The firm’s attorneys, paralegals and staff dedicate hundreds of hours per year toward pro bono legal representation and volunteer activities coordinated by a committee of partners and associates. LGN attorneys have been recognized as MSBA North Star Lawyers (for providing at least 50 hours of pro bono legal services) since the North Star Lawyer program began in 2013. Attorneys and paralegals receive credit against firm billable requirements for up to fifty hours of pro bono legal representation.
Many of LGN’s attorneys are members of the Volunteer Lawyers’ Network and have taken cases through the Minnesota Federal Bar Association’s pro se referral program. Others have helped disadvantaged businesses and non-profit organizations with corporate formation and other legal matters. Still others have worked on guardian ad litem cases or represented children in the foster care system, veterans’ benefits appeals, environmental matters and, in cooperation with Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, have secured legal residency for asylum seekers who feared harm or persecution in their home countries of China, Rwanda and Tibet. Many LGN attorneys also provide free legal assistance at walk-in clinics around the Twin Cities.
Pro Bono Cases
LGN attorneys successfully defended an elderly Dallas-area man accused of defaulting on an agreement to repay a loan that funded a so-called “life settlement” insurance policy. The plaintiff filed several similar lawsuits against senior citizens in federal court in Minnesota. LGN invested more than 500 hours in the case, initially referred to LGN by the Minnesota Federal Bar Association’s Pro Se Project. After LGN’s attorneys overcame the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, the parties negotiated a settlement of the case.
Many LGN attorneys have represented numerous individuals and families seeking asylum, including:
- After two and a half years of work, a team of LGN attorneys and paralegals won Permanent Residency for a Rwandan client who was orphaned as a child and fled to the United States to avoid violence in her native country. The team won a unique immigration status for the client called Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, which is granted to only 1,200 orphaned child-immigrants each year. The team successfully argued that the client met the criteria for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status on the basis that she was an orphan and a Minnesota court placed her under the guardianship of a Minnesota relative prior to her becoming 18 years old. LGN volunteered over 450 hours to achieve this victory for the client after the case was referred to LGN by the Advocates for Human Rights.
- LGN attorney Brian Clark won permanent resident status for a 10-year old girl from Liberia. The girl qualified for a unique status available to immigrant children whose parents are unable to care for them.
- After eight years of working with a family from Nepal that feared persecution on account of their Tibetan nationality, LGN partner Anna Horning Nygren, with the assistance of LGN paralegal Heather Potteiger and administrative assistant Cheryl Evans, obtained citizenship in 2016 for a family of four. Ms. Horning Nygren and her team first obtained asylum for the entire family, then helped the family obtain permanent residency status and, ultimately, citizenship.
- LGN attorneys have represented numerous individuals and families from other countries, including China, Rwanda, Eritrea, Turkey and Tibet, who have sought asylum in the United States on religious or political grounds.
LGN attorneys succeeded in obtaining survivor benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) for a pro bono client. The case was complicated by a mistake on the veteran’s death certificate that resulted in denial of survivor benefits for the veteran’s spouse. As a result, LGN filed litigation in the state where the veteran died to correct the mistake on the death certificate and subsequently assisted the widower in obtaining approval of his application by the VA. LGN invested over 70 hours of time to achieve this victory for the client. The case was initially referred to LGN by the Minnesota Federal Bar Association’s Pro Se Project.
Appellate Public Defender
LGN attorneys have participated in the MSBA Appellate Section’s Pro Bono Project with the Appellate Public Defender. Through the program, LGN has represented several criminal defendants in appealing to the Court of Appeals and preparing a petition for review to the Minnesota Supreme Court. The work helps ensure that each person convicted of a crime in the State of Minnesota is able to fully exercise their right to have their conviction reviewed by an appellate body.
Several LGN attorneys have represented children through guardian ad litem cases, or foster children and children who are wards of the state, in cooperation with the Children’s Law Center. In October 2011, the firm received the Children’s Law Center’s Distinguished Service Award.
- LGN Attorney Elizabeth Odette assisted her 14-year-old client in testifying in camera before the Judge at a trial for termination of her mother’s parental rights. The court ruled that it was in the best interest of the child to transfer custody to a foster parent rather than terminate parental rights based largely on the child’s testimony that maintaining her relationship with her mother was very important to her.
LGN attorneys dedicate hundreds of hours every year in support of a variety of organizations, including:
- Children’s Law Center of Minnesota. LGN received the Children’s Law Center’s 2011 Distinguished Service Award for its work representing foster children and children who are wards of the state.
- The Advocates for Human Rights. LGN successfully obtained asylum and citizenship for several clients.
- The Dignity Center, serving individuals transitioning from homelessness.
- Twin Cities Cardozo Society’s Minneapolis Urban League Legal Aid Clinic.
- Twin Cities Cardozo Society’s St. Paul Legal Aid Clinic, in partnership with Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Aid Services and Interfaith Action.
- Minnesota State Bar Association’s Public Defender Appellate Pro Bono Project.
- Federal Bar Association Minnesota Chapter pro se program. Pro se program cases have included obtaining survivor benefits from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
- Volunteer Lawyer’s Network’s criminal expungement program.