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

The Importance of Victim’s Rights

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

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

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

New York Crime Victims Legal Help

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

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

Family Offense Petition

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

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

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

Immigration Advocates Network

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

Launching www.immigrationadvocates.org

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

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

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

Thank you volunteers!

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

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

The Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) is a collaborative effort of leading immigrants’ rights organizations designed to increase access to justice for low-income immigrants and strengthen the capacity of organizations serving them. IAN’s partners include: Pro Bono Net, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., National Immigration Law Center, Unidos, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, American Immigration Lawyers Association, ASISTA, American Immigration Council, American Bar Association, National Immigration Project, The Advocates for Human Rights, and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

Each year, millions of people in the US face civil legal problems and are unable to afford an attorney. Many are turned away from civil legal aid because there are just not enough resources to go around. Pro bono and volunteer attorneys play an indispensable role in providing services to these people, and the impact of their work cannot be overstated. This National Volunteer Week, we would like say “Thank you!” to all attorneys who volunteer their time to ensure those who cannot afford an attorney do not go without their legal rights.

Tools and Resources for Volunteers

In this day and age, technology provides volunteer attorneys with greater resources than ever. Pro Bono Net has several resources and tools for attorneys who are interested in getting involved with pro bono work.

Our flagship site, probono.net is a national, online resource for pro bono and other volunteer attorneys, legal professionals, and other legal advocates. The site promotes collaboration and makes it easier for volunteers to get involved. Members can access a number of resources including the pro bono opportunities guide, the pro bono library tool, and pro bono CLE training calendars. Each statewide probono.net site has multiple practice areas, local opportunities, highlights and more. Learn more by going to www.probono.net and choosing your geographic area.

In addition to our statewide sites, we also offer resources on a national basis in several areas. The Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) website houses its nonprofit and pro bono resource center which provides free web-based tools, resources and trainings for nonprofit immigration advocates, organizers and service providers. Military Pro Bono has online resources and a searchable directory that provides access to volunteer opportunities related to military and veteran issues. The Veterans Consortium website supports and engages both veterans and volunteer attorneys by making it easier for veterans to file federal court appeals and making it more efficient for attorneys to volunteer and ask for cases to represent veterans in need.

In addition to these sites, Pro Bono Net also has dedicated tools like LawHelp Interactive (LHI). LHI creates online legal forms that support volunteer attorneys in direct representation, limited scope and referral and screening contexts by helping them to do their pro bono work more efficiently and providing support in new areas of law.

Our newest addition

Launched this January, catholiccharitiesnyprobono.org is a new probono.net-powered site developed in partnership with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York with funding from New York State’s Liberty Defense Project.

The site serves as the centerpiece of Catholic Charities new statewide pro bono project to expand access to legal services for immigrant communities, particularly in dense and regionally isolated immigrant communities. The probono.net platform plays a central role in Catholic Charities Pro Bono Project’s volunteer mobilization strategy.

“The all-inclusive site provides volunteers with the ability to review available cases, sign up for short-term and case placement volunteer opportunities, learn more about the work of the Pro Bono Project and access a wealth of training materials and practice templates. The online volunteer portal comes with more than 100 practice tools and web-based trainings, with new materials added as needed,” according to Catholic Charities.

Our Gratitude

Pro Bono Net would like to again extend our gratitude to all the attorneys around the country working to ensure access to justice for people through volunteering. Volunteer attorneys truly make a difference in people’s lives.

If you are an attorney and would like to volunteer, please visit our Volunteer Tools page for a list of resources to help you get started.

 

Sponsored by Points of Light, National Volunteer Week was established in 1974 and has grown exponentially each subsequent year, with literally thousands of volunteer projects and special events scheduled throughout the week.

 

In recognition of Pro Bono Net’s 20th Anniversary, we are sharing highlights from our history as part of our “On This Day in PBN History” series. Throughout the year we will be sharing project launches, collaborations and other important milestones that Pro Bono Net has accomplished since its creation in 1999. To kick off the series we are sharing the launch of one of our most popular and important programs – LawHelpNY’s LiveHelp program.

LiveHelp on LawHelpNY.org

“Please keep this platform open and accessible to anyone in NY this has been very helpful.” – LiveHelp User

On this day in 2010 LawHelpNY announced the launch of a real-time, online chat service available in English and Spanish to help guide visitors to needed legal information and referrals. LiveHelp on LawHelpNY has since grown and is now available to visitors to CourtHelp’s Families and Children and Foreclosure pages as well as visitors to the Crime Victim Legal Help website. Monday to Friday 10:00 am – 1:00 pm visitors can be connected with staff at Legal Information for Families Today for family law issues. LiveHelp continues to be available Monday-Friday 9 am – 9 pm, and is also available on mobile devices.

Designed to help unrepresented New Yorkers with civil legal problems, LiveHelp connects those in need with online tools, resources, know-your-rights information and referrals available on LawHelpNY. Every year, millions of New Yorkers face serious civil legal problems – including domestic violence, family disputes, eviction, consumer debt and foreclosure – without legal representation. The Permanent Commission on Access to Justice estimates that approximately 1.8 million New Yorkers continue to navigate the state’s civil legal system without the help of an attorney. LiveHelp provides a place to start for those who need assistance and helps them navigate the resources and referrals available to them online. Each month, LiveHelp helps 900-1000 people find helpful legal information, online forms to prevent or address legal issues, and information about organizations that can help them further. 

The Volunteers

“This service made it much easier to get information I needed.” – LiveHelp User

The program is staffed primarily by volunteer law students and recent law graduates. These volunteers receive training on common civil legal problems that visitors to LiveHelp face including family law, housing, foreclosure, immigration  and assisting crime victims. They also receive a thorough introduction to all of the sites they will be responsible for guiding individuals to resources. Since the service is online, volunteers can staff the program from anywhere, including the comfort of their own home. Students and recent graduates are even able to receive credit toward their 50 hours of pro bono work requirement to take the Bar in the state of New York.

Expansion

“Excellent service, quick response, helpful information, provided exactly what I needed!” – LiveHelp User

In 2016, Pro Bono Net incorporated LawHelpNY into its core programs, and LiveHelp expanded onto additional sites for the first time. Initially only available on the Foreclosure pages of New York’s CourtHelp website, LiveHelp soon expanded to include all of the sites listed above. We are thrilled to highlight such a strong and influential program as our first “This Day in PBN History” highlight.

For 20 years Pro Bono Net has been a nonprofit leader in innovative programs that increase access to justice. Our comprehensive programs enable legal organizations to maximize their impact, increase pro bono involvement, and empower the public by providing legal assistance and information. Through innovative technology strategies, we create economies of scale, better integrate existing resources and services, and build capacity in the nonprofit legal sector. Each day, our programs help thousands of families stay in their homes, put young immigrants on a path to citizenship, ensure the safety of women and children, and enable volunteer lawyers across the country to make a difference.

 

LSC Innovations in Technology ConferenceThe 2019 Innovations in Technology Conference kicks off on Tuesday in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Conference brings together technologists, legal aid staff, courts, funders and others to explore innovative ways of using technology to promote full access to legal assistance for low-income individuals.

Pro Bono Net will be well-represented again this year, with a cadre of our program and technology staff in attendance. We’re also presenting in workshops covering topics ranging from the Legal Navigator initiative (www.simplifyinglegalhelp.org) to implicit bias in legal technology.

The Legal Services Corporation will be livestreaming select sessions throughout the conference including “Creating Inclusive Justice Ecosystems in Alaska and Hawaii: Developments in the Legal Navigator Initiative” with Pro Bono Net Executive Director, Mark O’Brien, and “Older Adults & Technology: The Changing Landscape of Access to Justice for Seniors” with Claudia Johnson. Claudia will also be providing an introduction to the panel “I Get Diversity but What is Inclusion: The Impact of Implicit Bias in Legal Tech” on Thursday, January 10th.

Prior to the main ITC conference, Pro Bono Net is offering two days of LawHelp Interactive Training on Monday and Tuesday to train advocates on how to develop interactive legal documents and court forms that increasing opportunities for those without an attorney to achieve justice.

In addition, Pro Bono Net and several of our partners are participating in a daylong pre-ITC workshop on January 7 hosted the Open Society Foundations focusing on legal empowerment and technology, along with OSF partners and grantees in South Africa, Ukraine, Moldova, and Mongolia. On January 8, Pro Bono Net is co-hosting a “Global Convening on Legal Empowerment and Technology” that includes a larger number of U.S. invitees and international representatives from the UK, Australia, South Africa, Moldova, Mongolia, and Ukraine. The purpose of the workshop and convening is to explore the current and potential role of technology in advancing legal empowerment strategies, with an emphasis on approaches to building legal capacity and agency within local communities.

Below is a schedule of ITCon panels and sessions with Pro Bono Net participating:

*This session will be livestreamed. To see all livestreaming sessions, view the full livestream schedule.

 

Monday, 8:00am – 5:00pm
LawHelp Interactive Training

 

Tuesday, 8:00am – 5:00pm
LawHelp Interactive Training

 

Wednesday, 10:30am
Resilient and Ready: Transforming Disaster Response through Technology and Network Building

  • Ariadna Godreau Aubert, Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico
  • Clarissa Ayala, Lone Star Legal Aid
  • Saundra J. Brown, Lone Star Legal Aid
  • Jeanne Ortiz-Ortiz, Pro Bono Net

Thursday, 8:45am
Older Adults & Technology: The Changing Landscape of Access to Justice for Seniors*

  • Sarah R Galvan, Justice in Aging/National Center on Law & Elder Rights
  • Claudia Johnson, Pro Bono Net
  • David Travis, Chautauqua County Family Court
  • Molly M. K. White, Center for Elder Law & Justice

Thursday, 10:30am
Made in NYC: Emerging Access to Justice Technology

  • Tim Baran, Pro Bono Net
  • Felicity Conrad, Paladin
  • Thomas Officer, Community.lawyer
  • Kristin Turner, Upsolve
  • Linda Tvrdy, DaisyDebt.org

Friday, 8:00am
LawHelp/probono.net Network Session: What’s New and What’s Next for 2019

  • Quisquella Addison, Pro Bono Net
  • Alex Clark, Montana Legal Services Association
  • Mike Grunenwald, Pro Bono Net
  • Laurie Rashidi-Yazd, Atlanta Legal Aid Society Inc.

Friday, 9:30am
Creating Inclusive Justice Ecosystems in Alaska and Hawaii: Developments in the Legal Navigator Initiative*

  • Sergio Alcubilla, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii
  • Lester Bird, The Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Mark O’Brien, Pro Bono Net
  • Stacey Marz, Alaska Court System
  • Glenn Rawdon, Legal Services Corporation

Friday, 11:15am
Connecting Clients to Access — Remotely Bringing Attorneys and Clients Together for Document Assembly

  • Craig Harrison, Utah Legal Services
  • Michael Hofrichter, Houston Volunteer Lawyers
  • Claudia Johnson, Pro Bono Net

Friday, 11:15am
Measuring Impact: An Analytics Framework for Civil Legal Nonprofits*

  • Tim Baran, Pro Bono Net
  • Maureen Jouhet, Illinois Legal Aid Online
  • Meaghan McDermott, Maryland Legal Aid

 

National Celebrate Pro Bono Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need and the incredibly important work of pro bono volunteers in building our capacity to meet the vast unmet need for civil legal services. This year we have been celebrating National Pro Bono Week by focusing on disaster resiliency. Today we are highlighting additional pro bono work around the country, and sharing resources to help volunteer attorneys get started. 

Earlier this year, the separation of families at the boarder headlined news outlets everywhere. Now? Not so much. While headlines in the US may have moved on, many families are still separated and immigrant parents are still detained in more than 200 immigrant prisons and jails in the U.S.

According to recent numbers, more than 4,000 parents and children were separated at the US-Mexico border between May 5, 2018 and June 9, 2018 as part of earlier “no tolerance” policy under the current administration. While efforts to reunite families have begun, thousands of parents and children still face uphill legal battles for reunification and relief.

Continue Reading An Interview with Betty Balli Torres, Pro Bono Net Board of Directors | A Pro Bono Week Exclusive

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need and the incredibly important work of pro bono volunteers in building our capacity to meet the vast unmet need for civil legal services.  This year we are celebrating National Pro Bono Week by focusing on disaster resiliency in addition to pro bono work around the country. Throughout the week we will be sharing events, resources, and highlights of the work being done to help people facing legal challenges post-disaster. We are very proud to showcase this work and hope that it will inspire more people to get involved.

We’re excited to commemorate the American Bar Association’s National Pro Bono Week, a celebration of pro bono legal assistance involving events planned and attended by public interest legal advocates and the organizations they work with. This year’s celebration is focused on disaster resiliency. Recent disasters such as Hurricanes Michael and Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut devastated communities in the southeast and U.S. territories in the Pacific.

This month, Pro Bono Net joined Dentsu Aegis Network, a global marketing communications network, for a 2-day event titled IdeaJam Hackathon, to mark the beginning of a media campaign for disaster survivors and pro bono attorneys.

Continue Reading Pro Bono Net Joins Dentsu Aegis Network for an IdeaJam to Connect Disaster Survivors with Free Legal Help

Celebrate Pro Bono WeekPro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need and the incredibly important work of pro bono volunteers in building our capacity to meet the vast unmet need for civil legal services.  This year we are celebrating National Pro Bono Week by focusing on disaster resiliency in addition to pro bono work around the country. Throughout the week we will be sharing events, resources and highlights of the work being done to help people facing legal challenges post disaster. We are very proud to showcase this work and hope that it will inspire more people to get involved.

Volunteer attorneys make a big difference in the lives of disaster survivors. In order to help those volunteers with their work, Pro Bono Net partners with organizations around the US and its territories to develop resources, tools, and networks to better prepare and facilitate volunteering. In addition to the roundtables we discussed yesterday, Pro Bono Net offers access to news and alerts, listservs, trainings, libraries and volunteer opportunities specially designed for disaster legal aid advocates.

Continue Reading DisasterLegalAid.org Advocacy Center | Pro Bono Week

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need and the incredibly important work of pro bono volunteers in building our capacity to meet the vast unmet need for civil legal services.  This year we are celebrating National Pro Bono Week by focusing on disaster resiliency in addition to pro bono work around the country. Throughout the week we will be sharing events, resources and highlights of the work being done to help people facing legal challenges post disaster. We are very proud to showcase this work and hope that it will inspire more people to get involved.

This summer Pro Bono Net launched a national roundtable series to discuss topics of cross-cutting interest to disaster legal aid practitioners across regions, in partnership with Lone Star Legal Aid and the Legal Services Corporation.

Continue Reading Ready, Willing & Able: Organizing the Legal Community’s Response to Disasters | A Pro Bono Week Roundtable Discussion

Originally published by NYS Office of Victim Services

New York, NY (October 1, 2018) – The New York State Office of Victim Services today announced a new website connecting crime victims with information and free civil legal assistance is being piloted in three Western New York counties, allowing victims to learn about their rights and connect with resources or legal representation. Established using $1.5 million in federal funds secured by the state agency, the New York Crime Victims Legal Help website will initially serve Erie, Genesee and Niagara counties and will expand to serve crime victims Upstate and on Long Island by the end of 2019.

Continue Reading New York Crime Victims Legal Help being piloted in Erie, Genesee and Niagara counties