Published February 21, 2012
Volume 20, Number 2

Monthly Lawyers in the Library Program Delivers Important Public Service    

The Pleasanton Public Library has been hosting the Alameda County Bar Association's Lawyers in the Library program for more than a decade. “It's one of the most popular programs we provide,” says Senior Librarian Yu Tao.

The highly regarded service, offered to the public at no charge, makes volunteer attorneys available for brief, informal consultations. Rotating through the Pleasanton library once a month, the lawyers can also offer referrals to community services if warranted. The confidential sessions usually deal with a wide variety of issues, including landlord-tenant disputes, probate matters, employment problems, and other general consumer concerns.

In Pleasanton two attorney volunteers visit the library on the third Tuesday of the month. They confer with a total of 12 people between 6 and 8 p.m. in two separate study rooms reserved for that purpose. Usually, there are more applicants than appointments, Tao notes, so the library has adopted a lottery scheme for assigning the 15- to 20-minute meetings. Registration is open from 5:30 to 5:45 p.m., and names are drawn promptly at 5:50 p.m. Applicants must be present when their names are called in order to secure the appointment. To ensure privacy, library personnel do not ask individuals what they wish to discuss, but from what patrons have indicated, frequent topics relate to family law, divorce, and taxation.

As a public service, the appointments are not intended to provide in-depth legal analysis or advice, the Alameda County Bar Association website points out. Rather, the lawyers aim to determine whether or not a legal problem exists and then to provide guidance on how the individual might proceed to have it resolved.

Every attorney has a different a specialty, the Bar Association continues. “This might mean you will be referred to another agency or Lawyer Referral Service after you meet with the volunteer attorney. If the attorney you meet with does have expertise in the area of law about which you have a question, he or she might be able to give you more information about your legal options.”

While the discussions are confidential, there is no continuing attorney/client relationship formed by the meetings. Nor do the librarians have direct interaction with the attorneys, Tao says. The volunteers who come to Pleasanton have both been participating in the program for some time, one for several years, but they do not give out their cards or contact information.

Individuals who need more assistance after their consultation might be referred to the County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service to look for an attorney to hire, to the Bar Association Volunteer Legal Services Corporation for pro bono programs, or to another local legal services organization.

Librarians can also help patrons research specific state and federal law and find legal specialists through directories and online sources.  For more information, call the library at (925) 931-3400, ext. 7. 

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