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Inns of Court pro bono project

by Kent A. Tess-Mattner

As part of its mission “foster excellence in professionalism, ethics, civility, and legal skills,” the Leander J. Foley, Jr. Matrimonial Chapter of the American Inns of Court in Milwaukee is helping to staff the Milwaukee Justice Center (MJC) at the courthouse as its service project for the 2013-14 academic year. The MJC is a collaborative project between the Milwaukee Bar Association, Milwaukee County and Marquette University Law School. It utilizes volunteers to address the unmet legal needs of low-income unrepresented litigants through court-based programs and legal resources.

Chapter members volunteer in the Brief Legal Advice and Referral Clinic, a limited scope representation project at the MJC. The clinic is staffed by law students and volunteer attorneys, with volunteer attorneys providing legal advice as needed to help litigants with family, landlord/tenant, probate, small claims and large claims matters. Our chapter members typically volunteer one morning or afternoon per month and assist litigants with family law matters, such as guardianships, grandparent visitation, child support, contempt, and other paperwork, including drafting pleadings for them and giving guidance as to how to file pleadings and present their cases.

The MJC offers free online training to volunteers, and upon completion of training, attorneys are covered by professional liability insurance for their pro bono work in the MJC.

Chapter members who have volunteered have found it very satisfying to help make someone’s day a little brighter by helping them navigate what can be a confusing and daunting system. The litigants are grateful for the assistance, and the courts benefit by receiving pleadings and other documents that have been drafted by an attorney. It has been a win-win-win situation for our Inns of Court chapter, the courts and self-represented litigants.

Kent A. Tess-Mattner is the Master of the Inns, and chair-elect of the Leander J. Foley, Jr. Matrimonial Chapter of the American Inns of Court. He is also the President of Schmidt, Rupke, Tess-Mattner & Fox, S.C. in Brookfield.