Volunteer Lawyers Birmingham (VLB) was created in 1994 by leaders in the Birmingham Bar Association to promote access to justice by inspiring volunteer attorneys to provide high-quality representation at no charge to low-income families with basic civil legal needs at critical times in their lives.
Our program includes, among other things, services for:
- Tenants and homeowners needing help avoiding evictions or foreclosures and ensuring habitable living quarters,
- Citizens fighting wrongful creditors and securing unpaid wages,
- Domestic violence survivors and other families in crisis needing domestic relations legal help, and
- Homeless and veteran clients attempting to secure identification and drivers’ licenses.
Why was the VLB created?
The Birmingham Bar Association understands that private attorneys play a central role in promoting access to the civil legal system for people who cannot afford legal representation. Our history has proven that equal access to the legal system provides direct economic benefits to low-income families and their communities and advances the principles of fair play and justice.
For a poor person walking into court, the assistance of a volunteer lawyer can prevent homelessness, the disruption of employment and education, secure wages desperately needed to survive, provide legal protection to victims of violence, and protect children from abuse and neglect.
For the community at large, every $1 invested in the VLB results in the community receiving $12.13 in benefits.
How does the VLB work?
Potential clients are encouraged to visit one of the VLB’s five Help Desks to determine eligibility and to meet immediately with a volunteer attorney to begin receiving legal help.
While some problems are much too complex to solve in a short meeting, clients often realize a great sense of relief in starting the process and being able to speak with an attorney about their situations. The Help Desk volunteer attorneys provide at a minimum counsel and advice, but also assist clients in completing legal forms and starting them on a solution to their legal problem. Clients with complex issues are assigned to pro bono attorneys who will accept their case free of charge for full representation.
This representation may include everything from filing an initial complaint to the rendering of a final judgment. The need for Extended Service Representation is determined case by case, and the VLB sends out a weekly newsletter to more than 5,000 members of the Birmingham legal community that describes all open cases in need of extended representation and solicits volunteer attorneys to participate. VLB staff attorneys also call volunteer attorneys for specialized cases or when a particular expertise is needed.
The VLB annually helps upwards of 3,300 clients resolve their legal issues. We strive to be the last call someone has to make to obtain legal help.