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We’ve changed the hours when you can leave a message on our legal helpline.   You can leave a message on our legal helpline at 1-800-889-2047 during these hours: Monday: 8 - 1 Tuesday: 12:30 - 7 Wednesday: 8 - 1 Thursday: 12:30 - 7 Friday: 8 - 1

Or you can fill out our Legal Help Request Form at any time.

We currently have a lot of requests for legal help. We’re returning calls as fast as we can during regular business hours. The new schedule above will help our staff make callbacks.

Look for a call back from a phone number that you may not recognize! Your caller ID might say Legal Services, VT Legal Aid, 802-503-0028 or 1-800-889-2047.

In the Summer 2022 issue:

Why Volunteer? A Statement from Judge Colleen Brown Thank you Judge Brown - From Legal Services Vermont Volunteer SUCCESS: Habitat for Humanity Case Placement Leads to a New Homeowner in Vermont! Rent Escrow Clinic Volunteer Opportunities Direct Volunteer Opportunities - Wills & Probate

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View our past editions.

The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) released a brief that showcases the critical role of pro bono attorneys in eviction defense. The findings are part of a congressionally-directed study, The Effect of State & Local Laws on Evictions, to investigate the unmet legal needs surrounding the eviction crisis in the United States.

About one-in-three renter households will experience a housing-related civil legal problem such as eviction in a year, but the vast majority will receive little or no help in navigating their legal issues. Currently, family law cases get much more support from pro bono attorneys than housing cases, even though rental-related issues are one of the most common civil legal problems.

Nationally, landlords are four times more likely to be represented in eviction cases than tenants.

Better leveraging pro bono services for tenants facing eviction is essential to addressing the eviction crisis. Without representation, most tenants will lose their cases and face eviction. However, access to representation flips the odds, with a large majority of tenants who receive legal services able to delay or avoid eviction.

The brief highlights effective pro bono eviction defense projects developed by legal aid organizations and their partners, describes model practices focused on tenant-centered solutions and explores the challenges associated with project implementation. 

The innovative pro bono eviction defense programs profiled in the brief include:

Legal Action of Wisconsin’s Eviction Defense Project Legal Services Vermont’s Pro Bono Clinic Project Legal Services of Hudson Valley’s Housing Court and Homelessness Prevention Project in New York Pine Tree Legal Assistance’s Eviction Defense Project in Maine, and Volunteer Lawyers Network’s Housing Law Program in Minnesota.

To learn more about each model program and the challenges pro bono attorneys face in eviction cases, read the full brief here.  

Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. The Corporation currently provides funding to 132 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.

Legal Services Vermont has created a collection of step-by-step tutorials called “Roadmaps” for the statewide legal help website at VTLawHelp.org. The Roadmaps help Vermonters move through the steps of some common legal and benefits issues: asking the court for a Relief from Abuse order getting a divorce getting a security deposit back on a rental unit starting a small claims case, and appealing when you are denied disability benefits from Social Security. 

The Roadmaps at https://vtlawhelp.org/roadmaps feature step-by-step directions and short, colorful videos.

“We focused on these topics because many Vermonters contact us looking for this information,” said Legal Services Vermont Executive Director Sam Abel-Palmer. “They can be scared or upset about the situation they find themselves in and unsure how to move forward. With the new Roadmaps, they get a good overview of the process, in addition to detailed instructions on what to do to solve their problem. They also learn where to find help.”

The project was funded by a grant from the Legal Services Corporation. The high-quality, motion-graphics videos were created by Sandbox, Inc. of Toronto. The Roadmap text and scripts were created by Legal Services Vermont staff with input from Vermont Legal Aid staff and a variety of community advocates in Vermont. Members of the general public and colleagues at other northeastern legal aid organizations were recruited to provide feedback on the Roadmaps before they were launched.

“The input we received helped us create videos and tutorials that will empower Vermonters who are facing tough situations,” said Legal Services Vermont Web Manager Kris Surette.

Legal Services Vermont maintains the VTLawHelp.org website in conjunction with Vermont Legal Aid. Since the start of the pandemic, traffic to the website and calls to the legal helpline have doubled.

Legal Services Vermont (LSV) is a nonprofit legal services law firm based in Burlington, Vermont. Founded in November 1995, LSV provides free consultation, advice and community education for low-income Vermonters. LSV is supported by a grant from the Legal Services Corporation in Washington, D.C. LSV’s services are available to any low-income Vermonter with a civil legal problem.

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Check out our list of 7 ways to get financial help and other help now! Legal Services Vermont and Vermont Legal Aid are here to help! 

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On any given day, LSV’s lawyers and paralegals might help someone get heat back on in their apartment or find emergency housing, help a senior reclaim their lost Social Security benefits, help a domestic violence survivor get protective orders from the court, or help a family navigate the eviction or bankruptcy process.

Your donation helps us make an impact. Donate today!

Legal Services Vermont and Vermont Legal Aid are seeking law student interns for our 10-week, full-time summer internship expected to begin late-May or early-June 2022. Learn more about the summer internships for law students.

A new report from The University of Vermont Center for Rural Studies shares data about an in-court legal help program operated by Legal Services Vermont (LSV). The report discusses the positive impact of having legal aid and volunteer lawyers available for free at Vermont courts during eviction hearings. 

“We helped so many people who would not normally have access to a lawyer at a pivotal time in their cases and their lives,” said project director Margaret Frye of Legal Services Vermont. “I look forward to that work continuing in the future.” 

The report estimates about 70% of all landlords have a lawyer to represent them at in eviction case in Vermont. Prior to this program in Rutland County, Vermont, only 13% of tenants had legal representation. In 2019 during this program, 69% of tenants were represented in Rutland County. 

When lawyers represented the tenants, more cases were settled and the cases lasted for a shorter period of time. This led to less stress and better outcomes for the tenants who often were not aware of their rights.

The program helped low-income clients avoid eviction from their homes. 

This program was created when Legal Services Vermont received Pro Bono Innovation Fund grants from the Legal Services Corporation. Because affordable housing is so scarce in Vermont, preventing evictions has been a priority for LSV for years. The grants provided an important opportunity for Vermonters who usually represent themselves in court against opponents who are more likely to be represented by attorneys. 

Through this program, LSV helped low-income clients avoid evictions by increasing the number of active pro bono attorneys available to help them. Working with the Civil Division court, LSV provided volunteer attorneys for tenants facing eviction in Addison, Chittenden, Rutland and Windham Counties. LSV's sister organization, Vermont Legal Aid, was also able to offer same-day legal assistance in rent escrow hearings in other counties under less structured settings. 

“I am proud of the work the volunteer lawyers and staff at Legal Services Vermont and Vermont Legal Aid put into making these clinics successful,” Frye said. 

Follow this link to see the report from The University of Vermont Center for Rural Studies (PDF).

 

To serve an extraordinary increase in need for civil legal aid across the state, Legal Services Vermont (LSV) hired six new staff members recently. The new attorneys and paralegals help Vermonters tackle issues such as renting, eviction, public benefits, relief from abuse, and debt — often brought on by the COVID-19 crisis. New staff members include: 

Paralegal Mark Hengstler. He previously worked as an advocate at the Vermont Office of the Health Care Advocate.  

Legal intern Rachel Jones. She is a 2020 graduate of Northeastern University School of Law. 

Paralegal Meredith Mason. She is a 2020 graduate of American University. 

Attorney Bradley Showman. He previously worked as a legal aid attorney with Legal Services of Northern California. 

Paralegal Renee Vigneau. She previously worked as a paralegal at Barber & Waxman in Burlington. 

Attorney Ruthie Welch. She previously worked as an associate attorney at Cozen O’Connor’s Chicago office. 

Legal Services Vermont is a nonprofit legal services law firm based in Burlington that annually serves thousands of Vermonters from all corners of the state. Funded by the Legal Services Corporation and donations, LSV is the partner organization to Vermont Legal Aid. 

For civil (not criminal) legal help, visit LSV’s legal help website at VTLawHelp.org or call 1-800-889-2047.

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