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by Shane Toguchi, student writer

The times in which we live are contentious, with lawsuits, if we can believe the newspapers, seemingly around every corner. Everyone, at one time or another, needs somewhere to turn for legal support and advice, but, let’s face it, legal fees are expensive. That’s where Volunteer Legal Services Hawai‘i can come to the rescue!

Established in 1981, VLSH was one the first pro bono organizations in the United States. Providing legal services for more than 100,000 individuals, VLSH strives to assist the people in need, to create its vision, as its Web site clearly states, of “a society with equal access to justice.”

VLSH offers legal assistance and services in various areas of civil law, most of which can be viewed online at www.vlsh.org. It does this work with strong support from the legal community. Attorneys, law students and paralegals volunteer to fulfill VLSH’s vision. It is sponsored by and partners with numerous organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union the state, the city and the University of Hawai‘i Law School.

Individuals who come to VLSH for assistance go through an interview process where their needs are assessed. After VLSH determines what is required in each situation, the case is then referred to the proper VLSH program or pro bono attorney. If a group or individual does not qualify for volunteer legal services, VLSH refers them to attorneys who may offer discounted legal fees.

According to attorney Darren Suzuki, VLSH does not solicit its attorneys. Rather the attorneys voluntarily sign up with VLSH. Suzuki, who has practiced law for more than 10 years, supports the organization.

“ VLSH is a great organization that has the people’s interest in mind. I have all the respect and admiration for the attorneys involved,” she said.


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