Volunteer Attorneys Make a Difference in Allen County
by Ruth de Wit
Volunteer attorneys are working in partnership with staff attorneys in Allen County on the Specialized Driving Privileges (SDP) program, which launched in May 2017. After a year and a half, the need is showing no signs of slowing down. A total of 1,450 clients have received help from 28 Volunteer Lawyer Program (VLP) pro bono volunteers through 58 review clinics, 32 filing clinics and 330 SDP petitions filed by Indiana Legal Services.
Low income individuals needing assistance call the Volunteer Lawyer Program of Northeast Indiana where they are screened for income eligibility. Once qualified, callers are given an appointment for the next review clinic, where they meet with a volunteer attorney who reviews their Indiana driver’s record and gives them the next steps to get their license reinstated. Clients needing SDP make an appointment for the filing clinic held at the Volunteer Center. Once there, staff attorneys from Indiana Legal Services work directly with the client to electronically file an appearance as well as all necessary petitions and waivers with the court.
The VLP of Northeast Indiana has found that many clients need help reading the reports to understand what to do next. The VLP attorneys at review clinics are a tremendous help on the front end. For the clients that need further help to file for SDP, Indiana Legal Services attorneys move the process forward efficiently with legal representation. The mission of providing legal help to those most in need is enhanced and multiplied when organizations work together to address issues causing significant social barriers.
Ruth de Wit is the executive director of the Volunteer Lawyer Program of Northeast Indiana.