What to Expect from a SALS Legal Intake
1. Fill out an application here . You may submit this application to the SALS office via fax at 406-403-0499, mail at PO Box 818, Helena, MT 59624; or, email to firstname.lastname@example.org. *If you are an advocate, referring agency, or parent/guardian of a minor filling out the form for a survivor, please also fill out the Release Form included with this application so that we may contact you regarding the status of this application.
2. . The SALS program contracts with Ries Law Group, PC of Missoula for professional legal services oversight. Our contract attorneys are vetted through this service, and we ask for an initial release of information from applicants so that we may run an initial conflict check with Ries Law Group, PC to communicate regarding your application.
3. The SALS program will process your application within seven business days of its submittal. SALS must have an opportunity to complete a conflict check with its attorneys before speaking to you about your case. *If you have any immediate court deadlines, e.g., an Order of Protection hearing or court filing deadline, please indicate this on your application. In these circumstances, SALS may refer you to other agency services that can assist you sooner.
4. The SALS office will then reach out to the applicant to set up an intake meeting, either conducted over the phone, via Skype/Zoom/FaceTime, or in person at our local office. An intake is a chance for both potential client and staff to get to know one another and to discuss the work that SALS may be able to do for the client. It also assists the attorney/advocate in better understanding the applicant’s legal needs.
5. A Note on Attorney-Client Privilege: any information shared with our legal advocate or attorneys at SALS are protected by advocate privilege (Montana Code Annotated § 26-1-812) and attorney-client privilege (Montana Code Annotated § 26-1-803) (with some limited exceptions). Your information, including that provided in the application process, along with any conversations between you and our advocate and attorneys, remains confidential within the SALS office and are protected under Montana law. This privilege is owned by you, the client. Under attorney-client privilege, we will not share your information to third parties unless a Release is signed by you; this privilege remains even after the closing of your file. There are some very limited exceptions to this protection, which SALS staff can advise you to as we move through the intake process. *Additionally, if a third party attends an intake appointment, this privilege may be waived and a court may decide that there is no confidentiality during said meeting.
6. During the intake, a Safety Plan will be created to assist the applicant throughout the course of representation. This Safety Plan is a holistic, or all-encompassing approach, for addressing survivors’ safety needs in every aspect of their day-to-day life. Facilitating safety planning is one way in which our staff can assist in giving choice and power back to the survivor.
7. This intake conversation tends to take around an hour or longer depending on applicant needs.
8. Following an intake, the SALS staff will review and assess the capacity of the program and the legal needs of the applicant to decide whether representation at the SALS office is appropriate at this time. The applicant will be contacted with SALS’ decision within a few days of the intake appointment regarding the status of their application. If SALS decides to take the case, we will set up an appointment to sign a retainer (contract for legal services) with the client. Please note that SALS does not agree to represent an applicant in a matter until after a retainer for services is signed.
9. If SALS cannot take the case, our office will offer referrals to similar programs or private attorneys that may assist the applicant.