Bar association offers free legal aid at call-in night

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	Doug Reynolds answers phones during the Dial A Lawyer event on Thursday. The event, co-sponsored by the Southwest Colorado Bar Association and the Southwest Volunteer Bar Association, gives people an opportunity to call in for free legal advice.</p> Enlarge photo

LINDSAY EPPICH/Herald

Doug Reynolds answers phones during the Dial A Lawyer event on Thursday. The event, co-sponsored by the Southwest Colorado Bar Association and the Southwest Volunteer Bar Association, gives people an opportunity to call in for free legal advice.

Beating back the devil on Thursday night at the offices of Goldman, Robbins & Nicholson were about 10 locallawyers, representing various firms and areas of law, at the local bar association's Call-a-Lawyer Night.

The event was co-sponsored by the Southwest Colorado Bar Association and the Southwest Volunteer Bar Association. The event has been on hiatus for the last five years, but was revived by an increase in demand.

Kyla Norcross works at the Durango office of Colorado Legal Aid Services, which offers year-round legal assistance to the area's low-income population. The office has two lawyers and a paralegal, with a service area covering eight counties and two tribes.

"There's a huge need," she said.

Apparently: In the first 15 minutes of the three-hour event, 12 calls came in.

Callers wanted guidance with landlord-tenant issues, boundary disputes, traffic tickets, lemon laws, post-trial motions and divorces. Callers had gripes with their current representation and wondered about power of attorney.

One caller had jumped the gun and interred a pet in the backyard of a residence the person sought to purchase, then backed out of the deal. What to do about the buried carcass?

"We try to help people understand what's going on," said Kate A. Burke, president of the local bar association.

Burke said many times, callers don't know about free legal resources at their disposal or other options that could keep them out of court. She said many people just want to know what their options are.

The lawyers at Goldman, Robbins & Nicholson on Thursday weren't being compensated for their hours, and weren't earning career-development points.

"We don't have a legal obligation to do it," said real estate and business lawyer Lindsey Nicholson. "We have an ethical obligation."

Names weren't exchanged over the phone, and lawyers weren't recruiting clients. Calls ranged in length from five to 15 minutes.

"Very often our advice is to talk to a lawyer," attorney Doug Reynolds said. "But you'd be surprised how many times it can be handled right there over the phone."

Medical-malpractice and personal-injury attorney David Downs said that as the law becomes more complicated and diffuse, more lawyers are becoming specialized. Fewer take "just anyone who walks through the door."

The idea of the call-in night is to keep the caller out of a costly lawyer's office, but lawyers do have their proper place, Downs said. He remembered the old lawyer's adage: A man who represents himself in court has a fool for a client.

Or is it his attorney who's the fool?

"Either way," Downs said.

gandrews@durangoherald.com