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Connecting Justice Communities

LSNTAP/PBN Webinar: 50 Tech Tips

Posted in Legal Services, Technology, Webinar

Last month Pro Bono Net and LSNTAP took the legal community back to school with the 50 Tech Tips webinar. Xander Karsten, the LawHelp Program Coordinator here at Pro Bono Net, moderated the webinar. I suppose one could say he was the principal! The lesson plan covered website launches, productivity and efficiency enhancers, and data analysis and visualization with some general purpose tips thrown in for fun.

Kim Marhsall, Content Developer & Project Manager at Arkansas Legal Services Partnership, kicked things off by highlighting some efficiency enhancing services and apps. My personal favorites were the speed-reading app Spritz (and for PDFs readsy), the language teacher Duolingo, and word finders such as One Look and Tip of My Tongue.

Tony Lu, Citizenship Works Project Coordinator at the Immigration Advocates Network, augmented Kim’s presentation with a focus on general productivity tools. For collaborative project management he recommended Trello and for those times when you’re in a loud office and need to focus, check out Noisli or Simply Noise.

Coming off his recent partnership with Pro Bono Net on OlmsteadRights.org Talley Wells, the Disability Integration Project Director at Atlanta Legal Aid Society, gave some tips for launching a website. Talley’s central tip was to plan, plan plan! Make sure you know what is and, maybe more importantly, what is not possible and think about the site from a user perspective. A good best practice is to have a soft launch and audit your site for accessibility before and after as users find bugs and other issues. In addition, Brian recommended the LSNTAP Guide on accessibility and the Wave.WebAIM tool.

Jessie Posilkin, the Training and Implementation Specialist at LSC, concluded the webinar with some fantastic tips on data analysis and visualization. For those just starting out, she recommended Tuva Labs and School of Data as great resources to learn how to use and display data compellingly. For a bit more advanced work she highlighted SQL School as a great place to learn database querying.

The webinar lived up to the hype and is a great resource for anyone looking for simple (and powerful!) tech tips and hacks. Materials are available on the SWEB Support Site and join us for the next LSNTAP/PBN webinar, Innovations in technology-enabled pro bono!

Exciting October Trainings at PLI

Posted in Legal Services, PLI, Pro Bono, Webinar

This October, the Practising Law Institute (PLI) is hosting trainings on a variety of subjects that will be especially helpful for pro bono and legal services attorneys. These programs are an essential element of PLI’s commitment to providing attorneys with the skills and training to feel confident taking on pro bono cases (and to win them!). These events will be held in PLI’s San Francisco Center; unfortunately, I don’t think I will be able to wrangle a flight out to San Francisco so I’ll have to watch via the live webcasts available on PLI.edu.

Before delving into the program details, we want to highlight two other ways PLI supports legal services attorneys and the larger access to justice movement. PLI’s Pro Bono Privileged Membership program provides approved non-profits with “an all access pass to attend ANY PLI seminar” for free without having to submit scholarship applications. The Privileged Membership is an easy, convenient, and free way for non-profits to stay-up-to-date on crucial legal issues. Interested organizations can apply by contacting PLI’s Pro Bono Membership Services.

If your organization does not qualify for a Membership, make sure to take advantage of PLI’s generous scholarship program for nonprofit and public interest attorneys, law clerks, professors, low-income, and unemployed attorneys. Applying only takes a few minutes and the scholarships grant you full access to both in-person trainings and webcasts.

We would also like to thank PLI for championing the need for pro bono as one of Pro Bono Net’s Bronze Sponsors since 2011. In addition to sponsoring us, we thank them for generously inviting us to some fantastic events over the past few years.

And now on to the programs:

October 2nd: Representing the Pro Bono Client: Advocacy Skills for Administrative Hearings 2014

The need for pro bono assistance with administrative hearings has never been higher. The trend of employers increasingly challenging all Unemployment Benefits claims combined with the explosion of Unemployment Insurance claims during the recession and court system and legal services budget cuts have created a “perfect storm” for public assistance recipients. As a result, families face the very real possibility of hunger, homelessness, and overall family instability.

This free training is designed to help mitigate the crisis by providing attorneys with a basic understanding of common issues and strategies in providing assistance with administrative appeals. The program will focus on California law, but will also cover many topics such as due process and other rights that apply nationwide; therefore advocates from other forums would benefit from the information and attending the program. Register with PLI to attend online or in person.

October 8th: California Special Education Law 2014 

Close to 700,000 California students (10% of the state’s total public school enrollment) with disabilities receive special education services. The California Special Education Law 2014 program will provide attendees with a targeted look at a number of hot topics and cutting edge issues affecting the practice of special education law:

  • Transition Planning: Trends and Strategies for Students with Individual Education Plans
  • Understanding School Discipline for Special Education Students
  • How to Leverage the IDEA to Assist Children with Disabilities and their Families in Obtaining Child Care, Early Education, and After-School Care Opportunities
  • How to Effectively Get Services for OHI Children Under IDEA and Section 504

The free program is appropriate for both new and veteran practitioners, both as a live classroom training and via PLI’s webcast platform.

October 20th: California Trial Evidence 2014 

Mastering the complexities of California evidence often can be the difference between winning and losing at trial. Recent case law and statutory developments in the law of evidence render this mastery critical in modern litigation and trials. This program is designed to give you the most up-to-date information on California evidence standards including admissibility of electronic evidence, demonstratives, expert witnesses, and more!

All civil and criminal trial attorneys who want to hone their evidence skills and stay on top of recent developments in the field should attend. The program will be especially valuable for newer attorneys trying their first few trials as well as for experienced courtroom advocates who will stay abreast of recent developments. Registration and more information is available at PLI.

PBN Attends PLI’s Supreme Court Review

Posted in Conferences, Legal Services, PLI, Pro Bono

At the end of July, my colleague Adam Friedl and I attended the Practising Law Institute’s (PLI) 16thAnnual Supreme Court Review. We want to thank PLI, a Pro Bono Net Bronze Sponsor since 2011, for inviting us (again) to the always-fascinating event. The daylong session kicked off with the themes and key decisions of the October 2013 Term. The diverse panel included law professors, practitioners, and journalists who provided a comprehensive and insightful (and occasionally controversial!) overview of the term, with a focus on some of the most noteworthy topics such as the ACA birth control mandate, unions and labor law, and warrantless searches of arrestees’ cell phones. It was a term of narrow decisions that leaned in a conservative direction and may set the stage for more sweeping changes in the future. Many of the panelists agreed that several of the cases were “proxy skirmishes” that avoided the wide ideological gulf on the Court. Adam and I left the program with a much better understanding of the 2013 Term and where the Court is going in the future. We cannot wait to return next year!

Throughout the day, three of the panelists (and the two conference co-chairs!), Joan Biskupic of Reuters, Dean Erwin Chemerinsky of University of California Irvine School of Law, and Professor Martin Schwartz of Touro Law School, were kind enough to sit down with Adam and me to discuss the 2013 Term and the evolving pro bono landscape.

Joan Biskupic

Joan Biskupic

We sat down with Ms. Biskupic for a quick chat before the day’s action began. She has chronicled the history of LGBTQ litigation, and in particular same-sex marriage cases, and recently wrote an article observing that BigLaw pro bono support has been exclusively on behalf of LGBTQ advocates. She traced her coverage of the cause back to a 1993 Washington Post article about contemporary gay rights cases, with a focus on a Hawaii Supreme Court ruling that “opened the door to gay marriages.” From there, she noted that the legal community became increasingly supportive of gay-rights – often before the rest of the country. In the landmark 2003 case Lawrence v. Texas, the ABA and O’Melveny & Myers came out in support of LGTBQ rights with amicus briefs and throughout the rest of the 2000s, the BigLaw community increasingly lined up on the side of progress. This culminated in pro bono support for the plaintiffs in last term’s key same-sex marriage cases. Ms. Biskupic speculated that demographics and the legal profession’s collegial and inclusive atmosphere contributed to the early support for gay rights.

Dean Erwin Chemerinsky

Dean Erwin Chemerinsky

At lunch, we spoke with Dean Chemerinsky and Professor Schwartz about how the Supreme Court affects the need for pro bono and the Court’s evolving understanding of technology. Last year, Dean Chemerinsky suggested that Shelby County v. Holder would create new demands for pro bono litigation. He echoed those comments this year, saying that without Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act or a new act of Congress that requires designated jurisdictions to get preclearance from the Justice Department, election system challenges must go through Section 2 – a far more resource intensive process. In addition, Professor Schwartz commented on the need for pro bono efforts to challenge the subsequent rush of voter ID laws.

On a more Pro Bono Net, technology-centric subject, we asked if they agreed with the New York TimesFarhad Manjoo’s contention that this Term showed the Court to be tech-savvy. They commented that clerks often explain technology to the justices, for example Aereo, but that in Riley v. California, which held that police need a warrant to search a cell phone, the Court relied on high-quality amicus briefs and perhaps most importantly, their own experience. The Justices own cell phones and can appreciate how much information we put on them!

Professor Martin Schwartz

Professor Martin Schwartz

We concluded by asking how UC Irvine and Touro encourage pro bono in their student bodies. Touro has a 50-hour pro bono graduation requirement, which is separate from the 50-hour rule for admission to the New York State Bar. Similarly, UCI requires students to go through a clinical experience, supervised by a faculty member, before being eligible for graduation. In 2013, 92% of UCI students performed pro bono service and the average was over 100 hours. The school also provides 10 fellowships a year to assist graduates who are interested in public interest jobs. Dean Chemerinsky and Professor Schwartz hope that these programs and the spread of innovative pro bono and public interest service delivery models will help increase access to justice in 21st century America.

Human Trafficking Legal Access Center Launched in April

Posted in Launch, Legal Services, Pro Bono

In April, in collaboration with the American Bar Association (ABA) and Polaris Project, Pro Bono Net unveiled the new Human Trafficking Legal Access Center. This exciting new initiative connects pro bono lawyers with non-profits who serve human trafficking survivors.

Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world. While the number of trafficking survivors in the US is largely unknown, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of US citizen minors are at risk of commercial sexual exploitation. 12.5% of endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2012 were likely child sex trafficking victims and 68% of global human trafficking victims are victims of forced labor.

Human trafficking survivors have a tremendous need for legal services, yet the complexity of their cases often prohibits pro bono attorneys from becoming involved. “There is still a lot of knowledge that needs to be gained about what human trafficking looks like,” explained Audrey Roofeh, Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator at Polaris Project. “The experience for human trafficking survivors might not be something a pro bono attorney is familiar with from other cases.” One survivor may have immigration needs, a criminal conviction, family law concerns, and more – easily too much for one attorney to handle. The new site eases these barriers and involves more pro bono lawyers in the human trafficking field.

The site stemmed from past ABA president Laurel Bellows’ keen interest in helping human trafficking survivors with their legal needs. As Bellows entered the final year of her presidency, the ABA sat down and looked at key collaborating organizations in the human trafficking field. They discovered that local organizations across the country were identifying the plethora of legal needs that survivors encountered but were often unable to provide legal assistance. “We saw that having access to a lawyer would be essential to survivors,” explained Vivian Huelgo, Chief Counsel on the ABA’s Task Force on Human Trafficking.

The primary purpose of the site is to serve as a matchmaker between lawyers looking to donate their time and service organizations looking for lawyers to help survivors. Both Roofeh and Huelgo also expressed additional goals for the site beyond the central matching services. “We want to promote the good practices of some of the great organizations that are doing this work,” explained Roofeh. Local organizations have made great strides in determining the best practices for helping survivors overcome a variety of obstacles and Roofeh hopes that these practices will now be shared with the greater community.

The site also highlights the need for more human trafficking service providers. In their research prior to developing the site, the ABA discovered both a lack of providers and available funding. The lack of experienced and dedicated attorneys prohibits more pro bono attorneys from volunteering in the field, as there is no one to mentor and train them on the complexity of human trafficking cases. The site is working to increase the supply of training and support, allowing more attorneys to get involved. A calendar feature on the site help people discover trainings held by partner organizations and the site will also connect people remotely to experts.

The site has excited the anti-human trafficking community due to its potential to increase awareness about this pressing issue and ability to help more survivors gain access to the resources they need.

LSNTAP/PBN Webinar: The “whats” and the “whys” of Online Intake

Posted in Legal Services, Technology, Webinar

This past August, Pro Bono Net partnered with LSNTAP to produce a webinar on online intake in legal aid. Moderated by Claudia Johnson of Pro Bono Net, the webinar reviewed online intake, what it is and how it fits in the delivery of legal services continuum, in addition to sharing two different program model implementations.

Joan Kleinberg, Director of CLEAR/Private Bar Development at the Northwest Justice Project kicked off the webinar by sharing how they developed their online intake in Washington State and the lessons they learned from the experience. Breckie Hayes-Snow, Deputy Director at the Legal Advice & Referral Center followed-up with an example from New Hampshire. Both programs made great recommendations on how to maximize the potential of online intake projects.

Next, Bob Aubin, a paralegal and self-employed developer, discussed technology nuts and bolts of online intake, and what legal non-profits need to consider and be aware of (from a technology perspective) before they start an online intake project.

Ed Marks, Executive Director at New Mexico Legal Aid wrapped up the training with an example of how to use intake data to facilitate and support regional resource allocation and collaboration across agencies as a way to promote systemic regional advocacy and effective resource allocation.

A worthwhile resource for those considering online intake projects and those already doing online intake, materials from this informative webinar are available on the SWEB Support Site. Be sure to join us for the next LSNTAP/PBN webinar!

Summer Fun!

Posted in Staff News

As summer (sadly) winds down, we want to share our staff’s summer fun with everyone so you can all see what we’re like when we’re not developing poor posture and possibly ruining our long-term vision. Our staff has done everything this summer from concerts close to home to sleeping in airports to weddings! Read on to hear and see (cause, what’s a story without pictures, right?) about our awesome adventures and remember, by the time you’re done, you’ll be about 7.5 minutes closer to the long weekend!

We’ll begin with our dearly departed VISTA, Jon who had a special concert experience:

My family and I went to see James Taylor in concert at Jones Beach in July. My parents raised me on good classic music and so despite the older crowd I had a great time! JT played all of the classics and was really engaging, and the weather was perfect/the setting beautiful. Whereas most concerts I’ve been to are loud and active, JT had everyone’s attention and it was remarkably mellow, like a 15,000 person campfire.

James Taylor Concert

The Immigration Advocates Network’s Associate Director, Pat took her family camping and tried to be out in nature as much as possible:

Pamet River

And of course, no summer is complete without a trip and show for the grandparents…

Music for Grandparents

Jillian, our Training and Field Support Coordinator, had some unique dinner partners and decided to indulge in the magic of Star Wars day (so San Francisco of her!). May the Fourth be with you all! She also reports “both the monkeys and the storm troopers were surprisingly civil.”

Monkeys

Stormtroopers

Ken, IAN’s Program Coordinator reports on his European adventure:

Yours truly travelled with the hardcore punk band Night Birds across Europe, selling their merch, taking photos, and keeping score on a blog. 11 countries in 12 insane days: The Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland, France, the U.K., Belgium, and Finland. The band played everywhere from up in the mountains of Slovenia, down to an old cellar in the heart of Paris.

Switzerland

Ken also snapped a selfie with Europe’s largest waterfall in Switzerland:

Europe's largest waterfall, Switzerland

Claudia the LawHelp Interactive Program Manager and inveterate hiker went on the grand old summer tradition of fruit picking!

Cherry Tree

Jessica, our Product Manager took a trip to Lye Brook Falls, Vermont and went chasing waterfalls:

Waterfalls

This Monday we had our staff outing. PBN New York relaxed on the beach and PBN San Francisco took a tram tour (!!!) of Angel Island and took some amazing pictures. Here is PBN NY taking long and thoughtful strolls on the beach (look at those picture perfect foot prints!):

PBN NY on the Beach

And here is PBN SF with a background that almost makes me want to move out to California (though honestly the biggest draw for this carnivore would be In-N-Out):

PBN SF

And now to end this post with what I know you all really want to see: weddings! Mirenda, the LawHelp Interactive Coordinator, emailed me a short summary of her summer:

Hey Jake,

I got married this summer and plan on living happily ever after.

The end,

Mirenda

Mirenda's Wedding

Finally, Karin our Development Officer and one of my two direct supervisors gets to close out our summer with her wedding in CT!

Karin's Wedding

Online Developer Training to Create Easy-to-Use Online Forms Starts September 9th

Posted in Courts, Legal Services, Pro Bono, Technology, Webinar

With funding from the Legal Services Corporation Technology Assistance Grants, Pro Bono Net is organizing its first online developer training for the online legal services and court document assembly community. This five week series will start on 9/9/2014 and will end on 10/7/2014. Each two hour session will teach basic A2J Author and HotDocs skills, so that legal aid groups, pro bono groups, and partner court staff can learn how to create online forms through LawHelp Interactive. The training series has been well received and with quick and heavy registration. The webinar series will be recorded and in November, PBN will release the recordings for those who could not join the series. The trainers for this series include

  • Jessica Bolack Frank from A2J Author
  • Marc Lauritsen of Capstone Practice
  • Bart Earle also from Capstone Practice
  • Mirenda Watkins and Claudia Johnson from Pro Bono Net

More information can about the series is available at the LHI Support Trainings pageLawHelp Interactive is operated through a collaboration between Pro Bono Net, LSC, and the Ohio State Legal Services Association. LHI hosts over 3,000 online forms that are used daily in over 40 states by self-represented litigants, clinics, pro bono lawyers, and legal aid staff to efficiently create legal documents and increase access to justice. Teaching how to create online forms is of utmost importance as outlined in the LSC Technology Summit Report. In the second quarter of 2014, over 130,600 legal documents were created through LawHelp Interactive.

Goodbye Jon!

Posted in Legal Services, Staff News, Superstorm Sandy, Technology, Website Launch

Last week, Jon Weinberg, the Pro Bono Net and Montana Legal Services Association 2014 AmeriCorps VISTA, completed his year of service. Before he left, we asked Jon a few questions about the past year and what’s next for him. We’ll miss him and we hope you join us in thanking him for his tremendous work over the past year!

Our 2014 VISTA, Jon Weinberg

Jon Weinberg

PBN: What interested you in the VISTA program and in service with Pro Bono Net specifically?

Jon: I became interested in VISTA after I decided to defer law school for a year. I realized I could benefit from working and getting non-academic experience working for a cause or organization I believed in, and VISTA really fit the bill. The Pro Bono Net VISTA opportunity particularly stood out because of PBN’s unique role in utilizing technology to advance access to justice and the opportunity to work with the legal community and learn about the law from a different perspective. Also, my family (like almost everyone in the New York area) was affected by Sandy and I saw the continuing needs and wanted to help with recovery.

PBN: Tell us about some of the projects you’ve worked on in the past year.

Jon: My projects have revolved around Pro Bono Net’s efforts related to disaster legal services. In New York, I aided PBN’s efforts supporting attorneys responding to Sandy and helped institutionalize a more permanent disaster legal response network following a reception, needs assessment survey, and focus group meetings. I worked with our partners at the Legal Services Corporation to help develop and convene a national advisory group of disaster legal experts to assist legal services responders. For the re-launch of the National Disaster Legal Aid Resource Center, www.disasterlegalaid.org, I supported the project team by soliciting information for a pro bono opportunities guide, adapting the previously-developed FEMA appeals tool, creating a toolkit and assisting with design choices and content migration.

PBN: What was your favorite project? Why?

Jon: My favorite project was probably working with attorneys in New York and New Jersey on a more permanent disaster network effort. Although I won’t have a chance to see the network truly come into being, I learned so much from assessing needs in the community and working closely with partners to propose a solution that’s both feasible and helpful. It was very inspiring to learn about the substantial response of the legal community to Sandy and I was honored to have had the opportunity to support efforts to continue collaboration.

PBN: How will your experience help you going forward, both personally and professionally?

Jon: Personally, I learned so, so much from working in a professional setting. I now appreciate how different it is from working in school and that working in an office brings with it very different challenges than those faced in classes and with student organizations. Professionally, I’ve learned that the law functions very differently than it’s advertised, and that lawyers have to take on vast, very different responsibilities in their line of work than I would have otherwise expected. The justice gap is very real, and the leap to bridge it requires great strength and determination on the part of lawyers who undertake the challenge.

PBN: What will you miss most about your year at Pro Bono Net?

Jon: I’ll probably most miss getting to work with the program team! It’s really an incredible group. I do look forward to keeping up our gChat conversations though! I’ll also miss being in New York and working at an organization that brings so many attorneys together and supports so many different exciting initiatives nationally. You really do learn something new every day here!

PBN: What are you doing next?

Jon: I’ll be starting law school next month! I’m now much more attuned to the challenges faced by attorneys who want to do good, both from legal services and the private bar, but I’ve also been inspired by those I’ve worked with this year who have been able to help people through the law (also through both legal services and the private bar.)

PBN: What is one, totally non-legal related factoid, you learned from your time here?

Jon: I can now say unequivocally that Gregory’s Coffee is unparalleled in Midtown Manhattan! And that soccer is underappreciated by most Americans (thanks Adam, Kevin, Jake, and Mark!)

Pro Bono Net to Host Interactive Discussion at the International Legal Technology Association Conference

Posted in Conferences, Technology, Uncategorized

Pro Bono Net will host an interactive discussion on technology and increasing access to justice at the International Legal Technology Association’s 37th Annual Educational Conference in Nashville, Tennessee on August 19th.

Pro Bono Net, the nonprofit leader in technology solutions to expand access to justice, is hosting the networking reception and interactive conversation thanks to generous support from Microsoft.  Over 3,000 attendees will be at the conference to discuss the latest knowledge and technology solutions for challenges facing law firms and legal departments.

The Pro Bono Net event will feature a conversation on “Leveraging Technology to Increase Access to Justice” featuring Nishan DeSilva, Senior Director of Business and Technology Solutions at Microsoft Legal and Corporate Affairs, and Michael Mills, President & Chief Strategy Officer at Neota Logic and Pro Bono Net Board of Directors.  The conversation will be led by Pro Bono Net Executive Director, Mark O’Brien.

The event will take place on Tuesday, August 19, 2014 from 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. in the Presidential Boardroom A at the Gaylord Opryland.

In addition to our lead sponsor, Microsoft, the following companies are sponsoring the event: Aderant, ALM, BigHand, Bridgeway, Elevate, Epiq, HighQ, HotDocs, Huron Consulting Group, Intellitech, International Legal Technology Association, LexisNexis, LSI Foundation, Marks Baughan, Neota Logic, Practising Law Institute, and Tabs3.

For more information regarding the event, please contact Karin Romans, kromans@probono.net.

DisasterLegalAid.org Re-Launched as Online Hub for Disaster Legal Services

Posted in Launch, Legal Services, Pro Bono, Superstorm Sandy, Technology, Website Launch

In addition to developing new tools, sites, and solutions to increase access to justice, Pro Bono Net looks for ways to grow and adapt its programs to match evolving needs and leverage new technology. In that vein, over the past few months PBN Program Director Liz Keith and I have been hard at work with partners at Lone Star Legal Aid, the American Bar Association, the Legal Services Corporation, the National Legal Aid & Defender Association, and Texas Legal Services Center to re-launch the National Disaster Legal Aid Resource Center at DisasterLegalAid.org. Working on the site has been one of my primary projects this year as a VISTA at Pro Bono Net supporting the organization’s work around disaster legal services. The re-launched site has some great new features, and working on the re-launch was an instructive experience.

The re-launched site builds upon successful web-based efforts following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and has been active since 2009. The three main portals for different core audiences (people in need of help, legal aid professionals, and pro bono volunteers) remain, and each portal includes relevant resources, guides, explanations, and links. For example, people in need of legal help can consult links on methods of assistance while legal aid professionals can use a checklist to guide them through establishing post-disaster operations. The site additionally continues to feature disaster-specific pages with the latest information on deadlines, hotlines, and specific assistance available.

All of that content is greatly enhanced by the re-launched site’s design. The new design is visually appealing and better facilitates navigation through the portals, with images from actual disaster response efforts supplied by LSC and others working in the field after disasters. The colors were selected to make the site more accessible to those who are visually impaired and all images now have associated text. Perhaps most excitingly, the new design is mobile-responsive. Mobile responsiveness is especially important because smartphones are increasingly being used to access information after disasters.

New features and content complement the improved design. A dedicated version of the National Pro Bono Opportunities Guide allows prospective pro bono attorneys to immediately identify how they can help after a disaster. The site also features a FEMA appeals tool, powered by LawHelp Interactive, which allows a survivor of any FEMA-declared disaster to easily appeal an adverse FEMA assistance decision. Legal services attorneys with questions about disaster response can use the site to submit queries to the Disaster Legal Aid National Advisory Group.

I had no idea how much work would go into the re-launch. Pro Bono Net and Lone Star Legal Aid, the project lead, worked diligently with a national stakeholder committee and web designer for months to make this vision a reality. For the new tools and features, we solicited disaster pro bono opportunities nationally and modified a FEMA appeals tool Pro Bono Net developed in 2013 for use by survivors of Superstorm Sandy. In addition, Lone Star Legal Aid led a content coalition of disaster legal services experts charged with identifying, curating and posting new content for the site, and quickly added resources about new disasters as they were declared by FEMA and shared news items about disaster legal response efforts. The re-launch effort was supported with funding from the Legal Services Corporation’s Technology Initiative Grant program.

When all was said and done, everything paid off. I’m very excited to join Pro Bono Net and our partners in publicizing the re-launched site and I hope it will play an important role in disaster legal response efforts. I am happy that in the future survivors and attorneys alike will have a central online hub – for survivors to access legal resources that can help them rebuild and recover, and for attorneys and advocates to better serve survivors and get them the access to justice they deserve.