Pro Bono Net will be well represented at the 2024 Innovations in Technology Conference (ITC) this week, and we hope to see you there! The conference takes place February 1-3, 2024, in Charlotte, NC, and is hosted by the Legal Services Corporation. ITC brings together more than 600 legal aid advocates, court personnel, technologists and other professionals exploring new ways of using technology to expand access to justice.

Pro Bono Net is the country’s leading access to justice innovator with a 25-year history of impact. We create scalable and sustainable technology solutions and partnerships that bring free, safe, high-quality legal help to millions of people. 

This year, we are presenting sessions related to transitioning from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics, best practices in Generative AI, storytelling to maximize reach and impact, and how community engagement informs the creation of community justice programs. See below for where you can find us, or stop by our booth in the exhibitors area!

Wednesday, February 1, 2024

11:15 AM – 12:15 PM ET

Navigating the Transition: From Universal Analytics to Google Analytics

  • Ariadne Brazo, Product Manager, Pro Bono Net
  • Terri Ross, Executive Director, Illinois Legal Aid Online
  • Matt Keister, Product Manager, Ohio Legal Help

2 PM – 3 PM

Toward Best Practices in Generative AI in Legal Aid

  • Sam Harden, Program Manager, Pro Bono Net
  • Ashley chase, Professor, Stetson University School of Law
  • Angela Tripp, Director, Michigan Legal Help Program

Thursday, February 2, 2024

10 AM – 11 AM ET

If a Tree Falls: Using Storytelling to Maximize reach and Impact in a Fragmented Digital Landscape

  • Rodrigo Camarena, Director, Justicia Lab
  • Kristen Sonday, Co-founder and CEO, Paladin
  • Rebecca Greenwald, Storytelling and Engagement Strategist 

11:15 AM – 12:15 PM ET

Frontline Justice Workers: Innovation, Engagement, Research and Evaluation

  • Rodrigo Camarena, Director, Justicia Lab
  • Matthew Burnett, Senior Program Officer, Access to Justice Research Initiative, American Bar Foundation
  • Tanina Rostain, Professor of Law, Georgetown Law Center
  • James Teufel, Principal, Help Justice, LLC

12:30 PM – 1:30 PM ET

Friday Lunch and Talk Justice Live Podcast: Artificial Intelligence for Self-Help and Legal Aid

  • Sam Harden, Program Manager, Pro Bono Net, 
  • Cat Moon, Director of Innovation Design, Program on Law & Innovation, Vanderbilt Law School
  • Quinten Steenhuis, Practitioner in Residence, Suffolk LIT Lab
  • Scheree Gilchrist, Chief Innovation Officer, Legal Aid of North Carolina

In addition to Pro Bono Net ITC panelists, other Pro Bono Net team members attending include: Mark O’Brien, Executive Director; Tim Baran, Director of New York Justice Initiatives; Pat Malone, Legal Director of New York Justice Initiatives; and Claudia Johnson, Program Manager of LawHelp Interactive. 

For details on the many other excellent sessions offered at ITC 2024,  please view ITC’s agenda here. You can also follow ITC online via #LSCITC or LSC’s Facebook page, where several sessions will be livestreamed. 

See you there! 

Join us in celebrating our Citizenshipworks Product Manager, Sandra Sandoval, for winning the American Legal Technology Award in the Individual category! Sandra’s dedication, innovative mindset, and tireless efforts have made a significant impact on our mission to revolutionize the immigration journey for all.

Sandra is a Latina technology leader who immigrated from Mexico with her family to the U.S. at age 3 and became a naturalized American citizen in August 2022. Sandra is the Product Lead for Citizenshipworks, our free online resource that has been delivering naturalization services for over a decade and is a project of Justicia Lab, Pro Bono Net’s incubator for immigrant justice. 

Sandra used Citizenshipworks to complete her own naturalization process, and through her professional services, has helped nearly 30,000 Legal Permanent Residents gain naturalization over the last eight years. As United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) moves towards the digitization of its immigration forms, Citizenshipworks is a fully realized resource already doing this work.

“Growing up in an undocumented family, I saw first-hand how intimidating it was for my family to seek legal help. Between the cost of assistance and not knowing who to trust for help, we always felt lost. That’s why this work is so important to me. I have the opportunity to bring free, quality resources to immigrants, who like my family, may not know where to start and live in fear.” says Ms. Sandoval.

Prior to joining Justicia Lab, Sandra worked with San Antonio Immigrant Youth Movement (SAIYM), a youth-led movement to empower undocumented youth by providing resources, tools, and guidance to help navigate the higher education system. Sandra is a graduate of the University of Texas at San Antonio and received an MPA from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

Sandra is honored to be recognized by the American Legal Technology Awards and she wanted to share a note:

“It is truly an honor to be recognized by the American Legal Technology Awards judging committee among many innovators bridging the access to justice gap. Thank you! 

Thank you to the Pro Bono Net and Justicia Lab teams. Ten years ago, I started at PBN/JL working on Citizenshipworks to help immigrants navigate the complex immigration systems. As an undocumented immigrant myself, I didn’t want others to experience the same difficulties I did. 

I’m grateful to work with amazing colleagues who every day share their knowledge and support, and dedication to our community. It takes a team, and I’m lucky to work and learn alongside the best.”

We also celebrate ¡Reclamo!, our groundbreaking app to fight wage theft, receiving an honorable mention in the Access to Justice Legal Tech category!

Congrats to all of the honorees and winners of the American Legal Technology Awards. We would also like to thank the headline sponsor, Clio, of the awards, and the organizers and judges for shining a spotlight on people and projects using technology and innovation to create a more just society.

The New York State Attorney Emeritus Program (AEP) provides volunteer opportunities to seasoned attorneys eager to give back to their communities. Over a two-year registration period, these volunteer attorneys pledge their time and expertise, committing to 60 hours of unpaid civil legal assistance. AEP connects volunteers to legal services organizations or court programs that need pro bono lawyers. Marissa Wallace, the Americorp VISTA for Pro Bono Net met with Ralph L. Wolf, Assistant Deputy Counsel and Director of the AEP at the New York State Unified Court System Office for Justice Initiatives to discuss the program.

Can you give a brief overview of the Attorney Emeritus Program. How did it come about and what is its mission?

Created by former New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman in 2010, the AEP was established to help New Yorkers with legal needs who cannot afford legal counsel. The program is designed to enhance the capacity of New York State legal service providers that are facing increased demand for services, including Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc. The AEP engages seasoned lawyers in pro bono projects under the auspices of the legal service providers.

The New York State Unified Court System’s Attorney Emeritus Program works with the organized bar and legal services programs to place: 

  • attorneys in good standing, 
  • retired or active, 
  • who are at least 55 years old, 
  • with a minimum of 10 years’ experience in pro bono civil legal service opportunities. 

Emeritus attorneys who are engaged in active practice earn up to 15 CLE credits for pro bono work with an approved AEP host legal services organization, bar association or court program.

How has the program evolved since its inception? 

The pandemic transformed the delivery of civil legal services for AEP and our partners. Providers now routinely offer remote services. The technological and programmatic innovations introduced during the last three years have laid the foundation for sustainable delivery models. Virtual services continue to expand providers’ reach to include formerly hard-to-reach clients, including those with mobility issues,

work or caretaking responsibilities that make in-person appointments difficult, and who live in remote areas of the state. The expected long-lasting impact of the pandemic on civil legal services is an

opportunity for the AEP to strategically deploy resources where they are needed the most, including in underserved areas throughout the state.

COVID created some obstacles to the AEP … and some opportunities.  For example, when the AEP started, almost all volunteering was in person.  Today, many of our volunteers work remotely.  In fact, about 22% of our volunteers live out of state (and about 3 % live outside the country).  Many of our host organizations have remote opportunities and some even have platforms exclusively designed to facilitate remote client video and/or phone interactions.  Also, the remote option gives volunteers in our urban centers opportunities to help in rural communities.

The AEP programming has adapted to the new remote reality too.  Where we have always held quarterly information sessions for new volunteers, we now also have bi-monthly remote drop-in sessions for experienced volunteers.  The volunteers who attend these sessions appreciate the community of volunteers that these sessions foster. 

Many AEP host organizations strive to provide culturally-appropriate services that take into account and try to dismantle structural racism.  The AEP team recently conducted a survey to ascertain Emeritus Volunteers’ interest and experience in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB), as well as intentional DEIB practices of host organizations. Over the next few months, the AEP plans to use these survey results to design training and resources for Emeritus volunteers and AEP host organizations. We hope that, over time, this initiative will promote model diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) practices by AEP stakeholders that leverage Emeritus pro bono resources.

Who benefits from AEP?

 The volunteers benefit by volunteering and helping our community, especially for attorneys who are later in their careers and looking towards, or already retired.  The opportunities to take that experience and give back to the legal community by mentoring younger lawyers and giving direct legal services to communities in need is invaluable to the volunteer and to those they serve.

The population that the AEP serves are people who do not qualify for free counsel and who cannot afford a lawyer.  In many cases, that is the working poor.  Free legal assistance is limited to those unable to pay for legal services. Most state laws define low income as 125% of the poverty level in that state. That amount is $32,188 for a family of four living in New York State.  I’m not sure that a family of four living in New York City earning $100,000 could afford a lawyer.  The AEP helps fill the civil justice gap for the working poor.

Opportunities for civil legal services are extraordinarily diverse and include, for example, limited-scope and full representation, appellate advocacy, administrative hearings, drafting legal documents and manuals, brief advice, working on hotlines, and supporting special projects – to name a few.  Some of the areas where the AEP provides assistance include housing, immigration, consumer debt, benefits, family, trusts and estates, bankruptcy, domestic violence, matrimonial, reentry and employment.  

How do you recruit and engage experienced attorneys?

Potential volunteer attorneys need to meet our age and eligibility requirements. Our latest  innovation is the AEP website – NYS Attorney Emeritus Program (  Using this website, a volunteer can search for opportunities by subject matter, location, in-person or remote, etc.  When an attorney completes their biennial registration with the court, they can opt into the program.  With the new website, interested attorneys can go directly to the website from the New York State attorney registration page and sign up to be an AEP volunteer.

We also contact law school alumni associations and bar associations and find similar opportunities to get the word out. We reach out to eligible lawyers wherever we can find them.

Once we’ve recruited an AEP attorney, we find out about their volunteer interests, their legal experience and how they want to serve their community. Together with our host organizations, we can train volunteers to meet the needs of the people that they serve.

What are some examples of Attorney Emeritus projects and case work?

AEP Attorneys engage in a wide range of legal representation and support. We work with our volunteers to find the right opportunity with our partners. Some AEP volunteers create a unique experience with outsized impact.

An attorney from the NY Attorney General’s Office joined the AEP Volunteer Team and leveraged his extensive litigation experience, focusing on research and writing to assist the organization. His contributions covered a wide range of client-specific issues, including the Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Civil Relief Act, service of summons & complaint in a divorce in Kosovo, revisions to Pace Women’s Justice Center’s Retainer, default motions, and the confidentiality of addresses held by the Child Support Collection Unit. This volunteer’s research and analysis were invaluable to PWJC, enabling new avenues of litigation strategy and having a significant positive impact on the organization and its clients.

Another attorney, a former staff attorney for JustCause, encouraged numerous volunteers to join AEP, recruiting 30 AEP volunteers for the organization. Her commitment extended beyond AEP, as she collaborated with a local law firm and the University of Rochester to establish the HELP-U Program, which provided wills clinics for low-income housing residents over the age of 60, and she assisted transgender clients in obtaining name changes to align with their gender identity.  Once retired from JustCause, she has continued her pro bono work by joining AEP herself and actively participating in clinics, including bilingual wills clinics, and accepting clients directly.

How do the Feerick Center and the New York Courts work together?

The Feerick Center for Social Justice at Fordham Law School and the Unified Court System Office for Justice Initiatives work closely together to administer the program.  

The New York State Unified Court System’s Office for Justice Initiatives directs the New York State Courts Access to Justice Program.  The Office for Justice Initiatives works closely with the Permanent Commission on Access to Justice, the Advisory Committee on Access for People with Disabilities, and the Office of Language Access.  

The Feerick Center for Social Justice promotes the rights and addresses the problems facing marginalized and low-income New Yorkers and individuals seeking humanitarian relief, including asylum-seeking families and unaccompanied immigrant children. The center links the social justice community serving those in need to Fordham and engages the Fordham community in service of national and local social justice initiatives. And through education and collaboration, the center engages with Fordham students, alumni, faculty and administrators to create and implement long-term innovative solutions critical for lasting change.  The Feerick Center’s work of providing direct assistance and working in collaboration with others reflects the motto and mission of Fordham Law School— “In the Service of Others”—as well as Fordham University’s expansive Jesuit mission and vision.  The AEP benefits from the Feerick Center network and resources every day.

The AEP Advisory Counsel helps the Unified Court System and Feerick Center coordination and convenes twice a year so that its members can stay informed and offer feedback.  The Advisory Council members are always available to listen to a concern or offer strategies for expanding the AEP capacity.

How has the program impacted the larger legal community?

The AEP’s greatest impact may be its contribution to the national AEP movement when it started.  There were a handful of state AEPs in 2010 and today all but three states have an AEP.  The New York AEP continues to contribute to AEP best practices by sharing our experience with other AEPs. 

Pre-pandemic and even now, New York Emeritus attorneys have provided approximately 10,000 hours of pro bono services a year through a network of over 65 legal services programs approved to serve as host organizations. 

How do you see the AEP progressing in the future?

Since 2010, hundreds of Emeritus attorneys have dedicated countless hours to assist thousands of New Yorkers in need. These pro bono civil legal services by Emeritus attorneys are noteworthy for providing essential services and helping to bridge the state’s justice gap.  I hope that we can continue to expand the number of AEP volunteers and our ability to link them to opportunities with our host organizations.  Engaging with volunteers where they are and helping them to find an AEP host organization that is right for them is our bread and butter.  

How can volunteers get involved?

 Learn more about the AEP, check out our volunteer opportunities, and sign up to join us at

This year, National Pro Bono Week’s theme is “Voice of Democracy: Ensuring Justice for All.” Every day, millions of Americans are prevented from finding safe housing, meeting critical health care needs, and exercising other rights due to our country’s inability to ensure that everyone facing a legal problem can access help for it. As our Fast Company op-ed outlined, for communities of color, immigrants, rural communities, and those living on low incomes, the justice gap is simply the status quo.

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of lawyers, advocates, paralegals, law students and others who put their legal expertise to use serving those in need and advocating for a more just world. Pro bono work doesn’t just fill a gap – it amplifies our collective ability to shape a more just and equitable society. Below are five resources for legal professionals looking to get involved and for organizations seeking to strengthen their pro bono efforts. 

1. 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 the ABA Center for Pro Bono, in collaboration with network partners across the country. Through the Guide, attorneys, law students, paralegals and other legal professionals can find organizations offering opportunities in their local community and areas of interest, and contact organizations to get involved. To access the Guide, visit

2. Immigration Advocates Network Volunteer Guide and Nonprofit Resource Center

The Immigration Advocates Network, a program of Justicia Lab, Pro Bono Net’s immigrant justice incubator, is a community of more than 11,000 lawyers, paralegals, students, and not for profit organizations committed to immigrant justice. IAN harnesses the power of technology and collaboration to provide nonprofit and pro bono immigration law practitioners with free online training resources, practice resources and access to experts on issues such as refugee/asylum advocacy, working with immigrant children and working with clients in detention. Get involved by joining the Nonprofit Resource Center. Membership is free for pro bono lawyers and nonprofit staff. Legal professionals interested in volunteering for immigrant justice can also search for opportunities through IAN’s Volunteer Guide.

3. The Network

Our platform supports more than 20 national and statewide justice networks and thousands of pro bono volunteers and legal advocates working collaboratively to tackle pressing justice issues, including,,, and and more. Visit to find and join other pro bono networks. 

4. Practising Law Institute’s Pro Bono Membership

Practising Law Institute (PLI) proudly offers Pro Bono Memberships, granting unlimited access to a wide selection of programming to qualifying legal aid organizations and other IRC Section 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations which provide direct representation, as well as law school public interest clinics. PLI also offers over 2,500 individual scholarships on a yearly basis. Learn more

PLI also offers interactive pro bono programs through the Interactive Learning Center (ILC) to sharpen your skills in a fun and practical way. These innovative programs help new and seasoned attorneys taking on pro bono cases. Topics include: Communicating with Pro Bono Clients, Interviewing Pro Bono Clients, Working with Domestic Violence Survivors, and more.

5. Tech solutions to help volunteers reach and represent those in need

In addition to our resources for individual volunteers and those offered by our partners like PLI, Pro Bono Net creates scalable and sustainable tech solutions for nonprofits, courts, and law firms to empower volunteers to reach and represent those in need, including Remote Legal Connect, which powers remote advocacy initiatives in six states; LawHelp Interactive, our free online legal forms program used daily in pro bono services and clinics across the country; and Pro Bono Manager, used by leading law firms to more efficiently manage, promote and grow their pro bono program—and ultimately do more good.

Interested in learning more about these programs? Reach out to us at

For more more information about Pro Bono Net’s programs and initiatives, visit our website at:

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

Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15th, which marks the independence days of many countries in Central and South America, through October 15th. This month celebrates “the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America,” according to the National Hispanic Heritage Month website.

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re thrilled to highlight our Board Chair, Betty Balli Torres, and an in-depth interview our LawHelp Interactive Program Manager, Claudia Johnson, recently conducted with Betty about Betty’s background as a Latiné leader, work as Executive Director of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, view of technology’s role in expanding access to justice, and more. We’re so grateful for Betty’s leadership and support of our work, and for all of her tremendous accomplishments as a champion of justice. 

About Betty

Betty has dedicated her professional career to public interest work serving as an advocate for civil legal services for the poor. She has served as the Executive Director of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, the largest funding source for legal services to the poor in Texas, since 2001. Betty started as a staff attorney at Legal Aid of Central Texas after graduating from the University of Texas School of Law. She has held various public interest law positions, including: Executive Director of Laredo Legal Aid Society, Inc., Legal Director of Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas, Managing Attorney of Legal Aid of Central Texas and as a staff attorney at Advocacy, Inc.

Betty has served on many local, statewide and national committees, boards and task forces related to access to justice and the legal profession. She is a Past President of the National Association of IOLTA Programs, Immediate Past-chair of the American Bar Association’s (ABA)’s Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities, Past Co-chair of the Board of Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees Past-Chair of the Hispanic Issues Section of the State Bar of Texas and Past Co-Chair of the ABA’s Working Group on Unaccompanied Minors.  She currently  serves on the board of Management Information Exchange (MIE), member of the Steering Committee of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA)’s Latino Section, Co-Chair of NAIP’s Racial Justice Committee and member of the ABA’s Commission on Racial Justice and Ethnic Justice. She currently serves as Chair of Pro Bono Net.

Betty is a recipient of the Distinguished Lawyer Award (Austin Bar Association), Tower of Justice Award (Texas Legal Services Center), Outstanding Public Interest Attorney Award (Travis County Women Lawyers Association), the Regina Rogoff Award (Austin Bar Association), the “Nonny” Award for Outstanding Nonprofit Leadership in Austin, the “Star of Justice” Award (Texas Access to Justice Commission), the prestigious Harold Kleinman Award, the Community Service, Chair and Pro Bono Awards (Hispanic Issues Section-State Bar of Texas), Emily C. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award and the ABA’ s Grassroots Advocacy Award.

How do you identify? LatinX? Chicana? Hispanic? Latina?

We kicked off the interview talking about identity. This month is Hispanic Heritage Month and thus the topic of identity, self definition, and personal identity are very much in our minds. Betty’s response was powerful and refreshing:

Betty: “Identity journey – who decides what we are called? Who made that decision? You get told what you are: Chicano, Hispanic, Latina, LatinX, etc. Somehow we continue to be labeled by the government, State, others, and why? I prefer plain American – born and raised in the US.”

Betty shared insights on how these labels given by others create controversy within the Latiné community. For her, the question of identity is more about her family background, thus she identifies as Mexican American. Why? Because her dad was born in the US and her mom was born in Mexico. So she is both. 

Betty would prefer that we skip these labels, and focus on our national identity – US born, but with immigrant mom roots and US dad roots. In effect, having others decide what box we fit in, and who they are is rather limiting. Over the course of her life and career, Betty has seen the labels come and go. It used to be that some of these labels were considered put downs, and then they became popular, like Chicano. Betty reflects, “what if the labels changed every year? I am still a US citizen with immigrant roots like most of us?” From Betty’s perspective, we should not allow anyone but ourselves to define us, because these labels help us, put us in a box and we are more than that label, whatever it is.

How long have you been leading the Foundation? What has been the hardest lesson you have learned as a funder in terms of funding innovative, game-changing projects and programs?

Betty shared that in the course of her experience, there has only been one other Latiné IOLTA director for the first 16 years of holding the position and  it is only in the past six years that there has been another Latina director. Her counterpart is from Puerto Rico, and in all this time, there has not been any other Latiné leading any other state ATJ funding foundation that funds the services often provided to the Latinx, Black, Native American, or Asian communities.

More disappointing is that there seems to be a nominal pipeline to ensure that the state ATJ funding foundations can eventually include other life experiences. Out of the 52 individual foundations, there are less than a handful of  people of color at the helm. To Betty, the fact that this has not improved in the past 20 years, when so many have graduated from law school, and are working and contributing in earnest and are excellent strategists, is disappointing. So she has made diversity a main area of focus of her volunteer and professional work. 

Betty’s background prior to leading the Foundation in Texas is exceptional. She shared that she has been a legal aid lawyer, Pro Bono Director, worked at the border as a director, and did work at Disability Rights, all in Texas. Her direct advocacy in different communities and always there for the monolingual Spanish speaking clients and the most vulnerable groups informs her funding priorities now. She does not come with a top down approach, or from wealth management of firm background, but from direct experience representing people with mental and physical disabilities and the most vulnerable among us. 

Betty joined the Pro Bono Net board because she sees and believes that tech can help be part of a solution, but is well aware that tech is not a silver bullet particularly to some of the most vulnerable in our communities.

Overlaying tech into an unnecessarily complicated system is not helpful. Betty strongly believes that “until we simplify the legal system, there has to be a human that works with certain populations. We have to make the technology that fits the communities. Technology has to be purposefully inclusive.” She believes that Pro Bono Net is centered on these values and beliefs, making it a unique tech nonprofit in this space. For example, she mentioned ¡Reclamo!, tackles the problem of stolen wages for immigrants, a real problem, with a very vulnerable population, immigrants and developing that tool with intentionality and community involvement.

In terms of her approach to funding, the Foundation likes to invest in what works and is effective, which isn’t necessarily what is “new”. For example, Texas Law Help helps millions per year and has for a long time. She is proud when resources can be shared for free to millions of people each year.

Another tool that she thinks is a good investment in the Access to Justice space is Live Chat, which has been around since 2015 in legal nonprofits. It is “old school” and that is ok by her. It is effective and provides good service in a reliable and high quality manner.  

That said, the Texas Access to Justice Foundation (TAJF) is willing and very open to investing in new strategies, including funding legal kiosks, and new kiosks in Texas. TAJF has funded 25 kiosks and put them not inside the traditional places, but really placing them where the community is, for example shelters, libraries, Native American areas, rural deserts. She likes that they are learning from each different location and design. Betty shared that while a press event was being conducted in deep West Texas, a community member with legal needs  showed up to use the new tool showing the need in remote areas. All the centers will be evaluated and then from there they will select how best to replicate them. Most importantly, the services and systems need to get out of the downtown buildings and go where the community is. “Get out to the community” as she shared.

TAJF is also focusing on ensuring all language groups are not left without legal information and services, and has made significant strategic investments in updating and modernizing in terms of language access and design, Texas Law Help

What drew you to Board leadership at Pro Bono Net? What’s something that excites you about PBN’s work and impact?

Betty pictured with PBN staff members (right to left) Jessica Stuart, Claudia Johnson and Megan Vizzini

Betty has been a long-standing member of the Pro Bono Net (PBN) Board and started serving in 2004, way before she became our Board Chair. She knew about LawHelp and then LawHelp Interactive, and saw that our technology, and not just one tool, were part of the solution. The one aspect of Pro Bono Net she finds thrilling, is that PBN always is innovating, improving, and coming up with new models that explore how and why technology can be impactful in empowering communities in need. She finds PBN innovative and dynamic and constantly improving or creating new approaches to a deep and hard problem. This is what keeps her involved.

She anticipates that PBN will improve at sharing the impact our tools make. She knows that we have a deep impact across the US, but she wants to see more of that impact story told. PBN’s constant innovation, not staying stagnant, is unique, special, and needs to be supported. Not all tech groups do this and she values and supports PBN’s growth mindset. IMMI, ¡Reclamo! – growth mindset.

 Betty shared that time is a precious commodity. She is focusing all her energy where it is needed, and she is proud of contributing to PBN. She is now even more careful about where she spends her time, and her number one priority is to focus on the intersectionality of race and access to justice and supporting groups like PBN that make a real impact at scale.

One area she thinks needs more energy is in telling how nonprofit technology is having a huge impact on Access to Justice. There is an ecosystem of free high quality tools, like the ones that PBN focuses on, that are making a difference in the millions. How does that story become known? How does the ATJ ecosystem value those nonprofit contributions? We talked about how it will probably not be one tool to rule them all, but a group of tools all aligning along incentives and mission, to provide valuable and impactful tools for free for those in need. And how do we ensure that they are available to groups serving primarily POC and other systematically excluded communities.

How does the foundation decide priorities to fund projects? Who does it look for inspiration, for guidance? Are you focusing on reducing the court backlogs, for example, or are you looking more toward economic equality for systematically oppressed groups? If you had a magic wand, what projects would you fund? Think wild and outside the box.

Betty: “In the ATJ world, the biggest issue is that the legal system was not created for people. If I had a magic wand, we would reshape the system to create it for anyone, not just lawyers. We would have to make every area of the law so that anyone could go to represent themselves. Everything would be approachable, there would be people who speak your language and there would be multiple places to go for help, including online. There would not be a need to travel too far. Maybe you could go to a neighborhood court house, where you can do your own divorce, with support but not needing a lawyer.”

Betty wonders how we bring simplicity into the legal system. What we have is not for the people but for the system. We need to shift our thinking from “I need a lawyer” to “I need to get some guidance and support/orientation.” We need to help people resolve the issues with minimal time, stress, and resources. 

Betty observes that some progress has been made with providing one lawyer to one client in certain courts, like landlord tenant court in some cities; however, that is not enough. If legal aid groups can only help 8 percent out of a 100 people who qualify for services, then the system is broken. The way forward, in Betty’s opinion, is to simplify the system, and to start thinking of community-based solutions, not top down approaches. Go where the people are, and there you will find the needs and solutions to problems. Bring back community-based services, but don’t center on the lawyers. Simple, free, easy to use technology will be part of that solution.

The solution would be one where people don’t need a lawyer to get through a process.  

Betty speaking at Pro Bono Net Board and donor reception in March 2023

Thank you to Betty Balli Torres for taking the time to be interviewed and sharing your insights, energy, and wisdom. We are lucky to have you leading our board.  

Pro Bono Net is grateful for all Latiné staff and Board members, partners, advocates, and supporters’ contributions to our work. We are also grateful that as a technical solutions leader in the area of access to justice, we strive to serve the Latinx community in parity with national demographics, and we remain committed to creating and building tools and partnerships that serve all, regardless of language and national origin, race, ethnicity and religion.

Pro Bono Net mourns the passing of our dear friend and founding Board member, Michael Mills, a legal technology pioneer and access to justice champion. Michael’s trailblazing work using technology and innovation to transform the delivery of legal services, along with his enduring support for Pro Bono Net’s mission, played a pivotal role in our impact over more than two decades. He will also be remembered for his unflagging kindness, generosity, and personal encouragement that inspired us and countless others he mentored.

“Michael was instrumental in building Pro Bono Net.  He was one of the early board members,” said Michael Hertz, the co-founder of Pro Bono Net.  “When we started PBN, he helped arrange for Davis Polk to second [co-founder] Mark to PBN for a number of years to get us through the start-up phase.  He also dug in and helped us through so many challenging times over the years.  He knew the sector, the tech, and had such a balanced approach to every situation.  It was invaluable to have someone like Michael on our side.”

Michael was a founder’s dream advisor: endlessly generous with his time, professional connections and good ideas. As Pro Bono Net grew, he helped us envision and pursue new access to justice innovations, including through his participation in the Legal Services Corporation’s 2011 and 2013 Summits on the Use of Technology to Expand Access to Justice, where he championed the application of business process analysis to the legal aid sector, and as a founder of Neota Logic, a pioneering legal expert system software, which he made available for use by law schools and nonprofits tackling justice system challenges. He was deeply committed to making the world a better place and an unfailingly loyal friend. I and my colleagues at Pro Bono Net have benefitted from those attributes on countless occasions over the past 25 years.

Michael will be greatly missed by the Pro Bono Net family and the broader legal technology community. We extend our condolences to his life partner Karen MacNeil, his family, and his many friends throughout the community.

During his last months, Michael gave his blessing to friends in the legal tech and knowledge management community to create a memorial fundraising campaign with Pro Bono Net as the beneficiary.  A memorial website, featuring an obituary by Jeff Rovner and a call to action by Oz Benamram, has been published at: Jeff’s moving tribute to Michael’s remarkable life and legacy is also available on LinkedIn.

We are honored to share Jeff’s piece within the Pro Bono Net community and grateful to have the opportunity to help commemorate Michael in such a meaningful way.

Mark O’Brien
Executive Director
Pro Bono Net

Created in 2011, each year the Fastcase 50 award honors a diverse group of lawyers, legal technologists, policymakers, judges, law librarians, bar association executives, and people from all walks of life. Fastcase “recognizes people who have made important, but unheralded contributions.”

Pro Bono Net’s Rodrigo Camarena has made this year’s Fastcase 50! Rodrigo is the Director of Justicia Lab, Pro Bono Net’s incubator of immigrant justice technology.

Rodrigo joined the Pro Bono Net team in July 2018, first as the Director of the Immigration Advocates Network (IAN), the largest network of nonprofit legal advocates committed to defending immigrants, and now as Director of Justicia Lab. Prior to joining Pro Bono Net, Rodrigo was formerly Strategy Director at Purpose where he developed advocacy campaigns, digital products and brand strategies for global change-makers like the Ford Foundation, UNICEF, and Prior to Purpose, Rodrigo developed new initiatives to tackle economic inequality as Executive Director of Business Growth Programs for the City of New York. Rodrigo is also the former Executive Director of the Mixteca Organization – an immigrant rights organization based in Sunset Park Brooklyn.

Since joining Pro Bono Net, Rodrigo has transformed Pro Bono Net’s immigrants rights program (formerly known as Immigration Advocates Network) by broadening its scope and changing its name to Justicia Lab. Justicia Lab’s goal is to rebalance the scales and give immigrants and their advocates new tools to navigate our immigration system, find workplace justice, and more.

Justicia Lab projects and tools include: Citizenshipworks, an online naturalization platform designed to make applying for citizenship easy; immi, a tool to help immigrants in the U.S. understand their legal options and access critical resources from any location; immigrationLawHelp, a searchable online directory of over 1,000 free or low-cost nonprofit immigration legal services providers in all 50 states; and ¡Reclamo!, an online tool designed to help worker advocates retrieve stolen wages for workers.

Congratulations to Rodrigo and all of the other 2023 Fastcase 50 honorees. Check out the full list at: 

This was originally posted on LawHelpNY. To learn more about LawHelpNY visit:  

If you live in New York and the recent storms and floods have affected you, find out about help from the government.  After some disasters, the federal government offers recovery support and guidance. To check if federal help is available in your area, please visit Go to the official news of the New York Governor’s Office for updates here

Help with Recovery & Damaged Property 

  • If you need information about your area, you can either call 211 or search online here. The 211 helpline can answer your questions. 
  • A lot of nonprofit organizations offer free support for response and recovery after a disaster. You can find one near your location by clicking here.
  • If you’re a homeowner and the disaster damaged your home, you can apply for emergency repair grants of up to $50,000. To apply, go to or call (845) 713-4568 ext. 114 for more information. 
  • If you lost or damaged an important document, find information here on replacing it. Examples include social security cards, medical cards, military records, immigration records, bank records, passports, and tax returns. 
  • If you lost a credit card, you can call the bank that issued the card to get a new one. Call your credit card company if your credit card was not issued by your bank. Major credit card companies include:
    • American Express: 1-800-992-3404
    • Discover: 1-800-347-2683
    • MasterCard: 1-800-627-8372
    • VISA: 1-800-847-2911
  • If you need to replace your debit card, contact your bank. They can tell you how to replace your card. If you’re not sure how to contact your bank or credit union, call the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) at 1-877-275-3342. They can help you too. 
  • If you need to submit a claim with your insurance company, this guide can help. 

If you have a legal problem, a lawyer can help. 

Legal help organizations that offer free guidance and support for different issues, including: 

Immediately After a Disaster

  • Problems with your landlord 
  • Applying for government benefits
  • Applying for loans
  • Getting covered by insurance
  • Replacing lost documents
  • Wage theft

1-6 Months After a Disaster

  • If federal disaster help is available in your area:
    • applying for Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) aid
    • appealing  FEMA denials or amounts awarded by FEMA
  • Renewing rent subsidies or other government benefits
  • Evictions and repair questions
  • Proving homeownership and “clearing” property title
  • Fighting for better  insurance claim coverage
  • Contractor scams and disputes
  • Powers of attorney for child care or the elderly
  • Modifying (changing) parenting orders to reflect new home and school locations
  • Estate planning

6 Months to Years After a Disaster

  • Home loan foreclosures
  • Bankruptcy
  • If federal disaster help is available in your area, defending against FEMA “recoupments” (when they ask for money back)
  • Applying for disaster tax relief
  • Disagreements about home elevation or significant home damage
  • Housing repair and mold issues

To find legal help near you, go to the legal help directory by LawHelpNY.

Finally, the New York Free Legal Answers website has free legal advice for disaster survivors.

Pro Bono Net is pleased to announce our new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) national trainings for lawyers and advocates nationwide. The webinars are not only for those currently working with survivors of climate-driven disasters, but also for advocates who may potentially support disaster survivors in the future. The trainings are designed in partnership with Legal Aid of Sonoma County and the Disaster Legal Assistance Collaborative. It is supported by the Bigglesworth Family Foundation. 

What will the trainings focus on?

After the President of the United States declares a major disaster, federal funds may be available through FEMA for individuals, families, and small businesses to recover. Many disaster survivors apply to access these funds, but they can be denied this assistance or not provided with enough assistance to recover. Disaster survivors have a right to appeal, but only a small percentage of them do.

The national trainings will focus on the process lawyers and other advocates working with survivors must follow if they want to appeal FEMA’s determination on disaster assistance. Attendees will also learn how to use Pro Bono Net’s bilingual FEMA appeals digital tool to create an appeal letter. The tool helps survivors to understand the appeals process, makes it easier to clearly articulate why the agency should reconsider its decision, and gives survivors a greater chance of obtaining the assistance they need to recover from the disaster. Over the past decade, the tool has helped over 14,000 survivors impacted by major climate disasters. All trainings will have closed captioning.

Who will present the trainings and when will they take place?

Pro Bono Net is conducting the trainings in partnership with Legal Aid of Sonoma County and the Disaster Legal Assistance Collaborative. We will host a total of four trainings for different audiences starting in June 2023 and continuing through September 2023:

  • Tuesday, June 13, 2023, at 2:00 pm ET – “A Beginner’s Guide to Appealing the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Assistance Decision,” will be open to community librarians, disaster case managers, staff and attorneys at legal aid organizations and pro bono programs, attorneys interested in doing pro bono work after a disaster, and advocates from long-term recovery groups nationwide. Register here
  • Tuesday, July 25, 2023, at 11:00 am PT – “A Beginner’s Guide to Appealing the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Assistance Decision (California),” will cover the FEMA appeals process and include specific information for attorneys and other advocates working with California-based survivors. Register here
  • Tuesday, August 22, 2023, at 2:00 pm ET – “A Disability Rights Advocate’s Guide to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Assistance Appeals Process,” will include specific information that attorneys and advocates should know about when working on a FEMA appeal with a disaster survivor that has a disability. Register here
  • Tuesday, September 19, 2023, at 2:00 pm ET – “A Beginner’s Guide to Appealing the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Assistance Decision (Spanish interpretation provided),” will be open to community librarians, disaster case managers, staff and attorneys at legal aid organizations and pro bono programs, attorneys interested in doing pro bono work after a disaster, and advocates from long-term recovery groups nationwide. Spanish interpretation will be provided. Register here

Will the trainings be recorded?

Recordings and training materials will be posted to the Advocate Network of Advocate for Disaster Justice at Access to the materials and recordings will require a log-in as a member, but membership is free. Learn more here.

About Pro Bono Net 

Pro Bono Net is a national nonprofit leader in building technology and collaborations that bring the power of the law to all. For over 20 years, Pro Bono Net and its programs have supported disaster recovery by connecting lawyers and equipping survivors with resources and self-advocacy tools. Learn more here

About Advocates for Disaster Justice 

Advocates for Disaster Justice, formerly, is the largest national network of justice advocates and allies working to advance equity, rights and resilience in communities impacted by climate-driven and other disasters. Learn more here.

About Legal Aid of Sonoma County 

Legal Aid of Sonoma County has provided services to Sonoma County’s indigent population for over 60 years. Founded in 1958 and incorporated in 1983 as a private nonprofit, Legal Aid provides crisis legal services to low-income families, children, elders, immigrants, and other vulnerable Sonoma County residents. Learn more here.

About the Disaster Legal Assistance Collaborative

The Disaster Legal Assistance Collaborative (DLAC) is a partnership of 27 organizations throughout the state that includes legal aid organizations, law firms, government agencies, local bar associations, and social services providers. Our mission is to deliver free legal assistance to all those impacted by disasters throughout California.  DLAC recruits and trains volunteer attorneys to provide free legal assistance and resources to disaster survivors through its call-in Helpline, online platform Free Legal Answers, disaster preparedness outreach, and Title Clearing Program. Learn more here.

About the Bigglesworth Family Foundation 

The Bigglesworth Family Foundation supports programs and projects that help create systemic change by strengthening the capacity of non-profit organizations and addressing delivery system and historic challenges. Learn more here.

Pro Bono Net is proud to announce the launch of ¡Reclamo!, the most comprehensive platform to date to help immigrant workers fight back against wage theft. The launch is the result of more than three years of dedicated work between Justicia Lab, Pro Bono Net’s incubator for immigrant justice, and community partners including Make the Road New York’s team of attorneys, paralegals, workers, and organizers.

¡Reclamo! marks a number of milestones for Pro Bono Net. It’s our most ambitious effort to date to directly address labor and workplace access to justice. For Justicia Lab, it marks the first effort in the program’s expanded mission to address legal issues disproportionately affecting immigrants in America beyond our longstanding innovation work directly related to immigration policy and the immigration system. And ¡Reclamo! is a direct extension of Pro Bono Net’s work focused on legal empowerment: helping all Americans to better understand, claim and fulfill their rights under the law, developing digital strategies that seek to shift power and agency to those most impacted by injustices, and scaling legal support through community justice partners. 

Learn more in our launch announcement below. Make the Road and other worker center and employment justice partners have already filed over 1 million dollars in wage theft claims on behalf of workers since ¡Reclamo! was launched in beta in October 2022. Amid necessary and overdue conversations around a changing workforce and labor equity, we need to make sure the most invisible in our society and most vulnerable to exploitation – and those who take on many of the most challenging and integral roles in our economy – have the same access to our justice system and have tools that are specifically designed with them and for their needs.

Immigrant justice nonprofits launch ¡Reclamo!, most comprehensive platform to date to help immigrant workers fight back against wage theft

First generation of the tool to empower workers and their advocates to combat labor exploitation in New York State’s construction and building sector


Today Justicia Lab, Pro Bono Net’s nonprofit innovation incubator for technology solutions supporting the immigrant rights movement, announces the official launch of ¡Reclamo!, the most comprehensive tool developed to date to help address wage theft of immigrant workers in the United States. 

¡Reclamo! (or “Reclaim” in Spanish) is the first independent and not for profit worker advocacy digital legal tool to screen and file wage theft complaints. The web and mobile platform creates a flexible and scalable way for workers and advocates to know, use, and shape employment laws. ¡Reclamo! helps low-wage, immigrant workers seek economic justice, prevent impoverishment, and provide worker advocates with the tools to not only accelerate the production of wage theft claims but to also safely gather data to inform organizing, litigation, and policy change. 

The initial iteration of the tool focuses on wage theft violations in the construction and building sector in New York State. ¡Reclamo! was developed in close collaboration with lead partner Make the Road New York and is currently being piloted with other worker centers and employment justice partners across New York City and Westchester including New Immigrant Community EmpowermentTakeRoot JusticeEl Centro del Inmigrante, and Community Resource Center. Together these partners have already filed over 1 million dollars in wage theft claims on behalf of workers since the tool was launched in beta in October 2022. 

Wage theft is a national epidemic with losses to workers estimated at $50 billion annually nationwide. An estimated 2.1 million New Yorkers are victims of wage theft each year, placing New York 4th in the nation when it comes to the highest prevalence of wage theft amongst low-wage workers. And immigrants are especially vulnerable to labor exploitation – employment studies show that foreign-born workers in New York City are more than twice as likely as their U.S.-born counterparts to experience wage theft. 

Wage theft is enabled by a host of factors including: a lack of knowledge by workers around state wage and hour rules, poorly designed and enforced bureaucratic complaint processes,  and lack of free or low bono legal assistance. Many immigrant workers who want to pursue wage and hour claims must overcome language barriers, fear of retaliation, and complicated paperwork. 

¡Reclamo! is designed to address each of these challenges, significantly scaling the number of wage theft cases that can be addressed by allowing non-lawyer advocates to process claims including worker organizers, paralegals, social workers, librarians, and staff from worker and employment centers.

“Low-wage, immigrant workers are doing some of the most difficult jobs in our society while systematically being robbed of the wages that they are lawfully owed. With ¡Reclamo! we are equipping worker advocates with a new tool to reclaim stolen wages and better understand the impact of wage theft in our communities.”

Rodrigo Camarena, Director of Justicia Lab.

¡Reclamo! combines the following features into one integrated platform: 

  • Wage Theft Calculator: Feature that allows workers to figure out how much money they’re owed by answering a simple set of plain language questions. This feature captures information on unpaid wages, minimum wage violations, overtime, illegal deductions, liquidated damages, fines and benefits including sick leave
  • Direct Action and Legal Recourse Center: Using the information calculated by the tool, ¡Reclamo! populates a Department of Labor complaint form, a demand letter referencing New York State labor laws, and a calling script to help non-lawyer advocates put pressure on employers to fulfill their labor obligations
  • Worker and Advocate Education: Many immigrant workers are unaware of their rights as both immigrants and workers. ¡Reclamo! embeds knowledge about local, state and national labor laws within the platform, including information about what constitutes wage theft, to empower the immigrant community and their non-lawyer advocates
  • Data for Advocacy and Enforcement: In order to address wage theft at scale, ¡Reclamo! uses data to identify larger claims and/or patterns among employers to identify opportunities for worker organizing and systemic reform.

The public launch of ¡Reclamo! follows three years of co-design and development with Justicia Lab alongside Make the Road’s team of attorneys, paralegals, workers, and organizers. The collaborative design process included extensive user and expert interviews, design research and observation, and prototyping and testing with ongoing worker and advocate feedback. The tool brings in best practices in equitable technology development, addressing longstanding trust issues that many immigrants experience with technology by prioritizing data and privacy security and language access.

“I am thrilled to have ¡Reclamo! ready for every worker advocate to use to tackle the scourge of wage theft across our communities. We have worked for years with Justicia Lab to implement this effective organizing, education, and legal tool for all workers, and their advocates, in New York State. All too often, workers whose wages are stolen by employers are not able to access a lawyer, and ¡Reclamo! is designed particularly for those advocates who do not work with an attorney to help workers in their cases.”

Elizabeth Joynes Jordan, Make The Road New York’s Legal Director and co-creator of the tool.

Justicia Lab plans to adapt ¡Reclamo! for use in other industries (hospitality, restaurants, retail) and other states (California, Texas, Illinois) where wage theft is rampant. ¡Reclamo! was the winner of the Worker’s Lab Innovation Fund competition and a finalist of the Civic I/O Civic Tech Pitch at SXSW.

About Justicia Lab

Justicia Lab is Pro Bono Net’s immigrant justice technology lab, and a nonprofit legal tech initiative whose mission is to transform immigrant justice through collaboration, creativity, and technology. We work hand in hand with immigrants and their advocates to identify common challenges and incubate scalable digital tools to advance help immigrants navigate our immigration system, find workplace justice, and more. Justicia Lab has developed over a dozen immigrant justice legal tools to scale and support the work of advocates and bridge the justice gap, helping over 500,000 people find critical immigration information and relief.

About Pro Bono Net

Pro Bono Net is a national nonprofit leader in building technology and collaborations that increase access to justice. From connecting attorneys to those most in need to creating legal tools to help individuals advocate for themselves, Pro Bono Net makes the law work for the many and not the few.