FAQs

Because CCLI is doing something new, we get a lot of questions—and we’re happy to answer. Here are some of our greatest hits, and if your question is not on the list, please feel free to contact us. If you’re interested in learning more about the role that solo and small firm lawyers can play in addressing the justice gap, you might enjoy this article by Professor Ann Juergens.

Does the CCLI incubator provide free legal services?
No.  Our advocates offer affordable services, including low bono services, sliding-scale fees, unbundled services (more below). If you need free legal services, contact LawhelpMN.org, which will help you identify legal services nonprofits that offer those services.  Our advocates may volunteer with legal services nonprofits, but they do not offer free legal services through CCLI.
What kinds of cases do CCLI advocates accept?
CCLI welcomes referrals of all types of cases.
I need legal help. How do I reach you?
Call us or feel free to contact our advocates directly.
Do CCLI’s advocates charge fees?
Yes.
What do CCLI’s advocates charge?
Each lawyer in CCLI’s incubator makes an individual, independent decision what to charge a potential client. This is normal in small law firms. CCLI participants will gather information about a potential client’s financial resources, and will propose a fee based on the potential client’s income and resources. CCLI’s participants agree to devote a substantial part of their practice to low bono service.
What happens to the fees collected by CCLI’s advocates?
CCLI does not pay its advocates a salary or stipend to support them during their time in the incubator. CCLI’s advocates keep the fees they collect, make investments in their law practices, and pay an educational fee to help support CCLI’s programming.
How is CCLI funded?
CCLI is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit; it applies for grants and receives donations from individuals and businesses. CCLI charges its participants an educational fee to help offset CCLI’s operating costs.
What is a small law firm incubator?
Business schools invented the concept of a small-business incubator, a structured setting in which a student can launch a business with the guidance, support and assistance of more experienced mentors. Recently, law schools and bar groups have begun experimenting with the model, creating opportunities for recent graduates to start their own law firms.
What is the “justice gap” and how significant is it in Minnesota?
The expression “justice gap” refers to the unmet need for legal services. About half of low-income people who are eligible for free legal assistance are turned away because legal services nonprofits simply lack the funding and personnel to be able to help them. And moderate-income people who do not qualify for free legal assistance must either hire a lawyer or try to handle their legal problems without one.
Who currently provides legal services to Minnesotans in the justice gap?
Self-representation is the norm, and many courts have self-help centers that can provide resources. But the only lawyers who routinely provide services to Minnesotans in the justice gap are lawyers who practice in firms of one to seven lawyers—the solo and small-firm lawyers.
What is “low bono”?
In practice, low bono law often means using sliding-scale fees, providing unbundled services, and finding other innovative ways to make legal services affordable. Here’s a definition from the Washington State Bar Association’s Low Bono Section: “In a broad sense, low bono is the principle of increasing access to law-related services for people of moderate means who do not qualify for pro bono assistance, but cannot afford the fees private attorneys typically charge under traditional law firm models.”
What does “sliding scale” mean?
Sliding-scale fees mean that a lawyer’s hourly rate depends on the client’s income. Clients are asked to provide information about their income, and a lawyer will offer an hourly fee based on that income.
What are “unbundled” legal services?
In traditional “bundled” legal services, a lawyer takes full responsibility for representing the client throughout a case. Because it is often difficult to predict how much time and effort will be needed, lawyers charge by the hour and ask for a retainer up front. But in recent years, lawyers are experimenting with “unbundling,” selling specific services rather than engaging in full representation. Examples of unbundled services might include drafting a legal document, reviewing a legal document, or coaching someone how to represent themselves at a court appearance. Unbundled services give clients more control over, and more responsibility for, managing their own legal matters. Because lawyers may charge a small flat fee for a particular service, unbundled services are usually less expensive than traditional representation.
I represent an organization that sees people who might qualify for the low bono services offered by CCLI advocates. What’s the best way to put those people in touch with CCLI?
Offer those people our phone numbers and encourage them to call us. If you would like a visit from CCLI staff or advocates, or a delivery of referral cards, please contact us and let us know!
How is CCLI different from a public interest law firm?
Public interest law firms provide legal services directly to clients at a reduced fee. They are organized differently, are treated specially under the tax code, and are eligible to receive sources of funding that are not available to CCLI. Because CCLI is an educational nonprofit supporting new attorneys who agree to provide low bono services through their solo practices, it does not provide any legal services directly to clients. CCLI’s advocates are not employees of a law firm; each advocate is the owner of his or her small firm, and those firms provide services to clients.
How is CCLI different from a direct legal services nonprofit?
Legal services nonprofits provide free legal services directly to low-income clients.To be eligible for funding, most legal services nonprofits have a strict income cutoff. In Minnesota, that cutoff is usually 187.5% of the federal poverty guidelines.
Because CCLI is an educational nonprofit supporting small law firms, it does not provide any legal services directly to clients. CCLI’s advocates own their own law firms, and may take clients above the income cutoff. CCLI asks advocates to offer low-bono services to potential clients below 300% of the federal poverty guidelines. CCLI advocates are also welcome to accept representation of clients above 300% of the federal poverty guidelines at market rates, as long as they continue to devote a substantial part of their practice to low- and moderate-income clients.
How long do advocates stay in the incubator?
From 6 to 18 months, depending on the circumstances.
How much low bono work are CCLI advocates expected to do while in the incubator?
CCLI asks advocates to devote a substantial part of their practice to low bono work. Currently, the minimum is 30%, but advocates are free to exceed that.
What are CCLI advocates expected to do after they leave the incubator?
CCLI advocates are expected to continue their small firm practices, either in the Twin Cities or at a new location in greater Minnesota. CCLI encourages advocates to remain involved with the incubator as teachers and mentors.
How do law school graduates apply to be part of CCLI?
CCLI accepts a new cohort of participants once a year. The program is open to graduates of Mitchell Hamline School of Law (or its predecessor schools Hamline University School of Law and William Mitchell College of Law). Here’s how to apply.
What is the relationship between CCLI and Mitchell Hamline School of Law?
Here in the Twin Cities, nonprofit Call for Justice LLC convened a meeting of all Minnesota law schools to discuss the possibility of starting a law firm incubator in Minnesota. After this meeting, Hamline University School of Law and William Mitchell College of Law together founded CCLI in honor of Bricker Lavik, the pro bono coordinator at Dorsey & Whitney LLP. The law schools merged in 2015, and now CCLI works with graduates of Mitchell Hamline School of Law.
Mitchell Hamline School of Law is a major supporter of CCLI, and has established coursework for students interested in starting their own small firms after graduation.
Don’t see your question here?
Ask us