Mitchell Hamline School of Law launched its new Mobile Law Network, featuring an RV specially outfitted to serve as a traveling law office, on Thursday.
As judicial, business, community and school leaders looked on, retired state Supreme Court Justice Helen Meyer ’83, chair of the Mitchell Hamline Board of Trustees, and Mitchell Hamline third-year student Diane Galatowitsch smashed a bottle of champagne on the RV to give it an official launch.
Meyer said the project reinforces the school’s commitment to the community.
“We are of the community. We are for the community. We are the law school that is truly engaged.” Meyer said.
Through the Mobile Law Network, Mitchell Hamline students will provide free legal assistance throughout Minnesota.
“Our intent is to start by working with organizations around the state to increase access to legal services for people in need and to provide our students with even more extensive opportunities for hands-on legal experience,” said Mark C. Gordon, president and dean at Mitchell Hamline.
The vehicle–nicknamed the “Wheels of Justice”–will transport students to support a variety of legal services, focusing primarily in the areas of family law, criminal expungements, and advance health care planning. Students will provide information and assistance to those representing themselves and others who need guidance on legal matters. The vehicle is equipped with two private office spaces, allowing students to hold two simultaneous confidential meetings with potential clients.
Michael Davis, senior U.S. District Judge for the District of Minnesota, said he hopes the network brings help to people who may not be able to access, or afford, legal services. Davis says that’s a problem he sees daily.
“Justice should not be bought,” Davis said. “There are people out in the community that need help. This project will bring that to them.”
Peter Knapp, Mitchell Hamline professor and Clinical Program director, said the Mobile Law Network allows the school to help people beyond the Twin Cities metro area. Knapp said it will also give Mitchell Hamline students a chance to work with lawyers on pro-bono cases throughout the state.
“It will give our students a chance to help with that work, meet those lawyers, and learn about the needs in those communities,” he said.
Maureen Harms, associate general counsel at 3M, touted the Mobile Law Network as a model for pro-bono efforts across the state.
“It’s up to us, members of the bar, to bring our talent, our generosity, and our commitment to those in the community who deserve representation and assistance,” she said.
Officials from Mitchell Hamline are currently working with 3M to find ways for attorneys at the company to work with students and staff when the “Wheels of Justice” travels the state.
Students are scheduled to be in Mankato on Oct. 7, working with Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services to help low-income individuals seeking a divorce, and at the Ramsey County Library in Roseville on Oct. 15 to help with advance care directives.