August 2014

As summer (sadly) winds down, we want to share our staff’s summer fun with everyone so you can all see what we’re like when we’re not developing poor posture and possibly ruining our long-term vision. Our staff has done everything this summer from concerts close to home to sleeping in airports to weddings! Read on to hear and see (cause, what’s a story without pictures, right?) about our awesome adventures and remember, by the time you’re done, you’ll be about 7.5 minutes closer to the long weekend!

We’ll begin with our dearly departed VISTA, Jon who had a special concert experience:

My family and I went to see James Taylor in concert at Jones Beach in July. My parents raised me on good classic music and so despite the older crowd I had a great time! JT played all of the classics and was really engaging, and the weather was perfect/the setting beautiful. Whereas most concerts I’ve been to are loud and active, JT had everyone’s attention and it was remarkably mellow, like a 15,000 person campfire.

James Taylor Concert

The Immigration Advocates Network’s Associate Director, Pat took her family camping and tried to be out in nature as much as possible:

Pamet River

And of course, no summer is complete without a trip and show for the grandparents…

Music for Grandparents

Jillian, our Training and Field Support Coordinator, had some unique dinner partners and decided to indulge in the magic of Star Wars day (so San Francisco of her!). May the Fourth be with you all! She also reports “both the monkeys and the storm troopers were surprisingly civil.”

Monkeys

Stormtroopers

Ken, IAN’s Program Coordinator reports on his European adventure:

Yours truly travelled with the hardcore punk band Night Birds across Europe, selling their merch, taking photos, and keeping score on a blog. 11 countries in 12 insane days: The Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland, France, the U.K., Belgium, and Finland. The band played everywhere from up in the mountains of Slovenia, down to an old cellar in the heart of Paris.

Switzerland

Ken also snapped a selfie with Europe’s largest waterfall in Switzerland:

Europe's largest waterfall, Switzerland

Claudia the LawHelp Interactive Program Manager and inveterate hiker went on the grand old summer tradition of fruit picking!

Cherry Tree

Jessica, our Product Manager took a trip to Lye Brook Falls, Vermont and went chasing waterfalls:

Waterfalls

This Monday we had our staff outing. PBN New York relaxed on the beach and PBN San Francisco took a tram tour (!!!) of Angel Island and took some amazing pictures. Here is PBN NY taking long and thoughtful strolls on the beach (look at those picture perfect foot prints!):

PBN NY on the Beach

And here is PBN SF with a background that almost makes me want to move out to California (though honestly the biggest draw for this carnivore would be In-N-Out):

PBN SF

And now to end this post with what I know you all really want to see: weddings! Mirenda, the LawHelp Interactive Coordinator, emailed me a short summary of her summer:

Hey Jake,

I got married this summer and plan on living happily ever after.

The end,

Mirenda

Mirenda's Wedding

Finally, Karin our Development Officer and one of my two direct supervisors gets to close out our summer with her wedding in CT!

Karin's Wedding

With funding from the Legal Services Corporation Technology Assistance Grants, Pro Bono Net is organizing its first online developer training for the online legal services and court document assembly community. This five week series will start on 9/9/2014 and will end on 10/7/2014. Each two hour session will teach basic A2J Author and HotDocs skills, so that legal aid groups, pro bono groups, and partner court staff can learn how to create online forms through LawHelp Interactive. The training series has been well received and with quick and heavy registration. The webinar series will be recorded and in November, PBN will release the recordings for those who could not join the series. The trainers for this series include

  • Jessica Bolack Frank from A2J Author
  • Marc Lauritsen of Capstone Practice
  • Bart Earle also from Capstone Practice
  • Mirenda Watkins and Claudia Johnson from Pro Bono Net

More information can about the series is available at the LHI Support Trainings pageLawHelp Interactive is operated through a collaboration between Pro Bono Net, LSC, and the Ohio State Legal Services Association. LHI hosts over 3,000 online forms that are used daily in over 40 states by self-represented litigants, clinics, pro bono lawyers, and legal aid staff to efficiently create legal documents and increase access to justice. Teaching how to create online forms is of utmost importance as outlined in the LSC Technology Summit Report. In the second quarter of 2014, over 130,600 legal documents were created through LawHelp Interactive.

Last week, Jon Weinberg, the Pro Bono Net and Montana Legal Services Association 2014 AmeriCorps VISTA, completed his year of service. Before he left, we asked Jon a few questions about the past year and what’s next for him. We’ll miss him and we hope you join us in thanking him for his tremendous work over the past year!

Our 2014 VISTA, Jon Weinberg
Jon Weinberg

PBN: What interested you in the VISTA program and in service with Pro Bono Net specifically?

Jon: I became interested in VISTA after I decided to defer law school for a year. I realized I could benefit from working and getting non-academic experience working for a cause or organization I believed in, and VISTA really fit the bill. The Pro Bono Net VISTA opportunity particularly stood out because of PBN’s unique role in utilizing technology to advance access to justice and the opportunity to work with the legal community and learn about the law from a different perspective. Also, my family (like almost everyone in the New York area) was affected by Sandy and I saw the continuing needs and wanted to help with recovery.

PBN: Tell us about some of the projects you’ve worked on in the past year.

Jon: My projects have revolved around Pro Bono Net’s efforts related to disaster legal services. In New York, I aided PBN’s efforts supporting attorneys responding to Sandy and helped institutionalize a more permanent disaster legal response network following a reception, needs assessment survey, and focus group meetings. I worked with our partners at the Legal Services Corporation to help develop and convene a national advisory group of disaster legal experts to assist legal services responders. For the re-launch of the National Disaster Legal Aid Resource Center, www.disasterlegalaid.org, I supported the project team by soliciting information for a pro bono opportunities guide, adapting the previously-developed FEMA appeals tool, creating a toolkit and assisting with design choices and content migration.

PBN: What was your favorite project? Why?

Jon: My favorite project was probably working with attorneys in New York and New Jersey on a more permanent disaster network effort. Although I won’t have a chance to see the network truly come into being, I learned so much from assessing needs in the community and working closely with partners to propose a solution that’s both feasible and helpful. It was very inspiring to learn about the substantial response of the legal community to Sandy and I was honored to have had the opportunity to support efforts to continue collaboration.

PBN: How will your experience help you going forward, both personally and professionally?

Jon: Personally, I learned so, so much from working in a professional setting. I now appreciate how different it is from working in school and that working in an office brings with it very different challenges than those faced in classes and with student organizations. Professionally, I’ve learned that the law functions very differently than it’s advertised, and that lawyers have to take on vast, very different responsibilities in their line of work than I would have otherwise expected. The justice gap is very real, and the leap to bridge it requires great strength and determination on the part of lawyers who undertake the challenge.

PBN: What will you miss most about your year at Pro Bono Net?

Jon: I’ll probably most miss getting to work with the program team! It’s really an incredible group. I do look forward to keeping up our gChat conversations though! I’ll also miss being in New York and working at an organization that brings so many attorneys together and supports so many different exciting initiatives nationally. You really do learn something new every day here!

PBN: What are you doing next?

Jon: I’ll be starting law school next month! I’m now much more attuned to the challenges faced by attorneys who want to do good, both from legal services and the private bar, but I’ve also been inspired by those I’ve worked with this year who have been able to help people through the law (also through both legal services and the private bar.)

PBN: What is one, totally non-legal related factoid, you learned from your time here?

Jon: I can now say unequivocally that Gregory’s Coffee is unparalleled in Midtown Manhattan! And that soccer is underappreciated by most Americans (thanks Adam, Kevin, Jake, and Mark!)

Pro Bono Net will host an interactive discussion on technology and increasing access to justice at the International Legal Technology Association’s 37th Annual Educational Conference in Nashville, Tennessee on August 19th.

Pro Bono Net, the nonprofit leader in technology solutions to expand access to justice, is hosting the networking reception and interactive conversation thanks to generous support from Microsoft.  Over 3,000 attendees will be at the conference to discuss the latest knowledge and technology solutions for challenges facing law firms and legal departments.

The Pro Bono Net event will feature a conversation on “Leveraging Technology to Increase Access to Justice” featuring Nishan DeSilva, Senior Director of Business and Technology Solutions at Microsoft Legal and Corporate Affairs, and Michael Mills, President & Chief Strategy Officer at Neota Logic and Pro Bono Net Board of Directors.  The conversation will be led by Pro Bono Net Executive Director, Mark O’Brien.

The event will take place on Tuesday, August 19, 2014 from 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. in the Presidential Boardroom A at the Gaylord Opryland.

In addition to our lead sponsor, Microsoft, the following companies are sponsoring the event: Aderant, ALM, BigHand, Bridgeway, Elevate, Epiq, HighQ, HotDocs, Huron Consulting Group, Intellitech, International Legal Technology Association, LexisNexis, LSI Foundation, Marks Baughan, Neota Logic, Practising Law Institute, and Tabs3.

For more information regarding the event, please contact Karin Romans, kromans@probono.net.

In addition to developing new tools, sites, and solutions to increase access to justice, Pro Bono Net looks for ways to grow and adapt its programs to match evolving needs and leverage new technology. In that vein, over the past few months PBN Program Director Liz Keith and I have been hard at work with partners at Lone Star Legal Aid, the American Bar Association, the Legal Services Corporation, the National Legal Aid & Defender Association, and Texas Legal Services Center to re-launch the National Disaster Legal Aid Resource Center at DisasterLegalAid.org. Working on the site has been one of my primary projects this year as a VISTA at Pro Bono Net supporting the organization’s work around disaster legal services. The re-launched site has some great new features, and working on the re-launch was an instructive experience.

The re-launched site builds upon successful web-based efforts following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and has been active since 2009. The three main portals for different core audiences (people in need of help, legal aid professionals, and pro bono volunteers) remain, and each portal includes relevant resources, guides, explanations, and links. For example, people in need of legal help can consult links on methods of assistance while legal aid professionals can use a checklist to guide them through establishing post-disaster operations. The site additionally continues to feature disaster-specific pages with the latest information on deadlines, hotlines, and specific assistance available.

All of that content is greatly enhanced by the re-launched site’s design. The new design is visually appealing and better facilitates navigation through the portals, with images from actual disaster response efforts supplied by LSC and others working in the field after disasters. The colors were selected to make the site more accessible to those who are visually impaired and all images now have associated text. Perhaps most excitingly, the new design is mobile-responsive. Mobile responsiveness is especially important because smartphones are increasingly being used to access information after disasters.

New features and content complement the improved design. A dedicated version of the National Pro Bono Opportunities Guide allows prospective pro bono attorneys to immediately identify how they can help after a disaster. The site also features a FEMA appeals tool, powered by LawHelp Interactive, which allows a survivor of any FEMA-declared disaster to easily appeal an adverse FEMA assistance decision. Legal services attorneys with questions about disaster response can use the site to submit queries to the Disaster Legal Aid National Advisory Group.

I had no idea how much work would go into the re-launch. Pro Bono Net and Lone Star Legal Aid, the project lead, worked diligently with a national stakeholder committee and web designer for months to make this vision a reality. For the new tools and features, we solicited disaster pro bono opportunities nationally and modified a FEMA appeals tool Pro Bono Net developed in 2013 for use by survivors of Superstorm Sandy. In addition, Lone Star Legal Aid led a content coalition of disaster legal services experts charged with identifying, curating and posting new content for the site, and quickly added resources about new disasters as they were declared by FEMA and shared news items about disaster legal response efforts. The re-launch effort was supported with funding from the Legal Services Corporation’s Technology Initiative Grant program.

When all was said and done, everything paid off. I’m very excited to join Pro Bono Net and our partners in publicizing the re-launched site and I hope it will play an important role in disaster legal response efforts. I am happy that in the future survivors and attorneys alike will have a central online hub – for survivors to access legal resources that can help them rebuild and recover, and for attorneys and advocates to better serve survivors and get them the access to justice they deserve.

In July, Pro Bono Net partnered with LSNTAP to produce a webinar on triage and expert systems in legal aid. Moderated by Liz Keith of Pro Bono Net, the webinar highlighted new tools and approaches that aid advocates with legal screening, triage, and analysis activities, as well as tools to help litigants navigate unfamiliar legal processes.  The great line-up of panelists featured work on cutting edge projects in the nonprofit legal sector, information on how expert systems can enhance service delivery and support community partnerships, and tools and techniques that focus on balancing considerations.

The first presenter, Zach Hutchinson, Student and Research Assistant at Georgetown University Law Center, covered three tools developed through the school. The EJC Wage Theft App, OAH Unemployment App, and Military Impact of Discharge Assessment System (MIDAS) are examples of triage tools that can be used by advocates (in clinical or intake settings) and/or as self-help tools.

Donna Dougherty, of JASA Legal Services for the Elderly, and Adam Friedl, of Pro Bono Net, demoed the Debt and Eviction Navigator (DEN), an expert system which enables social workers visiting homebound elderly clients to perform legal screenings, in an effort to direct clients to appropriate resources/referrals. They also discussed possible future steps to utilize in reporting and to incorporate into e-filing.

Lastly, Marc Lauritsen, of Capstone Practice Systems, reviewed the different types of expert systems that are currently available for use in legal aid, and introduced another system that helps people make choices. He explained “choiceboxing” and closed with a case study that used this system in the legal aid world.

Materials from this informative webinar are available on the SWEB Support Site. Be sure to join us for the next LSNTAP/PBN webinar!