November 2015

Author: Abigail Krusemark, Immigrant Youth Resources Coordinator (AmeriCorps VISTA), Immigration Advocates Network

Over 100,000 unaccompanied children (UACs) have crossed the United States’ southern border since October of 2013. With more than half of these cases still pending in the nation’s immigration courts and nearly 70% of children unrepresented, the need for pro bono is great. The Unaccompanied Children Resource Center responds to this need by offering free legal resources and highlighting volunteer opportunities for advocates and attorneys.screen shot

In some cities, local service providers are collaborating to meet the legal needs of UAC. The UAC website has the latest information on collaborations and volunteer opportunities in Baltimore, New York, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, and San Francisco. For each city there is a description and the volunteer coordinator’s contact information. Write-ups for children describe, in simple language, the services these collaborations offer and how to find the organizations at the court. These write-ups simplify the often-confusing court process.

These collaborations use different models of screening, referral, and representation, but most operate out of the court, cover a particular docket or dockets, rotate attorneys of the day, screen children for relief, and refer cases. These collaborations are made possible by attorneys and non-legal professionals who volunteer their time to greet families, conduct intake, translate, and more. Volunteer mentoring is often available.

Find a volunteer opportunity with a collaboration under “Regional Efforts” on the home page, locate a lawyer and resources for clients under “Do you Need Legal Help?”, and learn from practice advisories, webinars, and more under “Are you an Attorney that can help?.”

Do you want to feature your regional collaboration? E-mail akrusemark@immigrationadvocates.org


 

The Unaccompanied Children Resource Center offers free legal resources and information for advocates and immigrants. This website is a project of the Immigration Advocates Network, American Bar Association, and Pro Bono Net. It includes resources developed by our partners and other immigrants’ rights advocates.

 

probonoFor other pro bono opportunites visit Pro Bono Net’s National Pro Bono Opportunities Guide, an online, easy-to-use, searchable directory of of over 1,400 programs providing pro bono opportunities across the country available through probono.net, the flagship site and namesake of Pro Bono Net

Stanley Ramdhany Pro Bono Net Development & Communications Intern Summer 2015
Stanley Ramdhany Pro Bono Net Development & Communications Intern

 

Stanley Ramdhany is a senior at Columbia University majoring in Sociology with a particular interest in the field of law and society.   He interned at the New York office of Pro Bono Net in the summer of 2015 as a Development & Communications Intern. 

On July 16, 2015, I had the privilege of attending a webinar hosted by Lauren E. Aguiar and Susan B. Plum at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, & Flom LLP entitled “Innovative Uses of Technology in Your Public Interest Practice.”  Skadden Arps is part of our Leadership Circle, an elite group making a significant investment in the work of Pro Bono Net to increase access to justice. The webinar was presented by and addressed towards Skadden Fellows, distinguished lawyers devoted to innovative public interest work who are recipients of a fellowship from the Skadden Foundation.  Claudia Johnson, Pro Bono Net’s Program Manager of Law Help Interactive, was one of the panelists on the webinar, and graciously discussed some of the issues raised during the event with me.

In the field of public interest work, Claudia Johnson is renowned as one of the first law professionals to address the union between technology and legal aid.  On the topic of how she first entered the field, Claudia stated, “I decided to go to law school at U Penn, and there I fell in love with public interest work, by working with DV victims in Northern Philadelphia. At this point, I was very interested in national origin discrimination and LEP advocacy, so I did my Skadden Fellowship on language access for Medicaid/disabled communities with focus on LEP groups.”  It was there that Claudia first focused on the union of legal services and technology:  “I wanted to have a way to track patterns by health care plan, zip code, and client demographics. So I was looking for a relatable multidimensional database—in 1997. That did not exist in legal services, so we had to build our own.”

For Claudia, the focus on LEP communities is a personal investment.  “I am one of the few Central American public interest lawyers I know in the US. I grew up in El Salvador and due to the civil war, my family moved to San Juan PR. […] I am usually the only Latina in the room, the only person who speaks languages other than English at home, often the only first generation immigrant.”

Claudia has spent her whole career in public interest work, having achieved other important successes with technology.   She spent eight years in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she “had the chance to work at VLSP with Tiela Chalmers who is now on our Board, and also with Haydee Alfonso who is now leading the legal advice line at Bay Legal. At Bay Legal, the LAL changed the way law was practiced in the Bay Area using 1930s technology in a good way, so that confirmed my interest in technology as a game changer to bridge the gap.”

Claudia later joined Pro Bono Net as the Program Manager of Law Help Interactive in 2008.  She stated that she joined PBN “to make online forms a ‘go to’ tool to improve access to justice.”  Very satisfied with her work thus far at PBN, she added, “The number of states using LawHelp Interactive has more than doubled since I started. Our usage rate is fantastic, and every day legal aid groups and their court partners rely on online forms to serve hundreds of persons per day. LHI is now integrated with court e-filing systems, legal aid CMS systems.”

Left to Right: Susan B. Plum, Director, Skadden Fellowship Foundation; Brooke Richi-Babbage, Founder & Executive Director, Resilience Advocacy Project; Adam Stofsky, Executive Director, New Media Advocacy Project; Dora Galacatos, Executive Director, Ferrick Center for Social Justice; Claudia Johnson, LawHelp Interactive Program Manager, Pro Bono Net.
Left to Right: Susan B. Plum, Director, Skadden Fellowship Foundation; Brooke Richi-Babbage, Founder & Executive Director, Resilience Advocacy Project; Adam Stofsky, Executive Director, New Media Advocacy Project; Dora Galacatos, Executive Director, Ferrick Center for Social Justice; Claudia Johnson, LawHelp Interactive Program Manager, Pro Bono Net.

Like Claudia, the other panelists at the webinar represent innovative and successful ventures in uniting technology with the delivery of legal aid to those most in need.  Each panelist in the seminar presented aspects of their work in legal services and public interest projects which related directly to technological innovation.  Claudia presented alongside Brooke Richi-Babbage, Founder and Executive Director of the Resilience Advocacy Project, Adam Stofsky, Executive Director at New Media Advocacy Project, and Dora Galacatos, Executive Director of the Ferrick Center for Social Justice.

The focal issue of the webinar, as stated by Claudia, is that “there aren’t enough lawyers for all of the people that have legal needs.”  These panelists advocate technology as a means to bridge the gap in access to justice between the disadvantaged populace and the limited number of lawyers available.  In particular, Claudia outlined three forms of traditional legal services that technology can supplement: information and referrals, advice or counsel in the form of online services, and legal representation.

Claudia specifically advocated for online services such as videos and web chats or forums.  When I followed up with her afterwards on these ideas, she discussed their utility in relation to filling out legal forms online: “Videos and graphics supplement the forms.  […] Before they start the form, they can watch a video about what the form will do for them, and what they need to complete it. Once they get the notice of hearing, they can watch a video for that. The beauty of videos is that they can be short and to the point. A good video can convey a lot of information in 2 minutes. Videos can be stopped and rewatched. So I think that videos that supplement forms (not inside forms) are the way to go. Also forms and webchat—not to answer questions about how to fill out a form, but to guide people to the forms and help them find other resources about the process the forms invoke are also a great combination.”

Even simple graphics do a great job of translating complicated legal procedure into universally comprehensible information.  Reviewing Pro Bono Net’s own use of graphics in its online services, Claudia remarked, “the mini-guides that LawHelp.org has created do this extremely well. But originally, I think it was the icon designs that Pro Bono Net first introduced in the early 2000s in its LawHelp platform that were genius. Those icons have survived 15 years, and replicated across the country. I hope the mini guides will continue to be created for the high volume areas of law.”

The utility of graphics and videos in facilitating the delivery of legal information was made salient in the comments of other panelists at the webinar also. Brooke Richi-Babbage underscored how the Resilience Advocacy Project used videos produced in conjunction with Adam Stofsky’s New Media Advocacy Project to explain the barriers faced by young urban fathers in the New York court system.  Visual media plays the dual role of making invisible individuals visible to legal services providers and making information accessible to navigate the legal system.

This observation led the panelists to emphasize the importance of knowing the context of access to justice in a given community.  On one level, this means networking with other public interest organizations in the area.  Claudia mentioned Richard Zorza’s Access to Justice Blog, where she serves as a commentator, as one such resource for the most cutting edge methods of technology integration in access to justice.   She also praised The Access to Justice Index, which gives metrics of where a state is ranked in access to justice in different categories, such as for LEP communities and those without lawyers.

The final topic addressed by the webinar was the issue of data and cyber security.  From my discussion with Claudia I learned that this is an especially delicate matter for legal services professionals who integrate technology into their work.  Claudia referenced the 2012 Model Rules of Professional Practice, which she interprets to mean that lawyers cannot be ignorant of tech security if they intend to use it to communicate with their clients.

Remote interaction between lawyers and clients is a trend Claudia forecasts for the future of the legal profession.  She argues that “by and large for most poor people, if they are going to be lucky enough to get a free lawyer most of them will still need to schlep to the court or the legal aid office, take the afternoon off from work, spend time and money to get there, park and walk and figure out what to do with the kids, to work with the lawyer. Through hotlines, advice is done over the phone and via fax and that is an established model. The challenge now for public interest law firms is to develop remote practices using online and hand held technology.”

However, there is a trade-off between security and convenience as there is in all areas of online services.  For Claudia, she encourages lawyers to think carefully about how they will employ technology in their communications with clients: “I don’t imagine clients who retain a lawyer to advise them expect lesser protection when they use Gmail or text messages to communicate with their lawyers. Clients are not aware there might be trade-offs between convenience and cyber risks. And I don’t know if lawyers tell their clients or give them the choice and the pros and cons of using SMS texting, email, or new and emerging technology to communicate with them about confidential matters or even if they give the clients a choice. They should.  In practice, I don’t know if retainers now include standard language on methods of communication and options for clients describing the trade-off between convenience vs. security. I hope so.”

Others in the panel had advice on the topic: firms and non-profits in the legal sector should identify the types of information being held internally, control who has access to it and know which systems are most vulnerable.  However, the issue of cyber security remains unavoidable if the legal profession is to move forward with continued integration of technology, and Claudia is right to start the discussion now.

The uncertain future aside, Claudia is optimistic about what organizations like Pro Bono Net had accomplished already.  “These concerns should not stop innovation. We just need to be thoughtful about it and clear and purposeful,” she advocated.

And indeed, I feel that panels on the integration of technology into legal services and public interest practice fulfill this goal of being thoughtful about innovation.  I hope to see more from Claudia and others in the field on the subject of access to justice and technology to promote remote services soon!

 


 

 

 

The Skadden Fellowship Program, described as “a legal Peace Corps” by The Los Angeles Times, was established in 1988 to commemorate the firm’s 40th anniversary, in recognition of the dire need for greater funding for graduating law students who wish to devote their professional lives to providing legal services to the poor (including the working poor), the elderly, the homeless and the disabled, as well as those deprived of their civil or human rights. The aim of the foundation is to give fellows the freedom to pursue public interest work; thus, the fellows create their own projects at public interest organizations with at least two lawyers on staff before they apply.

Damilola Kolade, Development & Communications Intern, Summer 2015
Damilola Kolade, Development & Communications Intern, Summer 2015

 

 

Author: Damilola Kolade is an Undergraduate student in her senior year at Binghamton University, currently studying English Literature and Rhetoric. Passionate about the work of advocacy and witnessing vulnerable and marginalized populations receive access to justice, she previously interned in ProBono Net’s Development and Communications department, and is now a student intern with the Legal Aid Society of Mid-NYC, Inc.

 

 

 

Young New Yorkers is an art-based restorative-justice intervention program founded by Columbia School of Architecture graduate, Rachel Barnard. Aimed at 16 and 17 years olds in the justice system who have been charged as adults, the initiative initially centered on empowering youth through art, to voice on issues concerning them and advocate for change. Since its successful startup in 2012, Young New Yorkers has soon evolved in a court-mandated program, wherein it serves as an alternative to adult sentencing upon its participants’ successful completion.

Young New Yorkers needs to be able to access and work with the confidential information in the youths’ files in a secure and convenient manner in order to provide the best and most successful experience for the youth involved. In order to accommodate the need for access to confidential files on the individuals in the program, the initiative utilizes Intralinks, a secure digital information sharing platform. Using Intralinks, all parties who need to can access the youth’s confidential information for a limited time while the youth is involved in the program. This technology allows Young New Yorkers to keep the confidential information in their care safe and secure, and properly run their program.

Rachel Barnard is a Percival and Naomi Goodman Fellowship recipient from Columbia University’s Advanced Architectural Design Program, and Executive Director of the public art project, Young New Yorkers (YNY). Adam Licht previously worked with Pro Bono Net for 8 years (2006-2014) as Director of Product Management and Business Development. He is currently the Director of Business Development at Intralinks. He has worked with various non-profit organizations, including Young New Yorkers, to provide state of the art security vital to protecting sensitive information involved in such environments.

We asked Rachel and Adam to answer a few questions on the work of Young New Yorkers and the role that the Intralinks technology has played in making this program a success.

Rachel, upon graduating from Columbia University’s Advanced Architectural Design Program, you received the Percival and Naomi Goodman Fellowship. How did your educational journey culminate into the Young New Yorkers initiative, which seeks to intervene on behalf of youth with misdemeanor through the use of art?

Rachel Barnard (RB): The proposal for which I won the Goodman Fellowship was for a public art project that I had called Young New Yorkers. The project’s goal was to give voice to 16- and 17-year-olds being prosecuted classified as adults and who are facing the life long collateral consequences of an adult criminal record. That we provided a platform for the young people to be heard on this issue was particularly important to myself and the YNY team given 16- and 17-year-olds are too young to vote and meaningfully impact change on an issue that effects them the most.

On winning the Fellowship I was struck by the significant responsibility of working with young people in the criminal justice system. The first ten months of starting Young New Yorkers was focused mostly on research and development. A working committee formed of 10-12 people, made up of public defenders, social workers, therapists, advocates, artists and architects. We met every three weeks to discuss this issues surrounding young people who are justice involved and exploring what a public art program could look like.

Young New Yorkers as a court-mandated program came out of this work, and out of Chief Judge Lippman’s call to “Raise the Age” from 16-years-old to 18-years-old when being prosecuted as an adult. We introduced our program to Judge Gubbay and to the Center of Court Innovation, and with their partnership it evolved into an alternative to adult sentencing rather than simply a project for young people to advocate for change.  However to this day the young people’s voices are central to our mission which is to provide arts-based transformative justice programs to court-involved young people, with the ultimate goal of transforming the criminal justice system through their own creative voices.

What is the vision behind YNY and how does it aim to bridge the gap in our criminal justice system?

RB: To provide court-mandated programs which provide a space for young people to take responsibility for their actions while giving them an opportunity to advocate for themselves, their communities and a social issue that is important to them. All of our programs culminate in a YNY Finale, a public art exhibition that is designed and implemented by the young participants. Members of the criminal justice system—including judges, defense attorneys, social workers, district attorneys, and court officers—are invited to attend YNY Finales, and to re-meet the young participants as creative, worthy contributors to their communities. Central to our commitment to a transformative justice model, our programs serve to shed light on the system, though the voices of the young people that we serve.

A recent article on InformationWeek suggests the uniqueness of the Young New Yorkers program, by highlighting a strong relationship between art and technology to in contributing to a successful impact. Why is this relationship of particular importance to you?

RB: Young New Yorkers makes use of powerful technology, like Intralinks, to maintain the integrity of our programming. Its secure systems ensures that the sensitive information of our young participants remains confidential, and the leaders of particular programs are the only ones who are able to access such information.

Adam, YNY has partnered with Intralinks VIA in this regard.  Could you elaborate on Intralinks’ role in this program and the decision to utilize this specific service?

Adam Licht (AL): The challenge that YNY has is that it must share information with third parties while protecting the sensitive information of minors, and a secure platform is needed to do this. The question to ask is: how secure is the platform? Intralinks has been around since 1996, handling the most sensitive information in the business world and has never been breached in its 18 years of supporting the largest commercial Merger and Acquisition deals in the world. A consumer grade platform, like DropBox does not have the level of security that would be needed for such sensitive and personal information. A hypothetical to describe this: someone shares out a document to someone in your program. If you email it, or someone downloads it from the traditional platforms, you no longer have control over that document, and they will be able to do whatever they’d like with it.” Intralinks, particularly Intralinks VIA, one of its product lines, helps to provide control over that information by allowing the owner of the document to control permissions at any time, even if it’s been downloaded.

Intralinks’ product can prevent screen capturing and printing. Unsharring is another feature, which allows the owner to revoke access to particular information; the document “calls home” to the server and if that individual no longer has permission to access the document, it will be denied. In these ways, Intralinks helps Young New Yorkers to maintain a high level of security while still being able to share sensitive information with those who need it within the program.

RB: All our files are stored in the Intralinks Cloud and are highly secure. Intralinks facilitates two essential things: First, it allows us to share files with different work groups with ease, and helps our teams to function seamlessly, even when many of our collaborators are working remotely; second, it has high levels of security so that information of the participants involved in our programs remain confidential. YNY’s primary purpose is to offer a space for the creative self-expression of our young, court-involved participants, and in doing so, facilitate the movement of our young people out of the criminal justice system. A significant part of our job is in keeping their participation confidential, IntralinksVIA ensures that that happens with relative ease on our part. There’s peace of mind knowing that those files are secure.

Young New Yorkers is in its early stages. Do you see any adjustments that might need to be made on the part of technology to better accommodate the program’s aims?

RB: Intralinks caters to large, complex organizations, with thousands of staff members. I don’t envision any challenges that will come up with IntralinksVIA, since their technology is powerful – I envision that we will simply be able to grow into it. 

AL: Intralinks handles issues that are much bigger in scope than this program. The company works with most of the largest banks in the world. These banks demand the highest level of security. Luckily, this means that any foreseeable accommodations and needs for the Young New Yorkers’ program have most likely already been met!

In the work of Young New Yorkers, the arts, the justice system, and technology come together to offer a powerful platform by which young students who had been prosecuted as adults may have an opportunity to creatively express themselves, develop emotionally and behaviorally, and through the integration of technology, be assured that their records are secured throughout the program, to the closing of their case.


About Young New Yorkers 

Young New Yorkers is a restorative justice, arts program for 16- and 17-year-olds who have open criminal cases.  The curriculum is uniquely tailored to develop the emotional and behavioral skills of the young participants while facilitating responsible and creative self-expression. 

About Intralinks

Trusted globally for nearly two decades, we bring collaboration and document sharing that’s safe, secure, compliant and fully auditable. Whether it’s documents or files, you can get work done quickly regardless of what you’re using at your desk or on the move — all you need is a browser and a web connection.