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Connecting Justice Communities

Volunteering Through Technology Initiative: Closing the Gap with Jordan Chisolm, Esq.

Posted in Announcements, Celebrate Pro Bono Week, Legal Services, Pro Bono, Technology

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need and the incredibly important work of pro bono volunteers in building our capacity to meet the vast unmet need for civil legal services.  This year we are celebrating National Pro Bono Week through a special Volunteering Through Technology Initiative, which features someone who volunteers though one of Pro Bono Net’s innovative legal tech solutions on our Connecting Justice Communities blog. We are very proud to showcase these volunteers from our pro bono community and hope they may inspire you to get involved as well! Today we are highlighting the work of Jordan Chisolm, who volunteers through the Closing the Gap program at Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York.


Jordan Chisolm, Esq.

Jordan Chisolm, Esq., Pro Bono Advocate
Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York

Jordan Chisolm, originally from Long Island, New York, received a Juris Doctor from New York University School of Law in 2015, where he received the Dean John Sexton Prize for outstanding service to the Law School community. Mr. Chisolm was a Development Editor on the N.Y.U. Annual Survey of American Law, and served as President of the NYU Law Student Bar Association in his final year. Mr. Chisolm received a B.B.A. in Finance, cum laude, from George Washington University in 2010.

Prior to joining Whiteman Osterman & Hanna, LLP located in Albany, NY. Mr. Chisolm worked as a judicial intern for the Honorable Alexander Williams Jr. in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, and as a legal intern for the Division of Enforcement and Neighborhood Services with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Additionally, Mr. Chisolm served as Treasurer for the Black Allied Law Students Association. Prior to law school, Mr. Chisolm was an NYC Urban Fellow in the New York City Mayor’s Office of Operations, and worked for Canon U.S.A., Inc.

Pro Bono Work

Mr. Chisolm is a pro bono advocate for the Closing the Gap program at Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York. Closing the Gap is a new program that focuses on connecting pro bono attorneys to rural clients facing housing and consumer matters. Jordan joined the Closing the Gap program in June 2016 eager to aid those clients who are geographically disadvantaged from obtaining legal services.

Closing the Gap is a partnership between Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, Legal Assistance of Western New York, Volunteer Legal Services Project, and Pro Bono Net. Through the use of the Closing the Gap website and Law Help Interactive software developed by Pro Bono Net, the pro bono attorney is able to interview the rural client in a virtual interview and draft pro se pleadings that will allow the client to be suited with affirmative defenses in court.

One particular case that Mr. Chisolm was triumphant in involved a client who was at risk of losing housing. The client was facing a retaliatory eviction due to the conditions of the home. Jordan interviewed the client through the Closing the Gap website and immediately noticed numerous discrepancies with the process in which the opposing party brought suit against the LASNNY client. Jordan prepared the client with justifiable procedural defenses and because of this, the client’s eviction was dismissed and both parties were able to come to a mutual agreement. As quoted by the client, “Jordan was so good, the ‘judge’ in my little town had to look up all of the cases he cited in my answer and counterclaim. He hit it out of the ball park! Thanks so much.”  We are pleased to say that the client is still happily residing in her home free from any further housing or habitability issues.

Closing the Gap is very fortunate to have Mr. Chisolm as a pro bono advocate, it is very evident his passion for helping others. Mr. Chisolm gives each case 100% effort and is always willing to go beyond program expectations in order to serve the client.


Closing the Gap logoClosing the Gap builds legal assistance capacity in rural communities by facilitating limited scope assistance from pro bono volunteers based in Albany and Rochester. Combining real-time web video chat with client collaboration tools, remote review of documents and generation of pleadings through LawHelp Interactive, Closing the Gap increases the quantity and scope of pro bono service delivery in housing and consumer cases in rural upstate New York.

LASNNYThe Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York provides effective, free civil legal services and education to and advocacy for people with low income or other barriers to accessing the legal system.  We secure basic needs, protect and preserve legal rights, provide equal access to justice and seek fairness and dignity for our clients.

IAN Presents their Fifth Annual E-Conference Fundraiser

Posted in Announcements, Conferences, Immigration, Libraries, Pro Bono, Resources, Staff News, Technology, Webinar

The Immigration Advocates Network Fifth Annual E-Conference FundraiserThe Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) is excited to announce its fifth annual e-conference fundraiser, “Cutting Edge Issues in Immigration Law,” from October 31 to November 4, 2016. Join us for a week-long series of interactive online trainings with national experts on representing children, administrative advocacy, entry & admission, U visas, and provisional waivers. We explore the issues through the lens of current events and the latest legal developments.

IAN offers free webinars throughout the year for pro bono lawyers and nonprofit staff.  However, once a year, IAN hosts an e-Conference Fundraiser, and offers these webinars for a small fee. The e-Conference raises money to support the free online training materials for advocates who represent noncitizens in claims for asylum, changes in immigration status, naturalization and more. Resources include training materials, practice advisories, sample applications and affidavits, government-issued policy memoranda, significant case law, related articles, checklists and links to additional resources.

Join the e-Conference to support IAN and learn about the latest issues and strategies in immigration law.

E-Conference Features 

  • Listen to nationally-recognized experts from the comfort of your own office;
  • Participate in “ask the expert” sessions during each interactive training;
  • Access presentations and handouts before the training session;
  • Take interactive quizzes and polls before and during conference sessions; and
  • Obtain exclusive access to recorded trainings after the conference.


The cost of each two-hour training session is $25. Your support helps IAN offer free trainings and resources throughout the year. For more information and to register, visit https://www.immigrationadvocates.org/econference.

Conference Sessions 

Representing Children in Removal Proceedings
Monday, October 31
This training will discuss legal protections for children in removal proceedings and steps to take if the government breaks those rules. The panel will focus on practice strategies for advocates.

Elevating the Case: Strategies for Helping Clients with USCIS Issues
Tuesday, November 1
This training will cover common issues with DACA and other cases such as processing delays, rejections, requests for evidence, correcting typographical mistakes and agency error. The panel will discuss points of access within USCIS, and how to engage the Ombudsman’s office.

How Entry, Admission, and Parole Affect Your Client’s Case
Wednesday, November 2
This training will review legal concepts of entry, admission, and parole into the United States. The panel will also discuss the practical effects of what happened at the point of entry on a client’s case.

Enhance Your U Visa Practice
Thursday, November 3
This interactive training is a U visa case strategy session, to troubleshoot common U visa issues, including how to frame qualifying crimes, complex inadmissibility issues, and more. Participants are invited to submit U visa scenarios on the registration form so that the webinar can discuss the issues they face in practice.

The Expanded Provisional Waiver Program
Friday, November 4
The panel will explain eligibility for the expanded program, including tips on completing the new I-601A. It will also cover the extreme hardship standard based on draft or finalized agency guidance.

If you are unable to attend a session, but would like to donate to support the Immigration Advocates Network, click here.


The 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.

Online resources empower Spanish speaking communities in the US

Posted in Immigration, Legal Services, Resources, Technology

Hispanic Heritage month, a chance look at the wealth of contributions the Hispanic community has made and continues to make in our society, is almost over. As we celebrate the contributions, we continue to support our communities in achieving their dreams and goals by providing assistance in overcoming civil legal issues and access to justice. Continue reading to see some examples and learn about how these tools and resources impact Spanish speaking communities nationwide.

In civil law cases, many begin the legal process without the benefit of an attorney due to the cost of retaining one. In order to provide access to information easily and effectively, Pro Bono Net offers a myriad of tools and resources and support, developed by local partners, to assist those who navigate our legal system alone. LawHelp.org is an online resource that helps low and moderate-income people find free legal aid programs in their communities, answers to questions about their legal rights, court information, links to social service agencies, and more. Several states around the country now offer these resources in Spanish to better equip communities to navigate the legal system on their own, or find access to legal aid.

Online interviews and document assemblies help legal aid programs meet the needs of Spanish speaking communities by helping them to help themselves. Many of these households struggle to find the time to go downtown to a legal aid office, so these online tools allow them to handle their legal problems from home on their own time. Providing online resources 24/7 in Spanish and other languages enables the community to better access our justice system in a manner that suits their needs.

Spanish Language Resources

Ayuda Legal MichiganThe Michigan Poverty Law Program has created Ayuda Legal Michigan, a LawHelp powered site, to provide access to their information and resources directly in Spanish. Here Spanish speaking residents of Michigan can access easy to use online forms in their native language in multiple civil legal aid areas. Many of these forms are interactive and guided through the use of LawHelp Interactive (LHI), a Pro Bono Net form generation platform which has supported Spanish online content more than 10 years. All of these forms are available for free. Take a look at an example of a Michigan protective order report.

Ayuda Legal NY offers similar resources and online forms in multiple areas of law in Spanish. The NY State Courts have a Paternity petition form available in Spanish, as well as a Tenant Answer to Eviction, one of the first online forms in Spanish in the LHI system. These online interactive forms make it easier for Spanish speakers to navigate the US legal system, minimizing confusion and increasing efficiency. Ayuda Legal NY also offers various know-your-rights information and tools directly on their website.

Minnesota screen shot spanishIn Minnesota, tenants can request Security Deposit returns using an online interview, available in Spanish, which takes their entered information and produces a document for them to file/ provide to their landlord. For many low income families, not receiving the security deposit back from their landlord within an acceptable time frame can affect their ability to move and secure housing somewhere else. The ability to go through a simple interview that will create the necessary legal forms provides an avenue to ensuring their landlord returns their deposit, enabling them to utilize those funds for a different apartment, or towards purchasing a more permanent residence such as a house.

These are just a few examples of how legal aid programs can put online resources at the hands of our Hispanic communities to ensure equal access to helpful tools. Similar forms and programs can be found in multiple states across the country. The LawHelp Interactive platform supports additional languages and if you are interested in learning more about this capacity please reach out to us.

Resources for Nonprofit Service Providers

At Pro Bono Net we believe that creating online tools to bridge language and culture gaps is key to achieving access to justice for all, and have worked steadily since 2008 across states to support the design and creation of online tools for multiple communities.

In that spirit we would like to share the following resources for legal non profit service providers who are working with multiple languages, as there are now online glossaries that help explain legal language in Spanish. One example is Readclearly, is a glossary shared through Open Advocate. In addition the Sacramento Courts have for years made available some of the most complete legal dictionaries.

Legal nonprofits, courts, librarians and their partners interested in discovering more about Spanish language online tools are encouraged to reach out to us to find out what is available in your state, and/or learn how you can work with us to continue bridging language gaps for those facing civil legal needs.


probononet_Logo_with_taglineAbout Pro Bono Net

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 www.probono.net, www.lawhelp.org and www.lawhelpinteractive.org, 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.

About LawHelp InteractiveLHI logo

Pro Bono Net leads a national effort to provide online legal document assembly for poverty law and court access to justice programs. LawHelp Interactive allows subject matter experts to create interview templates that can be used to assemble court forms and other legal documents based on a user’s input. The system increases opportunities for self-represented litigants to achieve justice on their own and improves efficiency for legal aid, pro bono and courts-based access to justice programs. Read a case study about how the NY Courts are using LawHelp Interactive. This project is in collaboration with Ohio State Legal Services Association, with funding by the Legal Services Corporation and the State Justice Institute, and using HotDocs software.

About LawHelp.orgLawHelp3Logo

LawHelp is an online resource that helps low and moderate-income people find free legal aid programs in their communities, answers to questions about their legal rights, court information, links to social service agencies, and more. This resource was built and is maintained in partnership with hundreds of legal aid, pro bono and court-based programs across the country. LawHelp.org was recognized with the 2007 Webby Award for Best Law site.

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.


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


  • 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


  • 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 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 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