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
It 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.
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. 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.
The 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.