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Connecting Justice Communities

Pro Bono Net is at the NLADA’s 2016 Annual Conference!

Posted in Conferences, Legal Services, Pro Bono, Staff News, Technology

The National Legal Aid & Defender Association‘s 2016 Annual Conference starts today and Pro Bono Net is participating! The NLADA’s annual training conference provides the opportunity for those in the civil legal aid, indigent defense, and public interest law communities to exchange ideas and further develop their professional skills. Mark O’Brien, Sam Halpert and Mike Grunenwald will be representing Pro Bono Net at this year’s conference. Keep reading to learn more about Pro Bono Net’s participation.

Statewide Justice Portal Initiative Update and Technology’s Role in 100% Access Efforts

Thursday, 4:15 – 5:45 pm
Speakers: Glen Rawdon, Legal Services Corporation; Lucy Bassli, Microsoft; and Mark O’Brien, Pro Bono Net

In April, the Legal Services Corporation, Microsoft, and Pro Bono Net announced a new partnership to develop up to two statewide “justice portal” pilots to designed to help ensure that all people with civil legal needs can navigate their options at each step of the process and more easily access solutions and services available from legal aid, the courts, the private bar and community partners. The technical approach will use open standards and be open sourced to facilitate replication and contributions by other technology partners in the future. This workshop will provide an update on the project thus far, the conceptual vision for the portal and the selection process for pilot jurisdictions. We will also discuss how both existing and new technology initiatives can support the 100 percent access vision and strengthen the work of state justice communities working toward it.

 

Turning Data into Intelligence: Using the Data Our Programs Produce to Improve Services and Generate More Dollars

Friday, 2:30 – 4 pm
Speakers: Ken Smith, The Resource for Great Programs; Alex Gulotta, Bay Area Legal Aid; and Sam Halpert, Pro Bono Net

Every day, our programs generate a wealth of data such as intake statistics, case outcomes data, client demographics, and on-line form user statistics. Ken Smith, President of The Resource for Great Programs, will be conducting the workshop session on this topic, joined by co-presenters Alex Gulotta, Executive Director of Bay Area Legal Aid (and chairperson of NLADA’s board) and Sam Halpert, LawHelp Program Coordinator at Pro Bono Net. This session will show three examples to demonstrate to participants how their programs can turn raw data into strategic intelligence for use in program improvement and fundraising.

 

Smart Advocates Use Smart Forms: Better Advocacy through Document Automation

Saturday, 10:30 am – noon
Speakers: Josh Goodwin, Southeastern Ohio Legal Services; Mark Lauritsen, Capstone Practice Systems; Gelnn Rawdon, Legal Services Corporation

More than 40 states have forms on Pro Bono Net’s Law Help Interactive (LHI), the national automated document server. But most of those forms are targeted for client self-help, not for advocates. Document automation has been around for more than 30 years, and yet most legal services advocates are still drafting pleadings by using search and replace or cut and paste. Evaluations of LSC TIG projects have shown that advocates can reduce the time it takes to prepare forms for their cases by more than 30 percent by using automated forms for the most common practice areas. Not only that, having automated forms ensures that changes in the law are immediately reflected in the forms of every advocate. These same forms can be provided to pro bono attorneys so that they can be more comfortable representing clients outside their usual areas of practice. This session will help you develop a strategy for introducing or expanding automated forms to support the work of the advocates and pro bono attorneys for your program.

There are several other workshops of interest to legal aid and pro bono technology initiatives listed in the full agenda: http://www.nlada.org/2016AnnualConference

 


NLADANLADA is America’s oldest and largest nonprofit association devoted to excellence in the delivery of legal services to those who cannot afford counsel. Their Annual Conference is the leading national training event of the year for the civil legal aid, indigent defense, and public interest law communities. The conference offers advocates the substantive information and professional skills they need to respond to the legal needs of low-income people, provides unparalleled opportunities to meet and exchange ideas with colleagues from across the country, and helps fulfill continuing legal education requirements.

A Court of Eight: PLI’s 18th Annual Supreme Court Review

Posted in Legal Services, PLI, Seminar, Webinar

18th Annual Supreme Court ReviewThis summer, the Practising Law Institute (PLI) held its 18th Annual Supreme Court Review. PLI faculty and guest panelists came together to discuss the most recent session of the Supreme Court’s greatest takeaways, surprises and insights. These experts discussed the most recent session’s cases, merits, and how the justices came to their conclusions. They also addressed the future of the court and what they expected for the new session. One of the biggest topics on the table was, of course, the loss of Justice Antonin Scalia, and how his passing has affected the rulings of the court and the its future.

Tomorrow, the Presidential Election is here, but more than just four years’ worth of policies will be decided alongside it. With the next president comes the next appointed Supreme Court Justice, the replacement for the late Justice Scalia. The next sitting president will be responsible for appointing a Supreme Court Justice who will hold the office for a good number of years. However, since several of our current sitting Supreme Court members are reaching the age in which it is common to retire from the court, the new president may have the opportunity to appoint more than one justice in the next four to eight years.

A Court of Eight Justices

18th annual supreme court erwinPractising Law Institute’s Dean Erwin Chimerinsky started the discussion of the consequences of Justice Scalia’s passing, mainly that the court is less effective without its final judge. The most important cases since Scalia’s passing, according to Dean Chimerinsky, fit a pattern that highlighted the crutch faced by the current court one justice shy of a full deck – deadlock.

We have seen several cases in which a justice crossed sides in order to sway a decision, but the lack of a ninth vote has deadlocked the court in some of the most controversial cases, forcing rulings to stand at the state level. On topics like abortion and immigration passions and partisanship are high, which can lead to a deadlocked court. Sometimes this provided a liberal outcome, and sometimes a conservative one, but either way leaves the standing ruling without commentary from the Supreme Court. Likely, these cases and issues will resurface in future sessions once the court is whole again.

An interesting result of this deadlock is a willingness in the justices to broker a compromise. The first panel of the day addressed the outcome of Zubik v. Burwell, a case on contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act. When the court looked to be deadlocked once again, the justices decided on an attempt to reach a compromise, asking the two parties to work together to find an alternative solution. Once the parties agreed to continue to look for a solution, the decision was once again provided to the lower courts for specific deliberations. The attempt at brokering a solution for both parties was unprecedented, and one must wonder whether there will be more compromises suggested in future cases.

The Future of the Court

With the coming election comes quite a challenging atmosphere for the Supreme Court. The newest elected president might have the opportunity to appoint more than one justice who will sit on the court for more than a decade, affecting a great deal of cases. In addition, a potential continued block from Senate Republicans in a Democratic victory this election leaves the ninth seat in a state of uncertainty. Without a ruling on crucial cases that affect a great number of people in the country, and the continuing potential for a deadlocked court, it begs the question as to whether the court can continue to be as effective in future sessions without the addition of a ninth justice.

Whatever the outcome of this election and future appointees, the Practising Law Institute’s expert faculty and panelists will undoubtedly address it at next year’s review!

 


Faculty & Panelists

  • Erwin Chemerinsky
    Dean of the School of Law
    Distinguished Professor of Law Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law
  • Martin A. Schwartz
    Professor Emeritus of Law
  • Joan Biskupic
    Journalist
    Visiting professor at the University of California, Irvine, law school
  • Sherry F. Colb
    Professor of Law & Charles Evans Hughes Scholar
    Cornell Law School
  • Michael C. Dorf
    Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law
    Cornell Law School
  • Leon Friedman
    Joseph Kushner Special Professor of Civil Liberties Law
    Hofstra Law School
  • Marci A. Hamilton
    Senior Fellow, Program for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society
    University of Pennsylvania
  • Burt Neuborne
    Norman Dorsen Professor of Civil Liberties, Founding Legal Director, Brennan Center of Justice
    New York University School of Law
  • Cristina Rodríguez
    Leighton Homer Surbeck Professor of Law
    Yale Law School
  • Theodore M. Shaw
    Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law  & Director of the Center for Civil Rights
    University of North Carolina School of Law, Chapel Hill
  • Honorable Jeffrey S. Sutton
    Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
  • Jeffrey B. Wall
    Special Counsel, Co-Head Appellate Litigation Practice
    Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

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.

National Celebrate Pro Bono Week: Bonus Profile R. Gary Higgins, Jr.

Posted in Celebrate Pro Bono Week, Legal Services, Pro Bono, Volunteer Profile

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.  To wrap up our Pro Bono Week celebration, we are taking a break from our Volunteering Through Technology Initiative to bring you a bonus volunteer profile! Our bonus profile highlights the work of R. Gary Higgins with Southeast Louisiana Legal Services’ Northshore Pro Bono Project. We are very proud to showcase the volunteers from our pro bono community and hope they may inspire you to get involved as well.

R. Gary Higgins, Jr., Northshore Pro Bono Project Volunteer
Southeast Louisiana Legal Services

R. Gary Higgins, Jr.R. Gary Higgins, Jr., a local pro bono hero from Covington, Louisiana, has been an unwavering volunteer for Southeast Louisiana Legal Services’ (SLLS) Northshore Pro Bono Project donating hundreds of hours to expand access to justice for vulnerable people. Gary began volunteering with SLLS while attending law school. He has continued to donate his time and talents after becoming a licensed attorney. Gary practices in the areas of family law, real estate, and successions. He is never shy about taking on new challenges and lending a hand to help people in need.

For the past year, Gary has regularly staffed SLLS’ Washington Parish Self Help Resource Center in rural Washington Parish, an area with a 26% poverty rate and no physical civil legal aid office located there.  When SLLS decided to launch a new Self-Help Desk in St. Tammany Parish in June 2016, Gary answered the call to service. He has already donated almost 30 hours to this brand new initiative.

Gary volunteered at the Give NOLA Day event in May helping to set up and staff a table as well as encouraging donations for the cause. While in law school, he volunteered over a semester doing legal research and drafting pleadings. While studying for the bar he continued to handle legal research tasks and drafted domestic pleadings and memoranda. Once admitted to practice, Gary also took on pro bono divorce and custody cases. He has volunteered at all four of SLLS’s Wills for Heroes events where wills and other estate planning documents are drafted for first responders. No task is too big or too small for Gary. Always ready to help, he has even grabbed a ladder and changed out light bulbs in our Covington office when needed!

Mr. Higgins graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University, where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in English with a minor in History. He then went on to law school at Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he graduated magna cum laude. While attending law school, he served as a teaching assistant for legal writing as well as a senior editor on the law review.

 


SLLS LouisianaSoutheast Louisiana Legal Services offers civil legal aid to low-income people in Southeast Louisiana. Our mission is to achieve justice for low-income people in Louisiana by enforcing and defending their legal rights through civil legal aid, advocacy and community education. SLLS is Louisiana’s largest provider of free civil legal aid and works with government and public service agencies to secure justice for persons in need.

Volunteering Through Technology Initiative: Citizenshipworks at Brooklyn Public Library

Posted in Celebrate Pro Bono Week, Immigration, Pro Bono, Technology, Volunteer Profile

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 would like to highlight the volunteers of our Citizenshipworks Brooklyn Public Library – Central Branch Clinics. Special thanks to Sandra Sandoval, Immigration Advocates Network’s Citizenshipworks Program Manager, for the article!

CitizenshipworksSince 2013, the Immigration Advocates Network (IAN), in partnership with New York’s Brooklyn Public Library – Central Branch, has teamed up with non-profit legal service providers around New York City to host a free, monthly citizenship application assistance workshops using the innovative Citizenshipworks platform.

Each month, partners like CUNY CitizenshipNow!, Catholic Migration Services, International Rescue Committee – New York, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Make the Road New York, and NALEO Education Fund provide the legal support needed via pro bono volunteers to ensure that lawful permanent residents applying for citizenship have access to free, quality legal services.

With the upcoming election there has been a sharp increase of people interested in applying for citizenship in the last year. Waiting times for appointments at nonprofit organizations in New York can be weeks or even months, leaving many people struggling to find help. These workshops give people in Brooklyn and the surrounding boroughs the opportunity to receive a free, quality service to help them file their form.

Others sometimes just need a push to get the ball rolling. One such individual made the decision to apply for citizenship after passing by the Info Commons at the Library and noticing the workshop in progress. She registered for the very next event to complete her form. A couple of months later, she came back and thanked the volunteers at the workshop for having helped her and is currently waiting to take the Oath to become a citizen. She also brought a friend to the clinic to begin the process!

Through this innovative partnership, applicants are able to use the Citizenshipworks system to complete their N-400 and then connect with the legal service provider partners hosting the event at the library to receive a free, legal consultation. As the workshop series continues, the number of applicants has continuously grown, with Summer 2016 averaging 20 potential applicants receiving application assistance to file their Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, and I-912, Request for Fee Waiver form (when applicable).

A couple of months later, she came back and thanked the volunteers at the workshop for having helped her and is currently waiting to take the Oath to become a citizen.

To begin the process, lawful permanent residents interested in applying for citizenship register for the event through Citizenshipworks. Citizenshipworks walks the applicant through every question of the N-400 and connects them to the non-profit legal service provider prior to the event. The partner’s pro bono attorneys are able to review the applicants’ forms beforehand (checking for any potential legal issues) and help the applicant prepare for their final review the day of the event. At the event, the applicant will meet with the volunteer or BIA representative from the partner organization to complete a final review of their form before filing.

This partnership has allowed non-profit legal service providers to connect with more applicants while continuing to provide quality assistance at no cost to the applicant. Additionally, the partnership has ventured into using more innovative models to reach more applicants needing assistance.

Through the Citizenshipworks Virtual Review features and the technology provided by the library, the partner’s legal service providers and volunteer attorneys who are unable to assist in person can review the applicants form and provide a legal consultation by connecting with applicants virtually. This model has expanded not only the reach of the partnering organization, but has begun to change how legal assistance can be provided.

The naturalization process can be daunting, but through the easy process of the Citizenshipworks platform, along with legal volunteers to help with questions and complications, becoming a citizen is easier and simpler than ever before.

The volunteers at these workshops are absolutely crucial to applicants by providing much needed legal services. The naturalization process can be daunting, but through the easy process of the Citizenshipworks platform, along with legal volunteers to help with questions and complications, becoming a citizen is easier and simpler than ever before.

With the continued support of non-profit legal service providers and pro bono attorneys, the workshop provides access to legal services that otherwise would not be as readily available for many of the applicants. The volunteers at these clinics provide crucial services for immigrants in need, helping them through the naturalization process.

Non-profit legal service providers or pro bono attorney interested in joining this innovative partnership, should contact Sandra Sandoval, Citizenshipworks Program Manager, at ssandoval@immigrationadvocates.org for more information.

 


CitzenshipworksCitizenshipworks provides easy-to-use online tools to help low and moderate-income individuals to answer important questions about their eligibility for naturalization, to better understand the naturalization process, and to prepare for the naturalization tests. Citizenshipworks is a collaboration between the Immigration Advocates Network, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and Pro Bono Net. We aim to make the immigration system accessible everyone through user-friendly technology, plain language legal information, and a national network of nonprofit immigration service providers.


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.


 

Volunteering Through Technology Initiative: LiveHelp with Joan Archer

Posted in Celebrate Pro Bono Week, Legal Services, Pro Bono, Technology, Volunteer Profile

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 Joan Archer, a LiveHelp Volunteer at LawHelpNY, and the NYC Pro Bono Center‘s October Volunteer Spotlight! We would like to extend special thanks to Michelle Born, LawHelpNY’s LiveHelp Co-ordinator, for sharing this story.

Joan Archer, LiveHelp Volunteer
LawHelpNY

Joan Archer“Joan saves the day!” This was a frequent phrase in my emails to Joan Archer over the course of the last year. As LiveHelp Coordinator at LawHelpNY, I work with dozens of law student and law graduate volunteers at any given point in time. Joan has been a dream volunteer.

Joan Archer began her work as a LiveHelp operator with LawHelpNY shortly after completing the New York Bar exam in July 2015 and before resuming her studies for the Connecticut bar exam in February 2016.

She had already completed the 50-hour pro bono requirement for New York State through her judicial internships, and she had plenty to keep her occupied with two young children at home, but she wanted to stretch herself while also giving back to the community. LawHelpNY/Pro Bono Net in particular was attractive to Joan: “Coming from a tech background, I am very interested in how technology is, or isn’t, being used in the legal field. In the past twenty years, technology has made so many things more accessible to more people.”

Coming from a tech background, I am very interested in how technology is, or isn’t, being used in the legal field. In the past twenty years, technology has made so many things more accessible to more people.”

“LawHelpNY sounded like a progressive organization in terms of using technology to make legal information accessible to people who don’t know where to go. I wanted to see how it worked and also hopefully point a few people in the right direction.” Joan attended a LiveHelp training at her alma mater, Elizabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, and eagerly signed up for several weekly shifts.

Joan took on her work as a LiveHelp operator with the same enthusiasm I have since realized that she brings to any challenge. When asked what she enjoyed about the experience, Joan replied, “I love hearing about all the different issues people are facing – and the issues are all over the place.”

“I see LiveHelpNY volunteers as EMTs for law, doing legal triage. Aside from feeling good for doing good, I appreciate that this experience has exposed me to complex issues and areas of law that I otherwise would know nothing about.  For example, I recently heard from a woman who was applying for jobs with nanny agencies in New York City but was being turned down because she had a criminal conviction.” It was the caller who mentioned the Fair Chance Act, and Joan quickly read up on the law and provided the caller with relevant referrals.

“During training, we touched on divorce, domestic violence, foreclosures, and landlord tenant issues, and I’ve definitely seen those but I’ve also seen international patent disputes, corruption claims, claims involving farm animals, and internet fraud/stalking/invasion of privacy claims.”

When asked what she found challenging about the experience, Joan noted that it is hard not knowing the outcome for people she assists via LiveHelp.  “I’d love to know what happens with the people I chat with – if any of the phone numbers or information I gave them wound up helping them get what they need. For example, I got an email from a veteran who was homeless and living in a shelter for veterans in New York City. The shelter provides short term housing and he was looking for permanent housing. I did a lot of research on programs for veterans. I found some programs that sounded like they might help, but was left wondering how much of a runaround he was going to face and wishing I could do more.”

Aside from feeling good for doing good, I appreciate that this experience has exposed me to complex issues and areas of law that I otherwise would know nothing about.”

After several months of volunteering as a LiveHelp operator, Joan signed off to focus on her studies for the Connecticut bar exam in February. I heard from her shortly after, when she sent me an email with the magic words: “Reach out to me any time you need coverage!” Joan became my go-to person whenever I had a last-minute cancellation, or exams took many of my regularly scheduled volunteers away. Yet, I was keenly aware that Joan had much more to offer LawHelpNY.

Before attending law school, Joan had worked many years as a software developer and coder in prominent companies such as Merrill Lynch, as well as tech start-ups. When I approached her with a request to help as we transitioned the software through which we operated LiveHelp, she jumped at the chance. She was later instrumental in setting up a system through which to manage and track the many emails that come in to LawHelpNY requesting legal information.

Joan continues to make herself available to LawHelpNY, even while becoming certified as a FINRA arbitrator, taking on paid tech projects, serving on the town’s Wetlands and Conservation Commission and the community’s Board of Directors as the representative for the youth programs, volunteering at her children’s school, training for the New York City Marathon, and searching for the legal position that will be a good match for her skills and her commitment to remaining available to her family. Such a balancing act is unsurprising, given Joan’s ability to simultaneously excel at law school (she made Dean’s list every semester), engage multiple judicial internships, and be present to her then diaper-clad children. When asked how she did it, Joan replied “Time management is my superpower. I knew what my priorities were and built a routine around them. Errands will always be a low priority for me, I do most of them on my phone – sometimes I buy groceries at the gas station while filling my tank…”

When asked what she envisions for her legal career, Joan replied, “I’m still trying to figure this out. In tech, I always had a lot of flexibility and even though coders are predominately male, it’s actually a great fit for women and work-life balance. … I’ve found that law is not so progressive, so it’s a little tricky to get started at this stage in life. I have met a lot of moms who are lawyers but not practicing, even though they would like to be in some form. Apparently, the way law is generally practiced today is not conducive to being the primary parent. I think there’s an opportunity here, especially with the demand for legal services, but I haven’t figured it out yet.” There is one thing though that has become clear– there is a place in the legal services world for tech skills like Joan’s.

 


LiveHelp is an online chat service designed to help users navigate legal aid websites and locate legal information, resources and referrals. LiveHelp volunteers offer individuals real-time assistance by pointing the way towards resources written in plain language about their legal problem and/or by helping them identify a free legal aid organization for representation or advice. LiveHelp operators are primarily law students and law graduates, working under the supervision of an attorney.

LHNYLawHelpNY, a program of Pro Bono Net, is New York’s leading online tool for helping low-income New Yorkers find solutions to their legal programs. Available in both English and Spanish, it provides and promotes access to high-quality online information about free legal services throughout New York, legal rights in a broad range of substantive areas, the court system, and related advocacy, government and social service organizations.

Volunteering Through Technology Initiative: LHI Forms with Nancy Watson

Posted in Celebrate Pro Bono Week, Legal Services, Pro Bono, Technology, Volunteer Profile

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 Nancy Watson, who volunteers through the use of LawHelp Interactive forms at the Bet Tzedek Legal Services’ Self-Help Conservatorship Clinic in Los Angeles.

LawHelp Interactive (LHI) is a national online document assembly platform that allows people representing themselves to prepare their own legal documents and pleadings online for free. It is also used by legal aid advocates, pro bono attorneys, and court systems seeking to work more efficiently and develop new approaches to service delivery. In clinics around the country, LHI forms enable volunteers, like Nancy Watson, to assist those who cannot afford an attorney to create their own complete, high quality legal documents and pleadings for free. Through the use of these forms, Nancy is better able to help those who come to Bet Tzedek Legal Services’ Self-Help Conservatorship Clinic in Los Angeles. Keep reading to learn more about Nancy and why she volunteers.

Nancy Watson, Volunteer
Bet Tzedek Legal Services’ Self-Help Conservatorship Clinic

Nancy WatsonIt is a joy and privilege to have the opportunity to volunteer at Bet Tzedek Legal Services’ Self-Help Conservatorship Clinic in Los Angeles.  The clinic assists those wanting to ensure that family members or loved ones who are not able to make decisions for themselves are adequately cared for and protected from potential physical, mental or financial abuse.   Most of those who come to the clinic do not have the resources to hire an attorney to navigate the legal system on their behalf.  Bet Tzekek performs a vital public service by helping a large number of potential conservators prepare and file the voluminous paperwork required by the court.

It is heartwarming to see the relief on a mother’s face when she knows that she will be able to continue making life decisions for her developmentally disabled child after he reaches the age of 18.  Rather than trust an institution to make the right decisions, parents who obtain conservatorships in this situation have peace of mind knowing that they will still be able to ensure their child is protected from neglect or abuse by retaining the right to determine where the adult child will live and to make important medical and educational choices.

Many adult children and spouses of those suffering from dementia or debilitating illness have expressed their gratitude to the clinic staff and volunteers who help them as they are often forced to deal with very stressful situations and emotionally wrenching decisions.  I am often touched by the consideration and gratitude of those who in the midst of their life struggles take the time to thank and appreciate the volunteer workers.

Volunteering is one of the best ways to continue learning and growing as a lawyer and as a person.”

I am a California attorney who has spent most of my career in public service.  I was employed by the State Bar of California for twenty years as a prosecutor in the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel.  As an Assistant Chief Trial Counsel, I oversaw the Intake Unit and served as a manager of attorneys, investigators and paralegals until 2011.  Since that time, I have worked as a part-time Hearing Officer at Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and have been volunteering two days a week at Bet Tzedek Legal Services.

I am grateful for the opportunity to continue working to serve the public as a volunteer at the Self-Help Clinic and I enjoy using my legal skills and knowledge to help others.  Volunteering is one of the best ways to continue learning and growing as a lawyer and as a person.  Nothing is more satisfying than helping others, particularly those who might otherwise not be able to exercise their legal rights, and it is my hope that others will be inspired to volunteer their time to assist the underserved in our community.

 


LHI logoPro 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. 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.

Bet Tzedek ClinicThe Bet Tzedek Self-Help Conservatorship Clinic, in partnership with the Los Angeles Superior Court, provides basic assistance to individuals who want to file for a probate conservatorship without a lawyer in order to help an adult who cannot care for himself or herself. The Clinic does not provide legal advice or attorney representation; instead it offers general information about the court process and help in preparing and filing documents to be appointed as a probate conservator.

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.

Register

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.