Working for the public good |

Working for the public good

by Natalia Vander Laan

Hello! My name is Natalia Vander Laan and I am an attorney in the Carson Valley practicing estate planning, family law, and workers’ compensation. It is my pleasure to share with our community my knowledge and experience about legal issues that may affect you or someone you know.

Before I delve into the subject of my first article, pro bono legal assistance, a topic that I hold a deep respect for, please allow me to quickly introduce myself.

Czesc! Or, again, hello! I was born and raised in Poland. I hold a law degree from Poland (2004), a Juris Doctor from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento (2011), and I am licensed to practice law in California and Nevada. I am the managing member of Vander Laan Law Firm, LLC in Minden and a soon-to-open Carson City office.

One thing I strongly believe in is “giving back” or, as I call it, “lawyer it forward,” by volunteering my time to improve the well-being of the community and to provide free legal assistance to those experiencing financial hardships. The prior I do by serving as a director on the Boards of the Suicide Prevention Network and the Foundation for Douglas County Recreation and Senior Center, and as a member of the advisory council of the Boys and Girls Club. The latter I do through pro bono legal work I perform for Volunteer Attorneys for Rural Nevadans, Nevada Legal Services, and the Nevada Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission.

While many people are familiar with the term pro bono, some may not understand its true meaning. Pro bono publico is a latin phrase meaning “for the public good” and denotes professional services rendered voluntarily and without compensation to people that are in need of such services but do not have the financial resources to afford them. Just as Doctors without Borders organizes medical professionals to help people receive necessary medical care for free, VARN and NLS organize legal professionals to help qualified Nevadans get the legal advice and assistance needed that they otherwise would not be able to afford.

VARN provides pro bono civil legal (non-criminal) services for eligible low-income individuals and families in one of two programs. The first program is the Pro Bono Project in which qualifying individuals are matched with an attorney donating legal services. This program offers assistance with civil legal matters including but not limited to domestic violence issues, family law matters (adoption, divorce, guardianship, and custody), real estate/real property matters (homesteads, foreclosure, breach of contract, and landlord/tenant issues) and other civil legal matters (debt collection, bankruptcy, and wills and probate). The second program is Lawyer in the Lobby where an appointment for a 20-minute consultation is scheduled with a volunteer attorney during different sessions throughout the month focusing on family law, general law, and sessions which are exclusively for Spanish speakers. More information on VARN’s Pro Bono Project and Lawyer in the Lobby services and how to determine eligibility is available online at or by calling 775-883-8278.

NLS also provides pro bono legal services where eligibility again is usually dependent on the applicant’s income level. If eligible, NLS can assist applicants only with civil law cases (non-criminal) including but not limited to government benefit denials, IRS tax disputes, subsidized housing and mobile home parks, consumer issues, Ryan White Part B, legal issues affecting Native American legal issues, tenants’ rights, elder law, family law, community development, and Veterans and rural services. You can learn more about what NLS provides and whether or not you are eligible for its services by contacting NLS online at or by calling 775-883-0404.

In my next column, I will discuss how to prepare for a consultation with a pro bono attorney.

Natalia Vander Laan is a Carson Valley attorney.