Suzanne Pontinen on why Volunteer Lawyers Network’s services are needed

Interview with Suzanne Pontinen about the importance of volunteer attorneys.

Interview (Minnesota)

Nicole Norfleet
Star-Tribune (Minneapolis)
March 19, 2016

Tags: Pro Bono

Organizations mentioned/involved: Volunteer Lawyers Network (Minneapolis, MN)


Q: One of the founders’ goals for VLN was to help increase respect for the legal system. How does VLN try to alleviate mistrust of the law?

A: One of the things we are trying to do is really embed our services into social services or partner with social service agencies that the community trusts and, as I said, embed our services into their services. A couple of the things that we are trying right now is our criminal expungement resource attorney is working with Twin Cities Rise, and he’s actually training their job counselors and their one-on-one coaches to help prepare people for criminal expungements because they do job training and they found out that the job training is not sufficient if that person has a criminal record.

Q: How do you track the benefits of providing these services?

A: Because the bulk of our services are being done by volunteers, it’s challenging because what we have is an online form that we ask our attorneys to complete so they can let us know what those benefits are. But as a staff, we also have to follow up with that, so we’ll go in and actually look at the court records. And by outcomes what I mean is not just say, “They got the criminal expungement.” We are trying to move beyond that and say, “Were they then able to get employment?”