March 2015

Mirenda

 

Mirenda Meghelli is the LawHelp Interactive Program Coordinator at Pro Bono Net, where she works as part of a team to support and grow initiatives using LawHelp Interactive, an award-winning national online document assembly platform operated by Pro Bono Net in partnership with legal aid, pro bono and court access to justice programs across the country. Mirenda has been spearheading the LawHelp Interactive rebuild project, along with Doug Carlson, Pro Bono Net’s Director of Technology and Operations.

 

 

Each year, Pro Bono Net’s LawHelp Interactive (LHI) hosts a technical summit, a time to meet in-person with various LHI partners, grantors, consultants and stakeholders.  The summit provides an opportunity for these stakeholders, who are spread throughout the country, to meet in the same room and dedicate at least a full day to planning and evaluating various aspects of the LHI project. This March was my third year in attendance and we spent a lot of time engaging in strategic planning on LHI and how to support evolving partner needs and uses, as opposed to previous years in which there was a much stronger focus on coordination and planning of the LHI technical roadmap for the year.

Something that struck me about the 2015 technical summit is how partner presence and participation adds color to strategic discussions about LHI’s future. While LHI Program Manager Claudia and I are in regular contact with LHI partners on day-to-day needs, and have an opportunity to review the annual LHI survey where we hear from partners about their experience with LHI each year, this summit allowed us to really discuss what is working and what needs to be improved with a geographically diverse group of LHI power users from Courts and legal aid organizations. To do this conversationally, in-person, and while looking at the big picture, with LHI partners is invaluable. For instance, we had partners from four of LHI’s top 5 states in usage.

With the continued growth of LHI users and uses and fast-approaching launch of the LHI rebuild environment, 2015 will be an exciting year for LHI. The whole team appreciates everyone who attended the LHI summit*, and the broader community of LHI partners and users who make the platform a success and work with us when we face challenges.

On another note, I feel the opposite of appreciation for a certain airline who diverted me to Pittsburgh en route to the tech summit and who misplaced my luggage for a week. But that’s a story for another time.

*LHI tech summit participants were as follows:

  • Glenn Rawdon & Jane Ribadeneyra (LSC)
  • Josh Goodwin (Southeastern Ohio Legal Services/OSLSA)
  • Bonnie Hough (California Administrative Office of the Courts)
  • John Mayer (Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction)
  • Michael Mills (Neota Logic)
  • Dave Lampert (HotDocs Corporation)
  • Dora Galacatos (Feerick Center/CLARO)
  • Tony Lu (Immigration Advocates Network)
  • Kristin Verrill (Atlanta Legal Aid Society)
  • Ben Carpenter (Community Legal Services of Mid Florida)
  • Rochelle Klempner (New York State Courts Access to Justice Program)
  • Angela Tripp (Michigan Poverty Law Program/ Michigan Legal Help)
  • Teri Ross (Illinois Legal Aid Online)
  • Marc Lauritsen (Capstone Practice Systems)
  • Bart Earle (Capstone Practice Systems)

Staff participants included:

  • Mark O’Brien, ED
  • Doug Carlson, Tech Director
  • Claudia Johnson, LawHelp Program Manager
  • Liz Keith, Program Director
  • Greg Tenzer, Senior Developer
  • Alice Pucheu, Project Manager
  • Kanchana Hedge, QA Engineer

**Special thanks for Davis Polk for hosting the event.

Karen S. Levy

Karen S. Levy, Director of Global Technology at Debevoise & Plimpton, joined the Pro Bono Net Board to help advance our mission of leveraging technology to provide access to effective legal services.  Prior to her leadership position at Debevoise, Karen held senior technology roles Weil, Gotshal & Manges and Edwards Wildman Palmer.  She has also served as a legal industry consultant, advising international law firms on technology strategies and implementations.

 

PBN: What brought you to PBN?

KSL: I was aware of PBN through my firm’s use of Pro Bono Manager, a software product used to assist our lawyers in identifying and tracking pro bono assignments. I was later introduced to the organization and its mission by Michael Mills, whom I have known for many years through his work at Davis Polk, and former PBN board member John Alber, who I worked with at Bryan Cave some years ago. Through Michael and John I came to gain an appreciation of the full extent of PBN’s services and mission.

PBN: What about our mission most interests you?

KSL: I’m continually impressed by the strong commitment to pro bono work at my firm and the opportunities it presents for individuals to contribute to the greater good and experience personal growth. I’d been contemplating ways in which my technology skills could be leveraged to provide similar opportunities for non-lawyers when I was approached by PBN to join the board. PBN’s mission to leverage technology to provide access to legal services to a large population of those who are in need of assistance made it a perfect match.

A large portion of the U.S. population does not have access to a lawyer, however most do have access to the internet. PBN takes advantage of ubiquitous technology as the access point and the lowest cost route to deliver information and resources to a large number of individuals with common needs. An example of this is the online templates that PBN developed to enable Hurricane Sandy victims to appeal denials of FEMA benefits.

PBN: You work in a field where women are often the minority, how did you develop an interest in technology?

KSL: I took a computer science class in high school that piqued my interest. I then pursued it as my college major which ultimately led to a computer science degree and job opportunities requiring technical skills. It’s the working with lawyers part that wasn’t exactly part of the plan!

PBN: What more can be done to make the field more accessible to young women?

KSL: The field is entirely accessible to women. The problem is that women are often not attracted to the field. We need to help girls see past the stereotype, providing them with an understanding of the breadth and depth of skills required to succeed. I hope the emergence of successful female leaders, such as myself, provides more young women with a positive vision.

PBN: Anything else you’d like to share?

KSL: I am married and the mother of three children who make me smile every day.