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Connecting Justice Communities

Happy Citizenship Day!

Posted in Immigration, Legal Services, Mobile, Resources, Technology

CW Mobile logoIn honor of Citizenship day this past weekend, the Immigration Advocates Network and Pro Bono Net would like to highlight our new and improved Citizenshipworks mobile app!

Citizenshipworks is an award-winning free online service that helps those who are eligible to apply for citizenship, step-by-step. With a DIY application and online and in-person legal support, Citizenshipworks is a one-stop-shop for naturalization. The Citizenshipworks app is the perfect companion tool, providing additional resources and tools to help those interested in applying to naturalize!

The Citizenshipworks mobile app helps users:

  • Learn about their eligibility to become a U.S. citizen;
  • Understand the process of becoming a U.S. citizen;
  • Study for the English and Civics tests with flashcards and other tools;
  • Access financial resources, including a tax document checklist and savings calculator; and
  • Find free or low-cost legal help from a network of nonprofit experts.

Nearly 9 million Legal Permanent Residents are eligible to apply for citizenship. However, less than 10% become citizens each year. They face a range of barriers, including high application fees and a cumbersome, lengthy application process. The Citizenshipworks mobile app aims to empower potential applicants to learn about naturalization and give them the tools they need to complete the process successfully.

In collaboration with Citi Community Development and the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund), the new version of the app includes an updated interface, financial empowerment resources, and a Chinese language version (Korean will be available in October).

Check out the App!

 

 

 

 

 

 

To download the app for Apple devices, visit apple.co/1Q4H4s4 or search for “Citizenshipworks” in the iTunes App Store. To download the app for Android devices, visit https://goo.gl/RhTdy5 or search for “Citizenshipworks” in the Google Play Store.


 

The Immigration Advocates NetworkThe Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) is a collaborative effort of leading immigrants’ rights organizations designed to increase access to justice for low-income immigrants and strengthen the capacity of organizations serving them. IAN promotes more effective and efficient communication, collaboration, and services among immigration advocates and organizations by providing free, easily accessible and comprehensive online resources and tools.

Electronic Evidence: A Rose with a Thorn

Posted in Legal Services, PLI, Pro Bono, Resources, Seminar, Technology, Webinar

On August 8th, the Practising Law Institute presented a seminar/webinar entitled “Electronic Evidence in the New York State Courts: Representing the Legal Services Client 2016” to explore best practices, safety concerns, and ethical considerations in the case law surrounding electronic evidence for legal services clients in New York.

Erica Olsen, National Network to End Domestic Violence

Erica Olsen, National Network to End Domestic Violence

Technology has become a ubiquitous part of our lives, permeating every public and private space we have. Information can be accessed with the swipe of a finger or the press of a button, and records are accessed from locations all over the world via the cloud. Modern conversations not only happen over phone lines, but via texts, instant messaging, emails and digital recordings. These can be considered electronic evidence in a court of law if properly authenticated.

In addition to witness testimony, these pieces of evidence can help to establish relationships, prove authenticity of intentions, and fact check claims. Especially in domestic violence cases, these pieces of evidence can make a big difference in the outcomes. However, while technology can be used to assist legal services clients in their cases, it can also be abused to monitor, control and coerce victims.

In the first session of the seminar, Erica Olsen, from the National Network to End Domestic Violence, addressed many of the ways that abusers use technology to control their victims. There are plenty of ways technology can be used by abusers including, but not limited to: using spyware on computers and phones; putting physical surveillance equipment in the home or car; making disguised calls to manipulate evidence or sabotage a victim; and creating fake social media profiles and accounts to harass victims or undermine their integrity. Erica spoke on each of these methods and the best practices for discovering, undoing or mitigating the consequences for each of these.

Co-Chairs Terry Lawson & Ian Harris; Speakers Alexis C. Lorenzo & Erica Olsen

Co-Chairs Terry Lawson & Ian Harris; Speakers Alexis C. Lorenzo & Erica Olsen

While an attorney is not responsible for knowing about all technology abuse, being able to recognize the various ways and means can help them prepare for the case, keep their clients safe, and collect evidence. An anecdote, shared by Co-Chair Ian Harris of Staten Island Legal Services, involved a woman being able to avoid danger from her abuser by taking a screen shot of a text containing a gun emoji and using it to alert the judge and the police that he had threatened her. While many may believe a simple emoji is harmless, in this particular situation it was indicative of a threat made on her life.

Ian was able to recognize the danger inherent in the text and arrange for a warrant to be issued for the abuser’s arrest. He was also able to remove his client from her home, so she was not present when her abuser showed up to her home with a gun and asked for her. The abuser then proceeded to kill himself in front of her family when they told him she wasn’t there. If Ian had not taken his client seriously, or had not understood the implications of technology abuse, his client may not have survived.

A frequent advice to domestic violence victims is to get rid of the technology that the abuser is using to monitor them. However, Erica recommends NOT removing technology from the equation with domestic violence clients until after the court proceedings, as the removal of the technology won’t stop the abuse and can lead to an escalation. It also removes the ability for the client to monitor their abuser, look for warning signs of escalation, and collect necessary evidence. However, it would be prudent to find alternative means for the client to use technology so that the information being provided to the abuser is minimized or managed well to protect the client.

Even if technology can be used to abuse victims, it can also be used to provide victims leverage in their cases and can sometimes be the difference between freedom and continued abuse. The evidence provided in text messages, emails, phone records and other forms of communication can be submitted upon authentication during cases and used to establish controlling and abusive behavior as well as harassment of the client to lend authenticity and urgency to the proceedings.

In the second and third parts of the seminar, Ian Harris touched upon some best practices and ethical concerns both in presenting and authenticating the evidence, and in obtaining and storing information collected. Finally, the panel conducted a mock trial in order to provide an example of authenticating electronic evidence, and provide for questions and feedback from those present.

To learn more about electronic evidence in the New York Courts including best practices, ethical considerations and authentication procedures, you can watch the seminar for FREE at the Practising Law Institute.

Co-Chair(s)

  • Ian Harris – Director, Family Law Unit, Staten Island Legal Services
  • Terry Lawson – Director, Family and Immigration Unit, Legal Services NYC – Bronx

Speaker(s)

  • Alexis C. Lorenzo – Senior Attorney, Foreclosure Prevention Unit, Legal Services NYC – Bronx
  • Erica Olsen – Deputy Director, Safety Net Project, National Network to End Domestic Violence

Segments

  • Ongoing and Emerging Technologies Utilized by Litigants
  • Electronic Evidence in the New York State Courts
  • Ethical Issues in Electronic Evidence Under the New York Rules
  • Mock Trial: Electronic Evidence in the New York State Courts

Practising Law InstituteThis seminar/webcast was hosted by the Practising Law Institute. To register for any webcasts or seminars go to www.pli.edu for more information.

At the core of Practising Law Institute’s mission is its commitment to offer training to members of the legal profession to support their pro bono service. PLI offers pro bono training, scholarships, and access to live programs, Webcasts, and On-Demand archived programs, as well as an extensive Pro Bono Membership program. For more information about PLI’s pro bono programs and activities, please visitwww.pli.edu/probono. Follow PLI’s Pro Bono Group on LinkedIn, and on Twitter @ProBonoPLI.

LSNTAP/PBN Community Training Series: From Investment to Impact: Recent Outcomes Evaluations of Legal Aid Tech Projects

Posted in Legal Services, Resources, Technology, Webinar

Jillian

Jillian Theil is the Pro Bono Net Training and Field Support Coordinator and has been with Pro Bono Net since 2011. She manages the LSNTAP/PBN Community Training series. 

 LSNTAP and PBN recently held a webinar on evaluations, “From Investment to Impact: Recent Outcomes Evaluations of Legal Aid Tech Projects.” The training explored technology project evaluation approaches from legal aid and other fields, and reviewed designing and executing evaluations in resource constrained environments. The webinar was moderated by Claudia Johnson of Pro Bono Net. 

The first presentation by Keith Porcaro and Valerie Elephant of SIMLab kicked off by discussing their organization’s Monitoring and Evaluation (M & E) framework. The framework was inspired by one used commonly in the international development community and in humanitarian settings. They also introduced a new evaluation site they have started, inspired by the evaluation process, feedbackmechanisms.org and evaluation considerations in the legal aid/legal technology setting.

Next, Tara Saylor of Q2 Consulting discussed the Logic Model evaluation framework in the context of an evaluation project for the Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc. She also discussed some key ideas for executing an evaluation when faced with resource constraints. The presentation ended with some great discussion and Q&A with the audience on evaluations in the legal aid technology space. 

Be sure to check out materials available on the SWEB Support Site and join us for the next LSNTAP/PBN webinar, “Future-Proofing Your Projects: Maintenance, Succession, and Continuity Planning.” 


LSNTAPLSNTAP helps nonprofit legal aid programs improve client services through effective and innovative use of technology. To do this, we provide technology training, maintain information, create online tools, and host community forums such as the LStech email list. Read about us, or contact us at info@lsntap.org for more information.

Attorneys Joining Nonprofit Boards: PLI Webinar

Posted in PLI, Pro Bono, Resources, Webinar

Development Communications Intern, Summer 2016


Nicole is a senior at the Sy Syms School of Business in Manhattan studying business management and psychology. She is currently a Summer Development & Communications intern at the Pro Bono Net New York Headquarters.  

On July 12, 2016, the Practicing Law Institute, a nonprofit continuing legal education and professional training organization, hosted a webcast entitled “Serving on a Nonprofit Board – Practical Considerations for Attorneys.” In the webinar, experts Nancy Eberhardt and Courtney A. Darts, Director of the New Jersey Program and Director of Education at the Pro Bono Partnership, discussed practical tips and ethical considerations for attorneys serving or thinking of serving on the board of a nonprofit.

For many lawyers, joining the board of a nonprofit can be an incredibly rewarding experience, both personally and professionally. It provides an opportunity to get involved in a cause important to you, as well as to make valuable connections with other lawyers and professionals. The key, as they discussed, is finding a non-profit whose cause interests you and is one you feel you could be of value to.

They began the seminar by discussing the role of a nonprofit board and the roles one can take on as a board member. Ensuring compliance with laws and regulations as well as supervising top level staff are key responsibilities. As a lawyer, you are in a pivotal position to use your legal expertise for issue-spotting and legal strategy within the organization. The discussion also touched on the overall structure of a nonprofit, where the board should delegate important tasks to the organizations’ employees and help define the overall direction and strategy. Another crucial role for board members is acting as a representative of the organization to the community at large and promoting the organization in whatever way possible.

From there the discussion turned to why one would serve on the board of a nonprofit. First and foremost, you should have commitment to the cause, this is the driving factor that allows you to be properly dedicated and what usually attracts someone to getting involved in a nonprofit. “Because you were asked”, Darts and Eberhardt mentioned, can’t be the only reason. Lawyers, as they said, are heavily sought after for board positions within nonprofits, and it is important to choose a cause that you feel strongly about and feel you are in a position to help.

Darts and Eberhardt went on to talk about different considerations one should take into account before joining a nonprofit board, such as interest level, availability, and experience with the organization. They stressed again the importance of joining a cause you are interested in, but also finding out what the organization requires of its board members in terms of duties, time, and money. They encouraged asking to see the minutes from previous meetings to get a sense of what role the board members play, as well as finding out how often they meet, for how long, etc. and what sort of obligations you would have outside of attending meetings.

Organizations vary greatly in what they expect of their board members in terms of advising, personal donations, and fundraising help. It is also important to do your research on the organizations reputation within their community, which Darts and Eberhardt stated as “a nonprofit’s most valuable asset.” They advised looking into where the organization gets its funding and how stable of a source it is, as well as any legal issues it may be currently having, and to be clear from the beginning on your financial abilities and what sort of contributions they can reasonably expect from you.

As a lawyer, your role within the board is unique in that you have the option to give legal advice to the organization. However, there are a number of concerns associated with this; the organizations Directors and Officers Liability insurance (D&O) coverage, attorney client privilege issues, and potential conflicts of interest to name a few. They advised making sure the organization has D&O coverage before acting as their legal council, and thinking about not serving on their board and simply offering your legal services should you wish to avoid any potential conflict of interest. Similarly, they advised speaking to someone within the organization to clarify what types of services they expect you to offer. They did point out however, that whether you decide to offer legal council or not, as a lawyer you are in a unique position to still use your legal expertise for issue spotting and other strategic uses as a board member.

Overall, this hour-long webinar helped shed a lot of light on important considerations any attorney should think about before joining a nonprofit board and getting more involved in the access to justice community. It can be a highly rewarding experience for both lawyers and nonprofits.


Practising Law InstituteThis seminar/webcast was hosted by the Practising Law Institute. To register for any webcasts or seminars go to www.pli.edu for more information.

At the core of Practising Law Institute’s mission is its commitment to offer training to members of the legal profession to support their pro bono service. PLI offers pro bono training, scholarships, and access to live programs, Webcasts, and On-Demand archived programs, as well as an extensive Pro Bono Membership program. For more information about PLI’s pro bono programs and activities, please visit www.pli.edu/probono. Follow PLI’s Pro Bono Group on LinkedIn, and on Twitter @ProBonoPLI.

A Law Student Perspective into the 2016 NYS Civil Legal Aid Tech Conference

Posted in Conferences, Legal Services, Technology

Professional Pic


On June 23rd 2016, the New York State Permanent Commission on Access to Justice, in partnership with NYSTech, held the New York Statewide Civil Legal Aid Technology Conference. Pro Bono Net’s summer legal intern was in attendance and offers her perspective on the conference below. Darlene Mottley is a 2L student at Brooklyn Law School in New York. 

 

As a first time attendee of the 2016 New York Statewide Civil Legal Aid Technology Conference, I was inspired by the heartfelt commitment displayed by members of the civil legal aid community towards the goal of making justice available to all.

My day began by attending a panel composed of various key players in the tech and legal world currently developing innovative technology that would soon be available to the civil legal services community to help serve their clients. I assumed the panel would specifically discuss how to use the technologies and where to gain access to them. Instead, surprisingly, the panel discussion centered on the developmental strategies employed by the different design teams to ensure the final web programs and mobile applications would be user friendly and accessible by the target audience.

CLA Conf. Graphic 1Another major focus item was the concept of privacy and the importance of ensuring that programs created to help low-income civil litigants protected their personal information. I thought the privacy discussion was a good reminder that not only should the civil aid community be focused on using innovative technology to promote access to justice, but such innovation should not be at the expense of sacrificing the privacy of the individuals such programs are designed to help. As I sat through various panel discussions throughout the day, it was clear that in order for technology to have a successful and prominent role in promoting access to justice, technologies would have to be designed from the perspective of end-users.

Out of all the technologies presented, there were two innovations I found the most fascinating. First, the Statewide Access Portal Project, run by the Legal Service Corporation in partnership with Pro Bono Net and Microsoft, and second, the Human-Centered Design to Build Tools for Access to Justice, run by Blue Ridge Labs at Robin Hood.

The goal of the Statewide Portal Project was to develop a unified online system that all civil legal aid providers could use for intake and triage efforts. The ability to streamline the intake and triage process would help legal aid providers be able to best assess the needs of a client and place clients in contact with the most appropriate legal help. With a unified system, data could easily be transferred and multiple legal aid partners could work simultaneously to help an individual if so required.

Blue Ridge Labs is conceptualizing the possibility of developing an application that would allow users to essentially self-triage and access free legal information from their mobile devices. User testing plays an invaluable role in the development of the company’s programs. The Design Insight Group is a paid user-testing group that tests programs currently in development for several months and record their experiences along the way. The company uses the group’s feedback to alter problematic aspect of the program and rethink their design approach.

Both of the aforementioned technologies addressed important issues the civil legal aid services community faces when looking to develop technologies for individuals in need of legal aid:

  • accessibility of the program;
  • technology that is user friendly in both usability and comprehension; and,
  • technology that can be used across the board by multiple legal aid providers.

Keynote speaker, Seth Andrews, senior adviser in the Office of Technology and Policy at the White House, addressed all of these reoccurring themes in an impassioned presentation. Drawing reference to the challenges the White House faced in updating many federal government websites, he encouraged leaders in the civil legal aid community to work together to reach goals in promoting access to justice, and also to align their projects with more popular technologies. For instance, promoting an application that allows pro se litigants to independently fill out necessary court forms for a court proceeding on a platform like Facebook or Twitter.

There is still much to figure out regarding how technology can best be used to close the justice gap. However, the civil legal aid community has already taken several progressive leaps in accomplishing their goals. I had an enriching experience at the conference and I look forward to seeing what happens in the civil legal aid community with technology in the near future.


Several Pro Bono Net staff members participated in panels in the conference: Mark O’Brien, Executive Director; Niki DeMel, Pro Bono and Special Initiatives Coordinator; Mike Grunenwald; Program Coordinator; Tony Lu, Product Manager, Immigration Advocates Network; and Sandra Sandoval; Citizenshipworks Program Manager, Immigration Advocates Network.

LSNTAP/ PBN Community Training Series: 50 Tech Tips 2016

Posted in Legal Services, Resources, Staff News, Technology, Webinar


Jillian

Jillian Theil is the Pro Bono Net Training and Field Support Coordinator and has been with Pro Bono Net since 2011. She manages the LSNTAP/PBN Community Training series. Stay tuned for more LSNTAP blogs this summer!

 

 

Pro Bono Net and LSNTAP kicked off their 2016 LSNTAP Community Training series with the recurring favorite, “50 Tech Tips.” The training featured 50 tech tips for project management, collaboration, communication and more, along with a segment on “homegrown” tools and resources developed by and for the legal aid community. We had great engagement from the audience and some wonderful tech tips shared by the crowd, too!

Jenny Singleton of Minnesota Legal Services State Support kicked things off by highlighting some great tech tips for the legal aid community. Some of these included Grammarly, a free tool to help improve written communication by eliminating errors and enhancing clarity and meaning.

Wilneida Negron of the Florida Justice Technology Center covered a number of great security, accessibility and Google Drive tips, including HTTPS Everywhere and SocioViz.

Afterwards, Reece Flexner of the DC Bar presented some general best practice tips for working with technology, including making sure to draw up business requirements and tools for creating minimum viable products for stakeholder feedback.

Samantha Krykostas of Illinois Legal Aid Online also discussed some tools her organization has been using in the revamp of their website. Tips included the New Relic Website Performance tool and GeniusScan, an app to scan written notes.

Rounding out the tech tips was my presentation on great homegrown tech tools the legal aid tech community has created, including WriteClearly.org, a great plain language tool and LSNTAP.org’s Survey Bank. I also spoke about some great RSS tools to help legal techies stay on top of the latest information in our field.

To view the other tips mentioned on this webinar, be sure to check out materials available on the SWEB Support Site and join us for the next LSNTAP/PBN webinar, “From Investment to Impact: Recent Outcomes Evaluations of Legal Aid Tech Projects.”


 

LSNTAP helps nonprofit legal aid programs improve client services through effective and innovative use of technology. To do this, we provide technology training, maintain information, create online tools, and host community forums such as the LStech email list. Read about us, or contact us at info@lsntap.org for more information.

Law School Access to Justice Conference NY 2016: A First Timer Perspective

Posted in Conferences, Pro Bono, Staff News, Technology

Statue of Liberty

This weekend as we celebrate our Independence Day, we should remember that our country was founded on the principles of freedom and justice. However, for millions of Americans access to justice is still beyond reach. Pro Bono Net seeks to increase access to justice through innovative technology solutions and expertise in building and mobilizing justice networks.

This May, the New York State Permanent Commission on Access to Justice at New York University School of Law held its fifth annual Law School Access to Justice Conference. This year the conference focused on the role of New York’s law schools in helping meet the essential civil legal needs of low-income New Yorkers. Michelle Born, LiveHelp Coordinator for LawHelp NY, attended for the first time this year and discusses her experience below.

Access to Justice Conference, NYU 2016As I sat in the auditorium full of law school administrators and legal service providers at my first Annual Law School Access to Justice Conference, I anticipated a long day of theoretical discussions about diversifying the profession and getting law schools more involved in access to justice initiatives in New York State. Imagine my interest and surprise when the first panel of the morning, comprised exclusively of women in leadership roles in academia, government, legal services, and the judiciary,[1] quickly turned to issues of implicit bias among judges and stereotype threat in classrooms.

Questions of racism, sexism, heterosexism and transphobia undergirded the discussion, even as the panel tackled such academic questions as how to preserve students’ interest in impact litigation amid the lure of the more immediate results of what is oft-termed rebellious lawyering.  (In response, panelist Suzanne Goldberg challenged the dichotomy, believing that these two approaches to social change are not mutually exclusive and that the interplay of the two are, in fact, the hallmark of most social movements.)

As we moved from the morning panel into working groups, we homed in on the more pragmatic questions of how to efficiently deliver legal services to underserved and difficult to reach populations, and how to best engage students in narrowing the justice gap.

Pro Bono Net’s work was prominently featured in several arenas.  In the small working group focusing on New Models for Cost Effective Legal Service Delivery, Leah Margulies of LawHelpNY/PBN highlighted as examples of such models three exciting ProBonoNet initiatives: LiveHelp chat service of LawHelpNY, the DEN (Debt and Eviction Navigator) application, and Closing the Gap.  Participating in the working group on Non-Lawyers Working to Help Narrow the Justice Gap, Niki De Mel, Pro Bono and Special Initiatives Coordinator for Pro Bono Net, and Michelle had occasion to discuss LiveHelp, DEN and other PBN initiatives while emphasizing the appropriate use of technology and non-lawyers in increasing access to justice, not replacing traditional legal services. To wrap up the day, ProBonoNet’s technical design work was on display as attendees were offered a preview of the online Handbook of Best Practices for Supervising Law Student Pro Bono Work.

As a newbee to the conference and the LawHelpNY/PBN team, I was energized by the dedication of the practitioners whose work we strive to support and the academics whose students we have the privilege to engage.

Michelle joined LawHelp as the LiveHelp Coordinator in September 2015.  She worked as an Immigration Attorney at The Bronx Defenders after receiving her J.D. from CUNY School of Law. Before law school Michelle worked in Arica, Chile as a social worker with Jesuit Volunteers International, and in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina as an International Development Fellow with Catholic Relief Services. Michelle also worked in grant-writing for Human Rights Watch and recruitment for Maryknoll Lay Missioners. Michelle holds a Master’s degree in International Development from Fordham University and a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from St. Louis University. 

 


[1] The panel was composed of the following women:

Deborah N. Archer, Dean of Diversity and Inclusion & Professor of Law; Co-Director, Impact Center for Public Interest Law; Director, Racial Justice Project, New York Law School

Jennifer Ching, Project Director, Queens Legal Services, Legal Services NYC

Hon. Fern Fisher, Director, New York State Courts Access to Justice Programs; Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for New York City Courts

Suzanne B. Goldberg, Executive Vice President for University Life; Herbert and Doris Wechsler Clinical Professor of Law; Director, Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, Columbia Law School

Maya Wiley, Counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio, City of New York

Live LawHelp Interactive (LHI) Developer Training: July 11-12, 2016

Posted in Announcements, Resources, Seminar, Technology

Developer Training LHIWe are excited to announce that the next live LawHelp Interactive (LHI) developer training will take place July 11-12, 2016 at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, DC.

Why Attend? Participants in this free training will learn how to author interactive interviews for self-represented litigants, volunteer attorneys or advocates. For those already familiar with the development process, we will go beyond the basics so you can take your statewide websites and online forms initiatives to the next level.  In addition to learning how to create our forms, you’ll also learn about new LHI features to support innovative uses of online forms in pro bono and remote legal services. It’s also a great opportunity to connect with a network of peers around the country working on similar projects.

Who Can Attend? The training is free for legal aid organizations and their eligible partners. Participants are responsible for their hotel and travel costs where applicable.

Training Details: We will hold a beginner’s track where emphasis will be on HotDocs template development and A2J Guided Interview development is also covered. The beginner track training faculty include trainers from Capstone Practice Systems as well as Center for Access to Justice & Technology at Chicago-Kent College of Law. In addition, we will hold a second track covering advanced/intermediate or project management topics if there is sufficient interest.  We will also highlight new LHI functionality to support innovative uses of LHI by pro bono and remote services, and opportunities to more deeply integrate LHI with systems such as legal aid CMS’s and statewide websites.

How to sign up: Registration is available here. It’s first-come, first-served and will close July 1, 2016. If you have any questions, please let us know. You can reach me at mmeghelli@probono.net or you can reach out to LHI Program Manager Claudia Johnson, cjohnson@probono.net.

More about LHI : LHI was developed to make implementing document assembly initiatives easier and less costly for legal aid organizations as well as pro bono and court-based access-to-justice programs. Participating programs use HotDocs Corporation’s HotDocs Professional, and can also use Center for Access to Justice and Technology’s A2J Author, to create online forms and documents. Templates are uploaded to the LawHelp Interactive server and made available to advocates, pro bono volunteers, and self-represented litigants through legal aid and court websites. This training is an opportunity for in-person, hands-on expert guidance on how to develop forms.

Thanks and we hope to see you in DC!

Iron Tech Winners: Immigration Healthcare Eligibility Application Liaison, iHeal

Posted in Announcements, Conferences, Immigration, Pro Bono, Staff News, Technology

Spring 2016 Winners of the Iron Tech Lawyer Competition

Pro Bono Net’s Executive Director, Mark O’Brien co-teaches an experiential course at Georgetown Law called “Technology, Innovation and Legal Practice– Access to Justice” with Professor Tanina Rostain and Adjunct Professor Kevin Mulcahy. Students in the seminar hear from a range of experts on legal technologies and access to justice. For their projects, student teams collaborate with legal service providers and public interest law organizations to build legal expert systems that promote access to legal processes and the legal system. The course culminates in the Iron Tech Lawyer Competition.

Hear from the winners of this year’s Iron Tech Lawyer Competition, Immigration Healthcare Eligibility Application Liaison, iHeal, below.

Iron Tech Lawyer Competition Winners - Team iHeal

Left to Right: iHeal Team – Taryn Smith, Jennifer Llano, Lauren Wiefels, and Arvind Miriyala; Judges – Paul Ohm, Dean Garfield, James Sandman; Professor Tanina Rostain

Early February, we—the students of Technology, Innovation, and Law—were separated into teams. Each team was paired with an organization and given the task to “fill a hole” for the organization by building an app. Our team (Arvind Miriyala, Lauren Wiefels, Jennifer Llano, and myself, Taryn Smith) was paired with the National Immigration Law Center, and the “hole” we were to fill was informing immigrants about healthcare benefits for which they may be eligible based on their status.

We began by dividing the labor. The question, “So, who considers themselves tech-y?” was initially met with radio silence. Eventually, however, we managed to designate two app builders and two information researchers. After that, all we had to do was take two complicated areas of law—Immigration and Healthcare—and make them digestible in order to create an app for an audience whose first language would likely not be English.

Fortunately, we had the help of Alvaro Huerta, an attorney at NILC, who helped us detangle the law and better understand how to interact with our target audience. We had to keep in mind that, for immigrants, there is a very understandable fear attached to providing information about yourself or your family, especially when that information concerns your immigration status, and especially when you are giving that information to a lawyer or a government entity. It was important to us that our users felt comfortable throughout their interaction with the app and not overwhelmed or threatened.

The final application, iHEAL, has both an English and a Spanish version. It is comprised of short, simple questions that mostly appear on the screen one at a time. There are numerous “Why We Ask” pop-up links to let our users know how exactly we plan to use each piece of information they give us. The app takes into account each answer, and when the users reach the end, they are told for what benefits they may be eligible and why. It also provides the location and contact information of the nearest help center, as well as a transcript of their responses to save and take with them.

There are a number of “holes” in the current legal system. Technology is a promising way to fill those holes whether it is used to complete menial tasks, allowing lawyers to spend time on more difficult issues, or to streamline a complex processes, or to simply educate the public. By embracing technology, we can create a much more efficient, user-friendly legal system.

Iron Tech Competition Judges panel

Panel of our esteemed judges left to right: Dean Garfield, Paul Ohm, James Sandman


This year’s Iron Tech Lawyer Competition was judged by Dean Garfield, President and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) and Pro Bono Net Board member; Paul Ohm, Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center and faculty director for the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown; and James Sandman, President of the Legal Services Corporation, chair of the DC Circuit Judicial Conference Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services and member of the DC Access to Justice Commission.

 

Click here to learn more about the other teams or watch the competition!


 

NeotaLogic-Logo_opt

Neota Logic provides the software used by the students, as well as generous support in the event. 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources for Advocates Working with Immigrant Families

Posted in Announcements, Pro Bono, Resources, Technology

The Immigration Advocates Network
Author: Abigail Krusemark, Immigrant Youth Resources Coordinator (AmeriCorps VISTA)

Newly arrived, undocumented Central American children and families face many challenges in the United States: understanding their rights, finding a lawyer, and enrolling children in school, among others. The increase in arrivals has also put pressure on the courts, nonprofit legal and social service providers, and volunteer attorneys. Recent developments, such as the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) adjustment cap, an Associated Press report on the failure of some school districts to enroll immigrant children, the licensing fight over family detention in Texas, and concerns about raids, have compounded the challenges in assisting this population.

The Immigration Advocates Network is the largest network of nonprofit and pro bono immigration advocates in the United States. Do you work for a nonprofit? Represent a client pro bono? You are eligible for membership! On the Immigration Advocates Network you will find resources to help immigrant children:

An advocacy best practices manual for legal service providers from the National Immigrant Justice Center, with guidance on a range of issues including building a program, leveraging pro bono, and working with children.

A practice advisory by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) on how the SIJS visa bulletin works and how to represent your clients facing adjustment delays.

An overview of a child’s right to go to school, regardless of immigration status, and guidance on filing a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), by the Women’s Refugee Commission, Georgetown University Law Center’s Federal Legislation and Administrative Clinic & Human Rights Institute.

A Texas state court’s temporary restraining order that blocks Texas from licensing the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, TX as a childcare facility.

Resources from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) on new California state laws protecting immigrant children, which took effect January 1, 2016.

Statistics from FY2016, through 3/31/2016 on apprehensions of unaccompanied children at the southwest border.



Unaccompanied Children Resource CenterUCRC
Our UAC Resource Center offers training and information for volunteer lawyers, as well as plain language resources for immigrants, including a new section on “Adults with Children” at http://www.uacresources.org.

The Immigration Advocates Network is currently looking for an Immigrant Youth Resources Coordinator (AmeriCorps VISTA). Find us on Idealist.org:
http://www.idealist.org/view/job/WbJPMc2p4fsP/