Pro Bono Net is celebrating twenty years of transforming access to justice. In honor of this milestone, co-founder of Pro Bono Net, Michael Hertz wrote an amazing blog about how we got our start, and how far we’ve come. This blog was originally posted on Michael Hertz’s LinkedIn page.

This year we are celebrating twenty years of Pro Bono Net. As one of the co-founders, I’m proud to see how the organization has developed over the years, establishing a national presence through partnerships and providing access to justice for the poor and other vulnerable populations.

As with a lot of technology-based solutions, the idea for Pro Bono Net came out of the need for a solution to a basic problem. I was working as a young partner at Latham & Watkins, and heavily involved in developing its pro bono program, while my co-founder Mark O’Brien was managing the pro bono program at Davis Polk. We knew each other well from meeting in pro bono circles and both became involved in a series of cases stemming from the 1993 Golden Venture incident, where a cargo ship carrying a large number of Chinese immigrants ran aground in New York. All survivors from the ship claimed asylum but were detained. Many firms across the city took cases on a pro bono basis, including Latham & Watkins and Davis Polk.

It was a massive undertaking for every lawyer involved in the Golden Venture cases to ensure that they were able to collaborate with each other. This was in the early stages of the internet, so in order to be as efficient as possible we were faxing documents, having conference calls and meeting together in person wherever we could.

The Golden Venture cases went on for a number of years and by the time we were done it was obvious to Mark and I that there had to be a better way of coordinating pro bono work. The internet had come a long way by 1998 and we could see how the new web technology could be used to make a difference.

Pro Bono Net came from a pretty simple idea of building a technology platform that would link all pro bono lawyers together. What Mark and I wanted was to set up a place on the web where the legal services and public interest lawyers, volunteers and private attorneys could collaborate on issues more effectively than they were able to do at the time.

With this idea in mind, I applied for support from the Soros Foundation’s justice program and was approved for a fellowship. I took what I thought would be a short leave of absence from Latham & Watkins and shortly afterwards Mark came over from Davis Polk. It was wonderful to have the support of our firms at the time and also the support of Michael Mills, the then Chief Knowledge Officer at Davis Polk, who is still a member of our board today. We were incubated at the Soros Foundation for a couple of years until we moved out to our current office and grew our investor base.

Pretty soon after we set up Pro Bono Net we saw how it worked in doing exactly what we intended. When 9/11 happened, the legal community in New York was able to use the platform to respond very quickly to people who had lost friends and family members in the attack. Legal groups were able to collaborate and assist people in navigating the legal system and accessing help. This was amazing to see and to be able to help people in this way really meant something and it encouraged us to keep developing our services.

Something that really helped Pro Bono Net to grow and become what it is today was the interest that the Legal Services Corporation took in working with us. By partnering with them we were able to secure more funding and create connections with legal aid services around the country. This resulted in the creation of LawHelp.org, which has expanded public access to legal rights information and to pro bono lawyers. It’s been really exciting to watch how Pro Bono Net has evolved over the years with the development of diverse legal services and technologies, all with the aim of assisting those in need.

Another of these important developments has been the creation of the Immigration Advocates Network, where we worked to bring together immigration services and groups from around the country. Again, Pro Bono Net has found different ways of using technology in order to provide immigration services where possible and this means that we can help people in areas of the US where there may be very few immigration experts to assist those in need.

The use and development of technology has been so important in getting Pro Bono Net to where it is today. Looking back on everything that we’ve achieved in the twenty years since we created the platform, and seeing how technology has developed at such a rapid pace in recent years makes me really excited for the things we can continue to do to expand the platform and provide broader and smarter services for the pro bono community.

If you would like to learn more about Pro Bono Net and the ways you can help us to continue in these developments please feel free to drop me a line. I look forward to sharing more of our stories in the future.

The Pro Bono Net team in the New York offices today are pictured above. The earlier image showed the team from the early start-up years.

PLI, a leading provider of legal training and CLE, grants complimentary access to its robust catalog of training programs to more than 500 nonprofit and legal services organizations across the country.

This tremendous value is available to both individuals and organizations that directly provide pro bono legal services. With a wealth of programs, ranging from Ethics to Immigration to Professional Skills, lawyers and organizations working on behalf of pro bono clients can stay up-to-date on the latest legal developments, improve their legal skills, and fulfill their CLE requirements.

“It is truly amazing that you offer your programs free of charge to the myriad organizations that engage in full-time advocacy for marginalized people,” said one user. “You do this in the best possible way: without rhetoric or partisanship, with your eye on simply preparing the legal community to do a good job.”

PLI’s pro bono privileged membership has proved popular and garnered a diverse userbase. More than 100,000 legal professionals have utilized PLI’s renowned training and instruction to improve their guidance to pro bono clients.

“What excellent presentations, these speakers were all dynamos,” said another. “Please continue these excellent programs which are critical to meeting the huge need for volunteer lawyers. Keep it up. You are needed!”

PLI is a membership-based nonprofit institution that has mentored the legal community for more than eighty years.  Find out more at www.PLI.edu and apply today. Or contact PLIProBonoMembership@pli.edu with any questions.

Frequently asked questions

What does PLI Pro Bono Privileged Membership include?

Pro bono privileged members have unlimited access to PLI’s robust catalog of training programs at no charge. This includes entrance to more than 400 programs that feature 4,000 distinguished volunteer faculty from private practice, in-house counsel, government agencies, and legal services/nonprofit organizations across a range of mediums:

How does my organization apply and become a Pro Bono Privileged Member at PLI?

Complete and submit our short application if your organization meets the following criteria:

  • Registered as an IRC Section 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization
  • Have at least 3 attorneys on staff
  • Provide direct pro bono legal services to low-income communities

What if my organization does not qualify? Can I apply individually?

If your organization does not qualify for our membership program, we grant complimentary access to individuals seeking to take any one of our programs on a case-by-case basis. Discounts and fee waivers are available to:

  • Lawyers and staff working for nonprofit or legal services organizations
  • Pro bono lawyers providing no-fee legal assistance to clients
  • Government lawyers
  • Judges and judicial law clerks
  • Law professors and law students
  • Senior attorneys (age 65 and over)
  • Unemployed lawyers or individuals with financial hardships

All qualified individuals are encouraged to apply.

Tim Baran is the LawHelpNY program manager at Pro Bono Net. His two-decade journey in the legal space has taken him from the Federal Courts to Law Firm Library Director to Legal Tech Ambassador to Legal Marketing. He works closely with legal services and community-based organizations and manages initiatives that leverage technology and LawHelpNY’s online resources to expand access to legal assistance for low-income and vulnerable communities and strengthen collaboration within the civil justice sector in New York. These are his thoughts on his first ever Equal Justice Conference.

Summer camp, winter camp…band camp. People who attend conferences year after year refer to their experience as fondly as they recall their adolescent and teen camping experience.

Summer camp is how I refer to my dozen or so years at the ABA Techshow, although it’s in February, in frigid Chicago. Why? Because it’s a fond recollection of spending the summer in the Poconos during some of my teen years, meeting new people and building meaningful friendships, learning new things, and just having a grand ole time

My first Equal Justice Conference (2019) in Louisville felt like the beginning of such a tradition, another summer camp experience, because, well, I never went to winter camp. A “justice” summer camp. My Twitter connections – people I deeply admire – became IRL friends. Hanging out with my Pro Bono Net teammates drew us even closer, if that’s even possible.

But it wasn’t just about all the feels, it was also about all the learning. Absorbing the rich experience and knowledge of those around me who’ve been walking the talk for many many years was almost overwhelming. I imagined one of the days being devoted to “speed dating” where we schedule chats in 15-minutes increments with people we want to learn from, give to, and build relationships with. One can wish.

The learning continued at dynamic sessions with thoughtful speakers although the multitude of concurrent sessions made it difficult to choose. A highlight was attending Rebecca Sandefur’s session because when Rebecca Sandefur speaks, we listen. Another was the session on community lawyering. The exuberance and passion on display was electric and inspiring, and their inclusion of the community they serve on the panel drove the message home. A model for future panels.

They say teaching is the best way to learn, and the opportunity to participate in a couple of panels was indeed instructive and a privilege. I witnessed with pride, my teammates, Quisquella, Mike, Jess, Claudia, and Mirenda prepare for and give presentations. Liz, weathering all sorts of travel issues, may have pulled a Hermione to participate in four panels! She modeled calm and cool under pressure.

Finally, the community. We’re nothing without community, and oh, what a community!  Lawyers, techies, project managers, pro bono and civil justice advocates…all working to address the legal needs of the marginalized and underserved. One of the highlights for me was the POC luncheon with fellow sisters and brothers of color in the access to justice space supporting each other, sharing our stories, and bringing our perspectives.

Can’t wait for next year’s justice summer camp!

On this day in 2007, Pro Bono Net launched our first ever National Pro Bono Opportunities guide. We teamed up with the American Bar Association to create a single online location to make it easier for advocates to find opportunities to volunteer that match what they are looking for. While directories of organizations seeking volunteers have been available prior to this, our online, searchable version was the first of its kind.

Designed to help volunteer advocates find opportunities, the guide provides a listing of over 1500 programs from across the US that need volunteer lawyers. Opportunities can range from legal clinics and lawyer-for-a-day programs to full representation, so advocates can find the best fit for the time and effort they have available for volunteering.

The nationwide guide also includes detailed information on nonprofit organizations that provide legal services. Because the list is interactive, state and local bar associations as well as community-based nonprofits can add or update information to ensure the list is current and accurate.

Volunteers can pinpoint projects that require their skills and experience with features highlighting opportunities for transactional lawyers, litigators, law students and others. They can search for a service project in a specific substantive area of law or for one that serves a specific population, such as children, seniors, or immigrants. Volunteers can also e-mail an opportunity to a friend and suggest updates to the guide.

The National Opportunities Guide is still going strong, more than 10 years later and is one of the most popular features on our probono.net platform. To visit the guide go to www.probono.net/oppsguide and get started volunteering!

Grace Gilligan is an attorney in the Government Investigations and Regulatory Enforcement group (GIRE) in the Legal Department of JPMorgan Chase & Co, and a member of the Department’s Pro Bono Steering Committee.  Prior to joining JPMorgan, Grace was a litigation associate at the law firm of Milbank, LLP.  During her time at Milbank, Grace worked on two pro bono externships with the Juvenile Rights Division of the Legal Aid Society, where she represented clients in juvenile delinquency proceedings.  Grace is a graduate of Fordham Law School.

I believe that lawyers can use technology to make the world a better place.

I am an in-house attorney at JPMorgan Chase & Co., and the recipient of the 2019 JPMorgan Chase Pro Bono Fellowship.  JPMorgan awards the Fellowship to one of its in-house attorneys each year, to work full-time for up to six months on a project that advances its Legal Pro Bono Mission: strengthening communities, empowering families, and advocating for vulnerable individuals.  It’s a unique opportunity that reflects the Department’s commitment to pro bono, and faith in its attorneys to do good in the world.  I chose to partner with Pro Bono Net on my fellowship project, because the organization shares my deep commitment to using the power of technology for social good.

The big picture goal of my fellowship project is finding new ways for in-house attorneys (like me) to participate more effectively in pro bono work.  For structural reasons, in-house attorneys generally don’t have the same tools as law firm attorneys to facilitate long-term pro bono projects – tools like full time pro bono coordinators and 24-hour legal support staff.

As a result, I think there is a vast and underutilized pool of in-house legal talent that could be harnessed in the profession’s efforts to close the access to justice gap.  I’m working on several projects with Pro Bono Net to achieve this goal.  We’re re-designing the PBN Corporate Counsel site as a place for in-house attorneys to communicate with one another about pro bono opportunities, resources, and challenges.

At the end of April, my Pro Bono Net colleagues and also I kicked off a tech project with the JPMorgan Chase Force for Good team in Corporate Technology.  Together, we’ll be building a new platform for attorneys in different sectors of the profession to connect and collaborate on pro bono projects.

The access to justice gap is wide, but I’m confident it can be closed.

We’ve also organized a panel discussion to explore the connections between the two greatest challenges facing the legal profession: the access to justice gap and lack of diversity in the top ranks of the profession.  These two issues are generally considered separately, but we’ll discuss how they are related and whether there are common solutions.  The panel discussion will take place on June 4th from 12-2pm at Latham & Watkins’ office in New York, and will feature speakers from the in-house, law firm, and legal services sectors.  Invitation coming soon!

To summarize, I believe that lawyers can use technology to make the world a better place.  Reading a bold statement like that, you might say I’m an idealist.  People have always been cynical about lawyers, and we live in a time of intense cynicism about technology too – its effects on privacy, democracy, and the social fabric itself. But I won’t join the cynics, on either front.

Ambrose Bierce, in his Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary, defines a cynic as someone “whose faulty vision sees things as they are – not as they ought to be.”  I can’t help but see things the other way around: as they ought to be – not as they are.  The access to justice gap is wide, but I’m confident it can be closed.  The public defender crisis is dire, but I’m convinced it can be solved.  The legal profession doesn’t reflect the diversity of society by a long shot, but I’m certain it can be changed.  And technology has been used in malevolent ways, but I know it can still be a force for good.  That’s because technology is simply an amplifier of all human capabilities.  We confront the malevolence not by abandoning technology altogether, but by using it to amplify the better angels of our nature.

It was through my pro bono work that I first realized the astonishing creative power I have – as just one person with a law degree – to change the entire trajectory of other people’s lives for the better.  As I sat with my pro bono clients in courtrooms and conference rooms over the years, I saw in their eyes an unshakable belief that I could fix the injustices they’d suffered.  I’m deeply grateful to both JPMorgan Chase and Pro Bono Net for giving me the opportunity to amplify my own capabilities through the Pro Bono Fellowship.

Pro Bono Net staff members will be presenting on a variety of equal justice issues at the 2019 Equal Justice Conference (EJC) this week in Kentucky. The Conference takes place May 9th – 11th in Louisville and is hosted by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service and the National Legal Aid & Defender Association.

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 as they relate to the delivery of legal services to low income and vulnerable communities. PBN’s teams will present on a wide range of topics, including cutting-edge collaboration models in  justice communities, technology to expand pro bono participation, and designing and delivering better tools to assist self-represented litigants.

Staff attending the conference includes Liz Keith, Program Director; Quisquella Addison, LawHelpNY Program Director; Claudia Johnson, LawHelp Interactive Program Manager; Mike Grunenwald, Program Manager; Jessica Penkoff, Pro Bono & Strategic Initiatives Coordinator;  Tim Baran, LawHelpNY Program Manager; Jessica Stuart, Product Manager; and JPMorgan Chase Pro Bono Fellow Grace Gilligan.

Liz Keith and Mirenda Meghelli, Partnerships Manager, will also be attending and presenting at the National Meeting of State Access to Justice Commission Chairs held in conjunction with EJC.

Pro Bono Net staff are participating in the conference and Commission Chairs workshops below. For more details on each workshop, please visit the EJC website here.

National Meeting of State Access to Justice Commission Chairs

Friday, 3:00- 3:30 PM

Transforming Services for Self-Represented Litigants through Technology and Justice Community Partnerships

This session will highlight a major initiative underway in Washington, DC to increase access to justice through the creation of user-friendly, plain language interactive court forms. This initiative is designed to enhance services for self-represented litigants within and outside of the courthouse, increase court efficiencies, and strengthen court processes. Presenters will discuss how extensive collaboration with local access to justice stakeholders is strengthening the efficacy and awareness of these initiatives. We will share successes and lessons learned so that participants from other jurisdictions interested in implementing or expanding document assembly projects can gain practical information and guidance.

  • Mirenda Meghelli, Pro Bono Net
  • Peter Edelman, Georgetown University Law Center, D.C. Access to Justice Commission Chair


Friday, 3:45 PM

Creating Inclusive Justice Ecosystems in Alaska and Hawaii: Insights from the Legal Navigator

Legal Navigator is a pilot project that brings together technology, content and community to help people with civil legal needs more easily access legal information and referrals specific to their issues and find a path forward. This workshop will highlight developments in this project’s novel collaborations between court, legal aid and social services partners, its innovative technology strategy using artificial intelligence and natural language processing, and initial testing results. Presenters will discuss next steps in Alaska and Hawaii, work to advance this vision on a national level, and opportunities for replication in other states.

  • Sergio Alcubilla, Director of External Relations, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii
  • Liz Keith, Program Director, Pro Bono Net
  • Glenn Rawdon, Senior Program Counsel, Legal Services Corporation
  • Ericka Rickard, Senior Officer – Civil Legal System Modernization, The Pew Charitable Trusts

Equal Justice Conference workshops

Thursday, 1:30 PM

50 New Tech Tips

Members of the legal aid technology community present 50 new technology tips! This fast-paced session will provide tips about free and low-cost tools, apps and software covering a broad range of topics that everyone can use.

  • David Bonebrake, Program Counsel for Technology, Legal Services Corporation
  • Liz Keith, Program Director, Pro Bono Net
  • Glenn Rawdon, Senior Program Counsel, Legal Services Corporation
  • Jane Ribadeneyra, Program Analyst for Technology, Legal Services Corporation

Core Online Tools Your Program and Courts Need to Know to Increase Access to Justice

  • Vanessa Batters-Thompson, Managing Attorney, D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center
  • Marilyn Harp, Executive Director, Kansas Legal Services, Inc.
  • Claudia Johnson, Program Manager, LawHelp Interactive Pro Bono Net
  • Margaret Hamlett Shinn, Community Education & Pro Se Coordinator, Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc.

This workshop will present core online tools that are well understood and how they are being used in variety of contexts to remove barriers to Justice. They will show how well designed websites and online forms, supported with web chat tools in strong partnerships, can create new ways to serve areas of high demand, and deepen existing services and relationships.

Thursday, 3:30 PM

Getting to Meaningful Access to Justice for All: Lessons Learned from New York’s Justice for All Pilot

The Justice for All project provided funding to New York to create strategic action plan to provide effective assistance to 100% of those in need. This workshop will highlight the work of two pilot regions Suffolk and Monroe Counties to implement a strategy, the challenges faced and the lessons learned.

  • Quisquella Addison, LawHelpNY Program Director, Pro Bono Net
  • Helaine Barnett, Chair, New York State Permanent Commission on Access to Justice
  • Maria Dosso, Director of Communications and Volunteer Services, Nassau Suffolk Law Services Committee
  • Tina Foster, Executive Director, Volunteer Legal Services Project of Monroe County
  • Ken Perri, Executive Director, Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc.

Legal Navigator: Creating Inclusive Justice Ecosystems in Alaska & Hawaii

  • Glenn Rawdon, Senior Program Counsel, Legal Services Corporation
  • Sergio Alcubilla, Director of External Relations, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii
  • Amber Ivey, Manager – Civil Legal System Modernization Team, Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Liz Keith, Program Director, Pro Bono Net

Legal Navigator is a pilot project that brings together technology, content and community to help all people with civil legal needs more easily find a path forward. This workshop will highlight developments in this project’s novel collaborations with social services and community partners, innovative technology strategy, and initial testing results.

Friday, 8:30 AM

Disaster Legal Tech: How Remote Services Technology and Other Online Resources Can Help Disaster Survivors

Disaster survivors face an urgent need for legal assistance. The majority of federal aid applications are denied, and most applicants cannot access a lawyer to appeal. This session will highlight remote services technology and other online resources to mobilize volunteers and scale pro bono assistance after a disaster.

  • Claudia Johnson, LawHelp Interactive Pro Bono Net
  • Jess Penkoff, Pro Bono & Strategic Initiatives Coordinator, Pro Bono Net
  • Laren Spirer, Director of Pro Bono Programs and Lecturer in Law, Columbia Law School

Expanding Our Reach: The Future of Rural Service Delivery

  • Sarah Carver, Attorney, Project Coordinator, Pro Bono Training Academy, Alaska Legal Services Corporation
  • Liz Keith, Program Director, Pro Bono Net
  • Nikole Nelson, Executive Director, Alaska Legal Services Corporation

Partnering for Native Health is a multi-state collaborative project serving members of over 100 tribal nations in some of the most isolated and rural communities in the country. Panelists will discuss their project and their vision for the  future that integrates post-secondary education, health care, legal aid and technology to build a community-based, culturally-appropriate legal extender network that empowers communities and provides access to justice to people living in places as far flung as Tuba City, Navajo Nation to the native Collage of Selwick, Alaska.

Tapping into Tech: Strategies for Integrating Tech Tools into Pro Bono Recruitment and Retention

In this session, we will discuss strategies for effective use of tech tools for recruiting, organizing, managing, and retaining volunteers. Panelists will share how they are using tech to make it easier—and more enjoyable—for lawyers to take on pro bono work and mobilize volunteer lawyers towards pressing needs. Participants will be able to identify specific strategies they can employ in their own programs.

  • Nancy Anderson, Director of Pro Bono, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • Mike Grunenwald, Program Manager, Pro Bono Net
  • Jacek Pruski, Managing Director & General Counsel, We the Action
  • Laurie Rashidi-Yazd, Pro Bono Director and Pro Bono Unit Managing Attorney, Atlanta Legal Aid Society

Friday, 1:45 PM

Resilient & Ready: Collaboration Strategies to Strengthen Disaster Response

  • Norah Rogers, Pro Bono Coordinator, Nelson Mullins
  • Katherine Asaro, Staff Attorney, North Carolina Pro Bono Resource Center
  • Ariadna Godreau Aubert, Executive Director, Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico
  • Liz Keith, Program Director, Pro Bono Net

This workshop will explore how hard hit disaster regions, especially rural and underserved areas, can benefit from innovative partnerships that mobilize pro bono volunteers and access resources that often go untapped. Learn how recovery efforts in North Carolina and Puerto Rico have joined forces with other programs within and outside of their jurisdictions to build collaborative response networks. They will also spotlight new and forthcoming resources available through DisasterLegalAid to help communities recover, rebuild and become resilient over the long term.

Saturday, 8:30 AM

The Use of Technology and Innovative Collaborations to Improve Victim Access to Legal Services

  • Tim Baran, Program Manager, LawHelpNY
  • Kazi Houston, Legal Director, Rocky Mountain Victim Law Center
  • Remla Parthasarathy, Project Leader, Empire Justice Center

This session highlights innovative collaborations that use technology to improve crime victims’ access to legal information and resources. Panelists from New York and Colorado will share what they have learned developing and implementing victim legal assistance networks that address the various needs faced by individuals in the aftermath of victimization.

About Pro Bono Net

Pro Bono Net is a national non-profit organization dedicated to increasing access to justice. 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.netwww.lawhelp.org,  www.lawhelpinteractive.org and the Immigration Advocates Network, 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 the Equal Justice Conference

The Equal Justice Conference, hosted by the American Bar Association and NLADA, brings together all components of the legal community to discuss equal justice issues as they relate to the delivery of legal services to the poor and low-income individuals in need of legal assistance.

The emphasis of this Conference is on strengthening partnerships among the key players in the civil justice system. Through plenary sessions, workshops, networking opportunities and special programming, the Conference provides a wide range of learning and sharing experiences for all attendees.

Last Wednesday, the Institute for Technology Law & Policy at Georgetown Law held its latest Iron Tech Lawyer Competition, livestreamed for those of us who couldn’t be there in person. Throughout the semester, six teams of students came together to collaborate with legal service providers and public interest law organizations to build legal expert systems that promote access to legal processes and the legal system. The systems are then developed into apps using Neota Logic technology, and the teams present them to judges during the competition who determine a winner.

The competition is the culmination of a class at Georgetown Law called: “Civ Tech: Digital Tools and Access to Justice,” taught by Professor Tanina Rostain and adjuct Professors Mark O’Brien, Pro Bono Net’s own Executive Director, and Kevin Mulcachy. The competition is made possible through the Georgetown Law Center and donated technology by Neota Logic.

Iron Tech Lawyer Award 2019

This year’s Iron Tech Lawyer Award went to the Whitman-Walker Health D.C. Name Change App developed for Whitman-Walker Health. The target users for this app are D.C. residents who are trans or gender expansive, and created to help a community that is often times overlooked or undermined. The app is designed to access the user’s eligibility to change their name in D.C. and then walk the user through entering the information needed for their name change application. It then generates a Motion to Seal, the user’s name change application. This app allows a user to petition for a name change simply and easily, empowering them to access an important legal right.

The winner of the Excellence in Design Award was my personal favorite, The Legal Check-Up, developed for Georgetown’s Health Justice Alliance. This app identifies the legal need of cancer patients, helps patients consider necessary actions with respect to wills, power of attorney, and custody dependents when their illness is terminal. It then provides a report identifying legal needs of the patient for a social worker to connect the patient with the appropriate legal services. This team’s app really impressed me. It helps those going through an already difficult time to identify and navigate possible legal issues. This organized and accessible app uses the help of social workers to get cancer patients through any legal issues that could arise from their situation.

People’s Choice

After the teams have presented their apps and while the judges are deliberating, a call goes out to us watching on livestream to vote for our favorite project. The one that gets the most votes wins the Social Media Award. This year’s winner was the Navigator: Your Guide to the Illinois Conviction Registries developed for The Illinois Work Group on Public Convictions Registries. This app helps people with convictions in Illinois or their family members and friends by informing them of the vast and complex Illinois registry laws as well as supplying a means of determining which laws apply to a person. It provides resources, user stories, and advocacy information and allows users the ability to contribute to crowd sourced information.

Takeaways

The solutions the teams developed based on the challenges they saw were both impressive and unique. It’s exciting to see the next generation of lawyers take on public service challenges and find good solid solutions. As I watched the livestream, I was struck by the hard work, dedication, and creativity that went into these apps. Every one of these projects could make a major difference in the lives of people in need across the country.

I am always intrigued and inspired by the way technology can be used to help those with a legal problem. The legal system can be difficult for the average person to navigate on their own. For underserved communities to have access to tools that help them navigate our legal system makes an enormous impact.

Addition Information

The judges panel consisted of Maha Jweied, a legal consultant; Mirenda Meghelli, Pro Bono Net’s Partnerships Manager; and David Bonebrake, Program Counsel at the Legal Services Corporation.

Additional Teams

Community Navigator Issues Spotting Tool developed for the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii

Team members – Natalia Benitez, Harry Shen, Jack Siverman

WomensLaw.org Resource Finder developed for National Network to End Domestic Violence

Team members – April Paredes, Caroline Shipman, Clara Troyer, Yustina Zakhary

TEXpunction and Nondisclosure Eligibility developed for Texas Legal Services Center

Team members – Socrates Boutsikaris, Kristen Friel, Zakari Hassanaly, Anna Schamberg

 

You can learn more about the teams, apps and judges by going to www.irontechlawyer.com

This Wednesday, April 24th, students from Georgetown Law will compete in the Annual Iron Tech Lawyer Competition, made possible through the efforts of the Georgetown Law Center and Neota Logic. Join us for the livestream at www.irontechlawyer.com from 1:30-4pm.

During the Spring 2019 semester, Professor Tanina Rostain and adjuct Professors Mark O’Brien, Pro Bono Net’s Executive Director, and Kevin Mulcachy taught an experiential class called: “Civ Tech: Digital Tools and Access to Justice.”

Throughout the semester student teams collaborate with legal service providers and public interest law organizations to build legal expert systems that promote access to legal processes and the legal system.

Meet the Judges

Maha Jweied directs a consultancy providing expertise to nonprofit and multilateral organizations on access-to-justice, leveraging insight gained after nearly twelve years in the federal government.

Mirenda Meghelli serves as the Partnerships Manager at Pro Bono Net, a national nonprofit committed to increasing access to justice through innovative technology.

David Monebrake is a Program Counsel for Technology at the Legal Services Corporation and is responsible for helping manage LSC’s Technology Initiative Grants (TIG) Program.

Competing Projects

  • Navi-Gator: Your Guide to the Illinois Conviction Registries
  • Community Navigator Issue Spotting Tool
  • The Legal Check-Up
  • Whitman-Walker Health D.C. Name Change App
  • WomensLaw.org Resource Finder
  • TEXpunction and Nondisclosure Eligibility

Participating Partner Organizations

  • The Illinois Group on Public Convictions Registries
  • Legal Aid Society of Hawaii
  • Georgetown University Health Justice Alliance
  • Whitman-Walker Health
  • National Network to End Domestic Violence
  • Texas Legal Services Center

Georgetown Iron Tech Lawyer Competition
Wednesday, April 24, 2019
1:30-4:00pm

For more information, click here or watch the livestream at irontechlawyer.com. 

Every April, Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) leads communities throughout the country in their annual observances of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. In recognition of this important week, Pro Bono Net is highlighting two collaborative programs that provide legal information and help to those who are victims of crimes in the state of New York.

The Importance of Victim’s Rights

People often have legal needs as a result of being a victim of crime. For many crime victims, the problems they face after a crime can be challenging, especially when they have several legal needs and are unsure where they can go for help.

“Too often, we see crime victims struggling to pull their lives together in the months and even years after they’ve been victimized,” – Office of Victim Services Director Elizabeth Cronin

Having access to information, tools and resources can make all the difference in picking up the pieces and rebuilding their lives in the aftermath.

New York Crime Victims Legal Help

This October, the New York State Office of Victim Services announced a new website connecting crime victims with information and free civil legal assistance that is being piloted in three Western New York counties, allowing victims to learn about their rights and connect with resources or legal representation. New York Crime Victims Legal Help is an online resource that allows victims to learn about their rights and connect with resources and/or legal representation.

The website features a user-friendly screening tool that allows crime victims to identify what legal needs they may have and then locate relevant resources; a searchable legal service help directory with filters to isolate organizations that can assist with specific issues; a self-help resource library to inform them of their rights; and a live chat function to access referral information in real time. The Office of Victim Services partnered with Pro Bono Net, Empire Justice Center, and University at Albany’s Center for Human Services Research to create the website.

Family Offense Petition

A staggering number of Americans experience violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime. Hundreds of thousands of Family Offense Petitions are filed in New York State Courts each year by individuals seeking orders of protection. Domestic violence has serious ramifications and victims are in great need of advice and information to protect their safety.

Under the Family Offense Petition Program, individuals are assisted by advocates from Domestic Violence agencies to prepare the petition electronically and e-file it in any Family Court using our award-winning LawHelp Interactive document assembly technology. This allows clerks to quickly review the petitions so that survivors can go directly to see the judge/court referee, thus increasing the efficiency, accuracy, and pace of the filing process.

In recognition of Pro Bono Net’s 20th Anniversary, we are sharing highlights from our history as part of our “On This Day in PBN History” series. Throughout the year we will be sharing project launches, collaborations and other important milestones that Pro Bono Net has accomplished since its creation in 1999. Since this is National Volunteer Week, we would like to highlight the launch www.immigrationadvocates.org!

Immigration Advocates Network

Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) is a collaboration between Pro Bono Net and leading immigrants’ rights organizations around the country.  IAN supports the largest network of nonprofit and pro bono immigration law practitioners, to whom it provides access to free online training resources, webinars, weekly practice tips and other benefits. With IAN, we have created award-winning websites and mobile applications— Citizenshipworks, immi, ImmigrationLawHelp, and Immigo—to help immigrants on the path to security. IAN’s web-based tools answer questions about eligibility, explain complex processes, provide referrals to legal help, enable immigrants to safely and securely help themselves, as well as allowing lawyers to provide remote consultations and document review via video conference and online document assembly.

Launching www.immigrationadvocates.org

On this day in 2008 IAN launched a free website for non-profit advocates, organizers and service providers to promote collaboration and support pro bono and volunteer efforts in the immigration sector. IAN’s goal was to promote more effective and efficient communication among existing immigration organizations by providing easily accessible and comprehensive online resources.

Features for legal services providers, organizers, and public interest advocates are accessed through Resource Centers specifically designed for nonprofits and pro bono attorneys. Through the Nonprofit and Pro Bono Resource Centers, the Immigration Advocates Network provides free web-based tools, resources and trainings for nonprofit immigration advocates, organizers and service providers.

Members can access a library with manuals and sample materials, podcasts, videos, online trainings with immigration experts, a national calendar of trainings and events, timely news, and listservs on immigration law topics. These tools and resources are developed to support the work of volunteers around the country.

Thank you volunteers!

Pro Bono Net would once again like to extend our gratitude to all attorneys around the country working to ensure access to justice for people through volunteering.

If you are an attorney and would like to volunteer, please visit IAN’s Pro Bono Resource Center to connect you to free resources and training materials from national experts. Or visit Pro Bono Net’s Volunteer Tools page for a list of resources to help get you started.

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’s partners include: Pro Bono Net, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., National Immigration Law Center, Unidos, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, American Immigration Lawyers Association, ASISTA, American Immigration Council, American Bar Association, National Immigration Project, The Advocates for Human Rights, and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.