Pro Bono Net will be represented at the 2022 Equal Justice Conference (EJC). This conference, from May 11-14, 2022, is hosted by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service and the National Legal Aid & Defender Association. 

The Equal Justice Conference is an annual gathering of legal services and pro bono advocates to share and learn about developments and innovations in providing legal services to low-income persons.  

Pro Bono Net is a national nonprofit leader in increasing access to justice through innovative uses of technology and collaboration. Our staff is made up of a cross-disciplinary team from legal, technology, and community engagement backgrounds who are committed to creating innovative, sustainable solutions for expanding access to justice. The Equal Justice Conference brings together all sectors of the legal community to discuss equal justice issues and strengthening partnerships among the key players in the civil justice system. 

Look for Liz, Rodrigo or Jeanne at one of the sessions below, at the Networking lunch on Thursday, or reach out to us directly if you’d like to connect. We hope to see many of you there!  

Thursday, May 12th

10:00am – 11:30am CDT: 50 Tech Tips 2022 

This fast-paced, engaging session will provide tips about free and low-cost technology relevant to the access to justice community. This will include new mobile apps, remote work tools, web platforms, information security resources, and solutions for Windows and macOS. Technology leaders will emphasize practical, accessible technology that helps legal professionals do their work more effectively while encouraging audience feedback and participation throughout the presentation.

  • Liz Keith, Pro Bono Net
  • David Bonebrake, Legal Services Corporation
  • LaDierdre Johnson, Legal Services National Technology Assistance Project
  • Glenn Rawdon, Legal Services Corporation
  • Jane Ribadeneyra, Legal Services Corporation

1:30pm-3:00pm CDT: Helping the Helpers: Tech and Training Strategies to Support Community Justice Partners 

This session will spotlight examples of technology and training tools designed to equip frontline allies with knowledge and support to effectively and appropriately help people with legal issues. Drawing on examples in housing, elder justice, public benefits, wage theft, domestic violence, and other areas, panelists will discuss how these models work and what we are learning from them. We will highlight well-established and cutting-edge initiatives alike, and approaches that can be adapted for new settings to strengthen collaborations with community justice allies.

  • Rodrigo Camarena, Immigration Advocates Network
  • Liz Keith, Pro Bono Net
  • Nikole Nelson, Alaska Legal Services Corporation
  • Martina Tiku, Equal Justice Works Fellow, NAACP

Friday, May 13th

8:30am-10:00am CDT: Got Disaster? An Interactive Session on Making Disaster Preparedness and Relief More Equitable

This interactive session will ask attendees to react and plan for a disaster guided by subject matter experts from across the country. The session will focus on real world work with an eye towards equity issues and proposed solutions.

  • Jeanne Ortiz-Ortiz, Pro Bono Net
  • Katherine Asaro, North Carolina Legal Education Assistance Foundation
  • Tiela Chalmers, Alameda County Bar Association & Legal Access Alameda
  • Iris Peoples Green, Disability Rights North Carolina
  • Cheryl Naja, Alston & Bird LLP

Information Justice: Centering Access, Equity and Care in Legal Resource Design

  • Liz Keith, Pro Bono Net
  • Claudia Johnson, Pro Bono Net (via recorded video)

“There is a huge value in ensuring that the legal system, at all levels, is responsive to the needs and lived experiences of those without resources. In order to make that happen, we need interventions by lawyers, legal advocates, courts and community-based organizations at every point in the system. Everyone has a role to play.” – Mark O’Brien

Pro Bono Net’s Executive Director, Mark O’Brien, recently went on Bob Ambrogi’s LawNext Podcast to discuss how Pro Bono Net got its start and how Pro Bono Net’s work and programs support access to justice. In the podcast, Mark O’Brien describes Pro Bono Net’s evolution from “bringing the power of lawyers to all” to “bringing the power of the law to all.”

“The legal know-how of lawyers is still important, and as technology has evolved, some of that know-how can be embedded in the technology itself.” – Mark O’Brien

Pro Bono Net’s mission is to bring the power of the law to all by building cutting-edge digital tools and fostering collaborations with the nation’s leading civil legal organizations. Each day, Pro Bono Net helps thousands of people – particularly those living on the economic or social margins – understand their legal rights and options, find help in their local communities, and resolve life-changing legal problems.

“People should be empowered to understand and participate in the resolution of their own problems.” -Mark O’Brien

For more information and to listen to this podcast, please visit the LawNext website. Thank you to LawNext’s host, Bob Ambrogi, for a thoughtful discussion of Pro Bono Net and access to justice for all.

On August 3, 2021,  the Centers for Disease Control (C.D.C.) implemented a groundbreaking housing federal eviction moratorium in areas substantially hit by COVID infections, so as to ease the burden on public health control measures in the wake of the pandemic. 

As innovative as the edict was, unfortunately the federal order came to an end less than a month later, on August 26, 2021, when the Supreme Court invalidated the housing mandate. The majority opinion stated, “The C.D.C. has imposed a nationwide moratorium on evictions in reliance on a decades-old statute that authorizes it to implement measures like fumigation and pest extermination…It strains credulity to believe that this statute grants the C.D.C. the sweeping authority that it asserts.”¹ Regardless, a stay of execution was temporarily granted by New York Governor Kathy Hochul on September 2, 2021, extending the statewide moratorium until January 15, 2022.²

While the New York State extension of the moratorium brought much needed relief to tenants in crisis, the moratorium in New York was not extended beyond the January 15 expiration date, and with its expiration comes the departure of an important safety net in the battle to curb COVID transmission and the fight against housing inequality. New York, in particular, greatly benefitted from the eviction moratorium, as the state is home to the largest renting population in the country (largely due to New York City). New York State has 700,000 households behind on rent, only to be topped by California with its metric of 750,000 households.³ Although the struggles of tenants facing eviction are similar, some geographic differences on the impact of the eviction crisis are significant.

Specifically, the Bronx reigns as the most indicative example of tenant hardship during COVID-19 as more than 26,000 households have been sued by their landlords since the start of the pandemic, vastly outpacing other large American cities.⁴ Before the pandemic, more than ⅓ of Bronx residents spent more than half their income on rent, a shuddering prospect when considering the ramifications of the expiration of the statewide eviction moratorium.

In New York City and Greater New York, more case studies of housing-related COVID hardships can be found. Those who lost employment during the pandemic will find it hard to procure new housing as a result of not having proof of income, which can result in settling for less than ideal living circumstances and compromises with potentially unscrupulous landlords. For those who have managed to retain their housing despite a lack of income, thanks in part to the state and federal eviction moratoria, rental debt continues to pile up with $2.2 billion accumulated in back rent nationally – a situation exacerbated by the slow disbursement rate of federal rental assistance.⁵

Under the present circumstances, struggling tenants are looking for a reliable source of information to help them understand their rights in an eviction and find free or low-cost attorneys. In response, with the support of the Office of the Attorney General of the State of New York, Pro Bono Net developed TenantHelpNY – a site that focuses on legal resources  and pro bono assistance outside of New York City where there is no right to counsel in an eviction. 

On January 19, Veronica Dunlap, New York Programs Director at Pro Bono Net, shared with attendees at the Legal Services Corporation’s 2022 Innovations in Technology Conference that the site, developed in partnership with upstate legal service providers, was created, “…to be a one-stop hub for tenants facing eviction and attorneys seeking to help them.” On the TenantHelpNY.org site, renters can find information on how to participate in the New York Emergency Rental Assistance Program, find pro bono or low-cost legal service providers, and learn more about their rights and defenses as a tenant. TenantHelpNY materials are curated by legal experts and housing attorneys from the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, Nassau Suffolk Law Services, Legal Aid of Western New York, Legal Aid Society of Mid New York, Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project, Legal Services of Hudson Valley, and Pro Bono Net. 


Tre Dennis-Brown is the 2021-22 AmeriCorps VISTA Fellow at Pro Bono Net. Tre received a Bachelor’s of Arts in Government, with a concentration in Political Theory, from Wesleyan University in 2019. He has previously worked as a Real Estate Junior Paralegal at Greenberg, Glusker, Fields, Claman, Machtinger. Economic equity is a long-time passion of Treshauxn’s, and he is now excited to be addressing justice gaps in legal deserts.

¹https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/26/us/eviction-moratorium-ends.html

²https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/01/nyregion/eviction-moratorium-new-york.html

³https://nationalequityatlas.org/rent-debt

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/16/nyregion/bronx-evictions-housing-coronavirus-pandemic.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/27/nyregion/evictions-moratorium.html

Women’s History Month is an opportunity to think about the long history of immigrant women in the United States. Immigrant women have made important contributions to arts, sciences, and politics in the United States for many years, from Chien-Shiung Wu, the only Chinese scientist to work on the Manhattan project¹, to Ilhan Omar, who fled Somalia with her family as a child and became one of the first two Muslim women in congress.²

Women have made up a significant part of the immigrant population for many years, now comprising slightly over half of the total US immigrant population.³ This is part of a broader trend of women migrating independently, often for work or education.⁴ Still, the majority of immigrant women who get green cards get them through family-based immigration.

Family-based immigration is associated with both social and economic development.⁶ Once here, immigrant women plant roots and contribute to social stability—the average immigrant woman has lived in the US for 25 years, and the average undocumented woman has lived in the US for 16 years.⁷ Additionally, immigrant women are a significant portion of the invisible “care” economy.⁸ 

While family-based immigration is beneficial for the US economy and US immigrant communities, it leaves many immigrant women vulnerable.⁹ Their immigration status is dependent on a backlogged US immigration system, their relationship with a spouse or other family member, and a long wait for work authorization.¹⁰ A lack of independent income makes many immigrant women dependent on others materially as well as legally. This is especially problematic as immigrant women face disproportionate levels of domestic violence.¹¹

Immigrant women comprise 7% of the official US labor force.¹² Two-thirds earn what the American Immigration Council considers very low wages.¹³ However, official numbers only include documented immigrant women workers, and likely skew toward higher earning workers. Additionally, many undocumented women play important roles in the US labor force in an unofficial or “off the record” capacity that may exploit their legal and material precarity.¹⁴¹⁵

The US offers some legal protections that particularly benefit immigrant women. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows victims of abuse to file for a family-based visa based on their own.¹⁶  U Visas and T Visas provide victims of crime with immigration relief based on crimes including domestic violence, sexual assault, and sex trafficking.¹⁷¹⁸ However, U and T Visas place significant burdens on applicants, and VAWA only protects women (and men) related to US citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR)s. 

Immigrant women make up a unique and important subgroup with its own issues that need to be considered by policymakers. Immigration and refugee law contains inadequate safeguards and a lack of specific provisions for women. For example, the US Refugee Act of 1980 doesn’t address gender, and advocates have been forced to argue for years that its protections extend to gender-based persecution. The omission of specific language has kept many women from qualifying as refugees.¹⁹²⁰ Instead, women asylum seekers are subject to political trends and the bias of individual judges. 

Immigrant women have contributed greatly to American society and economy, despite disproportionate challenges and unfair treatment within the US immigration system. If you are interested in getting involved in pro bono legal assistance to such women, you can find opportunities through The Tahirih Justice Center, a national nonprofit that has served immigrant survivors fleeing gender-based violence since 1997.


¹https://www.atomicheritage.org/profile/chien-shiung-wu

²https://ilhanomar.com/about/

³https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/immigrant-women-and-girls-united-states

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/women-and-migration-vulnerability-face-abuse-and-discrimination

https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/immigrant-women-and-girls-united-states

⁶ibid.

https://www.americanprogress.org/article/profile-immigrant-women-workforce/

https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/advantages-family-based-immigration

https://justiceforimmigrants.org/what-we-are-working-on/immigration/the-importance-of-maintaining-a-family-based-immigration-system/

¹⁰https://www.legalmomentum.org/gender-bias-and-immigration-policy

¹¹https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4302952/

¹²https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/impact-immigrant-women-americas-labor-force

¹³ibid

¹⁴https://via.library.depaul.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1058&context=jsj

¹⁵https://crownschool.uchicago.edu/advocates-forum-2020-workplace-discrimination-undocumented-immigrants

¹⁶https://www.womenslaw.org/laws/federal/immigration/vawa-abuse-victims/vawa-self-petitions

¹⁷https://www.womenslaw.org/laws/federal/immigration/u-visa-crime-victims/basic-info-and-definitions/what-u-visa-how-can-it-help

¹⁸https://www.womenslaw.org/laws/federal/immigration/t-visa-trafficking-victims

¹⁹https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/STATUTE-94/pdf/STATUTE-94-Pg102.pdf 

²⁰https://www.americanbar.org/groups/crsj/publications/human_rights_magazine_home/immigration/the-history-and-future-of-gender-asylum-law/

Last week was the 2022 AmeriCorps Week, which took place on March 13th through March 19th. In honor of AmeriCorps week we are proud to highlight our current AmeriCorps VISTAS: Treshauxn Dennis-Brown and Dina Knott. Hear from Treshauxn and Dina as they share some of the work they have been doing with Immigration Advocates Network. 

My name is Treshauxn Dennis-Brown and I am the 2021-2022 AmeriCorps VISTA Remote Volunteer Project Coordinator at Immigration Advocates Network. My role centers around enhancing remote legal advocacy through technological advancement and supporting pro bono advocates by providing them with the tools necessary to make innovation to their service delivery models. I accomplish this by conducting a series of interviews and webinars alongside experts in the immigration field. Currently, I am working on IAN’s newest edition of the Remote Legal Support Guide, having compiled a series of profiles from many of our partners. I am excited to see the final version of this Guide be published and serve as a model for future innovations!

My name is Dina Knott. Since the end of last August, I’ve served as Volunteer and Community Education Coordinator at Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) through the AmeriCorps VISTA program. The primary focus of my position is updating IAN’s Nonprofit Library, which consists of finding and reviewing legal training materials and selecting the very best, most up-to-date and accurate ones to post on the site for our pro bono members. I’ve also been working on updating the IAN Legal Directory, which has over 1,200 listings for free or low-cost legal service providers. My favorite part of my job is collaborating with legal partners to make podcasts for our pro bono audience, which has given me the chance to have one on one conversations with legal experts in the field. Since I’m planning on going to law school after my AmeriCorps VISTA term of service, getting to speak to so many practicing lawyers who are well respected in the field is really amazing. Finally, I’ve helped to create our Pro Bono Service Experience for Legal Advocates survey, which will help us identify what kinds of resources our audience of nonprofit and pro bono service providers would find most helpful. In the coming months, I hope to organize my first webinar and look forward to the completion of the directory and library update processes. Outside of work, I enjoy hiking and participating in local theater—you can see me in Theater Company of Laffayette’s production of The Twilight Zone in April!

Also in the spirit of AmeriCorps Week, we wanted to congratulate Dennis Brink on winning the President’s Volunteer Service Award. According to the Presidential Service Awards website: “[t]his award honors individuals whose service positively impacts communities in every corner of the nation and inspires those around them to take action, too.” 

Dennis Brink served three years as an Americorps VISTA Volunteer for Pro Bono Net.  He specifically was working to perform outreach for LawhelpNY running trainings on LawHelpNY’s tools and resources for nonprofits throughout Western New York; providing new tools for nonprofits to assist their constituents. Dennis also worked to assist LawHelpNY with its LiveHelp program. He helped manage, recruit and onboard volunteers, so that can provide impactful assistance to low-income residents.  

Throughout his time as a Vista, Dennis recruited over 300 volunteers who served over 10,000 hours and assisted over 20,000 low-income residents. Dennis also cultivated new strategic partnerships, by working with Monroe’s Access to Justice Coalition to run workshops for local nonprofits on available legal assistance to low-income residents.  Dennis has served over 5,500 hours during his 3 years of Vista service. 

Our final shout out to the Americorps VISTA Program comes from Pro Bono Net’s Development Strategist Kathleen Klock. Kathleen began her career in nonprofit development almost 20 years ago as a VISTA Volunteer at Advocates for Children of New York. Since then, Kathleen has used the skills she learned as a VISTA Volunteer to raise tens of millions of dollars for nonprofit organizations in New York, the US, and internationally.  From Kathleen’s perspective, the Americorps VISTA Program not only provides excellent services to under-resourced communities, but also provides valuable on-the-job training for people who want to start a career in the nonprofit sector.

Pro Bono Net will be represented at the Pro Bono Institute (PBI) Conference this year in Washington, D.C. The PBI conference, which will take place in person from March 8-10, 2022, is an annual event tailored to the interests and needs of pro bono leaders at law firms, in-house legal departments, and nonprofit legal services organizations. The conference will also have a virtual component from April 6-7, 2022. 

Pro Bono Net is a national nonprofit leader in increasing pro bono and access to justice through innovative uses of technology and collaboration. Our staff consists of a cross-disciplinary team from legal, technology, and community engagement backgrounds committed to creating innovative, sustainable solutions that support low-wealth individuals with their legal needs. 

Our Pro Bono & Strategic Initiatives Manager, Jeanne Ortiz-Ortiz, is presenting in two sessions on disaster relief and recovery at this year’s PBI conference. The topics of the sessions align with the 2022 Disaster Resilience Awareness Month, a joint effort of Pro Bono Net, Equal Justice Works, and other leading organizations supporting disaster relief. Disaster Resilience Awareness Month is observed every March and is an opportunity to highlight the vital role pro bono advocates play in helping families navigate the impact of climate disasters. 

Pro Bono Net Board member Tiffany Graves is also participating as a speaker at the conference, and Pro Bono Net will be a part of the conference EXPO, where attendees can learn more about programs and pro bono opportunities. For more information on these panels and activities, you can refer to the information below. For other sessions at the PBI conference, please visit the conference website here

Wednesday, March 9, 2022 

2:15 – 3:15 pm ET
What Counts? Defining Pro Bono

Over the years various organizations have adopted rules promoting a lawyer’s professional obligation to pro bono legal services. These rules include the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® initiative, which was established more than 25 year ago and has become an industry standard. But has the evolution in access to justice issues left room for changes in policies on what counts as pro bono? This session will discuss current efforts by law firm leaders to review the definition of pro bono, as defined by the Challenge, focusing on particular areas, including: public rights, impact finance & social enterprise, global pro bono, and racial justice.

  • Tiffany Graves, National Pro Bono Counsel, Bradley Arant Boult & Cummings LLP and Pro Bono Net Board Member 
  • Wendy Atrokhov – Public Service Counsel, Director of Global Pro Bono Latham & Watkins
  • Paul Lee – Pro Bono Counsel, Steptoe
  • Nihad Mansour – Assistant Director of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project, Pro Bono Institute
  • Angela H. Zimmern – Senior Counsel and Pro Bono Director, McGuireWoods

Thursday, March 10, 2022 

9:45 – 10:45 pm ET
Live, Learn, Pivot: Making Disaster Preparedness and Relief More Equitable (Part I: Panel)

We live in a world where disasters are more frequent and where low-income and underserved communities bear the disproportionate brunt of the massive disruptions and harm left behind. Making disaster preparedness and relief more equitable can help ensure that all residents, regardless of socio-economic factors, can prepare and recover from disasters. This session will explore unique insights and perspectives gained through experiences and collaborations so that attendees can develop tools, strengthen partnerships, and provide a practical framework for responding to future disasters. A panel of experts from California, New York, North Carolina, and Georgia will discuss shared (and differing) experiences and perspectives on issues and pro bono in disaster legal services — all with a lens toward equity and proposed solutions.   

  • Jeanne Ortiz-Ortiz, Pro Bono & Strategic Initiatives Manager, Pro Bono Net
  • Tiela Chalmers – Chief Executive Officer/General Counsel, Alameda County Bar Association and Legal Access Alameda
  • Cheryl Naja – Director of Pro Bono and Community Service, Alston & Bird
  • Iris Peoples Green – Director of Constituent Services, Disability Rights North Carolina
  • Katherine Blass Asaro – Executive Director, North Carolina Legal Education Assistance Foundation
  • Rachel Williams – Pro Bono Counsel, Morrison & Foerster

Thursday, March 10, 2022 

11:00 am – 12:00 pm ET
Live, Learn, Pivot: Making Disaster Preparedness and Relief More Equitable (Part II)

Interactive Workshop (Note: you do not need to attend Part I to attend Part II.) Join this interactive session with experts from California, New York, North Carolina, and Georgia (and put in practice learning from Part I) to model how to organize volunteer responses when disaster strikes. 

  • Jeanne Ortiz-Ortiz, Pro Bono & Strategic Initiatives Manager, Pro Bono Net
  • Tiela Chalmers – Chief Executive Officer/General Counsel, Alameda County Bar Association and Legal Access Alameda
  • Cheryl Naja – Director of Pro Bono and Community Service, Alston & Bird
  • Iris Peoples Green – Director of Constituent Services, Disability Rights North Carolina
  • Katherine Blass Asaro – Executive Director, North Carolina Legal Education Assistance Foundation
  • Rachel Williams – Pro Bono Counsel, Morrison & Foerster

Thursday, March 10, 2022 

4:00 – 5:00 pm ET
Pro Bono Expo and Closing Reception

Join us for more networking!  Don’t miss this program – the annual catalyst for new partnerships, relationships, and pro bono initiatives.  Meet leading advocates from a range of public interest organizations and learn about cutting-edge issues ripe for pro bono representation. 

Pro Bono Net will be well represented at the 2022 Innovations in Technology Conference (ITC) this week, and we hope to see you there! This virtual conference takes place January 12th-20th and is hosted by the Legal Services Corporation. 

Pro Bono Net is a national nonprofit leader in increasing access to justice through innovative uses of technology and collaboration. Our staff is made up of a cross-disciplinary team from legal, technology and community engagement backgrounds who are committed to creating innovative, sustainable solutions for expanding access to justice. 

ITC brings together more than 650 legal aid advocates, court personnel, technologists and other professionals exploring new ways of using technology to expand access to justice. This year, we’ll be moderating or presenting a range of cutting edge topics, including creating justice systems designed for universal access, collaborative efforts to respond to the eviction crises, tech tools to empower community justice partners, and more.

See below for where you can find us. For more details on each panel and to view the many other excellent sessions offered at ITC 2022, please visit LSC’s ITC website.

Thursday, January 13th

12:30pm-1:15pm

Online Forms Affinity Group

Come meet and learn from the groups working on online forms, the groups providing online form platforms, and the groups doing online form trainings, evaluations, design work. This is a chance to catch up, ask questions, learn what is new and how online forms are changing in use, and as a vital tool for access to Justice.

  • Claudia Johnson, Pro Bono Net, Program Manager
  • Quinten Steenhuis, Suffolk University Law School, Clinical Fellow

LSNTAP Community Meeting

Everyone’s favorite listserv live. Join LSNTAP for a community meeting where you can share ideas and ask any questions you have. This is an opportunity to meet fellow listserv members and discuss how LSNTAP can help. You will also learn about all the new things LSNTAP has to offer.

  • Ariadne Brazo, Pro Bono Net, Product Manager

1:30pm-2:30pm

Interactive Self-Help Forms: A Cornerstone of Resilient and Responsive Justice Systems 

When the world shut down in 2020, many courts and legal aid programs that had already invested in their technology infrastructures and online self-help forms collections were able to rapidly adapt to remote services, and provide pathways to ensure access to justice for thousands of people facing great hardship and uncertainty. As we look to the future, what can we learn from the experience of frontline staff and leaders who made this pivot effectively and data about what forms proved most helpful? What gaps remain for end users that need to be addressed? Join us for an engaging discussion about how online forms and wraparound services – both remote and in person – can help create justice systems built for universal access and resilience. Panelists will share concrete examples and hard-won lessons that can be applied to other disruptive events as well as everyday access needs.

  • Mark O’Brien, Pro Bono Net, Executive Director
  • Amy Billmire, Michigan Legal Help, Staff Attorney
  • Anne Sheeley, Iowa Judicial Branch, Clerk of District Court, Polk County Courthouse
  • Marilyn Harp, Kansas Legal Services, Inc, Executive Director

3:30pm-4:30pm

Helping the Helpers: Tech Strategies to Support Community Justice Partners

Social workers, community organizers, Americorps/VISTA volunteers, librarians and health care professionals are often the first point of contact for people facing a life problem with a legal dimension. But to bridge the justice gap, these helpers need help — to help people detect legal problems, learn about the law, navigate legal processes and connect to legal services. This session will spotlight examples of tech tools and training strategies designed to equip these frontline allies with knowledge and support to effectively and appropriately help people with legal issues. Drawing on examples in housing, elder justice, wage theft, domestic violence and other areas, panelists will discuss the tech strategies, content, training and support models behind them, and what we are learning from evaluations of these efforts. We will highlight well-established and cutting-edge initiatives alike, and approaches that can be adapted to new regions.

  • Liz keith, Pro Bono Net, Program Director, State and National Justice Communities
  • Rodrigo Camarena, Immigration Advocates Network, Director
  • Brooke Doyle, WebJunction, Senior Project Coordinator
  • Julie Matthews, CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario), Executive Director

Wednesday, January 19th

3:30pm-4:30pm

A Justice Collaborative: How Seven Organizations Responded to the COVID-19 Eviction Crisis

The COVID-19 global pandemic has exacerbated the eviction crisis that advocates, tenants and community organizers around the U.S. know too well. In June 2021, the CDC announced that it would not extend the eviction moratorium, and many legal services organizations across the country are now facing unprecedented eviction litigation. This session will delve into the journey to create TenantHelpNY.org, an online solution that connects tenants with legal resources and pro bono attorneys. Presenters will share the challenges they overcame and insights gained that informed the new site and will describe the initiative and its current uses. This session is open to anyone interested in learning about innovative digital strategies to respond to the eviction crisis.

  • Jeanne Ortiz-Ortiz, Pro Bono Net, Pro Bono & Strategic Initiatives Manager
  • Christine McMenamin, Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project, Inc., Senior Housing Staff Attorney
  • Christopher Oldi, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, Pro Bono Director
  • Veronica Dunlap, Pro Bono Net, Director, New York Programs

Superstorm Sandy was the deadliest hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane season, causing $70 Billion in damage and 233 fatalities over the span of eight countries from the Caribbean to continental North America.¹ A snapshot of the hurricane as a Category 2 would later deem it to be the largest hurricane on record, registering a diameter of 1,150 miles of storm force winds.² Superstorm Sandy, as it became colloquially called, registers as the fourth costliest hurricane of all time according to the National Hurricane Center.³ Now, almost ten years later, history has seemed to repeat itself in the form of Hurricane Ida. Hurricane Ida also sports a fourth place finish on the National Hurricane Center database in terms of most costliest hurricanes, and with a similar spectrum of damage, comes a similar spectrum of economic and residential problems.

Hurricane Ida made landfall on the continental US in Louisiana from August 26, 2021 through September 3, 2021 and subsequently made history as one of the deadliest hurricanes ever to hit the Eastern Coast. Spawning infrastructure and residential damage in the region of billions of dollars, the hurricane also made headlines as experts worried whether the consequences of the superstorm would exacerbate the struggles of regions already bowing under the weight of the rampant COVID-19 pandemic.⁴ However, the longest lasting effects of Hurricane Ida comes in the form of loss of residential properties and lack of electrical power. While some communities dealt with a lack of power well into the September and October months, the truth remains that while there are those who had homes to return to, there remains a staggering amount of families now displaced residentially as a result of extensive home damage.

Common Legal Issues that Arise in the Aftermath of Disasters

And for many that have found themselves displaced residentially, the lack of housing is just one of various problems spawned in the wake of disaster. Families without homes can experience any assortment of short to long term unforeseen consequences. The short term can be regarding housing and document replacement needs (e.g. social security cards, birth certificates, and other essentials for document replacement, and insurance claims and utility shut offs with regards to housing problems), for example. 

However, the more medium and long term issues include significant quality of life setbacks such as section 8 housing applications, contractor scams, disaster relief applications and insurance disputes. For a more complete list of possible short, medium, and long term setbacks in the wake of natural disaster, please follow this link.

Helpful Resources

With countless tenants now displaced and/or seeking retribution in aid for damages, there are resources that can help in such precarious circumstances. A natural first inclination is to check with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, commonly known as FEMA, in hopes that it will offer assistance to those that have suffered damaged or destroyed homes in the wake of Hurricane Ida. For those who have already applied for FEMA assistance, more information can still yet be found at fema.gov/disaster/hurricane-ida

The Figuring Out FEMA pocket guide also offers helpful guidance. The resource, which can be found here, breaks down the process of enrolling in FEMA’s Individual Assistance program. It also explains how to appeal FEMA’s decision if a survivor is denied aid or needs more assistance.  In New York, the deadline to apply for FEMA assistance is now Tuesday, January 4, 2022. For Orange county residents, the deadline is January 31, 2022. Low-income New Yorkers seeking free legal assistance related to Hurricane Ida can call the disaster legal services hotline at 1-888-399-5459 or apply online here. LawHelpNY, a program of Pro Bono Net, also offers extensive legal help and advice in many arenas including, but not limited to, Money and Taxes, Immigration, and Public Benefits. The LawHelpNY Hurricane Ida Information Center can aid in crafting a plan of action where it intersects with a survivor’s needs, including an interactive tool to create an appeal letter to FEMA, which survivors can do on their own.

Those affected by Hurricane Ida in other states are encouraged to check FEMA’s website for registration deadlines. For those who have not applied for FEMA related assistance and/or have had a claim denied or accepted but given less money than needed, there are still other opportunities for recourse. Hurricane Ida affected multiple states in the wake of its destruction including Louisiana and multiple states in the Northeast. Those impacted by Hurricane Ida in Louisiana can turn to https://louisianalawhelp.org/issues/disaster-relief for legal help information and resources. In addition, for those affected in Pennsylvania, guidance can also be found at the Pennsylvania Law Help site. 

On the other hand, for those affected by other major disasters, the National Disaster Legal Aid site, also powered by Pro Bono Net, lends a helping hand. The Disaster Legal Aid site is armed with a litany of resources, related to FEMA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and legal aid access organizations based nationally and locally, that are useful in fighting for the rights one deserves in the wake of their lost livelihoods. 


Tre Dennis-Brown is the 2021-22 AmeriCorps Vista Fellow at Pro Bono Net. Tre received a Bachelor’s of Arts in Government, with a concentration in Political Theory, from Wesleyan University in 2019. He has previously worked as a Real Estate Junior Paralegal at Greenberg, Glusker, Fields, Claman, Machtinger. Economic equity is a long-time passion of Treshauxn’s, and he is now excited to be addressing justice gaps in legal deserts.

¹https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/DPM-05-2014-0082/full/html

²https://forms2.rms.com/rs/729-DJX-565/images/tc_2013_rms_modeling_sandy_storm_surge.pdf

³https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/news/UpdatedCostliest.pdfhttps://www.forbes.com/sites/alisondurkee/2021/08/29/hurricane-ida-could-make-louisianas-covid-19-outbreak-much-much-worse-fauci-says/?sh=1a10ee1e5649

Pro Bono Net‘s Program Director, Liz Keith, and Pro Bono & Strategic Initiatives Manager, Jeanne Ortiz-Ortiz, share takeaways from remote legal help during the pandemic in the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Today Pro Bono Issue. Topics addressed include:

  • Remote Pro Bono Works
  • Design for wraparound services and workflows
  • Connecting with Intention and Care
  • Attorneys Don’t Have to be Tech Pros to do Remote Pro Bono
  • The Future is Now

This article highlights several Pro Bono Net programs: Remote Legal Connect, a multi-state platform that enables legal services organizations to rapidly build and manage remote pro bono programs; Citizenshipworks, a project of Immigration Advocates Network where individuals can learn about their eligibility, complete the naturalization application, and obtain an in-person or remote legal review of their completed application from a trusted nonprofit partner; and other impactful models and resources from the pro bono field.

You can read the full article here: Technology, Pro Bono, & COVID-19: Five Takeaways from Remote Legal Help During the Pandemic.  

Pro Bono Net, in partnership with Alston & Bird, announced today that a new resource is available for individuals applying to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program.

The online resource includes general information about the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program and Frequently Asked Questions about how to appeal FEMA’s determination if an applicant has been denied financial assistance or awarded an amount that’s not enough to cover funeral expenses. 

Earlier this year, FEMA created the program to help individuals pay funeral costs for COVID-19-related deaths. Then Acting FEMA Administrator Bob Fenton said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense grief for so many people. Although we cannot change what has happened, we affirm our commitment to help with funeral and burial expenses that many families did not anticipate.” A few weeks after its announcement, the federal agency began accepting applications by phone. FEMA reported that its call center had received over one million calls the first day it opened. 

“It has been an incredibly meaningful endeavor for the firm to help ease the burden of seeking tangible aid for these families,” said Cheryl Naja, Director of Pro Bono & Community Service at Alston & Bird.  “We know it doesn’t alleviate the pain of losing a loved one, but hope this work will provide relief from the overwhelming experience of managing agency applications and appeals.” 

“Over half a million individuals in the U.S. have lost their lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jeanne Ortiz-Ortiz, Pro Bono & Strategic Initiatives Manager at Pro Bono Net. “Families and loved ones who have incurred in funeral expenses have a right to understand FEMA’s decision on assistance and also a right to appeal the agency’s determination. We are proud to partner with Alston & Bird to develop this timely resource for individuals and families affected by the pandemic.” FEMA’s latest breakdown on the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance program shows that over 300,000 individuals across the United States have already applied to the program. The agency also reported that it has provided over $1.2 billion to over 196,000 people. 

The Frequently Asked Questions, which cover the appeals process and FEMA’s interim policy updates to help applicants understand their rights, are available at: 

Pro Bono Net extends our appreciation to Miriam Archibong, Jessica García Keenum, and Cheryl Naja at Alston & Bird for their time and contributions to this resource. 

To learn more about Pro Bono Net’s disaster response efforts, visit https://www.probono.net/our-work/initiatives/disaster/ or contact Pro Bono Net’s Pro Bono & Strategic Initiatives Manager, Jeanne Ortiz-Ortiz at jortiz@probono.net.