What is the Home Foreclosure Legal Aid Project?
In response to the current foreclosure crisis facing our state, the WSBA is developing, coordinating, and deploying a well-trained and supported “army” of volunteer lawyers who have agreed to provide pro bono representation to homeowners with legal problems related to foreclosure. The project will add service capacity to existing civil legal aid programs by providing a pool of volunteer lawyers capable of providing representation to clients and funding a legal team to assist homeowners in need. The WSBA is partnering with the Northwest Justice Project to provide services statewide. We’re here to help.
What are the goals of the project?
The project goal is to help Washington homeowners avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes. We want to make it as easy as possible for homeowners in danger of foreclosure to request and receive assistance in a timely manner. An important aspect of the project is that it will extend legal services to moderate-income homeowners who are within 200% to 400% of the federal poverty guidelines. By providing legal assistance at a critical time, volunteer lawyers may be able to prevent these individuals from dropping below 200% of the poverty level and ending up with more legal problems than possible foreclosure.
How do I sign up?
Please complete the online signup form, which includes questions about your experience in housing-related issues, geographical preference, training completed, availability, and other relevant information. It should take less than five minutes to complete the form.
What happens once I submit the sign-up form?
Your information will go into a database being maintained at the WSBA, and you will receive an e-mail confirming receipt of your sign-up form. We will send you an information packet in the mail providing more details about the project. When a service opportunity for you arises, you will be contacted by phone or e-mail.
Does it matter where I live or work?
There are homeowners in need of help throughout Washington, and lawyers in all areas of the state are needed.
What is the commitment?
There is no minimum commitment, but we hope that each lawyer participating in the project will be able to accept at least one case, or, for those experienced in housing issues, agree to serve as a mentor or serve on an expert panel. However, the project has been designed so that those who are able to volunteer a small amount of time can also participate. We appreciate any amount of time you are able to give.
I am experienced in this area of the law; how can my skills best be utilized?
The WSBA is compiling a list of those who can serve as mentors or subject-matter experts to provide support to volunteer lawyers who lack experience in housing and foreclosure matters. When completing the sign-up form, please indicate your expertise and willingness to assist in this capacity.
Can I help even if I have not practiced in this area before?
Yes, lawyers from all practice areas can participate. See information about training and support, below.
I do not carry malpractice insurance. Will I be covered for work I perform as an HFLAP volunteer?
Most volunteers will be matched with clients through the Northwest Justice Project (NJP). NJP carries malpractice insurance that includes an endorsement which provides coverage for claims made against lawyers who undertake pro bono representation of eligible clients through a cooperative relationship with NJP, including for cases referred directly to the lawyer by NJP. To the extent that the endorsement applies to cases referred by NJP through the cooperative arrangement, the insurance provides primary coverage for such claims.
What kind of training is available?
WSBA-CLE has produced MCLE-approved online training modules, which are currently available. The video modules and related printed training materials are posted online for participating lawyers to view and reference at their convenience and as often as needed. Training modules include case assessments, loan workouts, restraint of sale, and other topics. Issue-spotting topics include bankruptcy, predatory lending, and foreclosure-rescue scams. The training modules are, of course, free to participating lawyers. They are also available to volunteer lawyer programs.
Is there someone I can call if I need help?
Yes, the WSBA is recruiting a panel of experts capable of addressing specific issues. Mentors may be assigned to less-experienced lawyers.
How is the project structured?
A team who will administer the project is being put in place. There are two parts to the project team: a WSBA project manager, and a lawyer and paralegal who comprise the NJP Home Foreclosure Legal Team. The WSBA project manager will coordinate the recruitment and training of volunteer lawyers. The NJP Home Foreclosure Legal Team will oversee client intake, case screening, and referral of appropriate cases to volunteer lawyers, as well as provide support as needed.
How will prospective clients sign up?
To get help through the project, prospective clients can call 1-877-894-HOME (4663) to speak with a federally approved non-profit housing counseling agency for assistance with loan modification applications and referral to additional foreclosure prevention resources.
Prospective clients who have a sale date scheduled within two weeks of calling, who have a legal dispute with their servicer, or who have foreclosure-related legal issue can call 1-800-606-4819 to be screened by the Northwest Justice Project Foreclosure Prevention Unit.
How will cases be assigned?
The NJP Home Foreclosure Legal Team will refer clients to volunteer lawyers, using the information obtained from lawyers’ sign-up forms and clients’ intake information.
How is the project funded?
The WSBA Board of Governors approved a grant of $150,000 to fund NJP’s Foreclosure Prevention Unit and allocated $10,000 to produce online training materials, both of where were paid from WSBA reserves. WSBA also provides significant in-kind staffing to support the project.
The Washington State Bar Foundation (Foundation) recently secured a cy pres grant award of more than $1 million from the Washington State Office of the Attorney General to maintain and expand the project.
How long will the project last?
Thanks to a generous cy pres grant award from the Washington State Office of the Attorney General, the project is funded through June 2013.
Aren’t there already programs in place to assist homeowners?
Although there are existing programs, the need far exceeds the current capacity. Additionally, current legal aid programs are restricted to serve only those whose income is 200% or below the federal poverty guidelines. There are currently few free or low-cost services for those whose income exceeds 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. The project will serve those whose income is up to 400% of the federal poverty guidelines.
Is there any reporting or follow-up required at the end of a case?
Yes. The NJP Home Foreclosure Legal Team will stay in contact with volunteer lawyers, and there will be a case closing form to complete when the case is concluded. The NJP team will track assignments and outcomes, and compile statistical information. Statistical information will be shared with WSBA members at the conclusion of the project.
Login and sign up!
View this information as a pdf