As an organization committed to justice, Pro Bono Net continues to work to bring the power of the law to all and to make the law work for the many and not the few. 

At this unique moment in the American story, a time that interweaves mourning the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on communities of color with hope for long-awaited progress and change for racial justice, all of us at Pro Bono Net are honored to celebrate and reflect on Black History Month. 

More than ever, this month is a welcome time to acknowledge and celebrate the historical impact of Black attorneys, legal professionals and social justice advocates who have led the fight, in courtrooms and communities, against systemic racism and for equal justice in the US. It’s also a time to lift up the work of those working to imagine and build a more just, inclusive and equitable future for all. As Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. stated when recently recognized with the ABA’s 2021 Spirit of Excellence Award, “The words ‘Equal Justice Under Law’ etched on the frontage of the United States Supreme Court is one of the most awesome sites for any lawyer approaching the court. But those words are not a statement of fact – they are a command, an admonition, an aspiration, and a challenge.” (We encourage you to read Ms. Iffil’s statement in full, which challenges all in the legal profession to speak out for the structural changes necessary to ensure the safety, justice and well-being of Black Americans.) 

We are pleased to share two sessions from the recent Decolonizing Justice convening that elevate the voices and share the perspectives of advocates and activists on the front lines of this essential work.

Antionette D. Carroll’s lived experiences navigating and striving to survive the justice system have made her an expert on issues of inequity and oppression. In the Decolonizing Justice session Living Justice, Antionette shared her reflections on various meanings of the word “justice.” She challenged us all to examine who holds power at decision-making tables, identified what it might look like to amplify the power of lived experience, and outlined her vision for redesigning the world to center justice for communities of color. Learn more about Creative Reaction Lab, the nonprofit Antionette founded, here.

Envisioning a Just Future for All: Nurturing and Sustaining Justice Movements, featured leading activists and movement lawyers Meena Jagannath, Director of Global Programs at Movement Law Lab, Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, former Senior Counsel at LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and Marbre Stahly-Butts, Executive Director of Law for Black Lives. In this session, they reflected on the critical work of nurturing and sustaining justice movements and shared their visions for a just future for all.

Together, we can continue to envision and build the more just future we know is possible.

The Immigration Advocates Network, Pro Bono Net, and partners invite you to participate in our national survey before February 28th, 2021. We are collecting and updating data, during the pandemic, from staff at nonprofit and pro bono projects. Our survey asks:

  • How organizations are using technology to connect people to legal services;
  • What barriers and challenges exist when providing offsite legal information or services;
  • What programs and tools have been the most effective;
  • How national networks and organizations can help the field develop and deliver remote legal support; and more. 

Two years ago we conducted a similar survey to the field and published the results in the first edition of the Remote Legal Support Guide. The guide was downloaded more than 3,500 times. It provided program profiles and tips for leveraging technology, including strategies to improve access to justice and helped providers reach rural and underserved areas.  The Immigration Advocates Network and our partners in the field used the results to   offer training webinars, answer questions, and provide additional support to the field.

Due to COVID-19, the field has changed and evolved: remote legal support is now the norm. This makes updates to the data and the guide more important than ever. By filling out this survey, you can help us reach more people in a time when remote legal support is needed most.

Throughout the past year, Pro Bono Net has worked with courts and legal aid programs facing closures and service disruptions to ensure vital protection for at risk domestic violence survivors.  Our LawHelp Interactive program, which helps people create free and accurate legal forms, is a key strategy in this work.  

In New York State, the Family Offense Petition Program — a collaboration between LawHelp Interactive, the New York Courts and DV agencies — successfully filed more than 9,300 domestic violence petitions across the state in 2020, the highest in the program’s history. More than 3,100 petitions were filed through the program in Q3 2020, more than any previous quarter since the program was established in 2014. These landmark metrics reflect both the importance of this program that increases access to the courts, and the troubling increase in domestic violence during the pandemic that has been reported across the country

The Family Offense Petition Program (FOP) allows advocates, legal aid and government agencies to e-file petitions on behalf of survivors of abuse. With the FOP Program, trained domestic violence advocates across New York State use an online document assembly interview to help survivors of domestic abuse file petitions using Pro Bono Net’s award-winning LawHelp Interactive document assembly technology. The petition information is then electronically transferred directly into the court’s case-management system. As a result of extensive outreach and training, the program has approved advocates in all 62 New York State counties from a wide range of organizations, which include legal aid offices, probation agencies, YMCAs, and a team of social workers at a hospital. 

After a successful pilot in Bronx Family Court in 2014, the program was expanded statewide. The initiative is the product of a Grant from the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women STOP Program and a collaboration between Pro Bono Net, New York state courts, and a wide range of stakeholders.

The Family Offense Petition Program makes the process of completing essential documents easier for litigants, advocates, and courts. It helps advocates seamlessly complete court papers with a LawHelp Interactive questionnaire, allowing them to add more details that strengthen litigants’ petitions, gets the petitions processed faster, and strengthens their relationship with courts. For litigants already detailing with stressful circumstances, this means less time spent travelling to court (when courts are open), more detailed legal papers, and less waiting time overall. It can also help victims feel more in control of their case. For courts, the tool produces legible court forms from trained advocates, saves hours in data entry, allows them to adjudicate faster, and streamlines the process so that they can handle more cases each day. 

Well before the pandemic, the FOP program played a key role in helping DV survivors complete and file forms to ensure their safety and protection, and access remote Skype hearings in many counties. The FOP program’s technology and collaboration strategy has proved even more essential in the last year, and will continue to help ensure thousands of survivors can access critical services and support under the most difficult circumstances. 

You can read more about how LawHelp Interactive helps those at risk of domestic violence, here. To learn more about the Family Offense Petition project, visit  our blog posts: Commemorating Domestic Violence Awareness Month with tools by LawHelp Interactive or NY Courts Honored with LTN Innovation Award for the Most Innovative Use of Technology in a Pro Bono Project.

In the Pandemic Year of 2020, as Pro Bono Net worked to provide remote legal help and information in a changing landscape, Weil, Gotshal & Manges associates’ Summer of Service partnership provided key assistance to bolster PBN’s online services and expand the organization’s reach to get clear answers and remote legal help to people across the country. 

Weil associate Elizabeth Barras worked with Pro Bono Net’s Program Director, Liz Keith, to develop legal rights resources for a new online initiative: the Georgia Victim Legal Network. Barras provided vital legal research and content development support for the project, which was developed with leading civil legal aid and immigration legal services providers in Georgia to expand access to legal help for people who have been a victim of crime such as family violence, sexual assault and dating violence.

According to Liz Keith, “Elizabeth contributed a tremendous amount to the project in a short period of time, working closely with Pro Bono Net and legal aid experts in Georgia to accelerate the project’s development during a critical period. The legal rights resources she researched and drafted will benefit many survivors of violence seeking help through GeorgiaVictimNetwork.org”

Nicholas Zazzi and Luke Harley worked with LawHelp New York. The recent law graduates and incoming Weil associates analyzed Pro Bono Net’s Live-Help chat transcripts to figure out how chat operators could be more efficient and look out for common errors and areas of training gaps, an extremely helpful project that provided an outside look to improve these remote chat features. Zazzi and Harley also assisted in LawHelpNY’s efforts to keep New York’s vulnerable communities informed of the latest legal developments — editing and developing existing and new plain-language resources for New Yorkers.

As LawHelp New York’s Taylor Goetzinger notes, “Nick and Luke’s contributions were a welcome and timely addition to the LawHelpNY team. They came in when the team was firing on all cylinders to make sure we were providing the most accurate and up to date legal information to users facing legal issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic and were able to offer a much needed fresh perspective on the ways we were delivering that information. They helped the team identify missed opportunities to provide a more welcoming, holistic user experience for people facing housing and family law issues.” 

As Pro Bono Net’s staff reflects on what was a challenging, but important and fruitful year in expanding access to justice through remote services, the staff is grateful for all of the partners, including Weil that helped make this work happen. 

Pro Bono Net, in collaboration with the Center for Elder Law & Justice (CELJ), is pleased to announce the release of a new set of resources, available at AgingSafely.us. These resources will help legal aid programs and their community partners better identify, respond to, and remedy elder abuse and financial exploitation:

  • A new set of online forms, powered by LawHelp Interactive, to help victims of abuse and exploitation access legal remedies available to them.
  • A Toolkit with information on how older adults, or providers or caregivers assisting them, can use the online forms to address and protect against common forms of abuse and financial exploitation
  • A Toolkit for programs interested in adopting the Legal Risk Detector, a web-based screening and referral app designed for use by social workers, nurses, and other professionals in aging who work with vulnerable older adults 

According to the National Council on Aging, approximately 1 in 10 Americans age 60 or over has experienced some form of elder abuse, but studies estimate that only 1 in 14 cases are reported to authorities. Financial exploitation of older Americans is among the most common forms of elder abuse, and the increasing sophistication of scams and fraud targeting older people is exacerbating this issue. Meaningful and timely access to legal interventions can help break the cycle of abuse, restore stability for the affected individual, and protect them from abuse in the future. The resources featured on AgingSafely.us highlight how legal services can be a crucial component of elder care, and how new technology can help identify and respond to these issues. 

The free online forms available on AgingSafely.us were developed with input from legal experts at CELJ and other nonprofit legal aid organizations serving older adults, and they can be used in any state. They cover three areas: 

  • A cover sheet for interstate enforcement of a protection order for seniors who already have a domestic violence protection order and might be travelling out of state
  • A safety planning tool
  • Consumer law forms to help identity and address theft and financial exploitation issues, including
    • Letter to a creditor to request debt forgiveness when a bill is owed
    • Letter to a creditor to dispute a charges from a bank or company
    • Letter to a credit bureau to dispute an item on a credit report

The consumer law forms are available in two formats: a set designed for use by older adults and a set designed for use by advocates or other high-volume users. 

“I am very excited about the availability of these new online forms and hope domestic violence counselors and support groups encourage their clients to take advantage of the safely planning tool, which is specifically crafted to the needs of older adults,” said Claudia Johnson, LawHelp Interactive Program Manager. “And with identity theft and financial exploitation on the rise, the consumer law forms will help many older adults gain peace of mind and control of their credit records.” 

The Legal Risk Detector was initially created through a collaboration of Pro Bono Net, JASA and Georgetown University Law Center in 2016, and expanded in 2017 in collaboration with the Center for Elder Law & Justice.  Developed using Neota Logic software and designed for use on tablets, laptops, and mobile devices, the Risk Detector enables non-legal professionals to conduct legal screening, triage, and referral activities for homebound and other vulnerable seniors in settings that are often difficult to reach through traditional service models. The screening encompasses financial exploitation, consumer debt, housing, abuse, and health care matters – legal issues that disproportionately impact the elderly but often go undetected or unreported. Pro Bono Net has partnered with programs in other states to adopt the Risk Detector or create state-specific versions of it.

A recent evaluation of the Risk Detector’s use by CELJ found that, in the Western New York region, the Risk Detector helps to identify cases from a variety of vulnerable and marginalized groups, including veterans, clients who live in rural areas, disabled people, and those who live alone, many of whom would not otherwise be identified as victims of abuse and would not engage in legal action. This shows that legal technology tools like the Risk Detector that are designed for use by non-legal organizations can help increase access to and awareness of legal services for hard to reach communities.”

“Elder abuse is such a prevalent crime but, here at CELJ, we realized that many of our community partners did not know how to recognize the signs, “ said Karen Nicolson, CEO for the Center for Elder Law & Justice.  “Although both domestic violence and elder abuse have similarities, the manifestations of elder abuse often are passed off by the abuser as normal signs of aging.  This easy-to-use tool will help our community partners  flag abuse and to also understand when a referral for legal assistance could be helpful.”

The Legal Risk Detector Project Toolkit contains information about the origins of the Legal Risk Detector, what it is, how it works, how the Center for Elder Law & Justice has used it, how it can be customized for new regions, as well as suggested practices and tips for deployment.  AgingSafely.us also features recordings from a three-part webinar series highlighting how programs can take advantage of these resources to create or expand innovative partnership models to serve older adults.

For more information about the Legal Risk Detector, contact Liz Keith, Program Director, at lkeith@probono.net. To learn more about LawHelp Interactive, contact Claudia Johnson, LawHelp Interactive Program Manager, at  cjohnson@probono.net.  


Pro Bono Net (http://probono.net) is a national nonprofit that works to bring the power of the law to all by building cutting edge digital tools and strengthening collaboration in the civil justice sector to tackle justice problems. LawHelpInteractive.org and the Legal Risk Detector have been developed and are maintained by Pro Bono Net. 

The Center for Elder Law & Justice (https://elderjusticeny.org) is a civil legal services agency in Buffalo, New York, serving eight Western New York counties. Since 1978, CELJ has provided comprehensive free legal services to the community’s seniors, people with disabilities, and the low-income population.  

***

AgingSafely.us and the resources featured on it were supported through grant number 2017-VF-GX-K135 to Pro Bono Net from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) for Field-Generated Innovations in Addressing Elder Abuse and Financial Exploitation. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in these resources are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Practising Law Institute (PLI) is a nonprofit learning organization dedicated to keeping attorneys and other professionals at the forefront of knowledge and expertise. 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. 

Pro Bono Net was lucky enough to interview Leonard McKenzie, PLI’s Scholarship/Pro Bono Privileged Membership Manager; and Janet Siegel, PLI’s Director of Pro Bono. We were able to discuss topics such as PLI’s Pro Bono Membership and its benefits, PLI’s Pro Bono Podcast, what topics are addressed in their plethora of programs, and what scholarships PLI offers and who qualifies.

 Question: How would you describe PLI and the work it does?

Leonard McKenzie

Leonard McKenzie: We are a nonprofit educational organization with pro bono at the core of our mission. Our official description notes that we are “dedicated to keeping attorneys and other professionals at the forefront of knowledge and expertise.” We do this by offering a variety of programs and publications developed and presented by world-class faculty and experts.

Question: Can you share with us a little about your roles at PLI?

Janet Siegel

Janet Siegel: As Director of Pro Bono, I am responsible for the advancement of PLI’s pro bono initiative and am continually looking for opportunities for PLI to help the access-to-justice community. Along with the pro bono team, I carefully monitor new developments to be sure that we are meeting the needs of our pro bono customers. 

Leonard McKenzie: As Scholarship/Pro Bono Privileged Membership Manager, my primary role is to oversee our scholarship program, where we grant individuals access to our content at little or no charge. I also manage our Pro Bono Membership program, which grants access to organizations at no cost.

Question: Can you tell us about what topics you feature in your programming and how you choose them? Which programs are most important in today’s climate?

Janet Siegel: Our pro bono team works to raise awareness of the great need for pro bono representation, which is especially urgent during this pandemic, and offers training to support attorneys so that they can better represent pro bono and legal services clients. We offer programs on a wide array of ongoing substantive topics of interest, including immigration, domestic violence, criminal justice, nonprofit organizations, consumer bankruptcy, housing, and veterans’ issues, as well as updates on important new legal developments relevant to the access-to-justice community. 

We choose new programs by following current developments to determine what programs might be of the greatest assistance.  Responding to recent events, we offered a series of web-based programs (now available on-demand) on the impact of COVID-19 on immigration, nonprofit organizations, housing, and employment, as well as best practices and ethical issues in providing remote legal services, all of which drew very large audiences. In response to the protest movement in the wake of George Floyd’s death earlier this year, we quickly organized our civil rights, diversity, and criminal justice programs so that they could be accessed easily at pli.edu/accessjustice.

Question: Can you explain what the Pro Bono Membership is at PLI? What are the benefits of being a PLI Member?

Leonard McKenzie: PLI’s Pro Bono Privileged Membership is a program we started over a decade ago, with the objective to grant IRC Section 501(c)(3) organizations access to our programs at no cost. We now have over 600 Members nationwide.  Pro Bono Privileged Members receive free, unlimited access to a wide selection of live programming, including over 10,000 hours of on-demand programs, as well as our state-of-the-art Interactive Learning Center. They can earn CLE credit free of charge and manage their credits and compliance requirements using PLI’s My Credit Tracker tool. More information is available on our Pro Bono Privileged Membership site

Question: Does PLI offer scholarships? How does that work?

Leonard McKenzie: Yes, we offer scholarships to a wide range of individuals, including law students, pro bono attorneys, attorneys experiencing a financial hardship, and government employees, just to name a few.  Scholarships generally range from a 75% to 100% discount, and the process for applying is quite simple. Visit this link, complete the application form, and click “submit.” We’re proud to have a very generous scholarship program — this year alone, we have granted access to over 2,800 applicants.

Question: What topics are showcased in PLI’s Pursuing Justice: The Pro Bono Files podcast?

Janet Siegel: The purpose of the podcast is to highlight the “real world” experiences of lawyers who are doing pro bono work and to encourage other attorneys to consider pro bono representation. We have covered a variety of topics, including attorneys helping with disaster relief, helping small businesses during the pandemic, and helping veterans obtain their benefits.  

Question: How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed how PLI operates?

Leonard McKenzie: I would say that the biggest change is that for the past nine months, we have not hosted any in-person programs.  However, when it comes to technology, PLI has always been extremely forward thinking, and as a result we have been able to deliver our programs online in both live and on-demand formats. We also work closely with state regulators to be certain that all our programs are compliant with any changing regulations during these challenging times.

Janet Siegel: PLI has always supported the legal profession and, more broadly, the rule of law.  We are proud to support the access-to-justice community, and will continue to provide the highest quality, timely training programs for both pro bono attorneys and attorneys working at nonprofit and legal services organizations so that they can better represent their clients. 

Pro Bono Net mourns the loss of our dear friend and founding Board Chair, Michael Cooper, on Monday, November 16, 2020.

Mike’s deep understanding of the justice gap, unmatched personal credibility and openness to new ideas were critical during Pro Bono Net’s early years.  “Mike was so generous to agree to be our first Board Chair when we were just starting out as an organization,” said Michael Hertz, the co-founder of Pro Bono Net.  “He cared so deeply about access to justice and the need for innovative solutions that he took a bet on us.  His tremendous judgment guided us through many challenges as a new organization.”

Mike served on our board for more than 18 years, retiring in 2017, and we are thankful for his outstanding leadership, wisdom and friendship,” said Pro Bono Net Board Chair Dave Heiner. “Mike was a great mentor to me when I was a young lawyer at Sullivan & Cromwell and mentored me again years later when I took on the Pro Bono Net Board Chair role.  All of us at Pro Bono Net will greatly miss Mike.

Mike joined Sullivan & Cromwell in 1961, after graduating from Harvard Law School, and served as managing partner of the Litigation Group from 1978 to 1985.  Mike’s dedication extended well beyond the firm’s clients: helped to found the firm’s pro bono practice, he served as President of the City Bar from 1998 to 2000 and he held top leadership roles in numerous organizations including The Legal Aid Society, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Volunteers of Legal Services.  Among the many pro bono matters he handled during his career, he took particular pride in his representation of Guantánamo detainee Adel El Ouerghi in 2005.

Mike was a strong advocate for Pro Bono Net from the beginning and helped to shape the organization’s work and build a strong board to support its mission. Mike’s reflections on our 15th anniversary can be found here.

Mike will be greatly missed by the Pro Bono Net family, the legal community, and the many organizations where he generously volunteered his time. We extend our condolences to his wife Nan, his family and colleagues at Sullivan & Cromwell.

Mark O’Brien
Co-Founder & Executive Director
Pro Bono Net

Pro Bono Net, in partnership with the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Inc., is pleased to announce the launch of Georgia Legal Connect, an online platform that enables Atlanta Legal Aid to enroll, manage, and connect staff and pro bono attorneys with remotely located clients for advice, counsel, and form preparation. Atlanta Legal Aid Society offers free civil legal aid for low-income people across metro Atlanta.

The COVID-19 reality has significantly changed the way legal services and support are delivered, and the concurrent public health and economic crises have resulted in a surge in legal needs. Georgia Legal Connect is an innovative remote legal support project created amid COVID-19 to quickly address low-income clients’ legal needs in Georgia. “COVID-19 has really escalated the digital divide in Georgia,” said Kristin N. Verrill, Director of Grants & Innovation at Atlanta Legal Aid. “Low-income Georgians can no longer receive in-person legal services at our offices or at our court-based clinics. We needed a way to reach our clients using technology that is accessible and easy to use. We were able to launch Georgia Legal Connect quickly after the pandemic hit, and it has helped us maintain our high level of services for clients and clinic attendees.”

Through Georgia Legal Connect, Atlanta Legal Aid can easily enroll and manage clients and attorneys. An attorney can also virtually meet with their client and simultaneously share, store, and complete documents during a consultation. Because the platform operates through the internet, clients do not have to download or install any software, application, or plug-ins, making it easier for them to connect with their attorney. Georgia Legal Connect is also mobile-friendly, facilitating the way through which clients connect online. When an attorney and client finalize their consultation, which may include document review or preparation, the client can access the completed documents at any time, download or print, and file with the appropriate court or agency. Both clients and attorneys can also access content created, updated, and uploaded to Georgia Legal Connect by Atlanta Legal Aid. 

“Georgia Legal Connect is an example of how Pro Bono Net’s technology can support programs with initiatives that help people who cannot access and afford an attorney,” said Jeanne Ortiz-Ortiz, Pro Bono & Strategic Initiatives Manager at Pro Bono Net. “We have developed this platform in a way that centers the needs of clients and legal service providers, so we are proud to partner with Atlanta Legal Aid to provide timely and meaningful legal advice to people in Georgia affected by COVID-19.” 

GeorgiaLegalConnect.org was developed using Pro Bono Net’s Remote Legal Connect platform, which was originally created in partnership with Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT) to stand up Family Legal Connection, a remote pro bono service for self represented family court litigants in New York. The platform was developed with support from an American Bar Endowment Opportunity Grant, among other funders. Atlanta Legal Aid’s project is supported by an LSC Telework grant and a grant from Georgia’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. 

Pro Bono Net hopes Georgia Legal Connect can serve as a model for other legal aid and pro bono programs looking to reach more people and provide legal support to those affected by the pandemic.  To learn more about Atlanta Legal Aid, visit https://atlantalegalaid.org/. To learn more about Pro Bono Net’s work or the Remote Legal Connect platform, visit www.probono.net or email Jeanne Ortiz-Ortiz at jortiz@probono.net

We are pleased to announce “Decolonizing Justice: Advancing Community-Grown Justice Solutions,” a week-long series of free online conversations, panels and interactive workshops centered on legal empowerment and community-based justice strategies in the US. This gathering will create space for critical thinking, discussion and visioning approaches to people-centered justice, fostering equity and inclusion, and democratizing the law that elevate and grow local legal knowledge, capacity and power in communities at a time of transformative change. 

When: November 16 – 20, 2020 | Sessions will take place between approx 10am – 1:30pm PT / 1 – 4:30 pm ET each day
Where: Online via Zoom
Tentative agenda: https://decolonizingjustice.splashthat.com
Pre-registration is free and currently open. To receive agenda updates, please RSVP above.  

Each day will be centered on a key theme, including:

  • Beyond Legal Aid: Legal Empowerment and Community-Based Justice
  • Democratizing the Law: Regulatory Reform and Roles Beyond Lawyers
  • Community-Grown Research, Education and Data Strategies
  • Design and Technology Strategies to Advance Community-Centered Justice
  • Bringing Justice Home: Envisioning Just Futures

Confirmed speakers to date include:

  • Chris Albin-Lackey, National Center for Access to Justice
  • David Rodríguez-Andino, Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico
  • Ariadna Godreau-Aubert, Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico
  • Matthew Burnett, Open Society Justice Initiative
  • Rodrigo Camarena, Immigration Advocates Network
  • Georges Clement, JustFix.nyc
  • Liz Medicine Crow, First Alaskans Institute
  • Marika Dias, Urban Justice Center
  • Sukti Dhital, Bernstein Institute for Human Rights at NYU School of Law
  • Bridget Gramme, Center for Public Interest Law, University of San Diego School of Law
  • Alana Greer, Community Justice Project
  • Cristobal Gutierrez, Make the Road New York
  • Lam Ho, Beyond Legal Aid
  • Katie Lam, Pro Bono Net
  • Vivek Maru, Namati
  • Will Morrison, Law Society of Ontario
  • Nikole Nelson, Alaska Legal Services Corporation
  • José R. Padilla, California Rural Legal Assistance
  • Rohan Pavuluri, Upsolve
  • Jhody Polk, Legal Empowerment & Advocacy Hub (L.E.A.H.)
  • Jim Sandman, Future of the Profession Initiative at University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School and President Emeritus, Legal Services Corporation
  • Dr. Rebecca Sandefur, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Arizona State University
  • David Udell, National Center for Access to Justice
  • Eric Vang, Alaska Legal Services Corporation

The steering committee for this event includes Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico, Alaska Legal Services Corporation, Pro Bono Net and the Open Society Justice Initiative. Participating organizations include: National Center for Access to Justice, Namati, the Bernstein Institute for Human Rights at NYU, Beyond Legal Aid, California Rural Legal Assistance, Center for Public Interest Law – University of San Diego School of Law, Community Justice Project, JustFix.nyc, Immigration Advocates Network, Law Society of Ontario, Upsolve and others.

For more information or questions, please contact Jennie Rose Halperin, jrhalperin@probono.net or Liz Keith, lkeith@probono.net, or visit https://decolonizingjustice.splashthat.com

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, National Pro Bono Week’s theme is “Rising to Meet the Challenge: Pro Bono Responds to COVID-19.” This has been a challenging year. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the delivery of legal services and pro bono across the country. In the midst of all of the uncertainty, it is important to celebrate the hard work and progress volunteer attorneys and organizations have made during the pandemic in order to respond to COVID-19.  

Below are some of the ways Pro Bono Net has been rising to meet the challenge and how we have been responding to COVID-19. 

National Pro Bono Opportunities Guide

Pro Bono Net’s National Pro Bono Opportunities Guide is a joint project of Pro Bono Net, the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, and its project the ABA Center for Pro Bono, in collaboration with probono.net network partners across the country. This year, we have continued to update the guide to reflect COVID-19 or remote pro bono opportunities. By visiting the opportunities guide, attorneys can learn more about an organization, opportunities available, and reach out to the organization’s contact about their interest in volunteering.

This Guide, which features detailed profiles of more than 1,000 US organizations offering pro bono opportunities, was viewed nearly 20,000 in 2019, and has been accessed more than 3,000 times since COVID-19 became a pandemic in March. Pro bono does not have to slow down due to the pandemic, to visit the guide and volunteer, go to www.probono.net/network/volunteer/

Remote Legal Support Platform

Pro Bono Net’s Remote Legal Support Platform allows legal services providers, pro bono initiatives, courts and community partners to rapidly build and manage a remote legal support program to increase access to legal assistance for communities in need, regardless of location. By enabling organizations to enroll, manage and link volunteers with remotely located clients for advice, counsel and document preparation, the platform bridges barriers that prevent people from getting help and can dramatically expand the help available. The remote legal support technology was originally created to provide remote services in New York, and since the pandemic, has been adapted in other regions to rapidly build and manage pro bono virtual service programs.

This week, we celebrate attorneys like Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT)’s Family Legal Connection program’s volunteer Jeannine Choi, who are helping people affected by COVID-19. Jeannine shares her experience about her children’s safety during the pandemic. You can watch the video here. Family Legal Connection is one of the remote legal support programs powered by Pro Bono Net’s technology. 

LawHelp Interactive

LawHelp Interactive (LHI) is Pro Bono Net’s national document assembly program. If you cannot afford an attorney and have to represent yourself in court, filling out legal paperwork correctly can be a confusing and difficult process. LHI helps people create free and accurate court forms simply and easily, an essential step towards resolving a legal problem. 

At a moment when there’s widespread interest across the legal sector in technology’s potential to close the justice gap, LawHelp Interactive (LHI) is already serving more than a million people a year. More than 660,000 forms were assembled using LHI in 2019, the highest volume in the platform’s history. Over the past decade, more than 5 million forms have been completed using LHI for issues such as child support and custody, domestic violence, debt collection, foreclosures, evictions, divorce and more. In the wake of the pandemic related court closures and enforced social distancing, an average of 30,000 interactive interviews hosted on LHI are being used by self helpers and their advocates every week. 

Immigration Advocates Network’s Pro Bono Resource Center

Immigration Advocates Network (IAN), a program of Pro Bono Net, has a Pro Bono Resource Center that connects pro bono lawyers to a calendar of events, alerts, volunteer guide, and other pro bono members. While we update this Resource Center, pro bono lawyers can join the nonprofit resource center. You do not need membership or a password to access: 

If you go to IAN’s website and scroll to the bottom, you can also sign up for updates and to receive their monthly newsletter. Check back in 2021 for new library content, updated links, and more access to resources, to support your pro bono work. 


For more more information about Pro Bono Net, visit our website at: www.probono.net