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Posted from the Bangor Daily News: “Turnout for Lawyers in Libraries Shows Need for Community Legal Aid” & “Lawyers to be Stationed in Libraries Across State to Offer Free Legal Advice.”
The turnout for the state’s first Lawyers in Libraries program at the Bangor Public Library on Wednesday demonstrates the need for legal services in the community, said Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Andrew Mead, who helped organize the statewide event. Many people don’t seek legal advice because they are concerned they won’t be able to afford it or don’t know how to go about finding a lawyer, Mead said.
Limited resources exist for individuals to obtain free or discounted assistance by lawyers, but most people are unaware of these resources or where to find them. Many of Maine’s citizens go to their local public libraries and attempt to conduct their own legal research without the assistance of a lawyer. As a result, librarians are often called upon to assist with legal research — or even to offer advice and suggestions on legal issues — tasks that they have undertaken with tremendous goodwill, but with which they would welcome the involvement of lawyers.
[On May 1st] about 70 attorneys spent two hours between noon and 2 p.m. in more than 40 libraries around the state. The program, planned to coincide with Law Day, celebrated nationally on May 1, provided information about free resources, low-cost legal assistance and ways to work with an attorney to lower the cost of legal services. After a panel of four Bangor lawyers spoke, each met for about 15 minutes to discuss specific legal issues with attendees.
“I talked with about six people and the issues ranged from medical malpractice to a real estate boundary issue to a possible wrongful death action,” [Attorney Christopher] Largay said after the program. “They wanted to be heard and to understand their situation better. All were very receptive and very respectful.”
The program is the culmination of years of work by the Maine Justice Action Group, which includes judges, lawyers, librarians, social service providers and representatives from advocacy groups. JAG’s goal is to improve access to justice in Maine. Wednesday’s program was organized by the Collaboration on Innovation, Technology and Equal Access to Justice, an offshoot of JAG.
Mead said that the goal of the program is to have local lawyers in libraries at least once a month around the state. Over the past six months, libraries have held sessions using the statewide teleconferencing system based at the Maine State Library in Augusta. Lawyers with the Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project have talked about different topics from the state capital and they have been broadcast to local libraries around the state. Two more will be held this month.
For information on the program, visit www.lawyersinlibraries.org or visit your local library.