The Immigration Advocates Network Fifth Annual E-Conference FundraiserThe Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) is excited to announce its fifth annual e-conference fundraiser, “Cutting Edge Issues in Immigration Law,” from October 31 to November 4, 2016. Join us for a week-long series of interactive online trainings with national experts on representing children, administrative advocacy, entry & admission, U visas, and provisional waivers. We explore the issues through the lens of current events and the latest legal developments.

IAN offers free webinars throughout the year for pro bono lawyers and nonprofit staff.  However, once a year, IAN hosts an e-Conference Fundraiser, and offers these webinars for a small fee. The e-Conference raises money to support the free online training materials for advocates who represent noncitizens in claims for asylum, changes in immigration status, naturalization and more. Resources include training materials, practice advisories, sample applications and affidavits, government-issued policy memoranda, significant case law, related articles, checklists and links to additional resources.

Join the e-Conference to support IAN and learn about the latest issues and strategies in immigration law.

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.

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 https://www.immigrationadvocates.org/econference.


Conference Sessions 

Representing Children in Removal Proceedings
Monday, October 31
This training will discuss legal protections for children in removal proceedings and steps to take if the government breaks those rules. The panel will focus on practice strategies for advocates.

Elevating the Case: Strategies for Helping Clients with USCIS Issues
Tuesday, November 1
This training will cover common issues with DACA and other cases such as processing delays, rejections, requests for evidence, correcting typographical mistakes and agency error. The panel will discuss points of access within USCIS, and how to engage the Ombudsman’s office.

How Entry, Admission, and Parole Affect Your Client’s Case
Wednesday, November 2
This training will review legal concepts of entry, admission, and parole into the United States. The panel will also discuss the practical effects of what happened at the point of entry on a client’s case.

Enhance Your U Visa Practice
Thursday, November 3
This interactive training is a U visa case strategy session, to troubleshoot common U visa issues, including how to frame qualifying crimes, complex inadmissibility issues, and more. Participants are invited to submit U visa scenarios on the registration form so that the webinar can discuss the issues they face in practice.

The Expanded Provisional Waiver Program
Friday, November 4
The panel will explain eligibility for the expanded program, including tips on completing the new I-601A. It will also cover the extreme hardship standard based on draft or finalized agency guidance.

If you are unable to attend a session, but would like to donate to support the Immigration Advocates Network, click here.

 


The 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.

Hispanic Heritage month, a chance look at the wealth of contributions the Hispanic community has made and continues to make in our society, is almost over. As we celebrate the contributions, we continue to support our communities in achieving their dreams and goals by providing assistance in overcoming civil legal issues and access to justice. Continue reading to see some examples and learn about how these tools and resources impact Spanish speaking communities nationwide.

In civil law cases, many begin the legal process without the benefit of an attorney due to the cost of retaining one. In order to provide access to information easily and effectively, Pro Bono Net offers a myriad of tools and resources and support, developed by local partners, to assist those who navigate our legal system alone. LawHelp.org is an online resource that helps low and moderate-income people find free legal aid programs in their communities, answers to questions about their legal rights, court information, links to social service agencies, and more. Several states around the country now offer these resources in Spanish to better equip communities to navigate the legal system on their own, or find access to legal aid.

Online interviews and document assemblies help legal aid programs meet the needs of Spanish speaking communities by helping them to help themselves. Many of these households struggle to find the time to go downtown to a legal aid office, so these online tools allow them to handle their legal problems from home on their own time. Providing online resources 24/7 in Spanish and other languages enables the community to better access our justice system in a manner that suits their needs.

Spanish Language Resources

Ayuda Legal MichiganThe Michigan Poverty Law Program has created Ayuda Legal Michigan, a LawHelp powered site, to provide access to their information and resources directly in Spanish. Here Spanish speaking residents of Michigan can access easy to use online forms in their native language in multiple civil legal aid areas. Many of these forms are interactive and guided through the use of LawHelp Interactive (LHI), a Pro Bono Net form generation platform which has supported Spanish online content more than 10 years. All of these forms are available for free. Take a look at an example of a Michigan protective order report.

Ayuda Legal NY offers similar resources and online forms in multiple areas of law in Spanish. The NY State Courts have a Paternity petition form available in Spanish, as well as a Tenant Answer to Eviction, one of the first online forms in Spanish in the LHI system. These online interactive forms make it easier for Spanish speakers to navigate the US legal system, minimizing confusion and increasing efficiency. Ayuda Legal NY also offers various know-your-rights information and tools directly on their website.

Minnesota screen shot spanishIn Minnesota, tenants can request Security Deposit returns using an online interview, available in Spanish, which takes their entered information and produces a document for them to file/ provide to their landlord. For many low income families, not receiving the security deposit back from their landlord within an acceptable time frame can affect their ability to move and secure housing somewhere else. The ability to go through a simple interview that will create the necessary legal forms provides an avenue to ensuring their landlord returns their deposit, enabling them to utilize those funds for a different apartment, or towards purchasing a more permanent residence such as a house.

These are just a few examples of how legal aid programs can put online resources at the hands of our Hispanic communities to ensure equal access to helpful tools. Similar forms and programs can be found in multiple states across the country. The LawHelp Interactive platform supports additional languages and if you are interested in learning more about this capacity please reach out to us.

Resources for Nonprofit Service Providers

At Pro Bono Net we believe that creating online tools to bridge language and culture gaps is key to achieving access to justice for all, and have worked steadily since 2008 across states to support the design and creation of online tools for multiple communities.

In that spirit we would like to share the following resources for legal non profit service providers who are working with multiple languages, as there are now online glossaries that help explain legal language in Spanish. One example is Readclearly, is a glossary shared through Open Advocate. In addition the Sacramento Courts have for years made available some of the most complete legal dictionaries.

Legal nonprofits, courts, librarians and their partners interested in discovering more about Spanish language online tools are encouraged to reach out to us to find out what is available in your state, and/or learn how you can work with us to continue bridging language gaps for those facing civil legal needs.


 

probononet_Logo_with_taglineAbout Pro Bono Net

Pro Bono Net is a national non-profit organization dedicated to increasing access to justice for the disadvantaged. Through innovative technology solutions and expertise in building and mobilizing justice networks, Pro Bono Net transforms the way legal help reaches the underserved. Comprehensive programs including www.probono.net, www.lawhelp.org and www.lawhelpinteractive.org, enable legal advocates to make a stronger impact, increase volunteer participation, and empower the public with resources and self-help tools to improve their lives.

About LawHelp InteractiveLHI logo

Pro 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. Read a case study about how the NY Courts are using LawHelp Interactive. 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.

About LawHelp.orgLawHelp3Logo

LawHelp is an online resource that helps low and moderate-income people find free legal aid programs in their communities, answers to questions about their legal rights, court information, links to social service agencies, and more. This resource was built and is maintained in partnership with hundreds of legal aid, pro bono and court-based programs across the country. LawHelp.org was recognized with the 2007 Webby Award for Best Law site.

CW Mobile logoIn honor of Citizenship day this past weekend, the Immigration Advocates Network and Pro Bono Net would like to highlight our new and improved Citizenshipworks mobile app!

Citizenshipworks is an award-winning free online service that helps those who are eligible to apply for citizenship, step-by-step. With a DIY application and online and in-person legal support, Citizenshipworks is a one-stop-shop for naturalization. The Citizenshipworks app is the perfect companion tool, providing additional resources and tools to help those interested in applying to naturalize!

The Citizenshipworks mobile app helps users:

  • Learn about their eligibility to become a U.S. citizen;
  • Understand the process of becoming a U.S. citizen;
  • Study for the English and Civics tests with flashcards and other tools;
  • Access financial resources, including a tax document checklist and savings calculator; and
  • Find free or low-cost legal help from a network of nonprofit experts.

Nearly 9 million Legal Permanent Residents are eligible to apply for citizenship. However, less than 10% become citizens each year. They face a range of barriers, including high application fees and a cumbersome, lengthy application process. The Citizenshipworks mobile app aims to empower potential applicants to learn about naturalization and give them the tools they need to complete the process successfully.

In collaboration with Citi Community Development and the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund), the new version of the app includes an updated interface, financial empowerment resources, and a Chinese language version (Korean will be available in October).

Check out the App!

 

 

 

 

 

 

To download the app for Apple devices, visit apple.co/1Q4H4s4 or search for “Citizenshipworks” in the iTunes App Store. To download the app for Android devices, visit https://goo.gl/RhTdy5 or search for “Citizenshipworks” in the Google Play Store.


 

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.

Spring 2016 Winners of the Iron Tech Lawyer Competition

Pro Bono Net’s Executive Director, Mark O’Brien co-teaches an experiential course at Georgetown Law called “Technology, Innovation and Legal Practice– Access to Justice” with Professor Tanina Rostain and Adjunct Professor Kevin Mulcahy. Students in the seminar hear from a range of experts on legal technologies and access to justice. For their projects, student teams collaborate with legal service providers and public interest law organizations to build legal expert systems that promote access to legal processes and the legal system. The course culminates in the Iron Tech Lawyer Competition.

Hear from the winners of this year’s Iron Tech Lawyer Competition, Immigration Healthcare Eligibility Application Liaison, iHeal, below.

Iron Tech Lawyer Competition Winners - Team iHeal
Left to Right: iHeal Team – Taryn Smith, Jennifer Llano, Lauren Wiefels, and Arvind Miriyala; Judges – Paul Ohm, Dean Garfield, James Sandman; Professor Tanina Rostain

Early February, we—the students of Technology, Innovation, and Law—were separated into teams. Each team was paired with an organization and given the task to “fill a hole” for the organization by building an app. Our team (Arvind Miriyala, Lauren Wiefels, Jennifer Llano, and myself, Taryn Smith) was paired with the National Immigration Law Center, and the “hole” we were to fill was informing immigrants about healthcare benefits for which they may be eligible based on their status.

We began by dividing the labor. The question, “So, who considers themselves tech-y?” was initially met with radio silence. Eventually, however, we managed to designate two app builders and two information researchers. After that, all we had to do was take two complicated areas of law—Immigration and Healthcare—and make them digestible in order to create an app for an audience whose first language would likely not be English.

Fortunately, we had the help of Alvaro Huerta, an attorney at NILC, who helped us detangle the law and better understand how to interact with our target audience. We had to keep in mind that, for immigrants, there is a very understandable fear attached to providing information about yourself or your family, especially when that information concerns your immigration status, and especially when you are giving that information to a lawyer or a government entity. It was important to us that our users felt comfortable throughout their interaction with the app and not overwhelmed or threatened.

The final application, iHEAL, has both an English and a Spanish version. It is comprised of short, simple questions that mostly appear on the screen one at a time. There are numerous “Why We Ask” pop-up links to let our users know how exactly we plan to use each piece of information they give us. The app takes into account each answer, and when the users reach the end, they are told for what benefits they may be eligible and why. It also provides the location and contact information of the nearest help center, as well as a transcript of their responses to save and take with them.

There are a number of “holes” in the current legal system. Technology is a promising way to fill those holes whether it is used to complete menial tasks, allowing lawyers to spend time on more difficult issues, or to streamline a complex processes, or to simply educate the public. By embracing technology, we can create a much more efficient, user-friendly legal system.

Iron Tech Competition Judges panel
Panel of our esteemed judges left to right: Dean Garfield, Paul Ohm, James Sandman


This year’s Iron Tech Lawyer Competition was judged by Dean Garfield, President and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) and Pro Bono Net Board member; Paul Ohm, Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center and faculty director for the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown; and James Sandman, President of the Legal Services Corporation, chair of the DC Circuit Judicial Conference Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services and member of the DC Access to Justice Commission.

 

Click here to learn more about the other teams or watch the competition!


 

NeotaLogic-Logo_opt
Neota Logic provides the software used by the students, as well as generous support in the event. 

 

 

 

 

 

As part of Practising Law Institute’s “Human Trafficking in Immigrant Communities” webinar a panel addressed special considerations for immigrant victims of human trafficking. Unlike domestic human trafficking victims, immigrants face additional hurdles related to their immigration status, cultural norms, and family hostage situations. Moderated by Melissa Brennan, Deputy Director of the Human Trafficking Initiative at Sanctuary for Families, the panel consisted of a human trafficking survivor under the pseudonym of Liberty, Hon. Pamela K. Chen a United States District Court Judge for the Eastern District of New York, and Rosie Wang a Legal Fellow with Sanctuary for Families Human Trafficking Initiative.

Like thousands of trafficking victims in the United States, Liberty was lied to. She was promised an opportunity to come to the US, work as a nanny, and go to school. Instead, she was brought to the US, held hostage by traffickers, and forced to work. After hearing that others were being used like her, she was determined to put a stop to it and get justice for herself and others. She bravely went to a nonprofit organization, was paired with a pro bono attorney, and has been able to secure a T Nonimmigrant Status (T visa) and eventually a green card. She is currently studying international relations and wants to work in human rights to fight for victims. With the help of legal service and pro bono volunteers, more stories can end like hers.

When representing immigrant trafficking victims, advocates must take a more holistic approach. Many clients may have concerns beyond their immediate immigration status that need to be addressed first. As an advocate for the survivor, it is crucial to gain the trust of your client and treat them as a whole person and not just their legal case. Nonprofit organizations and NGOs (Nongovernmental Organizations) play a crucial role in a victim’s experience during this process as they can provide assistance for those additional needs like housing, medical attention, education, etc.

Many victims are unaware of all of their options including their ability to qualify for the T visa, a specific visa set aside to protect human trafficking victims. While they may be aware of other visa options, this may be the best option for the survivors of human trafficking, but it is not without its hurdles.

Unfortunately, human traffickers can be resourceful when it comes to controlling their victims and sometimes go to enormous lengths to keep them compliant. A major tool traffickers and abusers use to control their victims is to instill a fear of law enforcement. Whether by making the victim feel complicit in illegal activities, or by convincing their victims that the police will deport them, throw them in jail, or won’t believe them, traffickers are able to prevent many victims from coming forward. To compound the issue, some immigrants may come from countries in which the police are corrupt, or testimonial evidence is not given much credence in a court of law. Many may feel ashamed, or are convinced that their situations are unique.

Additionally, traffickers may threaten the victim’s family in order to keep them from going to law enforcement. In these situations, it is possible for law enforcement to help get a trafficked person’s family out of danger. Inside the US, children can be found and a judge can rule on custody. In the event of family remaining in the country of origin, cooperation between US law enforcement and law enforcement on the ground in the country of origin can track down and bring family members of victims to the United States via parole which is approved and renewed by ICE. Once in the US, or once removed from the traffickers, family members can apply for the T visa derivative to extend benefits from the original T visa to the victim’s family.

In order to qualify for a T visa, an immigrant must first show that they were indeed a trafficking victim, and also cooperate with any reasonable requests from law enforcement if a criminal investigation is conducted. With such distrust of law enforcement taught to them, advocates must work with the survivors to ensure that they feel safe when speaking with law enforcement. However, building a bond of trust can have its own hurdles.

Victims of trauma are not always as forthcoming when talking about what happened to them. They may still feel loyal to their traffickers or they may be trying to protect other family members from implication. Also, they may even have a hard time comprehending that a pro bono lawyer is really there to provide services without an ulterior motive.

The panel provided sage advice for addressing these issues. Be up front and honest with your client. Explain the concept of pro bono. Lay out the details of confidentiality. Reassure them you are on their side. Make sure that they understand the difference between their immigration case and any ongoing criminal cases, and that the criminal case will not affect their T visa eligibility. Utilize programs offered by NGOs to get them additional assistance, as this can also go a long way towards building their trust. Most importantly, keep reassuring them that you are there to represent and support them

To hear Liberty’s story first hand and learn more about the considerations crucial to properly representing immigrant human trafficking survivors, watch the panel at the Practising Law Institute online.

 



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.

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

Jillian Theil has been the Training and Field Support Coordinator for Pro Bono Net since 2011. She manages the LSNTAP/PBN Community Training series. 

Last month, Pro Bono Net and LSNTAP held another webinar in the 2015 LSNTAP Community Training series with a new topic, “Process Mapping for Civil Legal Services: Small Investments with a Big Impact!” The training highlighted approaches and techniques to help identify, automate and simplify routine activities and reduce complexity in a variety of contexts, from service delivery to volunteer management.

Mike Grunenwald of Pro Bono Net kicked things off by establishing the “why?” of business process analysis. A powerful tool, this type of analysis can not only increase efficiency in workflows, but also enhance communication between stakeholders.

Matthew Burnett of Immigration Advocates Network followed with a case study image for Mappingof process mapping analysis used to help build Citizenshipworks 2.0, a naturalization application assistance technology. The IAN team facilitated a series of process mapping exercises which helped identify the landscape of existing nonprofit legal service models that support the naturalization application process. The organization then performed a SWOT analysis to assess a number of strengths, weaknesses, internal problems and external threats, along with potential strategic opportunities for creating technology in this space, the results which informed the build of Citizenshipworks 2.0.

Next, Susan Zielke of Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation discussed how her organization used process mapping to help clients in need get connected to attorneys for extended representation more quickly and accurately. The experience resulted in some beneficial takeaways and lessons learned – including a reminder to engage critics and to persevere and keep improving.

Adam Heintz of Legal Services NYC closed out the presentation by reviewing the process mapping his organization completed to brainstorm process needs, bottlenecks, and determine priorities for designing a volunteer management system in the disaster response context. The result was a configured version of Salesforce that automates much of their paperwork, allowing for a much more efficient, effective way to manage volunteers.

 

To view the other tips mentioned on this webinar, be sure to check out materials available on the SWEB Support Site and LSNTAP.org

The UnUCRCaccompanied Children Resource Center launched in early 2015 as a joint project of the Immigration Advocates Network and the American Bar Association. The new website responds to the crisis of unaccompanied immigrant minors in immigration court proceedings. They are leaving their homes for many reasons: to escape abuse, discrimination, gender-based violence, poverty, trafficking, or other desperate situations. Some may qualify to stay in the United States, but the laws and processes are complicated. In FY 2014 almost 70,000 children from Mexico and Central America crossed the United States’ southern border; a 77% increase from the previous year. Many of these immigrant minors do not have access to a lawyer, and the government is not mandated to provide one. Many children—toddlers through teenagers—arrive at court alone, and insufficient knowledge of their legal options is a barrier that often leads to deportation.

The site shares trusted legal information and referrals with advocates, children, and their guardians. Features include a legal directory where children can search for organizations providing pro bono services, as well as a number of plain-language Spanish and English documents on what to expect in immigration court, how to work with a lawyer, how to enroll in school, and more. The site also serves as a resource for lawyers new to immigration court; lawyers can access practice advisories and manuals and connect with organizations to volunteer with children.

The process by which unaccompanied children access services in the U.S. differs across city and immigration court jurisdiction. In Minnesota, volunteer attorneys coordinated by three major service providers gather at the Fort Snelling Court on Tuesday and Thursday mornings for case screening interviews for the unaccompanied children’s docket. In the coming months, the UAC site will expand information about collaborative efforts, such as this one, to explain how children access services in different cities and how volunteers can join the effort.

Visit the site at uacresources.org

IAN logo

This year, Pro Bono Net celebrated our 15th Anniversary. As we reflect back on the past 15 years, we caught up with a few individuals who were critical to our early growth and development. Below is an interview with Liz Keith, Pro Bono Net Program Director. 

Pro Bono Net: Tell us about your time and role at Pro Bono Net?

Liz Keith: I’m approaching a decade with Pro Bono Net.Liz Keith That sounds like long time, and in some ways it is! But PBN and the communities we work with are incredibly dynamic. I’ve never stopped learning along the way, and have had opportunities to work on and develop a wide variety of projects over the years. I started as a Circuit Rider, helping our partner organizations around the country develop their LawHelp.org and probono.net initiatives. My role has expanded since then. I’m still very involved in those efforts, but now oversee our strategies and services across our programs.

PBN: What drew you to working here?

LK: I came to Pro Bono Net after completing a self-tailored masters degree in community informatics at the University of Michigan, focused on public interest applications of technology. Before that I had worked for several years at the Maine Women’s Policy Center, where I helped to coordinate advocacy and community outreach initiatives focusing on economic security, freedom from violence, health care, and civil rights. In Maine I had a chance to work on several novel initiatives that used online tools to support participation of rural and under-represented communities in policy formation, as well as educating women about changes in the law.

Finding Pro Bono Net was a little like finding a needle in a haystack. It combined my interests in access to legal information, community engagement, and creating innovative solutions to help people in need. The fact that Pro Bono Net is not just a technology provider was also attractive. It’s equally invested in improving collaboration in the legal sector, and supporting our partners in developing effective content, outreach, and sustainability strategies. At the time there very few nonprofit organizations working across these areas – and we’re still pretty unique in that way. The national scale of PBN’s work was an added draw.

PBN: What have been the most exciting changes to observe as the organization has grown?

LK: The most striking is probably the transformation in how the communities we work with view technology. In my first few years I did a lot of site visits to our field partners. The local project coordinator and I would do outreach presentations about LawHelp.org and probono.net to legal aid program staff, community groups, law schools, and so on. Invariably, about 10 minutes into a workshop, someone would raise their hand and say, “all of these online legal resources are great, but do low-income clients really have access to the Internet?” It was a valid question at the time, and a digital divide still persists in certain areas, so part of our strategy has always been to work with community anchor institutions that help the public access LawHelp.org. But these days, we’re hearing questions like, “these online resources are great, but our clients are asking if they can apply for services online or e-file forms through LawHelp Interactive.” Some of that change relates to how much more interwoven technology is with our daily lives now, but evaluations of PBN’s programs and training initiatives show that we’ve played a key role in helping to grow the capacity of the field in taking innovative approaches to client services and volunteer mobilization. Some of the most exciting ideas I hear these days come from people who once described themselves as Luddites. In our consumer-facing work, we’ve also expanded our longtime focus on plain language to include other critical areas like language access. Another exciting development has been the growth of our immigration work, via the Immigration Advocates Network, from a small pilot to a major national initiative using innovative technology and collaboration to tackle complex issues and expand legal services for low-income immigrants.

PBN: What are you most proud of from your time at Pro Bono Net?

LK: I think Hurricane Katrina was a galvanizing moment for Pro Bono Net as an organization and me personally on certain levels. I had done a site visit to New Orleans just a few months before. The impact of Katrina was so widespread it became apparently very quickly that the affected communities, particularly low-income ones, would be dealing with legal issues stemming from the disaster for years to come. We were still a small organization at the time, but were able to mobilize quickly to assist our partners in the region with certain immediate needs, and then in leveraging their LawHelp.org and probono.net projects to deliver critical information to the public and help coordinate response efforts by legal aid staff and volunteers. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to support the work of incredibly dedicated advocates and programs throughout the Gulf Coast in the wake of that event. Since then, I’ve worked with other partners on efforts that use our programs to help people recover from crises – whether natural or industrial disasters, like the BP oil spill or the 2008 economic recession. It’s gratifying to see how our programs can help people get a foothold out of crisis, support the work of legal aid practitioners and volunteers, and advance our partners’ own goals on the ground.

Also – and I can’t take credit for this, but I’m not sure where else it fits in this interview! – I’m really proud of PBN’s staff. They are incredibly talented, committed and deeply engaged in the work we do and supporting our collaborations around the country. They’re also a lot of fun. You can see how we like to spend our spare time in Jake’s summer 2014 round-up.

PBN: Where is Pro Bono Net going over the next 15 years, how will our role change, and how will the second 15 years be different from the first 15?

LK: The only constant is change, right? I think our core mission and approach – developing innovative, sustainable solutions for expanding access to justice – will be a constant. I also think we’ll continue to focus largely on solutions that are scalable and replicable and can have widespread impact, not just one-off projects. That said, I see PBN becoming even more of an incubator, and creating spaces for our staff and partners to develop, test, and learn from small-scale projects. I think increasingly we will mix and match our own technology platforms with cutting-edge commercial tools or innovations in the start-up space. I also see us getting more involved in designing and delivering direct services in certain contexts. We do this now through CitizenshipWorks.org and a few other projects, but other examples might include developing and managing a large-scale remote volunteer initiative for underserved communities, or designing new programs that engage many more non-attorneys and non-legal organizations in access to justice. Looking ahead, I’d love to see us leverage the “network” nature of Pro Bono Net even more – how can we connect the hundreds of public interest organizations and thousands of volunteers in our network in new and creative ways to match resources to needs? And how can we connect individuals facing life-altering issues with these groups, and to each other, in ways that not only solve their immediate problem, but also provide information and resources that have an enduring positive impact on whole communities?

PBN: What are some examples of innovative technologies we hope to support/help develop in the next few years to close the justice gap?

LK: I’m glad you’re not asking me to look 15 years ahead on this one! In the near term, I’m excited about the new capacities we’re building into the next generation of LawHelp Interactive and CitizenshipWorks. On LHI, this includes creating a more scalable platform to better support the creative and diverse ways that legal aid programs, courts, libraries, shelters, and others want to use it. And CitizenshipWorks 2.0 will include new remote consultation tools to bring naturalization legal assistance to smaller and rural communities where resources are scarce. We’re also exploring expansion possibilities for the Debt and Eviction Navigator (aka DEN), a tablet-based screening tool that is used by social workers and nurses to assess the legal needs of the homebound elderly. DEN guides the social workers through a series of questions to conduct consumer and housing “legal health check-ups” for the seniors and then direct them to sources of help. It’s part of a national trend toward partnering with non-legal organizations and lay advocates in solutions for closing the justice gap. I think supportive tools like DEN have a lot of promise, particularly when they draw on the incredibly rich information and referral resources on LawHelp.org sites. We’re also expanding our mobile strategies through several LawHelp.org and probono.net projects. So, a lot to look forward to. Stay tuned to Connecting Justice Communities for updates!

In honor of National Celebrate Pro Bono Week, Pro Bono Net and LSNTAP partnered to produce a pre-Celebrate Pro Bono Week webinar on innovations in technology-enabled pro bono. Moderated by Adam Friedl of Pro Bono Net, the webinar presented examples of new innovations in technology to support pro bono, as well as tips on how to make these technologies more effective and helpful for pro bono programs.

Paul Haidle, Director of the Volunteer Attorney Program at New Mexico Legal Aid, kicked off the presentations by discussing their virtual legal fair, in which attorneys gather at a central hub and connect with clients in rural areas using Skype. Additionally, Haidle explained steps to developing a successful rural clinic and technology considerations for a virtual clinic.

Next, Ric Morgan, a private attorney, and Beth Anderson of Johnson & Associates, covered a virtual pro se clinic concept – free monthly clinic(s) at public libraries across Colorado that link parties without an attorney to counsel over the Internet – and a sample plan for implementing such a concept.

Tony Lu, Product Manager at Immigration Advocates Network, then described work being done on Citizenshipworks 2.0. Citizenshipworks 2.0 is a project currently in development that utilizes expert systems, online forms, contextual information, and video/web chat to connect those seeking US Citizenship to the appropriate pro bono resources.

Afterwards, Brian Houghton, Litigations Projects Manager at Law Help Ontario demoed LHO’s ticket system to manage their remote assistance project, as well as considerations for undertaking such a project.

Lastly, Claudia Johnson, LawHelp Interactive Program Manager at Pro Bono Net concluded the webinar with a discussion of online forms and e-filing projects in the legal aid community.

While this was the final LSNTAP/PBN webinar of 2014, be sure to check out LSNTAP.org for additional information about upcoming online trainings. Materials from this and other webinars in this series are available on the SWEB Support Site.