WHY VOLUNTEER WITH VLJ?
Coordinating pro bono programs in New Jersey since 2001, VLJ has grown from a small, Essex County-based program to an award-winning statewide pro bono leader. Since its inception, VLJ has relied on the talents and resources of our volunteers to provide free legal services to families with no other options. With New Jersey’s high level of poverty and staggering rate of self-representation, there has never been a time when pro bono representation is more essential.
A cornerstone of VLJ’s programming is the support that we provide to our volunteers. VLJ brings decades of pro bono management to the table and we have a staff attorney onsite for every legal clinic we operate. We provide a full array of services to our volunteers, including comprehensive CLEs, skilled mentors, and primary malpractice insurance on all VLJ referrals. Find out more about support provided to VLJ volunteers.
VLJ is also a New Jersey Supreme Court certified pro bono provider. This entitles our volunteers to several benefits. Find out more about these benefits. Most importantly this designation allows all volunteers who complete 25 hours of pro bono service in the prior year to claim an exemption from court-mandated Madden pro bono assignments. Unlike mandatory court assignments, if you volunteer with VLJ, you are provided with training and support, for a case in an area of law that is of interest to you and at a time that works with your schedule.
VLJ welcomes lawyers from all regions of New Jersey and with all levels of legal expertise. We work with attorneys from law firms, corporate legal departments, solo practitioners, retired attorneys, and lawyers just beginning their careers. Volunteer opportunities are available in a variety of civil legal areas and range from limited-scope legal clinics lasting a few hours to full representation.
The level of support that VLJ provides to our volunteer attorneys is unparalleled and includes:
Expert Legal Staff. VLJ has experienced legal staff who oversee each of our pro bono programs. Our lawyers are only a phone call or email away when you have a question on a full representation case and a VLJ staff attorney is present at all of our legal clinics. VLJ staff are also well-connected in the legal community and we have developed a network of expert mentors who supplement VLJ’s own expertise.
Training. VLJ is an accredited CLE provider and we are skilled at designing trainings that prepare our volunteers for their pro bono experience. In addition to live, webinar, and videotaped trainings, we produce top-quality written materials that are designed to support our volunteers through their volunteer experience.
Malpractice Insurance. VLJ provides primary malpractice insurance in the amount of $1,000,000 on all pro bono cases referred by our office.
Other Services. We have worked with other providers to develop a referral network for pro bono and low-cost services, including interpreters, process servers, court reporters, legal research platforms, and experts who can provide evaluations and expert testimony. We also have strong relationships with the local law schools and work frequently with law students who are available to provide research and other support for our volunteers.
Meeting Space. VLJ has conference room space available for meetings with clients in our Newark office.
VLJ is a New Jersey Supreme Court certified pro bono provider. As such, VLJ volunteers are entitled to the benefits described below:
Exemption from Madden Assignments from the Court. Under N.J. Court Rule 1:21-12, attorneys who volunteer with court-certified programs like VLJ can claim an exemption from court-mandated pro bono assignments after 25 hours of pro bono service in the prior year. Unlike mandatory court assignments, if you volunteer with VLJ, you are provided with training and support, for a case in an area of law that is of interest to you and at a time that works with your schedule. Click here for the NJ Court’s FAQ’s about mandatory pro bono assignments.
Out-of-State Licensed Attorneys. Under N.J. Court Rule 1:21-3, out-of-state licensed attorneys are permitted to volunteer on pro bono cases with court-certified programs. The process is relatively simple----we will need a copy of your law school transcript and a certificate of good standing from the state in which you are licensed. If you are in-house counsel and already hold a limited license in New Jersey, the process is even easier. Let us know if you are licensed in another state and would like to take advantage of this rule.
Court Fee Waivers. Another benefit of being a volunteer with a court-certified program is that your clients automatically qualify for a waiver of state court fees, which are many times a significant financial burden to VLJ clients.