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E-Newsletter of March 26, 2013 | Vol. 6, No. 12




I recently read an interesting article by Andrew Cohen titled, “In Defense of Pro Bono Legal Service, Whatever Form it Takes.” Cohen was responding to the comments of a federal appellate court judge who implied that the legal profession is prejudiced against the military.[1] In his article, Cohen set out to explain the meaning and significance of pro bono legal services. The article serves as an excellent reminder of the reasons why we provide free legal services, the many forms our public service may take, and the continuing need for those services.  

What is pro bono?
Pro bono legal services are those undertaken voluntarily and without expectation of payment or at a reduced fee on behalf of those who cannot afford to help themselves. And, as Cohen notes, not only is pro bono legal work a gift of charity, but it is also a long-standing ethical obligation.[2] In Minnesota, for example, attorneys have a “professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay.”[3] Our professional rules ask us to “aspire to render at least 50 hours” of pro bono legal services per year.[4]

Pro bono legal services may take many forms
To illustrate the many forms that pro bono services may take, Cohen contrasts those who work for free on behalf of suspected terrorists with lawyers “all over the country” who are “helping veterans, military families, and other organizations affiliated with our nation’s armed forces.” The point: pro bono services, whatever form they take, are both admirable and valuable to those who receive the services and to society.  

Pro bono legal services take many forms in Minnesota and elsewhere. As Cohen writes, “Today, you can pick virtually every major social cause before the federal courts and at the heart of it you will find lawyers working for free, or at reduced costs, to help carry their cause.” Equally important are the services on cases that don’t make the headlines—attorneys helping individuals with their day-to-day legal struggles. To be sure, Rule 6.1 suggests many ways in which lawyers may fulfill their professional obligation of pro bono service.  

The need for pro bono services in Minnesota
A recent Star Tribune article noted that Minnesota attorneys lead the nation in providing pro bono legal services. Steve Marchese, the MSBA’s pro bono development director, estimates that “Minnesota lawyers devote about 200,000 hours a year to pro bono work,” which “translates into around $40 million in in-kind services annually.” These services are supported by the bar association, legal aid organizations, and many local law firms. Our own elder law section is committed to promoting pro bono services through the efforts of its pro bono committee.
Regardless, the legal needs of many continue to go unmet. At a recent training for Volunteer Lawyer’s Network, I learned that approximately 75% of the legal needs of Minnesota’s disadvantaged remain unaddressed. The economic recession has made it more difficult for individuals to afford legal services, while at the same time funding and staffing levels for legal aid organizations dwindle. The client base of Elder Law attorneys is among the hardest hit by the recession as the value of their retirement savings and real estate decrease, they increasingly fall victim to financial exploitation, and the public programs and services they rely upon become harder to obtain.

While we do a great job of providing free legal services in Minnesota, there is much more work to be done. Recognizing that it’s difficult to set aside time for unpaid work, the bar association and legal aid services strive to make volunteering as convenient as possible by developing resources and providing training and support. Further, the bar association provides a central portal to find pro bono cases and resources at If you would like to learn more about how to get involved in pro bono efforts in Minnesota, contact the author at       

[1] Cohen referenced comments made during a 2009 speech given at Cornell Law School by 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs in which the judge expressed his dismay over the disparity between the limited legal services available to military personnel and their families as compared to the “high-powered legal assistance” readily available to Guantanamo Bay detainees.
[2] See also ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, Pro Bono Publico Legal Services, (“When society confers the privilege to practice law on an individual, he or she accepts the responsibility to promote justice and to make justice equally accessible to all people.”).
[3] Minn. R. Prof. C., Rule 6.1.
[4] Id. However, this is an aspirational standard, and Rule 6.1 “is not intended to be enforced through disciplinary process.” Cmt. 12.

Submitted by Adam Rohne, Esq.
Pro Bono Committee Chair



The National Senior Citizens Law Center has issued a policy brief with recommendations for the newly formed Commission on Long-Term Care, focusing exclusively on the need to assure a comprehensive and accessible network of long-term services and supports for individuals in home and community-based environments.  As any of you who work with Medical Assistance are aware, there remains a significant bias in the framework of benefits toward nursing home care.  The Affordable Care Act acknowledged that this bias remains despite the fact that more than a decade has passed since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Olmstead v. L.C
The policy brief, and other information about protecting the rights of low income older adults, can be found here.

Submitted by Laura Zdychnec, Esq.
Section Chair

Elder Law News


Tax professionals urged to spot financial abuse of seniors | Echo Press

How to Prevent Financial Abuse of Elderly Parents | FOX Business

What Seniors Should Expect from Aging in Place Villages | US News

Depression, Anxiety a Deadly Combination for Older People with Heart Disease | Senior Journal

Shuffleboard? Oh, Maybe Let’s Get High Instead | The New York Times

The Doctor’s New Prescription: A Lawyer | The New York Times

Senior Citizens' Resources |

Submitted by Joel Smith, Esq.

Elder Law Cases

There are no new cases to report this week.

Elder Law Statutes, Regulations, and Bulletins

There are no new statutes, regulations or bulletins to report this week. 

Upcoming Events and CLE Programs

"Getting to Know Elder Law" - Walk-in Registration is Still Available!
Are you new to the practice of law? Are you interested in Elder Law? Do you want to learn more? Join the Student Committee of the MSBA's Elder Law Section for light appetizers and drinks while you network with local elder law attorneys followed by a panel discussion.
Topics for the panel discussion include:
- Guardianship and Conservatorship;
- Medical Assistance Basics;
- Care Placement; and
- Marketing, Knowing Your Limits and Other Newbie Frustrations.

Don’t miss the chance to win one of two Elder Law Handbooks!

Date:   Thursday, March 28, 2013
Time:    5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Location:   Ramada Inn Bloomington (formerly "The Thunderbird")
2300 E. American Blvd.
Bloomington, MN

For more information, click here.

Submitted by Jill Sauber


This summer, Hamline Law is offering Elder Law both for law school credit and for CLE.  It will be taught by former Elder Section chair Suzy Scheller, and runs from June 14-17. To view the schedule and course description, click here.

Submitted by Thaddeus Pope, J.D., Ph.D.


Elder Law Section Activities


MA COMMITTEE MEETING: The next MA Committee meeting will be at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16, 2013. The Medical Assistance Committee is a study group to analyze Elder Law Section member questions and case studies and to discuss administrative policies and procedures in relation to Medical Assistance in Minnesota.  Cathryn D. Reher of Long, Reher & Hanson, P.A., is Committee Chair.  For directions, or to attend by phone, please contact Tracie Fenske with Long, Reher & Hanson, P.A., at 952-929-0622 at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting. Topics for the meeting may be submitted to under the subject heading “MA Committee Topic”, or faxed to 952-542-9201. Please be reminded that the meeting location is: Estate & Elder Law Services (formerly MAO Legal Services), Monroe Village, 1900 Central Avenue NE, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55418. The meeting takes place in the building’s conference room. There are a few parking spaces behind the building and lots of street parking. People should walk to the back of the building and come to the back door which faces directly into the meeting room.

 The next meeting of the Elder Law Section Governing Council will be on Friday, April 19, 2013 at 3:30 pm. Please be reminded that the meeting location is: Estate & Elder Law Services (formerly MAO Legal Services), Monroe Village, 1900 Central Avenue NE, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55418. The meeting takes place in the building’s conference room. There are a few parking spaces behind the building and lots of street parking. People should walk to the back of the building and come to the back door which faces directly into the meeting room. For further information, please contact Laura Zdychnec, Chair, at:


Elder Law Website


DON'T FORGET THAT THE ELDER LAW WEBSITE IS A GREAT RESOURCE. Here’s what you can find on the Website:  Links to the DHS Health Care Programs Manual, the DHS Bulletin on treatment of uncompensated transfers, the Minnesota Bankers Association Compliance Bulletin on Powers of Attorney, legislative summary; Practice Links to organizations such as NAELA, ABA Commission on Law and Aging, Links to Federal and State Government Agencies, Statutes, and Regulations; Meeting Notices, Listings of Officers and Council Members, Section Bylaws, and more.


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