Volunteer Organization of Center for Arkansas Legal Services

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VOCALS (Volunteer Organization for Center for Arkansas Legal Services)

Serving: Arkansas, Ashley, Bradley, Calhoun, Chicot, Clark, Cleveland, Columbia, Dallas, Desha, Drew, Faulkner, Garland, Grant, Hot Spring, Howard, Jefferson, Lincoln, Lonoke, Montgomery, Nevada, Ouachita, Perry, Pike, Polk, Prairie, Pulaski, Saline, Sevier, Union, and White counties

What is VOCALS?
VOCALS (Volunteer Organization for Center for Arkansas Legal Services) is a joint venture of local bar associations and the Center for Arkansas Legal Services.  VOCALS was created in 1982, because the bar recognized the need to become involved in the provision of legal services to the poor.  VOCALS members provide pro bono legal representation to low-income clients and make financial contributions to help support the operating cost of the Center for Arkansas Legal Services, which is a non-profit, charitable organization.

In 1985, VOCALS received the Harrison Tweed Award from the American Bar Association as the outstanding pro bono program in the country. ^ Back to Top

Why Was It Created?
Pro Bono is a principle long established in the legal community.  Model Rule 6.1 of the Arkansas Rules of Professional Conduct sets out the parameters for measuring that commitment for every attorney in Arkansas.  It is the first important step on the road to civil justice for hundreds of thousands of our fellow Arkansans who cannot afford legal representation. Volunteers provide advice and representation on a wide range of civil legal matters such as guardianships, bankruptcy, divorce, housing issues, wills and deceptive trade practices. ^ Back to Top

What is a Private Attorney Involvement Program?
A Pro Bono/Private Attorney Involvement (PAI) Program provides an organized opportunity for lawyers to volunteer their time to represent low income individuals or groups who cannot afford to pay for legal services.  Participation in VOCALS helps fulfill pro bono duty under Rule 6.1 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct as adopted by the Arkansas Supreme Court.  ^ Back to Top

What Are the Project's Activities and Services?
VOCALS is available to assist local Bar Associations, individual private attorneys and com-munity organizations in addressing the unmet civil legal needs of their communities. In addition to offering advice and tech¬nical assistance, VOCALS coordinates pro bono activities throughout thirty-one central and southern counties in Arkansas, works with bar leadership to increase pro bono contributions, identifies areas where pro bono pro¬grams are needed and disseminates necessary information. Specifically the activities and services provided include:

  • Technical Assistance
    Interested groups and individuals are encouraged to contact the VOCALS Pro Bono Coordinator for technical assistance regarding pro bono pro¬grams and projects in which volunteer attorneys can engage throughout the thirty-one counties served by the Center for Arkansas Legal Services. The Pro Bono Coordinator and staff are available for onsite visits to assist in evaluating local needs and to provide advice for program development and services for the community. ^ Back to Top
  • Arkansas Volunteer Lawyers for the Elderly (AVLE)
    VOCALS works in cooperation with Arkansas Volunteer Lawyers for the Elderly. To encourage participation, attorneys that vol¬unteer for both projects are asked to accept a maximum of three free cases annually or to donate twenty (20) hours of  pro bono service. ^ Back to Top
  • Volunteer Law Students, Paralegals and Court Reporters
    VOCALS encourages the participation of law students, paralegals and court reporters in providing access to justice to indigent clients in civil cases.  Contact the Pro Bono Coordinator to find out how you can become involved.  Additionally, VCR is a statewide coalition of volunteer court reporters who donate up to three free hours yearly of court reporter time for volunteer attorneys needing depositions or transcripts of Court proceedings. ^ Back to Top
  • Materials and Services
    The Arkansas Pro Bono Partnership web site at www.arlegalservices.org has automated forms, pleadings and sample client letters.  The Poverty Law Practice Manual is available online as a desk reference or as a web site wiki that allows you the advocate to search browse and even edit the Poverty Law Practice Manuel.  Pro Bono law students at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Bowen School of Law handle research requests for volunteer attorneys and are placed with volunteer attorneys as clerks to help on any referred cases.  Center for Arkansas Legal Services will make any of its staff or materials available to volunteers to help on any referred case. ^ Back to Top
  • Pro Bono Awards
    VOCALS recognizes volunteer attorneys who have made significant contributions to low income clients and the community as a whole through their pro bono services.  Attorneys who donate ten or more hours of free service are recognized with Certificates of Achievement. ^ Back to Top

See the attorneys honored by VOCALS, EAJP and the Arkansas Pro Bono Partnership for their work in 2009.

To make certain that the volunteer attorneys spend their valuable time most productively, the following services are provided:

  • Screening - All clients are screened by the staff of Center for Arkansas Legal Services to ensure they are eligible for free legal assistance.
  • Case Review - All cases are reviewed prior to referral to determine whether the client has a legal problem and if the legal problem is one that, by federal regulations, Center for Arkansas Legal Services can provide assistance with.
  • Referral – Volunteers designate how they wish to receive their cases: by mail, phone, fax or e-mail.  Volunteers receive monthly e-mail case summaries of clients that need assistance.  Once the client and attorney have been notified of the referral the client contacts the volunteer to schedule a time to meet concerning their legal problem.
  • Malpractice Coverage on all pro bono case referrals.
  • Free and Discounted CLE Courses.
  • Online Resources -
    • Online Legal Library: Over 900 forms, sample client letters, intake questions, and fact sheets. (click here - you will need your pro bono password
    • Poverty Law Practice Manual: (wiki and PDF available): The manual contains an overview of each area of poverty law as well as statutes and pleadings. The manual is available in PDF          format if you prefer a printable version. (click here - you will need your pro bono password)
    • Automated Document Assembly: LexisNexis HotDocs™ technology is available through the Online Legal Library.  Look for court form links that begin with “Interactive Form” to utilize this time-saving technology. (click here - you will need your pro bono password)
  • Mentor Link - Experienced volunteer attorneys are available and receive pro bono credit to help less expe¬rienced volunteer attorneys on their cases. Mentor attorneys help with depositions, trial preparation, motions practice or assist with proceedings before a particular judge or jury. The goal of the Panel is to make it as easy as possible to volunteer and still provide excellent results for the client.
  • Costs – The client pays the fees and costs associated with representation and the attorney provides free services.  Some clients may be eligible to proceed without the payment of the fees with the Judge’s permission. Attorneys can be reimbursed for out of pocket litigation costs, if they obtain prior approval from the Pro Bono Coordinator.

How Do Case Referrals Work?
VOCALS attorneys provide pro bono (free) represen¬tation to low income clients who qualify for Center for Arkansas Legal Services assistance.  The financial eligibility guidelines are determined by the Board of Directors of Center for Arkansas Legal Services using the Federal Poverty Guidelines, and are available upon request.  The income guidelines are based upon 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. ^ Back to Top

The VOCALS Pro Bono Coordinator makes the referral process beneficial for both the client and attorney. Every effort is made to tailor the procedures to suit the needs of individual lawyers, whether sole practitioners or those in larger firms.  Referrals are made in areas where volunteers have expertise and are willing to provide services in a manner that allows minimal disruption to the attorney's existing practice. ^ Back to Top

For more information or to volunteer, please contact:
VOCALS - Volunteer Organization of
Center for Arkansas Legal Services
Kendall Lewellen, Pro Bono Coordinator
Toll Free: 1.800.950.5817
Phone: 501.376.3423 Fax: 501.376.3664

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