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Celebrate Pro Bono Week

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need and the incredibly important work of pro bono volunteers in building our capacity to meet the vast unmet need for civil legal services.  This year we are celebrating National Pro Bono Week through a special Volunteering Through Technology Initiative, which features someone who volunteers though one of Pro Bono Net’s innovative legal tech solutions on our Connecting Justice Communities blog. We are very proud to showcase these volunteers from our pro bono community and hope they may inspire you to get involved as well! Today we would like to highlight the volunteers of our Citizenshipworks Brooklyn Public Library – Central Branch Clinics. Special thanks to Sandra Sandoval, Immigration Advocates Network’s Citizenshipworks Program Manager, for the article!

CitizenshipworksSince 2013, the Immigration Advocates Network (IAN), in partnership with New York’s Brooklyn Public Library – Central Branch, has teamed up with non-profit legal service providers around New York City to host a free, monthly citizenship application assistance workshops using the innovative Citizenshipworks platform.

Each month, partners like CUNY CitizenshipNow!, Catholic Migration Services, International Rescue Committee – New York, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Make the Road New York, and NALEO Education Fund provide the legal support needed via pro bono volunteers to ensure that lawful permanent residents applying for citizenship have access to free, quality legal services.

With the upcoming election there has been a sharp increase of people interested in applying for citizenship in the last year. Waiting times for appointments at nonprofit organizations in New York can be weeks or even months, leaving many people struggling to find help. These workshops give people in Brooklyn and the surrounding boroughs the opportunity to receive a free, quality service to help them file their form.

Others sometimes just need a push to get the ball rolling. One such individual made the decision to apply for citizenship after passing by the Info Commons at the Library and noticing the workshop in progress. She registered for the very next event to complete her form. A couple of months later, she came back and thanked the volunteers at the workshop for having helped her and is currently waiting to take the Oath to become a citizen. She also brought a friend to the clinic to begin the process!

Through this innovative partnership, applicants are able to use the Citizenshipworks system to complete their N-400 and then connect with the legal service provider partners hosting the event at the library to receive a free, legal consultation. As the workshop series continues, the number of applicants has continuously grown, with Summer 2016 averaging 20 potential applicants receiving application assistance to file their Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, and I-912, Request for Fee Waiver form (when applicable).

A couple of months later, she came back and thanked the volunteers at the workshop for having helped her and is currently waiting to take the Oath to become a citizen.

To begin the process, lawful permanent residents interested in applying for citizenship register for the event through Citizenshipworks. Citizenshipworks walks the applicant through every question of the N-400 and connects them to the non-profit legal service provider prior to the event. The partner’s pro bono attorneys are able to review the applicants’ forms beforehand (checking for any potential legal issues) and help the applicant prepare for their final review the day of the event. At the event, the applicant will meet with the volunteer or BIA representative from the partner organization to complete a final review of their form before filing.

This partnership has allowed non-profit legal service providers to connect with more applicants while continuing to provide quality assistance at no cost to the applicant. Additionally, the partnership has ventured into using more innovative models to reach more applicants needing assistance.

Through the Citizenshipworks Virtual Review features and the technology provided by the library, the partner’s legal service providers and volunteer attorneys who are unable to assist in person can review the applicants form and provide a legal consultation by connecting with applicants virtually. This model has expanded not only the reach of the partnering organization, but has begun to change how legal assistance can be provided.

The naturalization process can be daunting, but through the easy process of the Citizenshipworks platform, along with legal volunteers to help with questions and complications, becoming a citizen is easier and simpler than ever before.

The volunteers at these workshops are absolutely crucial to applicants by providing much needed legal services. The naturalization process can be daunting, but through the easy process of the Citizenshipworks platform, along with legal volunteers to help with questions and complications, becoming a citizen is easier and simpler than ever before.

With the continued support of non-profit legal service providers and pro bono attorneys, the workshop provides access to legal services that otherwise would not be as readily available for many of the applicants. The volunteers at these clinics provide crucial services for immigrants in need, helping them through the naturalization process.

Non-profit legal service providers or pro bono attorney interested in joining this innovative partnership, should contact Sandra Sandoval, Citizenshipworks Program Manager, at ssandoval@immigrationadvocates.org for more information.

 


CitzenshipworksCitizenshipworks provides easy-to-use online tools to help low and moderate-income individuals to answer important questions about their eligibility for naturalization, to better understand the naturalization process, and to prepare for the naturalization tests. Citizenshipworks is a collaboration between the Immigration Advocates Network, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and Pro Bono Net. We aim to make the immigration system accessible everyone through user-friendly technology, plain language legal information, and a national network of nonprofit immigration service providers.


The Immigration Advocates NetworkThe Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) is a collaborative effort of leading immigrants’ rights organizations designed to increase access to justice for low-income immigrants and strengthen the capacity of organizations serving them. IAN promotes more effective and efficient communication, collaboration, and services among immigration advocates and organizations by providing free, easily accessible and comprehensive online resources and tools.


 

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need and the incredibly important work of pro bono volunteers in building our capacity to meet the vast unmet need for civil legal services.  This year we are celebrating National Pro Bono Week through a special Volunteering Through Technology Initiative, which features someone who volunteers though one of Pro Bono Net’s innovative legal tech solutions on our Connecting Justice Communities blog. We are very proud to showcase these volunteers from our pro bono community and hope they may inspire you to get involved as well! Today we are highlighting Joan Archer, a LiveHelp Volunteer at LawHelpNY, and the NYC Pro Bono Center‘s October Volunteer Spotlight! We would like to extend special thanks to Michelle Born, LawHelpNY’s LiveHelp Co-ordinator, for sharing this story.

Joan Archer, LiveHelp Volunteer
LawHelpNY

Joan Archer“Joan saves the day!” This was a frequent phrase in my emails to Joan Archer over the course of the last year. As LiveHelp Coordinator at LawHelpNY, I work with dozens of law student and law graduate volunteers at any given point in time. Joan has been a dream volunteer.

Joan Archer began her work as a LiveHelp operator with LawHelpNY shortly after completing the New York Bar exam in July 2015 and before resuming her studies for the Connecticut bar exam in February 2016.

She had already completed the 50-hour pro bono requirement for New York State through her judicial internships, and she had plenty to keep her occupied with two young children at home, but she wanted to stretch herself while also giving back to the community. LawHelpNY/Pro Bono Net in particular was attractive to Joan: “Coming from a tech background, I am very interested in how technology is, or isn’t, being used in the legal field. In the past twenty years, technology has made so many things more accessible to more people.”

Coming from a tech background, I am very interested in how technology is, or isn’t, being used in the legal field. In the past twenty years, technology has made so many things more accessible to more people.”

“LawHelpNY sounded like a progressive organization in terms of using technology to make legal information accessible to people who don’t know where to go. I wanted to see how it worked and also hopefully point a few people in the right direction.” Joan attended a LiveHelp training at her alma mater, Elizabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, and eagerly signed up for several weekly shifts.

Joan took on her work as a LiveHelp operator with the same enthusiasm I have since realized that she brings to any challenge. When asked what she enjoyed about the experience, Joan replied, “I love hearing about all the different issues people are facing – and the issues are all over the place.”

“I see LiveHelpNY volunteers as EMTs for law, doing legal triage. Aside from feeling good for doing good, I appreciate that this experience has exposed me to complex issues and areas of law that I otherwise would know nothing about.  For example, I recently heard from a woman who was applying for jobs with nanny agencies in New York City but was being turned down because she had a criminal conviction.” It was the caller who mentioned the Fair Chance Act, and Joan quickly read up on the law and provided the caller with relevant referrals.

“During training, we touched on divorce, domestic violence, foreclosures, and landlord tenant issues, and I’ve definitely seen those but I’ve also seen international patent disputes, corruption claims, claims involving farm animals, and internet fraud/stalking/invasion of privacy claims.”

When asked what she found challenging about the experience, Joan noted that it is hard not knowing the outcome for people she assists via LiveHelp.  “I’d love to know what happens with the people I chat with – if any of the phone numbers or information I gave them wound up helping them get what they need. For example, I got an email from a veteran who was homeless and living in a shelter for veterans in New York City. The shelter provides short term housing and he was looking for permanent housing. I did a lot of research on programs for veterans. I found some programs that sounded like they might help, but was left wondering how much of a runaround he was going to face and wishing I could do more.”

Aside from feeling good for doing good, I appreciate that this experience has exposed me to complex issues and areas of law that I otherwise would know nothing about.”

After several months of volunteering as a LiveHelp operator, Joan signed off to focus on her studies for the Connecticut bar exam in February. I heard from her shortly after, when she sent me an email with the magic words: “Reach out to me any time you need coverage!” Joan became my go-to person whenever I had a last-minute cancellation, or exams took many of my regularly scheduled volunteers away. Yet, I was keenly aware that Joan had much more to offer LawHelpNY.

Before attending law school, Joan had worked many years as a software developer and coder in prominent companies such as Merrill Lynch, as well as tech start-ups. When I approached her with a request to help as we transitioned the software through which we operated LiveHelp, she jumped at the chance. She was later instrumental in setting up a system through which to manage and track the many emails that come in to LawHelpNY requesting legal information.

Joan continues to make herself available to LawHelpNY, even while becoming certified as a FINRA arbitrator, taking on paid tech projects, serving on the town’s Wetlands and Conservation Commission and the community’s Board of Directors as the representative for the youth programs, volunteering at her children’s school, training for the New York City Marathon, and searching for the legal position that will be a good match for her skills and her commitment to remaining available to her family. Such a balancing act is unsurprising, given Joan’s ability to simultaneously excel at law school (she made Dean’s list every semester), engage multiple judicial internships, and be present to her then diaper-clad children. When asked how she did it, Joan replied “Time management is my superpower. I knew what my priorities were and built a routine around them. Errands will always be a low priority for me, I do most of them on my phone – sometimes I buy groceries at the gas station while filling my tank…”

When asked what she envisions for her legal career, Joan replied, “I’m still trying to figure this out. In tech, I always had a lot of flexibility and even though coders are predominately male, it’s actually a great fit for women and work-life balance. … I’ve found that law is not so progressive, so it’s a little tricky to get started at this stage in life. I have met a lot of moms who are lawyers but not practicing, even though they would like to be in some form. Apparently, the way law is generally practiced today is not conducive to being the primary parent. I think there’s an opportunity here, especially with the demand for legal services, but I haven’t figured it out yet.” There is one thing though that has become clear– there is a place in the legal services world for tech skills like Joan’s.

 


LiveHelp is an online chat service designed to help users navigate legal aid websites and locate legal information, resources and referrals. LiveHelp volunteers offer individuals real-time assistance by pointing the way towards resources written in plain language about their legal problem and/or by helping them identify a free legal aid organization for representation or advice. LiveHelp operators are primarily law students and law graduates, working under the supervision of an attorney.

LHNYLawHelpNY, a program of Pro Bono Net, is New York’s leading online tool for helping low-income New Yorkers find solutions to their legal programs. Available in both English and Spanish, it provides and promotes access to high-quality online information about free legal services throughout New York, legal rights in a broad range of substantive areas, the court system, and related advocacy, government and social service organizations.

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need and the incredibly important work of pro bono volunteers in building our capacity to meet the vast unmet need for civil legal services.  This year we are celebrating National Pro Bono Week through a special Volunteering Through Technology Initiative, which features someone who volunteers though one of Pro Bono Net’s innovative legal tech solutions on our Connecting Justice Communities blog. We are very proud to showcase these volunteers from our pro bono community and hope they may inspire you to get involved as well! Today we are highlighting the work of Nancy Watson, who volunteers through the use of LawHelp Interactive forms at the Bet Tzedek Legal Services’ Self-Help Conservatorship Clinic in Los Angeles.

LawHelp Interactive (LHI) is a national online document assembly platform that allows people representing themselves to prepare their own legal documents and pleadings online for free. It is also used by legal aid advocates, pro bono attorneys, and court systems seeking to work more efficiently and develop new approaches to service delivery. In clinics around the country, LHI forms enable volunteers, like Nancy Watson, to assist those who cannot afford an attorney to create their own complete, high quality legal documents and pleadings for free. Through the use of these forms, Nancy is better able to help those who come to Bet Tzedek Legal Services’ Self-Help Conservatorship Clinic in Los Angeles. Keep reading to learn more about Nancy and why she volunteers.

Nancy Watson, Volunteer
Bet Tzedek Legal Services’ Self-Help Conservatorship Clinic

Nancy WatsonIt is a joy and privilege to have the opportunity to volunteer at Bet Tzedek Legal Services’ Self-Help Conservatorship Clinic in Los Angeles.  The clinic assists those wanting to ensure that family members or loved ones who are not able to make decisions for themselves are adequately cared for and protected from potential physical, mental or financial abuse.   Most of those who come to the clinic do not have the resources to hire an attorney to navigate the legal system on their behalf.  Bet Tzekek performs a vital public service by helping a large number of potential conservators prepare and file the voluminous paperwork required by the court.

It is heartwarming to see the relief on a mother’s face when she knows that she will be able to continue making life decisions for her developmentally disabled child after he reaches the age of 18.  Rather than trust an institution to make the right decisions, parents who obtain conservatorships in this situation have peace of mind knowing that they will still be able to ensure their child is protected from neglect or abuse by retaining the right to determine where the adult child will live and to make important medical and educational choices.

Many adult children and spouses of those suffering from dementia or debilitating illness have expressed their gratitude to the clinic staff and volunteers who help them as they are often forced to deal with very stressful situations and emotionally wrenching decisions.  I am often touched by the consideration and gratitude of those who in the midst of their life struggles take the time to thank and appreciate the volunteer workers.

Volunteering is one of the best ways to continue learning and growing as a lawyer and as a person.”

I am a California attorney who has spent most of my career in public service.  I was employed by the State Bar of California for twenty years as a prosecutor in the Office of the Chief Trial Counsel.  As an Assistant Chief Trial Counsel, I oversaw the Intake Unit and served as a manager of attorneys, investigators and paralegals until 2011.  Since that time, I have worked as a part-time Hearing Officer at Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and have been volunteering two days a week at Bet Tzedek Legal Services.

I am grateful for the opportunity to continue working to serve the public as a volunteer at the Self-Help Clinic and I enjoy using my legal skills and knowledge to help others.  Volunteering is one of the best ways to continue learning and growing as a lawyer and as a person.  Nothing is more satisfying than helping others, particularly those who might otherwise not be able to exercise their legal rights, and it is my hope that others will be inspired to volunteer their time to assist the underserved in our community.

 


LHI logoPro Bono Net leads a national effort to provide online legal document assembly for poverty law and court access to justice programs. LawHelp Interactive allows subject matter experts to create interview templates that can be used to assemble court forms and other legal documents based on a user’s input. The system increases opportunities for self-represented litigants to achieve justice on their own and improves efficiency for legal aid, pro bono and courts-based access to justice programs. This project is in collaboration with Ohio State Legal Services Association, with funding by the Legal Services Corporation and the State Justice Institute, and using HotDocs software.

Bet Tzedek ClinicThe Bet Tzedek Self-Help Conservatorship Clinic, in partnership with the Los Angeles Superior Court, provides basic assistance to individuals who want to file for a probate conservatorship without a lawyer in order to help an adult who cannot care for himself or herself. The Clinic does not provide legal advice or attorney representation; instead it offers general information about the court process and help in preparing and filing documents to be appointed as a probate conservator.

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need and the incredibly important work of pro bono volunteers in building our capacity to meet the vast unmet need for civil legal services.  This year we are celebrating National Pro Bono Week through a special Volunteering Through Technology Initiative, which features someone who volunteers though one of Pro Bono Net’s innovative legal tech solutions on our Connecting Justice Communities blog. We are very proud to showcase these volunteers from our pro bono community and hope they may inspire you to get involved as well! Today we are highlighting the work of Jordan Chisolm, who volunteers through the Closing the Gap program at Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York.

 

Jordan Chisolm, Esq.

Jordan Chisolm, Esq., Pro Bono Advocate
Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York

Jordan Chisolm, originally from Long Island, New York, received a Juris Doctor from New York University School of Law in 2015, where he received the Dean John Sexton Prize for outstanding service to the Law School community. Mr. Chisolm was a Development Editor on the N.Y.U. Annual Survey of American Law, and served as President of the NYU Law Student Bar Association in his final year. Mr. Chisolm received a B.B.A. in Finance, cum laude, from George Washington University in 2010.

Prior to joining Whiteman Osterman & Hanna, LLP located in Albany, NY. Mr. Chisolm worked as a judicial intern for the Honorable Alexander Williams Jr. in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, and as a legal intern for the Division of Enforcement and Neighborhood Services with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Additionally, Mr. Chisolm served as Treasurer for the Black Allied Law Students Association. Prior to law school, Mr. Chisolm was an NYC Urban Fellow in the New York City Mayor’s Office of Operations, and worked for Canon U.S.A., Inc.

Pro Bono Work

Mr. Chisolm is a pro bono advocate for the Closing the Gap program at Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York. Closing the Gap is a new program that focuses on connecting pro bono attorneys to rural clients facing housing and consumer matters. Jordan joined the Closing the Gap program in June 2016 eager to aid those clients who are geographically disadvantaged from obtaining legal services.

Closing the Gap is a partnership between Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, Legal Assistance of Western New York, Volunteer Legal Services Project, and Pro Bono Net. Through the use of the Closing the Gap website and Law Help Interactive software developed by Pro Bono Net, the pro bono attorney is able to interview the rural client in a virtual interview and draft pro se pleadings that will allow the client to be suited with affirmative defenses in court.

One particular case that Mr. Chisolm was triumphant in involved a client who was at risk of losing housing. The client was facing a retaliatory eviction due to the conditions of the home. Jordan interviewed the client through the Closing the Gap website and immediately noticed numerous discrepancies with the process in which the opposing party brought suit against the LASNNY client. Jordan prepared the client with justifiable procedural defenses and because of this, the client’s eviction was dismissed and both parties were able to come to a mutual agreement. As quoted by the client, “Jordan was so good, the ‘judge’ in my little town had to look up all of the cases he cited in my answer and counterclaim. He hit it out of the ball park! Thanks so much.”  We are pleased to say that the client is still happily residing in her home free from any further housing or habitability issues.

Closing the Gap is very fortunate to have Mr. Chisolm as a pro bono advocate, it is very evident his passion for helping others. Mr. Chisolm gives each case 100% effort and is always willing to go beyond program expectations in order to serve the client.

 


Closing the Gap logoClosing the Gap builds legal assistance capacity in rural communities by facilitating limited scope assistance from pro bono volunteers based in Albany and Rochester. Combining real-time web video chat with client collaboration tools, remote review of documents and generation of pleadings through LawHelp Interactive, Closing the Gap increases the quantity and scope of pro bono service delivery in housing and consumer cases in rural upstate New York.

LASNNYThe Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York provides effective, free civil legal services and education to and advocacy for people with low income or other barriers to accessing the legal system.  We secure basic needs, protect and preserve legal rights, provide equal access to justice and seek fairness and dignity for our clients.

Are you an In-House Counsel with a resolution to do Pro Bono work in 2016? Are you a non profit looking to engage In-House Counsel volunteers? Watch this free webinar provided by the Practising Law Institute, partnered with Pro Bono Net!

To kick off the 7th Annual National Celebrate Pro Bono Week this past October, the Practising Law Institute partnered with Pro Bono Net to host a free webinar about matching up interested In-House counsels with pro bono projects and programs. The webinar, “In-House Counsel and Pro Bono – Making the Match,” was moderated by Pro Bono Net’s Pro Bono and Special Initiatives Coordinator, Niki DeMel, and featured panelists who were able to shed light on partnerships and programs with in-house counsels, including how they encourage participation, effectively run in-house counsel pro bono programs, and work with partners.

Each of the three panelists spoke about their organization’s efforts and they are outlined below.

Rachel Epps Spears, Executive Director for the Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta, discussed some of the challenges faced by in-house counsel in doing pro bono work, and how organizations can work with them to mitigate some of these challenges and garner participation. The most common issues voiced by in-house counsel include that they are not litigators, have no malpractice insurance, are not licensed in jurisdiction, have no pro bono infrastructure, have fewer colleagues than other attorneys, pro bono is not rewarded/recognized/allowed, and they don’t have enough time. Rachel offered various solutions and considerations to take into account when encouraging participation by in-house counsels. Her solutions, and more about how Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta works with in-house attorneys, can be found by watching the webinar here: http://bit.ly/1j7MveU.

Beth Henderson, Chair of Pro Bono Steering Committee at Microsoft Corporation, discussed several considerations that need to be made when creating and maintaining a successful in-house pro bono program. This included four very specific questions that should be asked when getting started: How do you define a successful in-house pro bono program; Is this something leadership supports and is willing to promote; Do certain countries restrict the provision of pro bono representation; How will you measure pro bono participation? After addressing these concerns, Beth highlighted some strategies to effectively manage an in-house pro bono program: Work with partners to develop pro bono opportunities that align with company interests and availability of potential volunteers; Develop an effective channel for evangelizing pro bono opportunities; Recognize the contributions and efforts of volunteers and partners; Highlight the value that pro bono service brings to the company. To learn more about these considerations and strategies, watch the webinar here: http://bit.ly/1j7MveU.

Carol Bockner, Director of Pro Bono Initiatives at the City Bar Justice Center for the NYC Bar Association, discussed how Legal Service Providers can partner with in-house counsels to perform pro bono work. These kinds of partnerships present different challenges as partnerships rather than individual programs and so require different considerations and solutions. Carol suggests that there are specific elements that are required for a successful partnership including identifying a point person at the corporation who is managing the pro bono program, and developing strong communication between the Legal Service Provider and the In-House pro bono professionals. To hear more about these elements and best practices for these partnerships, watch the webinar here: http://bit.ly/1j7MveU.

Interested in volunteering?  Check out our “Volunteer Tools” page to learn about the range of resources we have at Pro Bono Net to help mobilize and engage pro bono volunteers, or start searching for opportunities right now by using our national Pro Bono Opportunities Guide!

 


Practising Law InstituteThis seminar/webcast was hosted by the Practising Law Institute. To register for any webcasts or seminars go to www.pli.edu for more information.

At the core of Practising Law Institute’s mission is its commitment to offer training to members of the legal profession to support their pro bono service. PLI offers pro bono training, scholarships, and access to live programs, Webcasts, and On-Demand archived programs, as well as an extensive Pro Bono Membership program. For more information about PLI’s pro bono programs and activities, please visitwww.pli.edu/probono. Follow PLI’s Pro Bono Group on LinkedIn, and on Twitter @ProBonoPLI.

 

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need. We are celebrating Pro Bono Week, October 25-31, by honoring those dedicated volunteers. Each day we are spotlighting a pro bono volunteer in the community on our organization’s website in the Volunteer Profile section. Our final spotlight is of Fiona Finlay-Hunt at Davis Polk. She responded to some questions about her pro bono work.
Fiona Finlay-Hunt, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP

Fiona Finlay-Hunt is an associate in the New York office of Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP. She is a member of the Intellectual Property & Technology group and her practice focuses on intellectual property issues arising from corporate transactions, such as mergers and acquisitions, securities offerings and credit transactions. Ms. Finlay-Hunt has participated in pro bono work spanning the arts and entrepreneurship, elder law, criminal appeals and corporate governance.

 

Why do you feel it’s important for you to do pro bono work? What motivates you?
I feel the importance of pro bono work relates directly to why a functioning society needs lawyers at all. It is my obligation as an attorney to understand and interpret the law and to translate this understanding into action for my clients. Without an advocate to guide clients through the often very complicated legal process, the rights and protections provided by law are rendered almost meaningless. It is important for those who are persecuted, discriminated against, impoverished and otherwise in need to know that they have a recourse in the law and a friend and ally in their attorney.

What do you see as some of the most important area of need? What kind of cases does your firm/company prioritize?

I believe that the most important areas of need for pro bono legal services currently are immigration and refugee services and issues relating to gender and sexuality. The law is evolving to better serve marginalized communities, such as new and undocumented immigrants, the LGBTQ community and those that have been displaced by persecution or violence, but without a lawyer these communities may not be able to access the protections afforded by the law, if they are even aware of their rights.

My firm, Davis Polk & Wardwell, is heavily involved in serving these communities. For example, we run clinics and long-term projects relating to transgender name change, uncontested divorces, veteran care issues, elder law, and small business. Additionally, we run a number of collaborative projects to serve asylum seekers with Sanctuary for Families and Human Rights First, as well as an asylum workshop that we conduct with Columbia Law School’s Center for Public Interest Law. Davis Polk’s reach in terms of pro bono offerings is truly extraordinary.

So it is obvious that the need is overwhelming, but so is a busy work day: how do you find the time?

I treat my pro bono clients’ needs the same as those of any of the firm’s clients. In many cases, urgent matters that arise in the context of pro bono work may have a disproportionate impact on the client because they relate to an acute personal issue. I try to balance my urgent work so that I can serve my pro bono clients with the same responsiveness, accuracy and care as any of the firm’s clients. The firm encourages as much pro bono work as possible, so my pro bono work and my billable work are one and the same to me.

How do you find cases or issues that interest you? How do individuals at your firm/company find cases?

In certain cases I have been sought out by a senior associate who has an interesting project for a long-standing pro bono client, or someone has referred a matter to me because of my practice area. On the other hand, the firm’s resources and support for pro bono are such that one may easily sign up to participate in any of the workshops and clinics that the firm hosts or sends attorneys to attend. For instance, I have participated multiple times in the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts clinic that the firm hosts every summer.

Another means by which I have become involved in pro bono work is by working closely with a partner with a robust pro bono practice. As a member of Davis Polk’s Intellectual Property and Technology Group, I have been fortunate to become involved with Pro Bono Net through Frank Azzopardi. These client relationships are one of the best ways for junior associates to become essential team members on interesting and impactful pro bono matters, and to get to know the wonderful people who have dedicated their lives to giving underserved communities vital access to justice.

View on Site

 

Pro bono work is a core responsibility of Davis Polk. We are committed to serving the public good and providing legal services to those who cannot otherwise obtain legal representation. Our lawyers work on pro bono matters throughout their careers at the firm, and we champion pro bono work through partner mentoring, training opportunities and the commitment of resources. We consider pro bono work to be of equal stature to billable matters, and our lawyers offer the same caliber of service to our pro bono clients as we do to our paying clients.


 

Once again we wish to thank all of the volunteers that continue to make our mission of increasing access to justice a reality. Come back each day this week to view the next Volunteer Profile spotlight!

Interested in volunteering?  Check out our “Volunteer Tools” page to learn about the range of resources we have at Pro Bono Net to help mobilize and engage pro bono volunteers, or start searching for opportunities right now by using our national Pro Bono Opportunities Guide!

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need. We are celebrating Pro Bono Week, October 25-31, by honoring those dedicated volunteers. Each day we are spotlighting a pro bono volunteer in the community on our organization’s website in the Volunteer Profile section. Today’s spotlight is Heather McDevitt, a Partner at White & Case LLP.
Heather McDevitt, Partner, White & Case
Heather McDevitt, White & Case

 

Heather McDevitt is a litigation partner at White & Case LLP. She is the head of the firm’s Global Pharmaceuticals and Healthcare Group, and a member of the Firm’s Partnership Committee. Today’s volunteer feature gives us a very special personal insight into pro bono from a partner perspective at one of the nation’s leading law firms. It provides some useful advice and guidance that we hope will serve as an inspiration for many others to volunteer and join the collective effort to ensure fairness for all in our justice system.

 

 

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My family originally is from New York, but we moved around a bit during my childhood. I spent the first half of my childhood in Burlington, Vermont and moved to Austin, Texas for the second half. I went to college at Wellesley and studied law at Albany Law School. I’ve been with White & Case since 2002 and have been practicing law since 1993. At White & Case, I’m a litigation partner with a focus on representing life sciences and pharma companies. I’m also the head of the Firm’s Global Pharmaceuticals and Healthcare Group and a member of the Firm’s Partnership Committee

How did you become interested in pro bono legal work?

I’ve always been interested in the aspects of our justice system that don’t work as well, or as fairly, as they should. I have seen firsthand how the system doesn’t work for some individuals, and sometimes creates results that are unfair and arbitrary. I really wanted to see what I could do as a private practitioner to help chip away at that, even if the immediate impact of my efforts was only at an individual level.

I started working on pro bono matters as a very young associate. I was a member of a team representing a man who was on death row in Alabama. I worked on the case for about 13 years, starting at the state level post-conviction phase until its conclusion. In some respects I felt like I grew up working on that case; over time I became one of our client’s two lead lawyers and served as a primary point of support for him throughout that time. Over the years I worked closely with Bryan Stevenson and Randy Susskind of the Equal Justice Initiative – two people who have had a tremendous impact on my professional development – and they asked me to lead the Eighth Amendment challenge to Alabama’s method of execution by lethal injection in addition to the work we were doing for our longstanding client.

Ultimately our client was executed in 2007, and I took a break from working on pro bono cases for a time. Recently though, I am leading a team representing Mark Schand, a man who spent nearly 27 years in prison after being convicted of a murder that he did not commit. He was exonerated, and we have filed a civil rights lawsuit on his behalf to compensate him and his family for the decades he lost as a result of his wrongful conviction.

What would you advise someone who is thinking about volunteering?

My best advice would be to stop thinking about it and just do it. As lawyers we may become very concerned about how pro bono work will best fit into our practice and how it lines up with our experience, but these should not always be the deciding factors. You could find a type of dispute or other pro bono engagement that really interests you or that you have prior experience in. Or you can work on a matter that is different from your everyday practice, but that would nevertheless benefit from your judgment and acumen. Both types of engagements are truly beneficial.

There are so many needs in both the criminal and civil justice systems that are going unfulfilled. For example, a significant percentage of our population has no access to our civil justice system due to the cost of that access – they are in a bind because while they don’t qualify for legal aid, they certainly cannot afford a lawyer. That is not a sustainable state of affairs when it comes to the legitimacy of our system of justice. We just need smart, capable and willing lawyers to devote some time to these matters. I think the rewards manifest themselves pretty quickly for people who are on the fence about taking on pro bono work, as they realize they can really make a difference, even on a micro-level.

To me, this actually is part of a much larger issue that we as a profession need to come to grips with in the near term. It seems like now, more than ever, the US public is very cynical about our institutions. Having a strong, fair, and accessible system of justice is really important for the public’s confidence. I believe that, perhaps different from other professions, legal professionals have an obligation to maintain our system and to uphold its trustworthiness and stature. Pro bono work is a significant way in which we can do this.

Did you learn any new skills during your experience?

Yes, from both an in-court and out-of-court perspective, I learned that you need to sometimes adapt your style and strategy to the circumstances you are facing. In pro bono cases, you may find yourself in an unfamiliar jurisdiction – away from home or even just a local court in which you do not often practice. To go back to my first pro bono experiences, Alabama courts can be different than New York courts, and you need to be sensitive to those issues in order to get the best result for your client.

This could mean moderating or adjusting how you present your case in court by being more or less aggressive, for just one example. This is one of the reasons why I think pro bono is such a terrific training ground for junior lawyers who are still trying to figure out how to approach each matter strategically. And for more senior lawyers, I think it is a good reminder that one size doesn’t fit all in the way we approach the work we do for all of our clients.

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Learn more about pro bono at White & Case.


Once again we wish to thank all of the volunteers that continue to make our mission of increasing access to justice a reality. Come back each day this week to view the next Volunteer Profile spotlight!

Interested in volunteering?  Check out our “Volunteer Tools” page to learn about the range of resources we have at Pro Bono Net to help mobilize and engage pro bono volunteers, or start searching for opportunities right now by using our national Pro Bono Opportunities Guide!

 

 

 

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

The Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) is excited to announce its fourth annual e-conference fundraiser, “Cutting Edge Issues in Immigration Law,” from November 2 to November 6, 2015. In honor of National Celebrate Pro Bono Week, we are spotlighting one of our expert panelists for this year’s e-conference, Fried Frank’s Karen Grisez.
Karen Grisez, Special Counsel, Public Service Counsel Litigation
Karen Grisez, Special Counsel

 

Karen T. Grisez is a member of the Litigation Department and is resident in Fried Frank’s Washington, DC office. In her role as Public Service Counsel, Ms. Grisez manages the intake and placement of pro bono matters, acts as liaison to national and local bar associations and legal services providers and provides substantive advice and assistance to other attorneys who are working on pro bono cases. She has experience with issues of political asylum and other immigration matters, veterans’ benefits, family law, landlord/tenant law and general civil litigation.

 

Karen Grisez celebrates National Pro Bono Week all year long in her role as Public Service Counsel for the law firm Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson. The upcoming celebration (October 25 – 31) and the Immigration Advocates e-Conference (November 2 – 6) provide an opportunity to recognize those in our community who approach pro bono in traditional and nontraditional ways. In addition to managing a pro bono caseload, Karen engages in advocacy and education to support access to justice. In this capacity, she regularly joins the Immigration Advocates Network as an expert panelist.

Karen started at Fried Frank in part because of its strong pro bono program. She worked as a Litigation Associate for six years, when Fried Frank agreed to her proposal to create a full time Public Service Counsel position. Today, her colleagues benefit from Karen’s training and supervision on pro bono projects and her extensive advocacy experience. In addition, Karen mentors the wider community of pro bono and nonprofit lawyers in the American Bar Association, American Immigration Lawyers Association, and Immigration Advocates Network.

During the first week of November Karen joins the Immigration Advocates Network  e-Conference, on the panel of “Improving Your Appeal to the BIA.” According to Karen, webinars are “a highly efficient way of introducing a lot of lawyers to this practice area and getting them to volunteer for cases.” She notes that “an unrepresented respondent, almost always very limited in English and lacking legal training, sometimes also with the impediments that go with being detained, has virtually no chance of writing an adequate brief to the Board on appeal.”

We hope that you will join Karen and the Immigration Advocates Network for Celebrate Pro Bono Week by signing up for an e-Conference session. Your support helps us provide free resources to pro bono attorneys at the Pro Bono Resource Center.

Fried Frank has a genuine commitment to pro bono work and a strong sense of philanthropic responsibility.  Illustrated not by our words but by our work, we go well beyond the base requirements to develop and nurture strong ties with our local communities.

 


The Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) is excited to announce its fourth annual e-conference fundraiser, “Cutting Edge Issues in Immigration Law,” from November 2 to November 6, 2015. Join us for a week-long series of interactive online trainings with national experts on BIA Appeals, U Visas & VAWA, entry & admission, prosecutorial discretion, and working with clients who have diminished capacity. We explore the issues through the lens of current events and the latest legal developments.
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E-Conference Features

  • Listen to nationally-recognized experts from the comfort of your own office;
  • Participate in “ask the expert” sessions during each interactive training;
  • Access presentations and handouts before the training session;
  • Take interactive quizzes and polls before and during conference sessions; and
  • Obtain exclusive access to recorded trainings after the conference.

To Register:

The cost of each two-hour training session is $25. Your support helps IAN offer free trainings and resources throughout the year. For more information and to register, visit http://www.immigrationadvocates.org/econference.

 

 

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need. We are celebrating Pro Bono Week, October 25-31, by honoring those dedicated volunteers. Each day we are spotlighting a pro bono volunteer in the community on our organization’s website in the Volunteer Profile section.
Today’s feature is authored by the Legal Aid Society and describes the recent success of class action lawsuit, Nunez v New York. The article speaks to a partnership between the Legal Aid Society’s Prisoners’ Rights Project and Pro Bono Counsel, Ropes & Gray, which was led by our featured volunteer, Bill Sussman, a business and securities litigation partner.  The piece reflects on 30,000 hours of pro bono work over a 3 year period and a continued and deepened commitment to pro bono by Ropes & Gray following the success of the case.
Bill Sussman, Ropes & Gray

 

For over 30 years, Bill has represented private equity and corporate clients, and their partners, officers and directors, in M&A and corporate governance disputes, antitrust matters, and complex business tort and contract disputes. Bill is co-chair of Ropes & Gray’s Pro Bono Committee, and is active in pro bono representations.

 

 

 

The Legal Aid Society Prisoners’ Rights Project, together with pro bono co-counsel Ropes & Gray LLP are proud to announce the settlement of Nunez v. New York, a class action lawsuit, brought along with Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP and later joined by the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”), to redress systematic excessive force in the jails in New York City.

On Oct. 21, Judge Laura Taylor Swain of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted final approval of the settlement, which outlines a comprehensive set of reform measures to be implemented by the Department of Correction.  Judge Swain called the settlement “groundbreaking” and noted that it “provides an important example for other correctional systems around the country.

The reform measures include:

  • A new use of force policy providing clear directions on when force may be used, and expressly limiting certain categories of force;
  • Revamped training to teach staff to defuse conflicts without force and avoid unnecessary injury to anyone when force is necessary;
  • Robust accountability measures, including requiring staff to report force honestly and completely, ensuring fair and professional investigations of use of force, and requiring fair and timely discipline of staff who misuse force;
  • Vastly expanded video surveillance, through stationary, handheld and body-worn cameras.

With the final court approval, the agreement becomes an enforceable federal consent decree, monitored by correctional expert Steve J. Martin of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. It requires the Department of Correction to implement new policies and practices to curb the rampant misuse of force and end the culture of violence which emboldens staff to abuse prisoners and lie about such abuse with impunity.
“We are proud of the work of our team of lawyers and other professionals on the Rikers Island case, which led to a landmark agreement to enact much-needed reform measures,” said David Chapin, managing partner of Ropes & Gray.  Ropes & Gray lawyers worked over 30,000 hours on the case over a three-year period on a pro bono basis. 

The firm will use the court awarded attorneys’ fees to fund public service initiatives, including:

  • Establishing the “Ropes & Gray Prison Reform Counsel” at Legal Aid’s Prisoners’ Rights Project (PRP). Funding the senior-level counsel position will allow the PRP to help ensure the City’s compliance with the Nunez agreement over its lifetime, and to fund its other public service projects.
  • Contributing funds to The Legal Aid Society to help that organization with its many and varied public service projects that help New Yorkers.
  • Funding an ongoing Ropes & Gray Fellowship in New York through Equal Justice Works, a public interest law program, for 10 years.
  • Financing expenses— which do not include cost of lawyers’ time—the firm incurred over the years its lawyers and other professionals worked on the Nunez case. Those include expert fees and expenses, the costs to set up a discovery database, expenses involved in taking depositions, and other case-related costs.
  • Dedicating the remaining fees to a special fund at Ropes & Gray, separate from the firm’s general budget, to be used exclusively for future pro bono expenses.

“It is all the more gratifying to put the attorney fees to good use to help ensure that the reform measures become reality and that other worthy public service projects can move forward. Our protocol is that any fees awarded to Ropes & Gray for its work on pro bono matters are used only for pro bono purposes —either at public service organizations or at the firm,” said Chapin.

“This agreement requires the City to make deeply important changes to the supervision of staff on Rikers Island, and reflects our view of the best path to reform,” said Jonathan Chasan, a supervising attorney at the Prisoners’ Rights Project. Staff Attorney Mary Lynne Werlwas added,  “These reforms will make the jails safer for inmates and staff, and reduce the number of serious injuries New Yorkers sustain while incarcerated.”

The New York-based Ropes & Gray team has been led by business & securities litigation partner Bill Sussman, government enforcement partner and Legal Aid Society Board member Chris Conniff, and former government enforcement associate Anna Friedberg.

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Ropes & Gray’s public service commitment is a hallmark of the firm, rooted in the example set by the firm’s founders nearly a century and a half ago. From securing asylum for endangered immigrants, to helping people keep their homes, to winning the release of the wrongly convicted, Ropes & Gray strives to provide the highest level of pro bono legal advice and support to those who need it most. Learn more here  If you want to learn more about the Rikers Island Pro Bono Case, watch this 5 minute video.
The Legal Aid Society is a private, not-for-profit legal services organization, the oldest and largest in the nation, dedicated since 1876 to providing quality legal representation to low-income New Yorkers. It is dedicated to one simple but powerful belief: that no New Yorker should be denied access to justice because of poverty.The Prisoners Rights Project featured in this article protects and enforces the legal rights of New York City and New York State prisoners through litigation, advice, and assistance to individual prisoners.

 

Once again we wish to thank all of the volunteers that continue to make our mission of increasing access to justice a reality. Come back each day this week to view the next Volunteer Profile spotlight!

Interested in volunteering?  Check out our “Volunteer Tools” page to learn about the range of resources we have at Pro Bono Net to help mobilize and engage pro bono volunteers, or start searching for opportunities right now by using our national Pro Bono Opportunities Guide!

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need. We are celebrating Pro Bono Week, October 25-31, by honoring those dedicated volunteers. Each day we are spotlighting a pro bono volunteer in the community on our organization’s website in the Volunteer Profile section. Our third profile spotlights the work of Rebecca E. Algie, an associate at Seward & Kissel LLP, and volunteer with Her Justice.
Rebecca E. Algie, Litigation Associate
Rebecca E. Algie, Litigation Associate

 

Rebecca E. Algie is a litigation associate at Seward & Kissel LLP.  As a summer associate, she first volunteered 5 years ago, in 2010, on a case referred to by Her Justice, a non-profit organization based in New York.  This volunteer article recognizes the ongoing commitment and dedication of Rebecca to providing low-income women with access to justice, and highlights her work on a litigated divorce case for a mother of four children, her advocacy of which ensured her client’s long term economic security and the right to safely remain in her home. 

 

 

Her Justice is proud to recognize the outstanding pro bono work of Rebecca E. Algie, Esq., a litigation associate at Seward & Kissel LLP.  Ms. Algie is a 2011 graduate of Boston University School of Law. She first volunteered on a case referred by Her Justice in the summer of 2010, while she was a summer associate at Seward. Since then, she has continued to work on litigated cases and she remains a dedicated and highly effective advocate for Her Justice clients. Litigated cases, especially litigated divorces, always present a challenge in recruiting pro bono attorneys, yet Ms. Algie continues to rise to the challenge, not daunted by challenging material facts or the potential of prolonged time commitment.

The following case illustrates the outstanding work and dedication shown by Ms. Algie to Her Justice clients:

“Ms. Algie served as the main attorney on a litigated divorce case working under the supervision of a senior attorney at the firm. The client was a mother of four children; the youngest two were from her then- husband. The parties’ youngest daughter has several medical conditions which required open heart surgeries. The child needs a wheelchair whenever she is being transported long distances; she also needs regular feeding tubes and is severely developmentally delayed. The marital residence was a single family home in Staten Island, New York which was on the brink of foreclosure proceedings.

Ms. Algie fought relentlessly to secure a favorable financial and custodial settlement for the client; particularly given her concern of the father’s being able to meet the child’s special needs during parenting time.  The client obtained primary residential custody with terms that both allowed the father time with the youngest daughter while protecting her special needs. The client received exclusive occupancy of the marital residence, with the protection of shared liabilities and the client retaining 100% of any sale proceeds should a foreclosure sale occur. In addition to child support, the client received spousal maintenance for eight years, thereby carrying her into retirement at 65 years of age. Ms. Algie’s zealous advocacy on behalf of this client ensured her long term economic security and the right to safely remain in her home.”

Ms. Algie’s commitment to providing women with access to justice is evident in her continued representation of Her Justice clients on litigated cases and in her strongly encouraging other associates to take these challenging cases as well. At a recent Her Justice litigated divorce training, Ms. Algie elaborated on the skills she has learned from Her Justice volunteer cases including oral argument, motion practice and negotiations – learning opportunities that only come much later to young associates in large firms. She also spoke of the personal satisfaction of helping women with difficult legal cases in such vulnerable and critical aspects of their lives.  We are honored to work with Ms. Algie and thank her for her tireless advocacy and effort on behalf of our clients and her commitment to the mission of Her Justice.

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Her Justice engages the talent and resources of New York City’s law firms, bringing together committed lawyers and determined women to secure life-changing results.   What makes Her Justice unique is that it is based on a “pro bono first” model.  Her Justice specializes in offering pro bono assistance—connecting volunteer lawyers from premier law firms in New York City with low-income women. Her Justice brings the power of the legal profession to those who need it most, giving low-income women, many of whom are victims of domestic violence, and their children a real chance to obtain the legal protections they need to overcome poverty and abuse.


Once again we wish to thank all of the volunteers that continue to make our mission of increasing access to justice a reality. Come back each day this week to view the next Volunteer Profile spotlight!

Interested in volunteering?  Check out our “Volunteer Tools” page to learn about the range of resources we have at Pro Bono Net to help mobilize and engage pro bono volunteers, or start searching for opportunities right now by using our national Pro Bono Opportunities Guide!