The Virtual Pro Se Clinic (VPC) Program, launched in 2013, was awarded a $12,000 grant from Denver’s Lawrence N. Greenleaf Masonic Lodge to further expand the project that enables video conferencing between attorneys and clients. The VPC Program, which I am proud to be a part of, is an initiative of the 18th Judicial District’s Access to Justice Committee and uses existing public infrastructure at local public libraries, along with local partnerships with bar associations and local courts, to provide monthly free legal clinics to pro se litigants.
On Feb. 5, Ric Morgan, a solo general practice attorney in Elbert County who is the coordinator for the VPC Program, gave a presentation on the program to more than a dozen members of the 1st Judicial District’s Access to Justice Committee, which included judges, attorneys and court staff. Morgan showed how Zoom software can be used between lawyers and clients and explained its power to provide attorney access to litigants throughout Colorado who cannot afford, or otherwise access, a lawyer. His presentation was followed by live conferencing from the Belmar Library where 14 clients with a variety of issues were served through the technology.
Video conferencing is an invaluable technology that allows lawyers to provide pro bono services from the comfort of their own offices, to clients who can be in libraries or even the comfort of their own homes. It cuts out transportation time, cost and other hassles that can be associated with attorneys and clients connecting in person, yet the face-to-face interaction remains intact.
Because there are many clients who may appreciate the access to lawyers through video conferencing yet may be unable to utilize the service from their homes, a team of six volunteer attorneys statewide who support the VPC Program is working with local libraries to bring access to the technology to as many Colorado communities as possible. The VPC Program delivers free monthly legal clinics to 16 public libraries in 14 counties across Colorado. According to Morgan, the 3-year-old program is the first of its kind in the country. Similar programs are in various stages of creation in Utah, California, New York and Illinois.
“The VPC Program’s strategic goal is to leverage new technologies to connect volunteer attorneys in the large urban population with pro se litigants across Colorado, in both urban and rural settings,” Morgan said. “At the current rate of growth of five new counties each year, the VPC Program is on track to provide a free monthly legal clinic in all 64 Colorado counties by 2024.”
Morgan said the VPC Program’s team will use the $12,000 grant to support statewide operations, including payment for the software licenses for the televideo conferencing software used by the program.