December 2013

I will be the first to admit it, I am a Facebook junkie.  It’s my New Year’s resolution to break the habit, but in the mean time I am inundated with the typical end-of-the-year “list projects” in my news feed.  This year, it is the “Top 10 books that have stayed with you”.  So when faced with sitting down to do a “Year in Review” of the Connecting Justice Communities Blog, I’m taking a page from Facebook, and reflecting on the blogs that will stay with me and why:

This is by no means a complete list, (for a full list you’d have to read all the series in our blog!) but it’s a place to start. By just sitting down to write this I am more excited than ever to see what next year holds!

On December 16, the Practising Law Institute (PLI) presented a program on “Ethical Issues in Pro Bono Representation”, featuring a star-stacked panel of legal services attorneys, pro bono coordinators, area experts, and more. The group discussed a variety of issues in pro bono, ranging from client identification and confidentiality to spotting and resolving conflicts.

The panelists discussed the difficulties inherent to many pro bono cases such as ensuring that unsophisticated clients understand exactly what the representation

Jennifer Kroman
Jennifer Kroman

entails and sometimes more importantly does not entail. They suggested a best practice of detailing relationships in writing, and reviewing documents line-by-line to guarantee that clients know the scope of the arrangement.

Douglas Chu, a partner at Hynes & Chu LLP, discussed client identification concerns, focusing specifically on Elder Law. Mr. Chu stressed the question “who is the room?” and the importance of speaking to potential clients one-on-one. In Elder Law, there are often parties with competing interests, but also clients who may want, and in some circumstances need, input from those parties. To deal with these potential difficulties, Mr. Chu recommended formally codifying the attorney-client relationship (once again, the importance of detailing arrangements in writing) and dealing with clients’ associates firmly but gently to preserve good relations in case their help is needed later.

After the program, I sat down for a brief chat about pro bono with three of the panelists:

  • Jennifer Kroman, Director of Pro Bono Practice at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton
  • Program chair Louis Sartori, Director of the Pro Bono Practice at The Legal Aid Society
  • Michael Scherz, Director of the Domestic Violence Project at Lawyers for Children.
Lou Sartori
Lou Sartori

Lou and Jennifer agreed with the panel’s focus on the intertwining issues of client identification and confidentiality. One of the greatest challenges in pro bono is finding the balance between a lawyer’s duty of candor to the tribunal and the duty to attorney-client privilege. Jennifer commented that confidentiality is the “linchpin of a successful attorney-client relationship” and that knowing when and how to break it is one of the biggest issues in pro bono, especially because clients are often unfamiliar with the limits of privilege.

Reflecting on recent changes in pro bono, Jennifer highlighted Cleary’s internal pro bono wiki as an example of how firms can utilize technology to ease attorneys into pro bono work and widen their potential reach. Similarly, Lou said that technological innovations are allowing providers to find, train, and organize volunteers more effectively than ever before.

The Internet has revolutionized outreach, giving pro bono professionals the tools to provide potential volunteers with convenient and practical trainings (for

example, webinars that provide attorneys with CLE) and ease them into pro bono work through programs such as clinical hotlines. Michael commented that many pro bono opportunities involving vulnerable populations such as children often sell themselves to volunteers. The key is to make lawyers aware of opportunities.

Michael Scherz
Michael Scherz

At Cleary, Jennifer uses attorneys’ interests in their paying area to place them in pro bono projects that they will find fulfilling; for example attorneys in their Latin American practice work to help Spanish-speaking women obtain U-Visas.

Despite the advances in outreach, training, and service provision, the three panelists agreed that the two most important elements of pro bono outreach are the same as they have always been: 1) make sure that attorneys are having fun, and 2) once someone has volunteered once, they become exponentially more likely volunteer again. As Lou put it, they become recidivist volunteers!

Although this was not my first time attending NLADA, one aspect of this year’s discussions hit me harder than it had in years past.  While it could be the session I attended, it seemed that amongst the many innovative workshops a growing number focused on data and statistics.  Not just why agencies must collect data, which seems to be moving from the focus of discussion to a premise, but into more complex ways of collecting, using and visualizing data. The following are just a few of my personal take-aways from this year’s conference:

 I am generally math-phobic… and I should probably get over that.

I am definitely one of those people on whom statistics is lost. Friends have joked that the reason I became a lawyer is that there is no math on the LSAT.  But having a working knowledge of types and quality of data and more information on reporting not only makes reading and understanding statistical data easier, but allows for a more thoughtful and reflective experience.  Ken Perri, Executive Director at Legal Assistance of Western New York, Jeff Hogue, Supervising Attorney at LawNY, and Bonnie Hough, managing attorney  at the California Administrative Office of the Court, Center for Families , Children and the Courts distilled many of these concepts incredibly well, and their materials are currently available from the session: “The Difference We Make”.

Gathering Data: Not just for reporting.  

With more and more of an emphasis on collecting data collaboratively, two of the early sessions focused on LSC’s project aimed at data collection and utilization.  In the session “Using Data to Improve the Delivery of Legal Services” James Sandman, President of the Legal Services Corporation, and two outside consultants – Dr. Sanjeev Khagram of Innovations for Scaling Impact and David Donbright of Keystone Accountability, described the findings of a survey they conducted regarding how legal services collects and utilized data, as well as next steps for the project.  The information presented can be found on LSC’s website. This was also reviewed in a second session “Relying on Data: New Initiatives to Increase Access to Justice”.

 Also of focus in the latter session, Chuck Greenfield, Chief Counsel, Civil Programs at NLADA showed NLADA’s own Civil Legal Aid Search site.  This provides information on studies that have been done and that are currently in progress to quantify issues impacting civil legal services and that can be used to think through new and different studies we would like to see in this arena. In addition, it looked back on statistics results and methodologies of past studies.

Once you’ve collected it… Data Visualization!

One interesting addition to the legal services data visualization world is a forthcoming site designed to visually capture a national justice index. In the same session, “Relying on Data: New Initiatives to Increase Access to Justice” David Udell and James Gamble from the National Center for Access to Justice and the Access to Justice Index Project previewed this site, which measures access to justice on several axis, and makes sense of the data in a geographically based interactive ways.  Check out the Access to Justice Index page at the National Center for Access to Justice at Cardozo Law School.

 Los Angeles Central Library is incredibly beautiful

This has nothing to do with data, but if you ever get a chance to check out the LA Public Library at 630 West 5th Street, it is an incredibly beautiful public library space. If you’re just visiting the city, it’s worth a special trip to see, and if you live in LA –  consider yourself lucky! In addition, the LA Law Library, just up the street, has a really robust partnership with the legal services community, and was one of the featured programs in the Libraries and Access to Justice webinar series.

 All in all, a really amazing conference in a beautiful city- can’t wait for next year in Arlington Virginia, to see where the data-driven discussion goes next!

Peter Markowitz, Judge Robert Katzmann, and Angela Fernandez

On November 20th, Talking Transition hosted “Accessing Justice for New York Immigrants,” a panel discussion on assisting immigrants facing deportation. Robert A. Katzmann, Chief Judge of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and Angela Fernandez, Executive Director of the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, spoke about two new initiatives developed in response to the findings of Katzmann’s Study Group on Immigration Representation. Before turning to the
individual programs, the panel’s moderator, Professor Peter L. Markowitz, of the Immigration Justice Clinic at Cardozo School of Law, opened the discussion with a few striking figures:

  • 1.4 million immigrants live in New York City, representing 20% of the City’s population
  • Over 500,000 NYC non-citizens and their children live in poverty
  • 3,500 people annually face deportation without counsel and 50% of lawyers in NYC Immigration Courts have been found to be inadequate
  • A detained immigrant with legal representation is 11 times more likely to win his or her case

Immigrant Justice Corps

Judge Katzmann introduced the Immigrant Justice Corps, a new fellowship program seeking to “prevent deportation and put immigrants on a pathway to citizenship.” The Corps will launch in 2014, with an annual deployment of 25 recent law school graduates and 15 college graduates and will also include senior lawyers stationed across the nation. The three-year law fellows will be coupled with senior attorneys to provide an array of direct legal services to indigent immigrants while the two-year college graduate program will train fellows to serve as community advocates and paralegals in legal services and community-based organizations. Judge Katzmann hopes for the Corps to have an ultimate capacity of 15,000 cases.

New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP)

Upon allotting $500,000 to the one-year NYIFUP pilot program, New York City “became the first jurisdiction in the nation with a public defender system for immigrants.” The Bronx Defenders and Brooklyn Defenders will provide approximately 190 detained New Yorkers with legal representation, increasing their odds of prevailing by up to 1000%. According to The Center for Popular Democracy, over 7,000 New York City citizens lost a parent to deportation between 2005-2010 (1,167 per year), and placing these children in foster care costs $12.6 million a year. Comparatively, expanding NYIFUP to provide competent legal representation to all poor and detained New Yorkers costs $5.3 million annually – less than 1% of 1% of the City’s approximate $70 billion annual budget.