VLP provides a range of services to eligible clients. All VLP services are provided by trained volunteers and volunteer attorneys, supported by VLP staff. VLP receives thousands of calls for help every year. Unfortunately, we do not have enough volunteer lawyers to provide a referral to a free attorney for everyone.
Legal Intake Line: When you contact VLP, a trained volunteer will conduct an intake interview over the telephone with you to gather important information about your legal problem and determine if you are eligible for VLP services. During this call, the VLP volunteer will consult with a staff supervisor to decide the best way to assist you. If you are eligible for services, the volunteer will give you information over the phone and may also send you written materials about your legal problem. We may refer you to other agencies in your community that can provide help. We will also determine if your case meets VLP priorities for the Family Law Helpline or for referral to a pro bono (volunteer) lawyer.
Family Law Helpline: VLP clients with family law problems (divorce, parental rights, child support, and modifications, enforcements and other family law matters) may receive legal advice and assistance with their case from a volunteer lawyer or law student over the telephone. Phone appointments are scheduled either Wednesday evenings from 5:30-8:00 or Friday afternoons from 1:00-4:00.
You will be representing yourself in your case but your Helpline attorney can assist you in understanding and planning for upcoming court appointments, filling out court forms and making decisions about your case. You may have more than one Helpline appointment to help you at different stages of your case.
Courthouse Assistance Projects (CHAPs): Attorney volunteers provide help with family law matters at the District Courts in Augusta, Biddeford, Lewiston, and Portland. You may come to the courthouse at the designated times for a brief free conference with a lawyer. Please find more information on walk-in clinics here.
Just like the Helpline services, the attorney can assist you in understanding and planning for your upcoming court appointments, filling out court forms and making decisions about your case, however, you will be representing yourself in court.
You may also return to CHAP as you go through the different stages of your family matter.
Hancock County CHAP: Attorney volunteers provide help with family law matters at the District Court in Ellsworth on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of every month, starting at 1 pm.
Washington County CHAP: We offer one CHAP per month in Washington County alternating between Machias and Calais District Courthouses. In odd numbered months the program will be held in Machias on the first Thursday of the month at 1:00 PM. In even numbered months the program will be located in
Calais on the first Tuesday at 1:00 PM. These programs are for assistance involving family law matters only.
Indian Island Tribal Court CHAP: Free consultations are provided to any tribal member (not restricted to Penobscot Tribal members) with any legal issues taking place in Tribal Court. Assistance is provided to walk-in clients and over the phone at the Penobscot Nation Tribal Court on the last Tuesday of each month at 9:00AM.
Portland Domestic Violence Panel: Access to legal representation is a critical factor in enabling victims of domestic violence to escape abusive relationships and to create long-term safety for themselves and their families. Yet in Maine many victims go into court without the advice or advocacy of a lawyer.
The Domestic Violence Pro Bono Panel helps to meet this need by providing volunteer attorneys to represent victims in negotiations and final hearings.
Penobscot County Bar Association Legal Aid Clinic: We help with family law, bankruptcy, and debt collection defense. There are 3-4 sessions per month. Debt collection and bankruptcy sessions are held the last week of the month. The date and time of the legal aid clinic depend upon the schedule of our volunteer attorneys. Assistance through this program is provided by appointment only.
Please contact Jim Mitchell (942-9348) to put your name on our waiting list. Scheduling calls will be made one week before an appointment based off of thislist.
Referral to a Pro Bono Lawyer: VLP refers approximately one tenth of our cases to volunteer attorneys who provide free or reduced fee legal representation.
Representation may be for one aspect of your case or it may be for the entire case. Because we do not have enough volunteer lawyers for everyone, we choose cases for referral based on a series of case referral priorities and lawyer availability in your geographic area. VLP staff will make the decision whether to look for a volunteer lawyer for your case as part of your intake interview. Acceptance of your case for referral does not guarantee we will find a lawyer willing to take it.
While your lawyer will provide his or her services for free, you will be responsible for court costs in your case. It is very important that you make an effort to work cooperatively with your pro bono attorney. If you are not able to work cooperatively with your VLP lawyer, your lawyer may decide to stop representing you and the VLP will likely not find you another lawyer.