London Burns - Volunteer Lawyers Program
Q. Can you give an overview of your involvement in pro bono work with the Volunteer Lawyers Program?
A. I’ve been involved with the Volunteer Lawyers Program (VLP) in Arizona since about 2014. The VLP program brings legal assistance to those who can’t afford it and offers everything from walk-in legal advice clinics to representation in litigation. I’ve become the liaison for Kutak Rock to VLP to facilitate involvement of Kutak Rock attorneys. For instance, I circulate pro bono opportunities and coordinated a VLP Continuing Legal Education seminar on how attorneys can get involved with pro bono. VLP offers materials and mentors to guide attorneys who do not practice in the areas that VLP covers. Guardianship cases are a good example of cases that do not require a huge time investment. I generally take guardianships and spend about 20 hours total over a span of three months. The people you help are so thankful and it’s really rewarding to help with something so essential as taking care of a child.
Q. Can you give an example?
A. Absolutely. For the guardianships, a caretaker needs guardianship of a minor to do things like take them to the doctor or enroll them in school. It is uncontested, but they need assistance with the court because the guardianship pleading papers in Arizona are hideous. It’s too difficult to understand the forms and the process, and often the applicants can’t afford the filing fees. I walk them through the forms and help them get the fees waived. The person seeking guardianship is always incredibly thankful. The minors are usually very young children in a situation where mom and dad are absent, and the person seeking guardianship needs the guardianship papers immediately. So helping them with something that’s relatively simple for me—but not for them—is great.
Q. Any examples from others in the office who have pitched in?
A. Some of the other people in the office have taken cases completely unrelated to guardianships, including one where the client had bought tires and had a blowout that caused damage to his car. The business that installed the tires sold him the wrong tires, which was the cause of the damage, but he couldn’t get anywhere with the business. We were able to settle with the tire company and help the client get compensation. The client was extremely grateful for the assistance, as the damage to his car was costly.
Q. How did you get involved with VLP in the first place?
A. I was looking for a way to get involved in pro bono work, and through law school I became aware of VLP. It’s an incredible group of people, and they work hard to bring pro bono services to those who need it most.
Q. Do you remember your first pro bono case?
A. Yes, and I always say the guardianships don’t take much time, but my first guardianship was a mess. A case had been started in another state, but they’d moved to Arizona so we had to work with both state courts. It was messy to get it all figured out and there was no way the petitioner could have handled it on her own. There were jurisdictional issues and a lot of legwork, but we did it. Guardianship was granted to the petitioner in Arizona and they were extremely grateful.
Q. Most memorable case?
A. The most memorable thing isn’t so much one case in particular, but how grateful people are for the help. They realize you’re doing the work and not getting compensated. That’s the best part of every case. I love that Kutak Rock embraces pro bono and encourages giving back to the community.