Allison C. Gallagher
For the Troy Daily News
“Ask An Attorney Day,” sponsored by the Volunteer Lawyers Project, is coming to Miami County and will be here every fourth Thursday of the month.
According to the website for the Greater Dayton Volunteer Lawyer Project, or VLP, creates opportunities for attorneys to provide pro bono civil legal services to benefit people with limited financial resources. Created in 1998, VLP is located at the Dayton Bar Association and is supported by Legal Aid of Western Ohio (LAWO). Since the beginning, the lawyers who volunteer with the program have provided counsel to almost 22,000 cases, which they estimate has consisted of over 87,000 hours. VLP serves as a complement to Legal Aid by registering private attorneys to provide pro bono civil legal services in civil case areas.
According to paralegal and program coordinator Tom Snelling, personal issues between parents and with tenants is a big problem for their clients.
“Some of the most common issues we are asked about include divorces, such as custody and visitation with the noncustodial parent,” Snelling said. “The other big one is landlord and tenant issues. It’s really amazing how few tenants know their rights until they talk to us.”
A success story that the VLP website shares tells the story of a client who was battling stage 4 cancer who learned her lease and land contract expired. Unable to obtain financing to purchase the property she had been living on for many years, the property was purchased in foreclosure and was going to be put on the market again. With a month-to-month tenancy she was worried she would be forced to leave and become homeless. The attorney she spoke to from Pickrel, Schaeffer & Eberling contacted the current owner and negotiated a renewable, one-year lease for the client so she would not have to move.
Snelling said that for an individual to qualify as having a limited income to receive free counsel they would need to meet federal poverty guidelines, which is an income of about $14,000 annually for one person.
After the individual registers and undergoes a screening, they are allotted a time frame that lasts about 15 minutes. Snelling said that once in a while a person may go over their time, although it is unusual. In total, the attorneys are present for two hours to answer questions.
“On the days we’re in Miami County we are scheduled from 1 to 3 p.m.,” he said. “We chose that time so people who need to work during the day can still work in the morning and people who work in the late afternoon to night can still work but come in a few hours later and not miss too much.”
For more information or to register, contact VLP at (888) 346-3857 or email Snelling at firstname.lastname@example.org.