Volunteer Lawyers FAQ
How do I sign up to volunteer?
Please click here to sign up on-line. For questions or further information, you may also contact Michele Mirto, Program Director at 520-623-9465, ext. 4171.
What kinds of cases does the Volunteer Lawyers Program handle?
The VLP accepts any type of civil case, including family law, consumer, housing, government benefits, probate, assistance to non-profit organizations, immigration, and tort defense. The VLP is prohibited from handling criminal cases.
What areas of Arizona does the VLP serve?
The VLP serves Pima County and Tucson, as well as eight rural counties, including Apache, Cochise, Gila, Graham, Greenlee, Navajo, Pinal, and Santa Cruz Counties. If you would like to volunteer in La Paz, Maricopa, Mohave, Yavapai, or Yuma Counties, please visit www.vlpmaricopa.org. If you would like to volunteer in Coconino County or for DNA People Legal Service's service area in northern Navajo and Apache Counties, please visit www.dnalegalservices.org.
Are the cases all direct representation?
No, in addition to direct representation cases, the VLP offers a variety of clinics to offer clients brief service and advice. These clinics include Domestic Relations Clinics, Bankruptcy Clinics, Domestic Violence Clinics, and Bankruptcy Court Reaffirmation Clinics. Please see the sign up page for more information on each clinic.
Who determines if a client is eligible and if their case has merit?
All VLP clients are screened by Legal Aid intake workers. Eligibility is determined by federal poverty guidelines, including income and assets, as well as by citizenship status. Intake staff also assess the merit of each client's case. Once referred to the VLP, Michele Mirto, Program Director and Attorney at Law, reviews each new case. Some cases are referred to a clinic setting for further review and recommendation by a volunteer lawyer. If a volunteer lawyer discovers that a client may not be financially eligible or that their case may not have merit, the volunteer lawyer should contact the VLP as soon as possible.
If I sign up, what kind of time commitment am I giving?
Through the VLP, you can donate a few hours at a clinic or represent a client from beginning to end. You choose the time commitment that meets your preferences and schedule.
Does the VLP cover malpractice insurance?
Yes. Any case handled through the VLP is covered under the VLP's malpractice insurance, which is a policy through the National Legal Aid and Defender's Association (NLADA). The policy provides $1 million in coverage per case with an aggregate of $2 million. If you have further questions about this, please contact Michele Mirto, VLP Program Director and Attorney at Law, at 520-623-9465, ext. 4171.
Who pays for court fees?
Many VLP clients qualify for a deferral or waiver of fees. However, if a client does not qualify for a deferral or waiver, he or she is asked to pay their own court fees. If the client cannot afford court fees, please contact the VLP as we may be able to pay the fees and then set up a payment plan with the client.
Who pays for support services, such as translators and court reporters?
Many legal professionals such as court reporters, translators, accountants and process servers donate their time to assist VLP clients. If you discover that you require such services in a VLP case that you are working on, you should contact the VLP office immediately. The VLP may be able to obtain the services you need on a pro bono basis.
Who coordinates this program?
Michele Mirto, VLP Director and Attorney at Law, oversees the entire program. Socorro Diaz coordinates the VLP in Pima County, and Dan Gauthier coordinates the program in the rural areas of Arizona (including Apache, Cochise, Gila, Graham, Greenlee, Navajo, Pinal, and Santa Cruz counties).
Read more about the VLP staff →
Does the VLP offer training and Continuing Legal Education seminars?
Yes, the VLP does offer Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminars. Seminars are offered at no cost to volunteer attorneys or those attorneys willing to sign up to participate in the VLP prior to the seminar. Generally, seminars are held four times per year in Pima County and several times a year in the VLP’s outlying eight counties. See the CLE page for more information on upcoming CLEs.
Where is the VLP located? Are there rural offices?
The VLP office is housed in Tucson at Southern Arizona Legal Aid. The address is 2343 E. Broadway Blvd., Suite 200; Tucson, Arizona 85719. Although there are rural Legal Aid offices, there is no physical VLP office located in the rural counties. However, the VLP staff, especially the VLP’s Rural Coordinator, maintain a significant presence in these areas. The Rural Coordinator coordinates clinics in the counties, attends local bar meetings, organizes recognition functions and Continuing Legal Education seminars sponsored by the VLP. The Rural Coordinator can be contacted by phone at 520.623.9465.
What kind of recognition is given for volunteer lawyers?
The VLP pursues every possible recognition opportunity for our volunteers. The staff nominates volunteers for local, state and national awards. In addition, the VLP recognizes one attorney each month in Pima county for their extraordinary efforts in providing pro bono legal services. In addition, the program sponsors an annual awards luncheon in Pima County and an annual awards ceremony in Cochise County to recognize and thank all of the volunteers that participate in the program. The VLP recognizes that our volunteers are among the most talented and generous people in our community. We make every effort to ensure that the legal community and the general public know about their good works.