November 2012

The legal community has mobilized to respond to Hurricane Sandy, and Pro Bono Net is heavily involved in these efforts.  Below we reprint a letter sent to New York-based members of outlining some upcoming trainings related to the relief efforts.  To learn more, visit our Hurricane Sandy Legal Relief page.



November 8, 2012

Dear members,

It has been a little over one week since Hurricane Sandy landed on our shores, and devastated the lives of so many New Yorkers and residents of neighboring states. The New York legal aid and pro bono community has already begun to provide direct services to those most affected, including filing for FEMA and Disaster Unemployment Insurance benefits, answering immigration status questions, documenting and filing insurance claims, and many other immediate legal needs of individuals and small businesses.

We also know from experience with past disasters that these legal needs are just starting; they will evolve and become more complex in the months ahead. As the community creates and coordinates longer-term plans to ensure that people who need legal services can access them in their communities, here are some ways you can stay involved and prepare yourselves to help out.

There are three trainings for pro bono attorneys and law students scheduled over the next few days. Two of these are live trainings at the New York City Bar; the other is an online webinar:

Disaster Assistance Training for Pro Bono Lawyers Assisting Individuals and Families
By: City Bar Justice Center, The Legal Aid Society, Legal Services NYC, and the City Bar Committee on Pro Bono and Legal Services
When: Friday, November 9, 10:00 AM -12:00 pm EST (Tomorrow)
Where: New York City Bar, 42 West 44th Street

Storm-Related Legal Services Relief
By: New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG)
When: Friday, November 9, 11:00 AM -12:30 pm EST (Tomorrow)
Where: Online Webinar

NELP Disaster Assistance Training For Small Businesses
By: City Bar Justice Center NELP Program
When: Tuesday, November 13, 2:00 PM – 4:00 pm EST
Where: New York City Bar, 42 West 44th Street

All of these trainings will be recorded and made available for viewing at a later date, along with training materials, in the NYC Pro Bono Center library, and will be prominently featured on our Hurricane Sandy Legal Relief page at:

Going forward, we will send out regular updates to members of the NYC Pro Bono Center. If you are not already a member of that site, and would like to receive future hurricane relief updates, please use this link to join:

If you have questions or information you would like to share about activities that your firm is undertaking, please contact our Pro Bono Coordinator Adam Friedl at If you encounter any problems joining or logging in to the site, please email


Mark O’Brien, Executive Director

Adam Friedl, Pro Bono Coordinator

“Librarians [are] very natural navigators.  That’s what they do, they help people figure out what resources they need to use, what medium they may need in order to move forward.” -Stacie Colston Patterson, Illinois Legal Aid Online.

November 2 marked the last of Pro Bono Net’s Libraries & Access to Justice Webinar Series, “Developing Legal Aid-Library Collaborations: Models and Replication Resources.”  This webinar focused on five collaboration models throughout the country, including the technologies they use, the partners they engage, and what they’ve learned along the way.

Collaborations and Programming

Stacie Colston Patterson, Outreach Coordinator at Illinois Legal Aid Online, presented four partnership programs forged between the legal community and public libraries in Illinois.  This includes legal self help centers, which can be found in 99 of the 102 counties in Illinois, 80 of which are housed in public libraries. Another program, “Law at the Library” brings attorneys and judges through the Chicago Bar into Chicago Public Libraries for seminars on specific legal topics, which are then streamed and archived by Illinois Legal Aid Online. The final two programs focus on training librarians and cyber navigators (part time employees housed at libraries throughout Chicago to help patrons use library computers) on the online legal resources available to patrons, providing training opportunities for library staff, and additional collaboration opportunities.

Janine Liebert, Librarian for Programs and Partnerships at the LA Law Library spoke about four models used to collaborate with legal aid agencies.  These include topical legal information sessions in public libraries, answer clinics with self help centers in the libraries, traditional legal clinics, and access to justice via technology.  The subjects they cover vary widely and are responsive to the needs of their patrons, and have recently included debt collection, consumer law and veterans’ benefits.  These collaborative models provide access to legal information and referrals for patrons, serve as a focal point for joint outreach for legal aid agencies and libraries, serve as a means for early intervention for some patrons (allowing them to access mediation or deferred action programs), advocate the public library’s role in access to justice, and support the courts by providing self-represented litigants with information.

These services also include internal trainings, such as a recent CitizenshipWorks training the LA Law Library hosted for more than 50 public and law librarians.   Tony Lu, CitizenshipWorks Project Coordinator, discussed this initiative and how librarians can use to help residents become citizens.  CitizenshipWorks is an initiative that assists those seeking citizenship in understanding and navigating the naturalization process.  The Los Angeles Public Library system, in partnership with local naturalization service providers, is creating “Citizenship Corners” in each library branch; incorporating computer terminals featuring CitizenshipWorks into these Citizenship Corners will allow library patrons to use interactive tools to learn about the naturalization process, learn about their eligibility, and find legal help  In addition, libraries in Los Angeles are beginning to partner with citizenship service providers to conduct group processing workshops using CitizenshipWorks in their computer labs, where groups of people can be served by volunteers to complete their naturalization applications.

Continue Reading Legal Aid/Library Collaborations – Lessons Learned