Frequently Asked Questions

 

 

Q:    What happens after I accept a VIP case?
A:    After accepting a VIP case you will be sent a VIP referral form, all information included in the VIP file about the case and the VIP representation agreement. At this same time, your client will receive a letter with your name, address and phone number, and the request that they contact you within 7 days. You will receive a copy of this letter. At the first meeting you and the client should sign the VIP representation agreement. The scope of representation should be filled in carefully, so that you and the client are clear about any limitations on your services. (Contact VIP's Managing Attorney if you have any questions about the extent of your representation.) Keep the original in your file, give a copy to your client and send a copy to VIP.

Q:    What if my client does not contact me?
A:    Your client may fail to follow through for several reasons. Your client may not be able to read or understand the letter, may not have received the letter or may have other more pressing problems. If your client does not call you within a few days of your receipt of the VIP letter, try to call the client. If after 10 days your client has not contacted you, and you cannot reach him/her by telephone, write your client stating that if you do not hear from him/her within 10 days, VIP will close their file. After 10 days, if your client still has not contacted you, contact the staff member at VIP who referred the case to you. Under most circumstances, VIP will close the case, and another client can be referred to you.

Q:    What if my client does not have a telephone?
A:    Contacting a client who does not have a telephone can be challenging. We recommend that you send your client a letter asking the client to call you at one or two specific times on a specific date and time. After your client reaches you, ask them for the telephone number of a neighbor, relative, and/or employer where you can leave a message if necessary. Another way that you can keep in touch with a client who doesn't have a telephone is to schedule weekly telephone "appointments". (For example, the client would call you every Friday at 1:00 p.m.) By keeping "appointments" you will have the opportunity to communicate information to the client.

Q:    What if my client does not keep our appointments?
A:    Terminating representation of a client due to his/her failure to cooperate is left up to the discretion of the volunteer. Some clients are simply uncooperative, while other clients have personal problems or mental impairments that interfere with their ability to keep appointments. Address this problem with your client and make it clear that without his/her cooperation you will be unable to help him/her. If, after the discussion, the situation continues, you should contact the staff member who referred this case to you and discuss closing the case.

Q:    What if my client does not speak English?
A:    If you are not fluent in the primary language of your client, VIP can arrange a volunteer to translate. Our pool of volunteers is limited, however, so we request that you first draw on your employer's resources. If your employer is unable to arrange an interpreter, please contact VIP and we will try to assist you. If the client speaks Spanish, VIP has Spanish-speaking staff members who have already translated many forms into Spanish. It is a good idea to ask your client for the telephone number of a friend, neighbor or relative of the client who can communicate with both of you. If you plan to relay confidential information through the client's interpreter, you should discuss this with your client.
Additional steps must be taken with the Court if your client does not speak English. If a hearing has been scheduled, you should contact the Court to inform the Court that your client will need an interpreter. In addition to the Court's interpreter who interprets the proceedings, you may want to have an interpreter with you at
counsel table, so that you can communicate confidentially with your client during the proceedings. This interpreter is not provided by the Court. If you are submitting any documents that are not in English, the documents must be translated and the translation must be certified. VIP can provide information on how to certify the translation.

Q:    What if I am fluent in a foreign language and would like to volunteer to interpret for other volunteers?
A:    VIP is always in need of volunteers with proficiency in foreign languages. We generally need interpreters who speak Spanish, Russian, French, Cambodian, Mandarin, Cantonese or Vietnamese. Whatever foreign languages you speak, however, please contact VIP because we may have a client who needs your help.

Q:    What if there are costs associated with my representation?
A:    VIP will cover certain costs only if approval is obtained from VIP before the cost is incurred. The costs encountered most often are:

  • Title reports and other expenses surrounding title transfer: VIP receives free title reports, records deeds, and reimburses certain other title transfer expenses. Call VIP and ask to speak to the staff member who manages the Tangled Title Fund for more information.
  • Photocopying medical records: You should first write the doctor and/or hospital and request that the fee be waived. If the doctor refuses, you should ask the client if s/he has the money to pay for the expense. If they do not, contact VIP for approval of the cost before it is incurred.
  • Filing fees: The client should qualify for In Forma Pauperis (IFP) status. An IFP petition must be filed with the Court. If the client's IFP petition is denied, the client must pay the filing fees unless VIP determines that the denial was unjustified. VIP has copies of IFP petitions and can explain the procedure for filing an IFP.

VIP determines whether or not to cover litigation expenses on a case-by-case basis. If you would like VIP to cover a cost that is not listed above, please contact VIP's Managing Attorney or Executive Director before incurring any expense. 

Q:        What if I determine that my case lacks merit?
A:    You should not represent a client if you believe the case is not meritorious. Even if you do not represent your client, you provide a valuable service by explaining the situation to your client, advising your client of available options, and suggesting ways to avoid the problem in the future. If you are not sure of the merits of the case, call VIP and discuss the matter with the Managing Attorney.

Q:    What do I do when my case is finished?
A:    You should write a letter to VIP stating the outcome of the case, estimating the number of hours you spent on the case, and indicating whether you are available to take another case. The closing letter should be sent to the client and a copy should be sent to VIP.