March 24, 2020

Special Pro Bono Programming Launched to Address Legal Needs During COVID-19 Pandemic

by Dianna Parker, Director of Pro Bono and Community Engagement, Ohio State Legal Services Association

To ensure that low-income individuals can still access legal help and advice during the COVID-19 crisis, the Legal Aid Society of Columbus and Southeastern Ohio Legal Services have created a new “Virtual Clinic” model, which engages our volunteer lawyers in phone advice clinics.

In direct response to the expansion of Unemployment Compensation program, we are also launching a special Virtual Unemployment Compensation Clinic to organize volunteers to help individuals who are struggling to apply for unemployment compensation. If you wish to help, please click here.

Training and Resources:
Volunteers can note when they are available to help, which areas of law they feel comfortable handling, and whether they need additional training. For the general virtual clinics, LASC/SEOLS has a recorded training for volunteer lawyers focused on typical brief advice clinic issues, along with a comprehensive Attorney Toolkit that volunteers can access. We are also compiling all relevant court orders and policy changes that volunteers may need to be aware of prior to speaking to the clients. For Unemployment specifically, a recorded training and volunteer toolkit will be available starting the week of March 23.

Process:
Clients are scheduled for clinic slots that align with volunteer availability and are told that they should expect a call during that window of time and that the call might be restricted or blocked (if volunteers are calling from cell phones) Prior to the clinic time, LASC/SEOLS Pro Bono Team staff will match clients with volunteers via a virtual referral email, which will include the client’s intake and contact information, contact information for our staff attorney mentor who is “on call” for the clinic, and a link to a case reporting form that we will ask the volunteer to complete after the consultation. Report link here: https://oslsa.wufoo.com/forms/z194bwvh1tve5jf/

During the consultation, volunteers will initiate the call. If calling from a personal cell phone, we recommend blocking your number by dialing *67 before the client’s number. We also recommend that the Unemployment Project volunteers have computer access so that they can help complete an online application if necessary.

Pro Bono Program Generally:
LASC/SEOLS supplies primary malpractice coverage for all volunteers, training resources, and access to attorney mentors. You can accrue one hour of general CLE for every six hours you volunteer, up to a total of six CLE hours per reporting period. Emeritus and Corporate Status also are also eligible to and encouraged to volunteer.

Please direct any questions about our Virtual Clinics to Director of Pro Bono & Community Engagement Dianna Parker at dparker@oslsa.org.


Dianna Parker


ATTORNEYS: CAN YOU HELP?
Volunteers are needed for the virtual clinics. Email Dianna Parker at dparker@oslsa.org or click here to express your interest.