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Connecting Justice Communities

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

Posted in Legal Services, Pro Bono, Technology

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.

“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 said. “Many times, they are unsure of the assistance they need or unaware of the legal resources that are available. This website will be a beacon for these individuals – a place where they can easily learn about their rights as a crime victim and locate critical legal resources to help them navigate civil matters.”

The Office of Victim Services partnered with the Empire Justice Center, Pro Bono Net and the University at Albany’s Center for Human Services Research to create the website, which will assist crime victims outside of New York City. Civil legal resources can be scarce or difficult to access in the rest of the state, particularly in rural communities. 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 website’s screening tool and legal help directory will help connect crime victims from Erie, Genesee and Niagara counties with advocates and non-profit legal organizations that may be able to assist them. Crime victims in areas outside of those three counties may still use the website to find information about their rights, learn more about their legal issues, and access resources such as legal forms and links to other service providers. By the end of next year, the screening tool and legal help directory will be available in the state’s 57 counties outside of New York City.

The New York Crime Victims Legal Help website focuses on the most common civil legal problems identified by crime victims and service providers through a needs assessment conducted by the Center for Human Services Research: family, housing, finances, employment, and immigration matters. Erie, Genesee and Niagara counties were selected for the pilot because they already have a strong network of civil legal services and the three counties have a cross-section of urban and rural communities.

Pro Bono Net and the Empire Justice Center also identified legal advocates who will assist crime victims using the website and recruited trained law student volunteers who will staff the website’s live chat function. The federal Office of Victims of Crime awarded the $1.5 million grant to the state Office of Victim Services for the project.

Remla Parthasarathy, Crime Victims Legal Help Project Leader at the Empire Justice Center, said, “Empire Justice Center is proud to be part of this project and we are really excited about its potential. While the online resource is currently being piloted on a limited basis, much of the site is accessible throughout the state, making the ‘Know Your Rights’ library and the free legal forms sections available to provide current, accurate information to any victim of crime who has civil legal concerns. We look forward to continuing to expand the content and legal directory on the site to include civil legal providers from across New York.”

Pro Bono Net Program Director Liz Keith said, “New York Crime Victims Legal Help offers a user-friendly online resource to ensure victims of crime can find and understand the information they need in legal matters pertaining to housing, family law, and safety concerns. We look forward to working with our partners on this effort to expand the site’s capacity to reach more victims statewide and to strengthen the essential work of legal advocates and nonprofit organizations assisting them.”

Susan Ehrhard-Dietzel, Senior Research Scientist at UAlbany’s Center for Human Services Research, said, “Crime Victims Legal Help will be a phenomenal resource for underserved and disadvantaged populations in Western New York and throughout Upstate and Long Island in the near future. UAlbany’s Center for Human Services Research has been a proud partner in this meaningful endeavor and looks forward to seeing the positive impact the network will have in helping and empowering crime victims.”

The Office of Victim Services provides a safety net for crime victims and/or their family members, helping eligible individuals with medical and counseling expenses, funeral and burial expenses, lost wages and support, in addition to other assistance, all at no cost to taxpayers. The agency also funds 222 victim assistance programs that provide direct services, including counseling, advocacy and legal services, across the state. For more information, eligibility guidelines and to locate a victim assistance program, visit www.ovs.ny.gov or call 1-800-247-8035.

The mission of the Empire Justice Center (www.empirejustice.org)  is to protect and strengthen the legal rights of the poor, disabled or disenfranchised through advocacy, training to other advocates, and high-quality direct civil legal representation. Based in New York City, Pro Bono Net (www.probono.net) is a nonprofit leader in developing innovative technology and forging collaborations to increase access to justice.

The Center for Human Services Research (www.albany.edu/chsr) is part of UAlbany’s School of Social Welfare and has more than 20 years of experience conducting evaluation research, designing information systems, and informing policy and program development for a broad spectrum of agencies serving vulnerable populations.

Crime Victims Legal Help (https://crimevictimshelpny.org/) was established as a result of work done by the New York State Office of Victim Services and its partner agencies, the Center for Human Services Research, the Empire Justice Center and Pro Bono Net, under Grant No. 2014-XV-BX-K009 awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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Update on Disaster Legal Response Efforts in Puerto Rico

Posted in Disaster Legal Aid, Legal Services, Pro Bono, Resources

Puerto Rico and other areas affected by last year’s hurricanes have been in the news prominently in recent months, but what happens when the media spotlight fades? After the cameras are gone, the physical damages remain and rebuilding is an arduous process. Pro Bono Net recognizes the importance of providing access to legal assistance in the wake of natural disasters and works with partners across the country to build innovative solutions to the short and long-term legal needs arising from these events, which disproportionately impact low income and vulnerable communities.

These needs range from housing instability, job loss, loss of important personal documents, as well as issues applying for FEMA aid or being denied by FEMA, that severely complicate the recovery process. As the Louisiana justice community’s experience with Hurricane Katrina demonstrated, it can take up to ten years (sometimes longer) to resolve the range of legal issues that many survivors face after a disaster.

Spotlight on Puerto Rico

Pro Bono Net has been particularly involved in the disaster response effort in Puerto Rico following Hurricane María, which hit the island on starting on September 19, 2017. With the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season in full swing, not only is Puerto Rico still working to rebuild, but communities are preparing for the next disasters to hit.

Though Puerto Rico is facing a variety of issues, in our work with justice community stakeholders in Puerto Rico, we have learned that one of the largest is the disconnect between laws in Puerto Rico and the federal laws that govern the FEMA process. For example, in Puerto Rico houses can be passed down from generation to generation, and the generation in the house at that specific time is considered to own the house. However, according to federal law that house belongs to the person who’s name is officially on the deed.

Other issues include loss of homeownership and other documents that the federal government requires. These documents are easily destroyed by hurricanes and often left behind during evacuations. With roughly 300,000 homes destroyed in the hurricane, numerous foreclosures and evictions, as well as relocations, it is clear that housing in Puerto Rico is a big concern.

In the months after the hurricane, many Puerto Ricans could access services due to a lack of power, cellular service or internet access needed to do so, or an inability to access the physical location of services. Some people are hard to reach if they live far away or if they are hard to get to because of debris and damage. Even now 5% of the population still lacks power and connections are inconsistent. Many individuals faced significant challenges in applying for and appealing FEMA claims, even with multiple extensions, and FEMA’s own records show that nearly 60% of claims filed in Puerto Rico have been denied – double the number following Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

Since October 2017, Pro Bono Net has worked with Ayuda Legal Huracán María, a coalition of justice community organizations s in Puerto Rico and the mainland supporting disaster response efforts. This coalition is led locally by the AyudaLegalPR.org Project Director, Ariadna Godreau-Aubert. AyudaLegalPR.org, Puerto Rico’s first comprehensive online civil legal rights resource, was developed in 2015 through a collaboration between justice community organizations in Puerto Rico and Pro Bono Net, and has had more than 850,000 users to date.

Ayuda Legal Huracán María partners in Puerto Rico are leveraging a dedicated portal on AyudaLegalPR.org to support online and offline outreach to affected communities, including through“brigades” of pro bono attorneys, law students and community organizers who have conducted dozens of disaster legal rights workshops and clinics throughout Puerto Rico. The portal focuses on providing legal information regarding housing issues, insurance claims, unemployment assistance, and much more. Ariadna was a guest speaker at a Pro Bono Net event in March bringing together lawyers, volunteers, nonprofits and other members of the justice community to discuss disaster recovery efforts and the latest challenges facing Puerto Rico. Click here to learn more and view clips of the event. Many other justice community organizations, including Servicios Legales de Puerto Rico, are playing a vital role in helping individuals and communities rebuild and recover.

Pro Bono Net’s Involvement in Broader Disaster Response Efforts

Ensuring that disaster survivors know their rights and legal options in the wake of disaster is the first step to recovery and rebuilding. From 9/11 through Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, Pro Bono Net has been deeply involved in developing and supporting disaster response strategies that leverage online tools and resources to provide meaningful and timely legal assistance for survivors.

In addition to our work with local field programs, in 2008 we co-developed the National Disaster Legal Aid Resource Center in partnership with the American Bar Association, LSC, and NLADA. Since 2012, Pro Bono Net has jointly managed this initiative in partnership with Lone Star Legal Aid, one of leading legal aid programs in the disaster response arena. The Resource Center is designed to help those affected by natural disasters rebuild their lives, and serves as a vital support resource for legal aid and pro bono attorneys working to assist those in need of legal help after disasters. The Resource Center also provides information and tools to mobilize and support pro bono attorneys and other legal professionals engaged in disaster response efforts.

This summer, Pro Bono Net also launched a new online Advocacy Center for DisasterLegalAid.org to help network public interest legal advocates working on disaster response issues across regions. Registration is free, and advocates from nonprofit legal aid organizations, bar associations, pro bono counsel from law firms and corporations, law school students and faculty, and allied nonprofits working on disaster legal aid are welcome to join. The Advocacy Center includes a new national listserv, a library of specialized advocacy resources, information about a monthly roundtable series Pro Bono Net is co-hosting through 2018, and more. This was made possible in part by the generous support of the JPB Foundation.

What you can do

If you or someone you know are looking to learn more about your legal rights after a natural disaster or how to prepare for upcoming disasters, click here for more information.

If you are an attorney or other legal professional and are looking to volunteer pro bono and help Puerto Rican communities, please visit www.disasterlegalaid.org/volunteer/ or join the Disaster Legal Aid Advocacy Center. If you are not an attorney but you still want to help, raising awareness is important too. Stay informed and help others become informed as well.


Join us June 5th for “Achieving 100% Access” with Honorable Jonathan Lippman

Posted in Legal Services, PLI, Pro Bono, Staff News, Technology, Webinar

Pro Bono Net is teaming up with the Practising Law Institute to bring you a discussion about the access to justice movement and the role of pro bono in closing the gap with Honorable Jonathan Lippman and Pro Bono Net’s Executive Director, Mark O’Brien. Register now for this FREE presentation.

Achieving 100% Access: A Conversation with the Honorable Jonathan Lippman About Pro Bono’s Role in Bridging the Justice Gap is a one-hour discussion between the Honorable Jonathan Lippman, former Chief Judge of the State of New York, and Mark O’Brien, Executive Director of Pro Bono Net, on a number of topics related to the access to justice community and the roles of Pro Bono and technology in closing the justice gap.

Questions to be addressed include: how can pro bono effectively help meet the legal needs of the underserved? How should pro bono respond to emerging trends in the access-to-justice movement? What are – and how do we address – the limitations of the traditional role of pro bono in the access-to-justice movement? Register now for the one-hour briefing on June 5th.

If you are interested in additional discussions between Mark O’Brien and Honorable Jonathan Lippman on access to justice, please visit our website for highlights from our 2016 event A Conversation with Judge Jonathan Lippman.

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.

Immi Wins 2018 ClearMark Award for Plain Language

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

The Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) and Pro Bono Net (PBN) won this year’s ClearMark Award from the Center for Plain Language, for best Spanish-language website.  The winning site,  https://immi.org/es, which was launched shortly after the November 2016 elections, helps immigrants understand their legal options and find legal help.  

Immi is a free online resource, in English and Spanish. It uses accessible language to reach a wide audience.  An estimated 15 to 20% of the 10 to 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. are eligible for legal status.  Immi’s interactive quiz asks questions about family, immigration history, and circumstances to help them identify the options.  The site provides additional plain language articles on immigration law, legal rights, how to get good legal help, and more. It has a directory of over 1,000 nonprofit legal service providers, searchable by location. Most recently, we launched a new “Make a Plan” interview on immi, to help immigrants prepare for the risk of arrest or deportation, and protect their families.

Pat Malone Accepting the ClearMark Award

“We created immi to empower immigrants,” said IAN associate director Pat Malone. “Plain language is essential, if we want people to understand the law and their rights.”  IAN’s in-house team worked with plain language experts at Transcend, subject matter experts at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) and PBN’s tech team to deliver the language-accessible screening interviews and articles.

The ClearMark judges commented, “Immi’s straightforward, ethical, and easy to use tools and information on immigration options represents a great free educational service to millions of undocumented people in the United States.”

For more about the ClearMark Awards:  https://centerforplainlanguage.org/awards/clearmark/2018-winners/

Congrats to all involved!


Pro Bono Net at this year’s Equal Justice Conference

Posted in Announcements, Conferences, Staff News, Technology

Pro Bono Net staff members will be presenting on a variety of equal justice issues at the 2018 Equal Justice Conference (EJC) this week in California. The Conference takes place May 10th – 12th in San Diego and is hosted by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service and the National Legal Aid & Defender Association.

Pro Bono Net is a national nonprofit leader in increasing access to justice through innovative uses of technology and collaboration. Our staff is made up of a cross-disciplinary team from legal, technology, and community engagement backgrounds who are committed to finding innovative, sustainable solutions for expanding access to justice. The Equal Justice Conference brings together all components of the legal community to discuss equal justice issues as they relate to the delivery of legal services to the poor. Staff members will present on a wide range of topics, including cutting-edge collaboration models in the justice communities, technology to expand pro bono participation, and designing and delivering better tools to assist self-represented litigants.

Staff attending the conference includes Mark O’Brien, Executive Director; Liz Keith, Program Director; Quisquella Addison, LawHelpNY Program Director; Claudia Johnson, LawHelp Interactive Program Manager; Mike Grunenwald, Program Manager; Jeanne Ortiz, Disaster Response Legal Fellow; and Jessica Stuart, Pro Bono Manager Product Manager.

Pro Bono Net staff are participating in the conference workshops below. For more details on each workshop, please visit the EJC website here. In addition, PBN Board Chair and Microsoft Strategic Policy Advisor Dave Heiner and Program Director Liz Keith will be presenting about the Legal Access Platform initiative at Saturday’s National Meeting of State Access to Justice Commission Chairs, along with representatives from LSC, the Alaska Court System and the Legal Aid Society of Hawai’i. 

Thursday, 10 AM

Beyond the Pro Bono Manual:  Mobile-Centric Strategies to Engage and Support Volunteers

  • Barbara Siegel, Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association
  • Mike Grunenwald, probono.net Program Coordinator, Pro Bono Net

Incubating Innovation in the Aloha and Midnight Sun States: Updates on the Justice Portal Initiative

  • Nalani Fujimori Kaina, Legal Aid Society of Hawai’i, Honolulu, HI
  • Liz Keith, Program Director, Pro Bono Net, San Francisco, CA
  • Stacey Marz, Alaska Court System, Anchorage, AK
  • Glenn Rawdon, LSC, Washington, DC

LSC, Microsoft and Pro Bono Net are partnering with Alaska and Hawaii to develop new justice portals to help all people with civil legal needs more easily access assistance. We will highlight findings from user immersion studies and ideation workshops conducted in each state, intersections with Justice for All initiatives, and developments in this project’s cutting-edge technology and partnership strategies.

Thursday, 11:45 AM

LawHelp / probono.net / LawHelp Interactive Network Gathering / Affinity Group

Programs are invited to share project highlights and connect with others around the country working on or interested in LawHelp.org, probono.net, LHI online forms initiatives or other innovative uses of technology to expand pro bono participation. Contact Liz Keith at lkeith@probono.net with any questions.

Thursday, 1:45PM

Beyond The Hotline: Expanding Through Live Chat And Pro Bono

  • Quisquella Addison, LawHelpNY Program Director, Pro Bono Net
  • Melissa LaRocco, Legal Aid of Western Ohio
  • Eve Ricaurte, Iowa Legal Aid

Many legal service organizations provide legal information and referrals through hotlines staffed internally. This panel will invite providers to consider expanding hotline-type services through live chat programs that don’t unduly tax staff, take advantage of pro bono, and reach community members where they increasingly seek out information – online.

Thursday, 3:30 PM

Courts, Legal Aid, and Self Help Centers Working together to Help Many

  • Ana Maria Garcia, Managing Attorney, Access to Justice Initiatives, NLSLA
  • Claudia Colindres Johnson, Program Manager, LawHelp Interactive, Pro Bono Net

When every day at 8am there is a line of people seeking help at your doorstep, your program needs to develop methods and tools to be efficient, effective and provide quality services without compromising quality of compassion. In this workshop we will share how two of the highest volume self help centers in Southern CA run and manage their self help centers to be able to serve all that come in a timely basis. They will share about staffing, workflow, and systems that they use to provide quality services with high quality and high capacity.

Friday, 8:30 AM

50 Tech Tips

  • David Bonebrake, Legal Services Corporation, Washington, DC
  • Liz Keith, Program Director, Pro Bono Net, San Francisco, CA
  • Glenn Rawdon, Legal Services Corporation, Washington, DC
  • Jane Ribadeneyra, Legal Services Corporation, portland, OR

50 new technology tips! This fast-paced session will provide tips about free and low-cost tools, apps and software to help improve your efficiency and effectiveness in providing legal assistance to the low-income community.  This session will help further equal justice for diverse client communities or workplaces by providing advocates with technology tips and tools that can help them do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. Tips will be geared toward specific legal applications and general software tips and tools that address common challenges.

About Pro Bono Net

Pro Bono Net is a national non-profit organization dedicated to increasing access to justice. Through innovative technology solutions and expertise in building and mobilizing justice networks, Pro Bono Net transforms the way legal help reaches the underserved. Comprehensive programs including www.probono.net, www.lawhelp.org,  www.lawhelpinteractive.org and the Immigration Advocates Network, enable legal advocates to make a stronger impact, increase volunteer participation, and empower the public with resources and self-help tools to improve their lives.

About the Equal Justice Conference

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

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

National Volunteer Week 2018 Highlight: Wantee Ramkaran, LiveHelp Volunteer

Posted in Legal Services, Technology, Volunteer Profile

In honor of National Volunteer Week we will be highlighting volunteers and sharing ways lawyers and advocates can get involved. Today we would like to highlight Wantee Ramkaran, a LiveHelp Volunteer for LawHelpNY

LawHelpNY.org, is a website designed to help low-income New Yorkers solve their legal problems. Volunteers staff LiveHelp, an online, real-time chat service that directs users towards relevant self-help materials, legal services organizations and court information.  

Wantee Ramkaran, LiveHelp VolunteerWantee Ramkaran
LiveHelp Volunteer, LawHelpNY

Wantee is a first-year law student at Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center, and started working with LawHelpNY in October 2017.  Although she completed her New York State pro bono requirements months ago, Wantee continues to volunteer as a LiveHelp Operator for LawHelpNY because in her words, “it is truly a rewarding experience.”  Through LiveHelp, Wantee has continuously provided excellent support for people in crisis.  She has connected people in need with helpful legal information and referrals to legal service providers.  In addition to providing great information, Wantee has shined in maintaining a compassionate and helpful tone in her chats.

Hear more about Wantee’s experience as a LiveHelp Operator:

Why did you decide to do pro bono volunteer work with LiveHelp?

When I learned about LawHelpNY and its’ mission, it was something I definitely wanted to become a part of. I didn’t know there was a resource out there like LawHelpNY. There is so much information available on the website. I was surprised that I could play such an important role as a law student. Knowledge is power and I am an advocate for making New Yorkers better aware of their basic rights and the resources that are available to them.

Why were you interested in volunteering with LiveHelp?

At first, I wanted to make a difference. However, I was actually surprised about the vast amount of New York law I’ve learned about since I started my service with LawHelpNY.

Can you share a highlight from a memorable case?

After providing legal information and resources to someone, the person replied “You’re wonderful! …This website is very helpful!” The individual was so ecstatic and it was the greatest feeling knowing that I helped bring so much happiness to a person. It was a reminder of how rewarding pro bono work can be.

Why do you feel it’s important for you to do pro bono work? What motivates you?

Being a law student or a lawyer is very special. It is more than a “title.” When you are a law student or lawyer, you are exposed to unique positions that can positively impact the lives of others. I think law students and lawyers should take advantage of these opportunities that are available.

I wanted to attend law school and become an attorney for as long as I can remember. I am a first-generation college graduate and the first in my family to attend law school. I want to give back to the same low-income community that I came from as well. I worked really hard to get where I am in life, but there are a lot of people who has helped me get where I am today – family, teachers and professors, past supervisors and mentors. I believe giving back to my community serves as a “thank you” to everyone that has helped get to where I am today. It is the least I can do.

How has your pro bono service impacted you?  

My pro bono service has helped me find my passion of working in public interest. When I started law school, I was unsure about what area of law I wanted to practice in. However, I enjoy serving my community and I would not mind going to work a single day in my life if I am able to help those in need of assistance.

What did you find most challenging?

The most challenging part is speaking with individuals who are facing a difficult time and now knowing if their problems are resolved. When you become involved with helping others, you just wish the best for everyone and hope that no one will go through difficulties in life. It serves as a constant reminder to be nice and respectful to everyone because you never truly understand what type of difficulties someone is facing.

So it is obvious that the need is overwhelming, but so is a busy work day: how do you find the time?

Law school is very stressful and sometimes it is difficult to find time to volunteer. However, I look forward to stopping for three hours to complete my shift because I am able to think about something other than school. It is a win-win: I am able to relax while helping others.

LiveHelp is a bilingual online simultaneous live chat service that offers legal information and referrals to legal services providers for visitors to LawHelpNY, AyudaLegalNY, NYCourts.gov/CourtHelp’s Families and Children and Foreclosure sections, LawHelpNY’s micro sites and the Legal Information for Families Today website. LiveHelp is available Monday-Friday 9 am – 9 pm, and is available on mobile devices. LiveHelp is staffed by law student, law graduate, attorney volunteers, under the supervision of a barred attorney in New York State. Additionally a staff member from Legal Information for Families today staffs LiveHelp Monday-Friday 10-1pm offering live chat assistance to visitors facing family court issues.

National Volunteer Week 2018 Highlight: #STANDWITHIMMIGRANTS – Connecting Volunteers to Resources and Opportunities

Posted in Immigration, Pro Bono, Resources, Technology

In honor of National Volunteer Week we will be highlighting volunteers and sharing ways lawyers and advocates can get involved. Today we would like to highlight the StandWithImmigrants campaign from Immigration Advocates Network.

We need volunteers to join the campaign and pledge to Stand with Immigrants!

Visit www.standwithimmigrants.org to get involved. The site offers volunteer opportunities, resources, trainings, and calls to action. There are many ways to get involved, whether you are a lawyer, educator, social worker, health care provider, interpreter, community activist, or concerned neighbor. Some volunteer opportunities require special skills, such as legal training or language proficiency, while others only require time and the desire to help.

When you visit the site, you are invited to “take the pledge.” We’ll send you the Stand With Immigrants monthly newsletter, and update your “action center” on the site to connect you to volunteer opportunities based on location, interests, and areas of expertise.

Search for general volunteer opportunities by profession and location, or specific volunteer positions on the “volunteers needed” page. Explore our resource pages, and find fact sheets, toolkits, podcasts, and recorded webinars on immigration policy, volunteer opportunities, how best to serve immigrant clients, and much more.

Take the pledge today to #StandWithImmigrants and follow the campaign on facebook and twitter to stay up to date on current events and volunteer needs.



The Stand With Immigrants campaign is a collaboration of the Immigration Advocates Network, American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), The Advocates for Human Rights, UnidosUS, and Pro Bono Net.

National Volunteer Week 2018 Highlight: City Bar Volunteers Kick Off FEMA Appeals Clinics

Posted in Disaster Legal Aid, Legal Services, Pro Bono, Resources, Volunteer Profile

In honor of National Volunteer Week we will be highlighting volunteers and sharing ways lawyers and advocates can get involved. Today we would like to highlight the work of the Pro Bono FEMA Appeals Clinics which were initiated in response to the 2017 hurricane season.

Probono.net/ny is the New York state network site of probono.net and strives to mobilize and support the volunteer legal community.  Probono.net/ny includes the NYC Pro Bono Center (hosted with the Legal Aid Society and the City Bar Justice Center), and a number of different practice area specific sites, including in family law/domestic violence, community development, housing and foreclosure. The information on our site is made possible by the contributions and collaborations we make with our network of legal service providers in the NY community.

The following highlight was originally published HERE.

Pro Bono FEMA Appeals Clinics for the 2017 hurricane season kicked off on December 11 at the New York City Bar Association with three pro bono attorneys and three clients with support from the City Bar Justice Center. The clinics are made possible by the collaborative efforts of the City Bar, the Association of Pro Bono Counsel, and members of the new Task Force on Disaster Relief launched by New York’s Chief Judge Janet DiFiore. As City Bar President John Kiernan described in his statement on disaster relief,

“Veterans of providing disaster legal services knew from the outset that given the scale of the hurricanes’ effects, the need for assistance from volunteer lawyers would certainly ripen and crystallize once the immediate humanitarian crisis advanced to the next recovery stage.”

Indeed, FEMA reported receiving over 4.5 million benefits applications from storm victims, and the call for pro bono lawyers became clear when FEMA began issuing denials in mid-November.

At the clinic, one of the clients had been evacuated from Puerto Rico. Living in a shelter, the client was denied FEMA assistance because the client had not applied first for a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan. The pro bono team called FEMA on a cell phone and engaged in advocacy, filed an online SBA loan application which was immediately rejected, and called FEMA back to pursue his application for relief. Luckily, FEMA’s phone line is open until 10 p.m.

The second client was a mom with two special needs children who is in the midst of a divorce. She is housed and the kids are in school but missing many items from the hurricane. FEMA granted approximately two thousand dollars to repair her home but she needs to appeal, and will return to the clinic next month.

Attorneys were able to help a third client at the clinic – a Superstorm Sandy victim who is still undergoing home repairs. He noticed the FEMA Appeals sign and walked over from the City Bar’s Monday Night Law clinic. This instance of a Sandy homeowner in need of free legal counsel illustrates how years later, New Yorkers are still dealing with home repairs from Sandy and the Build it Back Program.

Please visit the City Bar Justice Center calendar to learn how to volunteer and make the holidays a little brighter for hurricane victims in New York. Pro bono legal help makes an extraordinary difference for families in crises.

In honor of National Volunteer Week 2018, April 15-21, Pro Bono Net would like to extend our gratitude to the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need.  For those at risk of losing their homes, income and even their children, volunteer lawyers are an indispensable resource. Now more than ever it is important for us to support our most vulnerable communities. This wouldn’t be possible without the immense efforts of volunteer lawyers around the country and the organizations that facilitate volunteering.

Now on immi: Make A Plan to Protect You and Your Family

Posted in Announcements, Immigration, Mobile, Resources, Social Media, Technology

Make a Plan

What if you or a loved one were taken abruptly by immigration enforcement agents? What would you need to prepare for yourself and your family? At a time of increased and aggressive immigration enforcement, it is good practice to be well-equipped and take appropriate steps to be prepared.

“Make A Plan” is a new resource on immi.org, a project by the Immigration Advocates Network (IAN). Make A Plan was created in response to emergency requests by immigrant families at workshops and community events. Parents wanted to know who their children can stay with, and who can pick them up at school. Heads of household wondered what would happen to their home, business, bank accounts, and insurance policies. The scarcity in organizational knowledge and capacity to provide planning services is what led to the inception of Make A Plan.

Make A Plan puts knowledge in the hands of anyone with a digital device. By answering a few simple questions, anyone can get a checklist of what to do to protect their children, manage their home, bank accounts, insurance and other financial assets if they are detained or deported. Additionally, Make a Plan links to the confidential immigration screening tool in immi, which helps people find out if they may qualify for lawful status in the U.S. Make a Plan is available in English and Spanish. It is free to use on phone, tablet, or desktop at https://www.immi.org/home/make_a_plan.

Let others know about immi. Order free Know-Your-Rights cards to hand out at your office or events: www.immi.org/order. Visit immi’s Facebook Page at www.fb.com/my.immi for graphics to share on social media. Join us in inviting others to #MakeAPlan with immi. Help us get the word out!

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.