What is LSNM’s History?

LSNM was founded in 1976 to serve the legal needs of low income or elderly residents of 22 counties in Northwest Minnesota.  It is not a government agency, nor is it a politically based program.LSNM uses a combination of staff attorneys and private attorneys to deliver legal services.  Private attorneys who have agreed to participate are partially reimbursed by LSNM for time spent on a case, according to an established fee schedule.  This method of delivering free legal services through private attorneys is referred to as “Judicare.” The combination of Judicare and staff representation results in an effective and efficient delivery of legal services. LSNM is governed by a local Board of Directors interested in the delivery of legal services to the elderly and poor, composed of attorneys, client representatives, and a community organization representative.

What Kind of Services are Provided?

Services are generally limited to people whose household incomes are at or below 125% of the federal poverty guidelines.  An individual’s available assets must also fall within the asset ceiling.

All eligible clients are provided a free initial consultation with either a legal staff member or a Judicare attorney.  The type of service provided depends upon the legal problem the individual is facing.  Many clients are helped by immediate advice on their problem, including things they can do themselves to address or solve the problem.  A variety of written materials and brochures are available to assist them with self-help remedies.  

LSNM is prohibited from handling fee-generating and criminal defense cases.  These are cases which an attorney could take, usually on a contingency fee basis, and recover his or her fees from the opposing party or from damages awarded.  An example is almost any type of personal injury lawsuit.

How Do We Decide What Kind of Cases to Take?

LSNM has limited funding, staff, and resources, so it is not possible to accept all priority cases at all times.  Resources are allocated according to a priority list of the most pressing and serious legal problems our clients face. 

The goal in setting a case priority plan is to first provide service to those in the greatest social and economic need.  The first priority cases, therefore, are in the areas of income maintenance, health, and preservation of shelter, food, and basic necessities of life.  This includes cases such as MFIP, food support, energy assistance, medical assistance, and other public benefit appeals; Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income appeals; housing issues; Medicare and Medicare supplemental insurance for the elderly; family law matters, especially where domestic abuse and child protection are at stake; garnishment actions or other threats to the loss of the client’s essential property.