As we enter 2016, the mission of Pro Bono Net, a national nonprofit dedicated to increasing access to justice, is more important than ever before. We are a nation of laws, yet we do not provide legal support in any comprehensive way for the millions of people who cannot afford a lawyer when they really need one—victims of natural disasters, battered women, children fleeing persecution in their home countries, and many others. Through innovative technology solutions and expertise in building and mobilizing justice networks, Pro Bono Net is helping address the access to justice gap.
In 2009 Mark O’Brien, Pro Bono Net’s Executive Director, came to Seattle to urge Microsoft to get involved in promoting access to justice through technology. His pitch was simple: technology can act as a “force multiplier,” enabling volunteer lawyers to reach people in need far more efficiently and enabling people to help themselves.
That message certainly resonated with Microsoft, and with me. Six years later, I’m proud to serve as the Chair of the Board of Pro Bono Net. I have seen the impact of Pro Bono Net’s technology solutions firsthand, and am more convinced than ever in the efficacy of these solutions. At the same time, technology alone can’t really achieve anything—we need people to contribute their time, talent and resources. (Technology is just a tool.) The networks and partnerships Pro Bono Net has cultivated over the years with other legal services organizations have been crucial in getting vital resources and legal information to volunteer lawyers and people who represent themselves.
Today Pro Bono Net is running multiple programs, including probono.net, LawHelp.org, LawHelp Interactive, and the Immigration Advocates Network. These programs help people to help themselves and help volunteer lawyers to be far more effective. This year alone more than 8 million people used Pro Bono Net’s resources to help address their legal needs. We look forward to another productive year in 2016!
David A. Heiner, Pro Bono Net Board Chair