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LEGAL AID: New Rules For Retired Attorneys

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Iowa Legal Aid offers free help to low-income people.  Every year, the agency turns away thousands of cases.  A new rule adopted by the Iowa Supreme Court could help meet the growing legal needs in the state.

Des Moines Attorney Don Wine gave retirement a try, twice.  Both times, it didn’t take.

“When you're retired, you can't give advice.  Well if you can't give advice, what are you doing as a lawyer?” he asks.

So at 91, Wine went back to work at Iowa Legal Aid in Des Moines.  He is practicing law with the state's new Emeritus License.

“The Emeritus License lets lawyers do pro bono work basically.  It doesn't allow them to work for a fee.  They can only work with an approved legal aid organization,” says Iowa Legal Aid Executive Director Dennis Groenenboom.

There is plenty of work to go around.  Iowa Legal Aid closed nearly 20,000 civil cases last year.  Almost half of the Iowans they helped are children.  Attorneys had to turn away more than 13,000 cases due to limited resources.

“What we do is prioritize cases based on what we think are the most critical issues that low-income people have.  So that's really legal issues involving safety and housing,” says Groenenboom.

“The problems of the poor are no less difficult than the problems of the more wealthy people.  They're very challenging,” says Wine.

The Iowa Supreme Court changed the rules in March.  Since then, five attorneys have signed up to volunteer at Legal Aid offices across the state.

“We're very excited about it and I think it has the potential for lots of growth,” says Groenenboom.

“Some of my friends say why don't you quit? I say, well as long as I'm able, I'm going to continue,” says Wine.

Maybe one of these years, he'll give retirement another try.

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