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Connecting Justice Communities

Free Pro Bono Skills Training from PLI’s Interactive Learning Center

Posted in Legal Services, Pro Bono, Technology, Webinar

Practising Law Institute offers free pro bono skills training for pro bono and volunteer attorneys

At Practising Law Institute, we strive to improve the learning experience by incorporating the latest in interactive technology and research-based instructional design. The award-winning programs in our Interactive Learning Center challenge participants by using “learning-by-doing” techniques in a variety of non-traditional, instructional formats.

For those involved in pro bono representation, PLI’s Interactive Learning Center offers free pro bono skills training. Programs currently available include:

The Art & Science of Interviewing Pro Bono Clients – Participants learn the art and science of collecting information, managing client frustrations, and working with third parties when representing pro bono clients.

Effective Communication with the Legal Services Client – Participants learn techniques for how to meet and communicate effectively with a client, as well as how to educate the client about the legal process and make informed choices.

Introduction to Pro Bono – Participants learn strategies for providing effective pro bono representation and how to handle common ethics issues.  

Upcoming Interactive Training on Advocacy for Survivors of Domestic Violence

PLI is also offering two free massive open online courses for advocates of survivors of domestic violence:

Working with Survivors of Domestic Violence 2018 (March 19-23) – Participants will learn how to interview and counsel domestic violence survivors.

Representing Domestic Violence Survivors in Court 2018 (April 16-20) – Participants will learn how to develop and execute a strategy for handling domestic violence cases in court.

For more information on all of PLI’s pro bono trainings, including Live, Webcast, and On-Demand content, please visit our website at www.pli.edu/probono

Practising Law InstitutePractising Law Institute is nonprofit learning organization dedicated to keeping attorneys and professionals at the forefront of knowledge and expertise, as well as preparing them to fulfill their pro bono responsibilities. For more information about PLI’s pro bono programs and activities, please visit www.pli.edu/probono.

LawHelp Interactive (LHI) Goes Mobile

Posted in Announcements, Legal Services, Mobile, Resources, Staff News, Technology

After completing a major technology rebuild of LawHelp Interactive’s (LHI’s) backend in 2015, the LHI team shifted focus to improving the look and feel of LHI. That same year, about 20% of users accessing lawhelpinteractive.org were doing so with mobile and tablet devices making it clear that the mobile and tablet experience should be a central consideration for any redesign of the site.

With that in mind and in partnership with Legal Aid Society of Hawaii (LASH), LHI secured funding for a mobile-first redesign and related enhancements to the LHI platform. LASH and the LHI team formed a group of national partners to serve on a mobile usability committee*. We also enlisted the help of Rootid, a national brand strategy, design and web development firm for nonprofits to create the new designs and layouts. Rootid was a great fit for this project because they were able to leverage their prior experience with LHI where they conducted a device-independent LHI usability study (funded under a Legal Services Corporation Technology Initiative Grant).


With the new designs and related enhancements settled upon by the summer of 2017, the LHI Tech team began coding these enhancements. This development was in part funded through another Legal Services Corporation Technology Initiative Grant that supports the LHI infrastructure granted through Ohio State Legal Services Association (OSLSA).

Pro Bono Net’s Mirenda Meghelli and Alice Pucheu were leads on the project, and were supported by their colleagues Doug Carlson, Greg Tenzer, and Kanchana Hedge.  LHI Program Manager Claudia Johnson also acted in an advisory capacity, and others at PBN were also key in helping the project become a reality, including Liz Keith and Mark O’Brien. After deployment, Pro Bono Net’s Community Support Associate Rafael Ramirez has been key in tracking end user help requests.

Though the new look and feel did not include major changes in functionality for the platforms, some improvements were made to take advantage of the opportunity. The new features include improving the search function and abilities through a new grid system, and improving the account creation/sign in experience to make it easier for users. The system now also lets attorneys mark “favorite” forms; a helpful shortcut for regular users.

Plain Language

In addition to an updated design, the new platform underwent a plain language review to improve accessibility of the platform across all devices. The LHI environment has been significantly improved since the redesign went live and additional enhancements and fixes continue to be pushed based on end user feedback and ongoing testing. More than 4,000 people have watched the new informational video, and feedback from partners and users on the new design has been positive:

“I really liked the mobile-optimized interface!”

“Staff are always available and responsive. New website design seems much more user-friendly.”

“The website redesign is a great improvement.”

With more than 1 million interviews served on LHI in 2017, this mobile-first redesign will benefit the large and growing number of LHI users.

Learn More

If you want to learn more about LawHelp Interactive, please contact Claudia Johnson at cjohnson@probono.net. If you have questions related to the LHI Redesign project, please contact Mirenda Meghelli at mmeghelli@probono.net

More information about LHI can be found here: probono.net/lhi or to visit LHI go to http://www.lawhelpinteractive.org

*The mobile advisory group is made up of national partners from California, Ohio, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, South Carolina, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Kansas, Utah, and Georgia. The group also included technology partners from HotDocs Corporation and CALI.

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

immi One Year In: Online Tool Helps Immigrants Protect Their Future

Posted in Announcements, Immigration, Legal Services, Mobile, Resources, Technology

The current Administration is ending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for hundreds of thousands of people, and the future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is uncertain. Detention and deportation rates are up. How can communities protect themselves?

Immi.orgImmi.org, a project of the Immigration Advocates Network, provides free information in English and Spanish to empower immigrants. Immi features include: a learning center with plain language articles about immigration law, a personalized screening interview to anonymously identify legal avenues for relief, and a referral list of over 1,000 nonprofit legal service providers.

In its first year, more than 100,000 people have visited immi. Nearly half have tried the personalized screening interview, to find out if they may qualify for legal immigration status. In the United States, an estimated 10 to 20% of undocumented immigrants have legal options, but do not know it. Immi helps them find out more.

How can advocates and volunteers help? Share immi.org with your community. Use it in your workshops, post it on your website, and prepare immigrants for legal appointments. Order free Know-Your-Rights cards to hand out at your office or events: www.immi.org/order. Share immi on social media: www.immi.org/share. Help us get the word out, to empower immigrants.  

immi™ helps immigrants in the U.S. understand their legal options. Our online screening tool, legal information, and referrals to nonprofit legal services organizations are always free to use.

The Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) is a collaborative effort of Pro Bono Net and leading immigrants’ rights organizations designed to increase access to justice for low-income immigrants and strengthen the capacity of organizations serving them. IAN promotes more effective and efficient communication, collaboration, and services among immigration advocates and organizations by providing free, easily accessible and comprehensive online resources and tools.

ATJ Tech Fellows Summer Internship Positions at Pro Bono Net

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

There are 21 summer internship opportunities for law students interested in public interest law and technology through the ATJ Tech Fellows program. Two of these positions will be hosted by Pro Bono Net in New York.

The ATJ Tech Fellows program is designed to provide law students with practical experience on the use of technology in the delivery of legal services. The program offers a combination of virtual classroom learning and a 10-week hands on placement at a partner organization.

One of these positions will be placed in our NY office, working with the national online document assembly team, LawHelp Interactive (LHI) (https://www.atjtechfellows.org/pro-bono-net).

The other position is with partners in NY, Nassau Suffolk Law Services Committee (https://www.atjtechfellows.org/nassau-suffolk-law-services), and hosted at LawHelpNY (LHNY).

As part of the ATJ Tech Fellows programs the summer participants will be part of a diverse cohort across the country receiving training via virtual classrooms, “brown bags” with national thought leaders, and access to mentors through the program. The fellowship also provides a stipend. More details on the Fellowship and how to apply can be found here: https://www.atjtechfellows.org/overview/


Deadline is 2/9/2018 for applications.

The Access to Justice Tech Fellows is a 10-week fully funded experiential learning program that places law students at legal services organization to develop innovative solutions that leverage technology, data, and design to expand access to legal services and improve our civil justice.

Pro Bono Net at the 2017 NLADA Conference next week

Posted in Announcements, Conferences, Legal Services, Staff News, Technology

Several Pro Bono Net staff members will be presenting at multiple sessions on a variety of equal justice issues at the 2017 NLADA Annual Conference, December 6th-9th. NLADA brings together more than 700 equal justice advocates each year to participate in substantive workshops on topics critical to helping effectively meet the legal needs of low-income people. This year’s NLADA conference theme is “Safeguarding Justice for All.”

Pro Bono Net is a national nonprofit leader in increasing access to justice through innovative uses of technology and collaboration. Pro Bono Net’s staff is made up of a cross-disciplinary team from legal, technology, and community engagement backgrounds who are committed to finding innovative, sustainable solutions for expanding access to justice. Pro Bono Net will present on a wide range of topics, including innovative uses of online document assembly and technology to expand pro bono participation.

Staff attending the conference includes Mark O’Brien, Executive Director; Audrey Roofeh, Director of Program Delivery; Quisquella Addison, LawHelpNY Program Director, Claudia Johnson, LawHelp Interactive Program Manager; Mirenda Meghelli, LawHelp Interactive Program Coordinator, and Mike Grunenwald, Program Coordinator.

For more details on each workshop, please visit the NLADA website here.

Thursday, December 7

4:15 – 5:45 pm

Building tools for Self Represented Litigants: LawHelp Interactive and A2J Author

  • John Mayer, CALI
  • Claudia Johnson, Pro Bono Net

Friday, December 8

8:30 – 10:00 am

Urban Pro Bono Meets Rural Clients:  Remote Services Delivery Models in Action

  • Lillian Moy, Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York
  • Melody Harkness, Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York
  • Claudia Johnson, Pro Bono Net
  • Mike Grunenwald, Pro Bono Net


Big Ideas: The Future of Pro Bono

  • Sharon Goldsmith, Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland
  • Mark O’Brien, Pro Bono Net
  • Eve Runyan, Pro Bono Institute
  • Steve Scudder, ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service

4:15 – 5:45 pm

How you can Leverage Online Forms to Enhance your Staff and Pro Bono Attorney’s Work

  • Lillian Moy and Melody Harkness, Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York
  • Neil Steinkamp, Ross Risius Stout
  • Courtney Smith, Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program
  • Claudia Johnson, Pro Bono Net


National Legal Aid Defender Association (NLADA) is America’s oldest and largest nonprofit association devoted to excellence in the delivery of legal services to those who cannot afford counsel. They provide advocacy, guidance, information, training, and technical assistance for members of the equal justice community, especially those working in public defense and civil legal aid.

NLADA’s Annual Conference is the leading national training event of the year for the civil legal aid, indigent defense, and public interest law communities. The conference offers advocates the substantive information and professional skills they need to respond to the legal needs of low-income people, provides unparalleled opportunities to meet and exchange ideas with colleagues from across the country, and helps fulfill continuing legal education requirements.

Join us in Celebrating #GivingTuesday November 28th!

Posted in Announcements, Launch, Social Media, Technology

After two days of retail shopping for bargains – Black Friday and Cyber Monday –#GivingTuesday is a day for giving back.  All over the country, and indeed the world, people are embracing this day as an opportunity to raise money for the good of the wider community. Pro Bono Net is using our #GivingTuesday Celebration to highlight feedback and stories from our users and volunteers.

You can get involved in one or more of the following ways:

Donate to the Pro Bono Net Family – #GivingTuesday is about giving back to our communities. Pro Bono Net is instrumental in creating technologies that promote access to justice for our most vulnerable populations. We are asking that people show their support for our work by making a tax deductible donation to help us fulfill our mission to bridge the justice gap.

Share your dedication on social media – All day on #GivingTuesday Pro Bono Net will be sharing feedback and stories from our users and volunteers. We are inviting our community to join us by sharing their stories and motivations! We are using the hashtags #GivingTuesday and #AccesstoJustice for the day.

Volunteer – We encourage any lawyers who can to volunteer with organizations across the country to increase access to justice for those who cannot afford representation. Start searching for opportunities to volunteer right now by using our searchable online Pro Bono Opportunities Guide or check out our “Volunteer Tools” page to learn about the range of online resources we have on probono.net to help mobilize and engage pro bono volunteers.

Across America millions have legal needs that are still going unmet. Being unable to afford an attorney can limit access to justice significantly. Through innovative technology solutions, Pro Bono Net empowers the public with information and self-help tools to improve their lives, equips advocates with the resources to make a stronger impact, and mobilizes volunteers to expand the help available. Along with a broad network of partners, our programs increase access to justice around the nation.

Pro Bono Net needs your help to bring access to justice to millions of Americans. You can give back by participating in our #GivingTuesday Celebration on November 28th. www.probono.net/donate


#GivingTuesday is a movement, built by people around the world, to celebrate giving of all kinds.  It is celebrated on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (in the U.S.), Black Friday and Cyber Monday; this year it falls on November 29, 2016. This movement is the result of the collective power of a unique blend of partners—nonprofits large and small; businesses and corporations; schools and universities; civic campaigns in cities, states and regions; and families and individuals—to inspire people to take collaborative action to improve their local communities and contribute in countless ways to the causes they believe in. Everyone has something to give.  For more details about the #GivingTuesday movement, visit the #GivingTuesday website (www.givingtuesday.org), Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/GivingTuesday) or follow @GivingTues and the #GivingTuesday hashtag on social media.

IAN Presents their 6th Annual E-Conference Fundraiser

Posted in Announcements, Conferences, Immigration, Legal Services, Pro Bono, Seminar, Technology, Webinar

The Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) is excited to announce its sixth annual fundraising e-Conference, “Cutting Edge Issues in Immigration Law,” from November 27th to December 1st, 2017. Join us for a week-long series of interactive online trainings with national experts on family-based immigration, U visas and VAWA, contesting removability, screening for relief, and oral and written advocacy. We explore the issues through the lens of current events and the latest legal developments.

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

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

E-Conference Features

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


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

Conference Sessions

Monday, November 27th at 2:00 pm at Eastern / 1:00 pm Central / 12:00 pm Mountain / 11:00 am Pacific

Deep Screening for Family-Based Options
This webinar will take a close look at how a family member’s status or circumstances can help your client.

Tuesday, November 28th at 2:00 pm Eastern / 1:00 pm Central / 12:00 pm Mountain / 11:00 am Pacific

Emerging Issues and Safety Planning for Survivors
This training will help you work with immigrants survivors of crime, in the current climate of increased enforcement.

Wednesday, November 29th at 2:00 pm Eastern / 1:00 pm Central / 12:00 pm Mountain / 11:00 am Pacific

Challenging the Government’s Case in Immigration Court
This webinar will help you examine the Notice to Appear, and evaluate and challenge the sufficiency of the government’s evidence, including criminal allegations.

Thursday, November 30th at 2:00 pm Eastern / 1:00 pm Central / 12:00 pm Mountain / 11:00 am Pacific

Screening Far and Wide
This presentation goes beyond the usual screening questions, to identify less common options, older forms of relief, and opportunities based on education or work skills.

Friday, December 1st at 2:00 pm Eastern / 1:00 pm Central / 12:00 pm Mountain / 11:00 am Pacific

Written and Oral Advocacy in Immigration Court and Beyond
This training will help you improve oral and written advocacy with clients, immigration judges, opposing counsel, and immigration officers.

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

The Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) is a collaborative effort of leading immigrants’ rights organizations designed to increase access to justice for low-income immigrants and strengthen the capacity of organizations serving them. IAN promotes more effective and efficient communication, collaboration, and services among immigration advocates and organizations by providing free, easily accessible and comprehensive online resources and tools.


Pro Bono Week 2017 Bonus Spotlight: Major General Micheal J. Nardotti

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

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need and the incredibly important work of pro bono volunteers in building our capacity to meet the vast unmet need for civil legal services. Today, as a bonus Pro Bono Week celebration spotlight, we are highlighting the work of Major General Michael J. Nardotti, Senior Partner at Squire Patton Boggs, and volunteer with The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program (TVC). Major Nardotti was named The Veterans Consortium’s Volunteer Inspiring Pro Bono (VIP) in 2017. 

Major General Michael J. Nardotti
The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program

TVC’s Volunteer Inspiring Pro Bono (VIP) is Major General Mike Nardotti (US Army, Retired and former The Judge Advocate General, US Army), Senior Partner, Squire Patton Boggs.  Mike represents clients on a broad range of defense, national security and other significant issues at all levels across the Department of Defense and other federal agencies and on matters of special interest to members of Congress. A decorated combat veteran, Mike served for more than 28 years on active duty as a soldier and lawyer. He was The Judge Advocate General – the senior military lawyer in the Army – from 1993 to 1997, advising military and civilian leaders on sensitive, complex and highly-visible legal and policy issues of importance to the Department of Defense, Congress and the media.

Mike was recently recognized by The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program for over 20 years of service to veterans and their families, caregivers and survivors, as a member of TVC’s National Volunteer Corps. Over the past 25 years, Squire Patton Boggs has supported The Veterans Consortium with over 92 attorney engagements in Federal courts, participated in specialized Court of Appeals for Veteran Claims (CAVC) trainings, and assisted TVC in taking dramatic steps forward in our capacity to provide free legal services to veterans and their loved ones.

With Volunteers Inspiring Pro bono (VIPs) like Mike Nardotti and his colleagues at Squire Patton Boggs, TVC’s National Volunteer Corps now stands at more than 2500 attorneys— from both law firms and corporate legal teams—and paralegals and other pro bono professionals from coast to coast.  As the leading national nonprofit focused on providing legal services free of charge to veterans – our nations defenders – TVC consistently delivers on our belief statement that our veterans deserve the care, benefits, and compensation they were promised, and the best legal services free of charge, to meet their challenges.   TVC’s 82% success rate in federal court cases is achieved by the passionate commitment of our National Volunteer Corps members like Mike Nardotti.

Ed Glabus, Executive Director TVC; Major General Mike Nardotti (Photo courtesy of Katharine McKenny)

As The Judge Advocate General, he also served as the leader and senior partner in one of the world’s largest law firms, the Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. His team of 4,000 full- and part-time military and civilian attorneys and 5,000 full- and part-time military and civilian support staff provided comprehensive legal support and services to a worldwide community of more than one million Active, Guard, and Reserve commanders and soldiers and over one million family members.

Mike Nardotti’s military awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. In 2006, he was inducted into the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame, a high honor accorded those specially selected from the nominees of Ranger units and associations representing each era of Ranger history.

“We are privileged to have professionals like Mike Nardotti on the rolls of TVC’s National Volunteer Corps, and we salute his pro bono service as above and beyond the call of duty “, noted Ed Glabus, Executive Director, The Veterans Consortium.


The Veterans Consortium is the leading national 501c(3) charity providing free legal counsel in federal matters to qualified veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors worldwide since 1992. For additional information about The Veterans Consortium and our various outreach initiatives, visit: www.vetsprobono.org.

Pro Bono Week 2017: Elizabeth Brancati, LiveHelp, LawHelpNY

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

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need and the incredibly important work of pro bono volunteers in building our capacity to meet the vast unmet need for civil legal services.  Today, in honor of National Celebrate Pro Bono Week, we’re sharing the profile of Elizabeth Brancati,  a LiveHelp volunteer with LawHelpNY. Her story below was written by Allana Benton, LawHelpNY’s Serve New York VISTA.


Elizabeth Brancati

After nine years of being a prosecutor in New York City, Elizabeth and her family decided to leave the “Big Apple” for a small suburban town.  With the move she decided to take a break from the frenetic pace of the practice of law and stay home to care for her children. The transition proved to be more difficult than anticipated—she missed working as a lawyer. Finding an opportunity to stay involved in legal services in a way that still allowed her to tend to her family was difficult. Eager to find a way to stay active and connected in the field of law, she began to research pro bono opportunities. She stumbled upon Joan Archer’s “Volunteer Spotlight” profile, which detailed Joan’s volunteer experiences with LawHelpNY—an opportunity to get back into the field while still being at home with her children? It seemed too good to be true.

Volunteering as a LiveHelp operator came to be a perfect fit for Elizabeth. By making a small time commitment each week, she has been able to impact many lives: “I have been able to help people across the state—in real time—that have all kinds of questions and issues going on in their lives… I chat with a lot of users with questions about Family Law – custody, visitation, divorce, guardianship, adoption, and more. With the training sessions for operators and from reading the materials the LawHelpNY site links to, I have learned a ton about this area of law and can now more quickly help users navigate the court websites and information they might need. On one day, I answered three questions in a row about grandparents seeking guardianship of their grandchildren, and I could quickly point them in the right direction.” Most of the site visitors that she encounters are from New York City; this allows her to feel more connected to the place she formally called home. Additionally, it allows her to familiarize herself with areas of law that differ from what she had practiced.

While volunteering, Elizabeth came across a service listed on LawHelp that she often recommends to visitors in underserved parts of the state. The New York State Bar Association’s Free Legal Answers program connects volunteer attorneys to low-income individuals in need of limited representation and advice. Elizabeth has since become a volunteer with them as well! Elizabeth marvels at how technology makes pro bono volunteering so easy and accessible: I interact with people who are chatting from their phones while they are on the go and who live in places 10 hours away from me. I think it is great how convenient LiveHelp is for the users who are looking for help and also for the operators who assist them.

Although her children keep her busy most days, putting aside some time to volunteer has become an import and rewarding addition to her week. Elizabeth has been a consistent and dedicated volunteer, providing compassionate and professional assistance to New Yorkers navigating legal issues without the benefit of an attorney: “When I think about the values and lessons I want to instill in my children, being kind to others, helping those in need, and being a good neighbor are always on my list. Through volunteering for LawHelpNY, I get to do all of those, and my kids can see me doing it. When I first started searching for volunteer opportunities, I didn’t have much hope that a part-time, remote legal pro bono position existed anywhere. I felt so lucky to have found LawHelpNY and am grateful to have contributed in a small way to our New York community.”


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

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

Pro Bono Week 2017: Nic Rangel, Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York

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

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need and the incredibly important work of pro bono volunteers in building our capacity to meet the vast unmet need for civil legal services.  Today, in honor of National Celebrate Pro Bono Week, we’re sharing the profile of Nic Rangel,  volunteer with Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York (LASNNY).


Nic Rangel
Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York

Nic Rangel is the Floor Counsel and Ethics Counsel of the New York State Senate Democratic Conference. Nic is a committed volunteer in LASNNY’s Private Attorney Involvement programs, particularly Closing the Gap. The Closing the Gap program provides limited scope legal assistance to otherwise unrepresented litigants in housing and consumer cases through the use of remote technology and interactive interviews.

Tell me how you became interested in pro bono legal work.
I grew up poor, and lived in low-income communities most of my life. I have first-hand experience with some of the ways that unmet legal needs can compound the problems of people already living in poverty.

Now that I am an attorney, I have the ability to help people with some of their legal needs. I think it is my duty to do so and I am glad I can.

What kind of pro bono work are you involved in?
Closing the Gap, “CTG”, much of my pro bono work is through the Closing the Gap program. I provide brief, unbundled legal assistance in consumer debt matters and evictions.

Albany County Bar Association and LASNNY’s transgender name changes and gender marker changes.

The Center for Community Insight, Inc., I co-founded a non-profit organization to provide poverty simulation and poverty-related consulting services.

What Pro Bono Net platforms have helped you during your volunteering?
I first started using LawHelp as the Post-graduate Pro Bono Fellow at Albany Law School. I’ve accessed webinars, trainings and other materials from the Probono.net site. At the Equal Justice Conferences, I’ve attended the 50 NEW Tech Tips panels, and other panels addressing ways to use technology to reach more people in need of legal help. I have recommended Probono.net to recent law graduates to help them find pro bono opportunities in their areas of interest.

Now I primarily use Probono.net for the CTG program. I think my experience with LawHelp Interactive made it easier for me to understand how the guided interview produced effective legal documents.

How long have you been volunteering for?
As children, our parents taught us that it is our duty and responsibility to give back to our community. At least as far back as middle school I volunteered at the local food pantry for holiday food basket programs. By high school, I was volunteering with multiple organizations, including at my church, and at the humane society. I’ve have not had a gap in volunteering since then.

Can you share a highlight from a memorable case?
One of my CTG clients was fighting an eviction. The family of 5, 3 small children, were living in a unit that was otherwise condemned, had broken windows, a broken stove, a broken refrigerator, broken front door that allowed strangers access to a hallway, mold and a leaky roof. The tenants were still paying rent, and fighting to stay in this unit because it was the best they could do with their income. I drafted an answer for this family to try to keep them in this wretched living space, and they were so grateful for my help. I was glad I could provide the help they asked for, but disturbed by their quality of life and how little my help would actually do for them.

Why do you feel it’s important for you to do pro bono work?
People need the help. Most people cannot afford legal assistance for the vast majority of their legal needs. I have the privilege of being an attorney and I have a responsibility to use my privilege to help others.

Will you continue to do pro bono work? Would you recommend it to others?
Yes & Yes. I recommend pro bono work to students and attorneys for skills development, professional development, networking and relationship building, career exploration and, of course, service to the community. I have gained practical experience drafting legal documents related to consumer debt, eviction defense, and gender marker changes through my pro bono work in the last couple of years. I have also had the opportunity to engage in direct client services, which I do not get at my job.  I have referred several people to the CTG program specifically.


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

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