National Features Local VLN Pro Bono Attorney James Mason

Content courtesy of Pro Bono Net


James Mason is an associate attorney in Dorsey & Whitney LLP’s Minneapolis office. He volunteers with Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN) in its criminal expungement workshop.

Last year, over 1,000 people came to VLN for help with criminal expungement, so there has been a high demand for the assisted self-help workshops. At the workshops, volunteer attorneys like James help people complete the lengthy and detailed court pleadings required for expungement using the HotDocs assembly tool hosted on hosts a range of resources for lawyers, law students, and faculty advising low-income or disadvantaged clients in Minnesota.

Pro Bono Net is excited to share this volunteer profile with our community as the nation is focused on re-entry issues during National Re-entry Week.  We thank our partner, Minnesota Legal Services for sharing this volunteer profile and hope it inspires you to volunteer! Don’t forget to check out our Related Resources links below to find out how you can get started!

James takes the time to get each client’s detailed story and drafts compelling statements about their struggles and rehabilitative efforts. Numerous clients have given him what VLN staff attorney Chris Hanrahan considers to be the ultimate compliment for an expungement attorney: that he put into words exactly what they wanted to say but could not themselves explain.  James’ skillful interviewing and writing have helped many people get expungements and continues to give clients their best opportunities for success.

Q & A: James Mason

Q: Why do you feel it’s important for you to do pro bono work? What motivates you?

It’s important for me to do pro bono work because I understand the challenges that many people face with regard to navigating the legal system, and how hard it is to do so without representation.  My motivation comes from seeing the incredible need that is met through the service and commitment of those who have dedicated their careers to serving the underrepresented and disadvantaged.

“I understand the challenges that many people face with regard to navigating the legal system, and how hard it is to do so without representation.”

Q: It is obvious that the need for pro bono attorneys is overwhelming, but a busy work day can also be overwhelming: how do you find the time?

I have to find time because the work is so crucial to the lives of the underrepresented in my community.

Q: Can you share a highlight from a memorable case?

“Experiences like this reaffirm the importance of pro bono work to my career and personal development.”

Recently I worked with a domestic violence survivor who, unfortunately, had an assault offense on her record from defending herself against her ex-husband.  This offense handicapped her opportunities for employment and housing.  She reached out to us because she believed expunging this offense from her record was the only way she could move on with her life.  I’m glad that I was able to help her communicate her story to the court.  I walked home from work that day feeling like I really made a difference.  Experiences like this reaffirm the import of pro bono work to my career and personal development.

“Pro Bono Net is a national non-profit organization dedicated to increasing access to justice for the disadvantaged. Through innovative technology solutions and expertise in building and mobilizing justice networks, Pro Bono Net transforms the way legal help reaches the underserved. Comprehensive programs including, and, enable legal advocates to make a stronger impact, increase volunteer participation, and empower the public with resources and self-help tools to improve their lives.”


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