Southern MN Regional Legal Services (SMRLS) Volunteer Attorney Program

  • To Volunteer, Contact:
    Emily Bowen (Ramsey, Carver, Dakota, Scot, Washington counties, Southeastern MN) Forrest Mcknight (all other counties)
    651-222-5863 (metro) or 507-387-5588 (Greater MN)
  • Location:
    55 E. Fifth Street
    Suite 400
    St. Paul, MN 55101
  • Phone: 651/222-5863
  • Fax: 651/297-6457
  • Website:

Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS) provides free, high-quality legal help to low-income people in critical civil matters.  For more than 110 years, we have helped individuals and families secure and protect their basic needs, maintaining freedom from hunger, homelessness, sickness, and abuse. SMRLS provides free legal services in the east and south Metro area, and southern Minnesota.

There are over 3000 eligible legal aid clients in Minnesota for every paid legal staff attorney.  SMRLS is able to help more clients through our volunteer attorney program. Volunteer attorneys work with our clients in a wide range of civil legal issues.  SMRLS will refer cases to you based on the practice areas of your interest.  Legal services range from advice only, to brief services (such as filling out a legal document for the client or writing a letter on their behalf), to full representation.  You decide what cases to accept, the level of legal service provided, and when to take a case.

Most of our volunteer cases are in the areas of Consumer and Debt Collection, Employment, Family, Estate Planning, Guardianships/Conservatorships, Landlord/Tenant and Real Estate, Immigration & Naturalization, Probate, Public Benefits, and Tax.

For attorneys in the St. Paul area, SMRLS volunteers staff the Ramsey County Court Housing Clinic. Clients receive free legal advice from a volunteer attorney before heading into the courtroom for their first appearance. Clients can also apply for Emergency Assistance at the clinic and meet with a mediator from the Dispute Resolution Center to reach a settlement in their case.

In our Southeast area, Volunteer attorneys participate in our Legal Checkup Clinics.  Volunteers use a screening tool, helping clients identify legal issues and prevent future issues.

SMRLS also offers several specialty clinics in virtual and in person formats. Volunteer attorneys give advice to clients, supervise other volunteer attorneys and law clerks drafting legal documents, and reviewing those documents.  The time commitment is 2-4 hours.  SMRLS specialty clinics include:

  • Uncontested  Divorce Clinic
  • Estate Planning Clinic for Seniors
  • Estate Planning Clinic for Single Parents/Caregivers
  • Eviction Expungement Clinic
  • Criminal Record Expungement Clinics

SMRLS malpractice insurance covers Volunteer Attorneys doing pro bono cases. Office space and consultation with SMRLS staff attorneys are available. Volunteer attorneys can act as mentors for new volunteer attorneys.

Volunteering with SMRLS is easy and can fit your schedule.  Volunteer yourself and encourage other to join you in this important work.

Not all SMRLS trainings are for CLE credit, though many are.

  • County(s) of Volunteer Opportunity: Blue Earth, Brown, Carver, Cottonwood, Dakota, Dodge, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Houston, Jackson, Le Sueur, Martin, McLeod, Mower, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Pipestone, Ramsey, Redwood, Rice, Rock, Scott, Sibley, Steele, Wabasha, Waseca, Washington, Watonwan, Winona
  • Area of law: Civil Rights, Consumer, Debt/Credit/Bankruptcy, Elder Law, Employment, Family & Juvenile, Housing, Immigration & Naturalization, Life Planning, Public Benefits, Taxes, Criminal Record Expungement, Estate Planning, Guardianships/Conservatorships
  • Populations Served: Low Income
  • Opportunities For: Law Students, Lawyers, Mentors, Mentors/consultants, Nonlitigation Projects, Paralegals, Senior Lawyers
  • Need for non-English services: Hmong, Laotian, Signers for the deaf: ASL, Somali, Spanish, Vietnamese, Karen, others
  • Hours for Pro Bono Opportunities: Evenings, Monday-Friday 9am-5pm
  • Malpractice insurance is provided for volunteers: Yes
  • Training Provided: Yes
  • Training Required: No
  • CLE credit for trainings: No
  • CLE credit for pro bono: Yes
  • Mentoring or supervision offered: Yes
  • Volunteer lawyers need to meet a caseload or hours requirement: No
  • Types of projects in need of Pro Bono help: Alternative dispute resolution (ADR)
  • Long Distance Opportunities: Conduct Research
  • Volunteers may participate long-distance: Yes
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