Anyone who has spent any length of time hanging around a courtroom knows how confusing the legal system can be.
Lawyers speak a different language. It’s dangerously easy for those who represent themselves to miss a paperwork filing. One misspoken phrase could jeopardize whatever case someone is wading through.
For more than 30 years, attorneys who are a part of Weld County Legal Services have volunteered to bridge the gap between justice and the often sky-high costs of legal representation that can make the court system a nightmare for cash-strapped residents. Each month, lawyers and attorneys from around northern Colorado provide free legal assistance to people who could not otherwise afford it, and more recently, they’ve noticed the demand for legal help continues to grow.
Last year the group received more than 1,500 calls from clients seeking legal assistance, said Jody Pic, the executive director of Weld County Legal Services. Moreover, a panel of lawyers every other month sets up for Legal Night — an event where attorneys volunteer to dole out advice about everything from landlord-tennant disputes to child support issues in a festival-like gathering.
Last year, attorneys helped about 500 people at Legal Night alone, Pic said, adding that a team of 25 was also “instrumental” during Project Connect, which doled out advice to 130 people.
“We focus on not saying we can’t help you, but here’s a resource for you,” Pic said. “That’s our goal. If we don’t have it right here, we’ll find it for you.”
Members of the Weld County Bar Association started the group in 1983, offering a no-cost option for residents who couldn’t afford legal help.
Since then, the group has seen runaway success, proving there’s a need in the community.
Trends are hard to spot, Pic said, but in wake of September’s flooding, she said the team has helped dozens of clients sort out landlord issues after their homes were wiped away.
The services also help the court system run more efficiently, she said. Judges throughout the courts routinely have to delay cases as a result of improper filings or unprepared parties. By providing some form of legal help, the backlog can be eased, and that sends ripple effects across the system.
“It’s very difficult for anybody to get through these things without some sort of help”, said Ryan Kamada, the president of Weld County Legal Services. An attorney for nine years, Kamada got involved in the organization first by offering help over the phone.
He got more involved after recognizing an apparent need in the community. Plus, he said, it’s a service that attorneys across practice lines can offer for just a couple hours a month. It’s the least they can do, he said.
And when attorneys are willing to help, he said that helps get people more willing to reach out for help.
That’s good for everyone, he said.
“As an attorney, I feel that we owe something to this profession,” he said. “We have good jobs. Our mortgages are paid. We have something to give back, and this is the best stage, I think, for an attorney in our community to give back to our profession and our community. We owe it to it. We are lucky to have these jobs. It’s just one easy and organized way to give back.”