a memorable day for me because I had my first court appearance, but thankfully it was not a day for me to be afraid. Through the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP), I represented a woman seeking guardianship of a child. VLP provided me the support to do so. Thanks to their guardianship training, guardianship clinics, language interpreter, and excellent staff attorneys, I was able to go to court prepared and confident -- even though it was my first court appearance. With VLP's resources at my disposal, I had nothing to "beware" on March 15.
VLP does a pre-screening for all of their cases, and gives you the opportunity to choose one or more cases that you would like, based on a synopsis. Included in this summary is information on whether the case is Beginner, Advanced, Difficult, or somewhere in between. I chose a Beginner guardianship case first, but also had the option of taking a case that pushed the boundaries of my knowledge and that might have been more time-intensive, with the opportunity to gain more advanced experience—though, every case is different.
The VLP trainings were very helpful to me, and having the VLP staff attorneys to talk to, when I had questions, once I took on the case, was invaluable. The resources offered, between the trainings and the staff assistance, are very useful, especially if you are learning the ropes in a new practice area.
Whether you're interested in guardianships, family law, bankruptcy, debt collection, or landlord/tenant issues, VLP offers free training and resources, so that you can help clients in need of legal assistance. In addition to taking on a case through VLP, you can also devote just a few hours of time to one of their many clinics. Even if you're waiting on bar results, VLP still offers projects that you can take part in, to gain knowledge and experience. Devoting time to pro bono work is fulfilling -- hopefully I'll see you at the next VLP Guardianship Clinic!
For more information on becoming involved in VLP, check out their website: http://www.vlpnet.org/.
Alexis B. Kaplan practices estate planning at Law Offices of Alexis B. Kaplan, LLC, is a member of the BBA New Lawyers Pro Bono Committee, and a panel attorney with the Volunteer Lawyers Project.