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Connecting Justice Communities

Pro Bono Week 2017: Jessica Ortiz Sanchez & Brent S. Howard, Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma

Posted in Celebrate Pro Bono Week, Legal Services, Pro Bono, Volunteer Profile

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.  To kick off our Pro Bono Week celebration, we would like to share the profiles of two dedicated Oklahoma based volunteers, Jessica Ortiz Sanchez and Brent S. Howard, who volunteer with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc (LAOK). 


Jessica I. Ortiz Sanchez
Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc.

As I grew up, I dreamed to be an attorney to help people, to make a difference in their lives. My main motivation has always been to work for access to justice for all.

I began volunteering for the Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma in 2015 with a Chapter 7 case; which was my first bankruptcy case. The amazing Donna Ellsworth, paralegal for the Lawton office motivated me and guided me thru the process. Thanks to that experience I am now skilled in bankruptcy law and have done one more pro-bono bankruptcy case.

Another memorable case was a name change for a minor child. The parents needed to correct the spelling and last name of their child in the birth certificate. While it seems like an easy task it was a complicated legal issue for the parents who do not understand the process and are not proficient in the English language. Since I am fluent in Spanish and familiar with their culture I was able to relate with the clients and complete the process promptly.  The clients were satisfied and very grateful for my work.

Pro Bono net has many resources available for volunteers. The HotDocs platform for documents templates, LawHelp Interactive, is very convenient and the CLE programs curated on the calendar are outstanding. Moreover, the extraordinary people from  LAOK are always available to mentor when needed. Besides fulfilling the dream to help people, this experience has equipped me with new skills, vast knowledge and understanding of legal topics.

I’m also involved with the Oklahoma’s Lawyers for Hero’s Program. Thru this program I have the opportunity to serve active duty, retirees and veterans in need of legal services. As of today, I have spent several volunteer hours representing those who have dropped their own affairs to serve our Country.

It might be time consuming and challenging at times but it’s satisfying knowing you have made a difference in the client’s life. I will definitely recommend it to my colleagues attorneys.

I am a proud supporter of the Pro Bono Net and LAOK, and will continue to work to remove barriers and bring access to justice for all.

Brent S. Howard
Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc.

Brent S. Howard is a homegrown attorney.   He attended grade school and High School in the rural surrounds of Altus, Oklahoma.  He attained an Agricultural Economics and Accounting Degree from Oklahoma State University and a Law degree from University of Oklahoma.  He then went on to attain Legal Masters (LL.M.) in Taxation from the New York University School of Law.  He has been certified to practice by the Oklahoma Bar Association as well as the United States Tax Court.

Mr. Howard has now come home because he “saw that there was a lack of information and a lack of people knowledgeable in implementing estate and tax planning on a comprehensive basis.”  Since returning home Mr. Howard has become a valued asset to the community he volunteers in all aspects of the community.  He is the Chairman of the Board of Regents for Western Oklahoma State College, committees at the First United Methodist Church, he is the past President of the local Bar Association, a member of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and he is a State Director for the Young Farmers and Ranchers Association.

Mr. Howard uses his knowledge “to help tax-exempt organizations organize their paperwork.  For all Non-Profit Organizations he “donates half of his time when he helps with filing for IRS recognition, organizing documents with the State, or other non-litigation work.”  Some of his most memorable work he has done is with the youth of our community.  He holds much esteem in a quote he heard at a local seminar “Your job or profession should not define who you are, it should only be a platform for you setting that definition.”

Mr. Howard continually helps with annual legal clinics involving the youth in our high schools featuring the Oklahoma Bar Association own guide “You are 18 now”.  He thrives on being a mentor to local youth and giving guidance into future endeavors.  Although he may not be the traditional Pro Bono Attorney Legal Aid sees daily he brings a world of knowledge to other areas of law we do not delve in so that our clients have a growing appreciation for our referral systems.  We are a small rural community that work hand and hand with other local Non-profits and by Mr. Howard helping these smaller non-profits it brings more advantages to our communities.  For example, one such non-profit he has been helping is our local House of Grace and Mercy which would help mothers and children be provided the basic skill sets to be independent or less dependent on others to care for their children.  This would help mothers reintegrate with their children after separations have occurred.  This also extends to the local Exodus House which is a “proven effective program for ex-offenders to get on their feet and prepare to be an asset to the community.  This program has succeeded in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas.

Without Mr. Howard’s help and initiative to serve this community these smaller non-profits may not be able to move forward.  He should be acknowledged for his long standing help and the guidance he provides for both the youth of our community as well as the overall community.  We would like to thank him for his service and we look forward to our futures together in this community.

Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc. (LASO) is a non-profit, statewide organization that provides civil legal assistance to low-income people throughout Oklahoma. LASO has 18 offices throughout Oklahoma. LASO is a proud partner with Pro Bono Net providing information and resources to support our volunteers and staff through www.probono.net/ok.

Read our press release thanking volunteer lawyers across the country.

National Disaster Legal Aid Efforts – How the Legal Community Can Help Hurricane Survivors 

Posted in Announcements, Disaster Legal Aid, Legal Services, PLI, Resources

Like many of you, Pro Bono Net’s thoughts are with those impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. As advocates for justice, you no doubt share our concerns about the disproportionate and long-term impact disasters often have on low-income and other vulnerable communities, as well as the direct impact these hurricanes have had on nonprofit legal aid programs such as Lone Star Legal Aid.

Legal aid programs help survivors rebuild their lives and navigate the road to recovery, including obtaining disaster benefits, overcoming displacement, replacing wills and vital documents, making insurance claims, combating contractor fraud and scams, safeguarding civil rights and much more. We know from our work in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Super-storm Sandy that this will require long-term commitment, and Pro Bono Net is committed to working with our justice community partners to address the needs that will emerge in the months ahead.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Super-storm Sandy, Pro Bono Net joined with others in the community to create a national website – DisasterLegalAid.org – to provide ongoing support for legal aid, pro bono and criminal defender attorneys across the country on legal issues related to all types of disasters, as well as referral information for the public. It is a joint effort of Pro Bono Net, Lone Star Legal Aid, the American Bar Association, the Legal Services Corporation, the National Legal Aid & Defender Association and Texas Legal Services Center.

In the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and in preparation for Maria, Pro Bono Net has been in touch with a number of programs directly impacted. In coordination with Lone Star Legal Aid, we’ve added sections to DisasterLegalAid.org with legal relief information for Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Details about federal benefits and disaster legal help available are still emerging in certain regions and information will continue to be updated as it arrives. We are also working directly with our LawHelp partners in Puerto Rico, AyudaLegalPr.org, to identify and make available Spanish-language disaster legal information for the public.

We are working on several enhancements to our LawHelp Interactive-powered interview that guides individuals through the creation of a FEMA appeal letter. First, Capstone Practice Systems is converting the interview to a mobile-responsive A2J 6.0 version, and a Spanish-language version will follow. We are also working with pro bono attorneys from Weil Gotshal to review the interview and update related FAQs and user guides. While this tool was initially designed for pro se use following Super-storm Sandy, we encourage programs considering standing up appeals-related projects to consider using LHI Connect’s remote document sharing and review capabilities to engage volunteer attorneys in helping individuals prepare their FEMA appeals claims during the short appeal window. Please contact info@probono.net to learn more.

Below are more resources those in the public interest legal community can use to help now, and stay connected as needs evolve:

  • BookmarkDisasterLegalAid.org for emerging developments in regions that have been impacted by Harvey, Irma and Maria. Disaster Legal Aid provides centralized resources nationally to legal aid and pro bono programs on a range of disasters, as well as referral information for the public.
  • Visit  the State Bar of Texas’s Disaster Relief Resources page or the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Project’s Volunteer Portal to learn about ways out of state pro bono attorneys can help those impacted in Texas. The Florida Bar Foundation’s Hurricane Information page has information about how Florida attorneys can lend their expertise to relief efforts.
  • Watch a free Practising Law Institute one-hour briefing for attorneys Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey: Disaster Assistance which took place on September 7th.  PLI’s Amy Taub was joined by Laura Tuggle, Director of Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, and FEMA representatives to discuss federal disaster assistance for disaster survivors. Another 1-hour audio briefing took place on September 18th that will be made available to listen to through PLI’s website in the coming weeks.

If you are in the legal community and able to help in other ways but aren’t sure where to start, feel free to contact us at info@probono.net and we’ll do our best to connect you with the right resources.


Serving on a Nonprofit Board: Practical & Ethical Considerations for Attorneys

Posted in Legal Services, PLI, Seminar, Webinar

Attorney service on nonprofit boards is advantageous for both the attorneys and nonprofits, but there are important practical and ethical considerations. At the Practising Law Institute‘s seminar “Serving on a Nonprofit Board: Practical & Ethical Considerations for Attorneys” on August 2nd, expert faculty addressed the important considerations for both attorneys thinking about nonprofit board service and attorneys already serving on a nonprofit board.

The Panel

Program Co-Chairs: Courtney Darts, Director of Education, Pro Bono Partnership; Nancy Eberhardt, Director, New Jersey Program, Pro Bono Partnership
Guest Faculty: Jennifer Chandler, Vice President, National Council of Nonprofits; David G. Samuels, Duval & Stachenfeld LLP

What is a nonprofit?

This seminar addressed serving on boards of public charitable nonprofits that fall under the 501(c)3 IRS classification. These types of organizations have no owners or shareholders, but do have a volunteer board of directors to provide direct oversight. As part of the board, members have a fiduciary duty to the organization as a whole and to ensure the organization is following best practices and the law. The role of a board member is to determine the organization’s mission, strategies and program priorities, ensure the organization uses its resources only in fulfillment of its purposes as laid out in its certificate of incorporation, and ensure compliance with local, state and federal laws and regulations.

What considerations should an attorney think about before joining a board?

Joining a board is a big commitment as board members are crucial to an organization’s success. So why would an attorney want to join a board in the first place? For many, it’s a serious commitment to the cause of that organization itself, or an opportunity to use their perspective and experience as a lawyer for the public benefit. It can also be a way for attorneys to get involved in their local communities and make both personal and professional connections.

Whatever the reason, there are many questions to ask before joining a board. In addition to personal considerations, attorneys should ask what the time and financial commitments are, what deliverables are required of them as a board member, and the expectations as an attorney for serving on the board. They should also be sure to look into their employer’s policies on board service to ensure compliance. The panel provided a list of documents, such as the governing documents or the most recent financials, which should be reviewed before making the commitment as well.

What ethical issues should attorneys be aware of?

First and foremost, attorneys should understand that their responsibility as an attorney and a board member is to be working in the best interest of the organization as a whole, not the Executive Director, individual board members or themselves. Even when the founder of an organization is the Executive Director or on the board, the organization as a whole should always remain the focus.

Since most nonprofits don’t retain regular counsel, it is very common for an attorney on the board to be asked to provide legal advice. This can lead to conflict of interest concerns as well as confusion when speaking with the board or staff. While it isn’t necessarily illegal or wrong to provide legal counsel while serving as a board member, it’s advisable to serve as only one or the other at a time. The panelists even suggested leaving the board if retained as counsel to alleviate any potential conflict of interest.

The panel went on to discuss several hypothetical situations and what the options and responsibilities are for attorneys who are serving on the board. To watch this free program, now available on the Practising Law Institute website, visit www.pli.edu.

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.

LSNTAP/PBN Community Training Series: 50 Tech Tips

Posted in Legal Services, Pro Bono, Technology, Webinar

On June 28th, 2017, Pro Bono Net and LSNTAP hosted our annual “50 Tech Tips” webinar. In this training, five presenters shared the applications, programs, and tools that they use to make their within the legal aid community easier.

The talk began with Zizi Bandera from the Immigration Advocates Network, who introduced a number of organizational web tools and extensions. One of the useful tools covered,  “Tab Snooze,” is a chrome extension that can help hide away some of your tabs for a set time, keeping them to out of sight until you need them again.

Next, Reece Flexner, from the DC Bar Pro Bono Center introduced some very handy tools for those working with code. One such tool was Brackets, which provides a way to quickly edit a style on a HTML element while also offering a live preview of any edits you do make.

Afterwards, Xander Karsten, Project Manager at Legal Server, shared with everyone practical, everyday tools, like the “Undo Send” option that Gmail offers. This tool allows you to set up a period of time after sending an email in which you can still “undo” it – certainly a useful tool for those last minute changes!

Following up with even more tools offered by Google was Anna Steele, Senior Consultant at Just-Tech. She covered the Explore tool that can be used in Docs, Slides, and Sheets, to streamline the process of gathering and putting together information.

Wrapping up the presentation was Jillian Theil from Pro Bono Net, sharing a number of online security tools. “Have I Been Pwned?”, one of the suggested tools can be used to check for any breaches in the security of your email accounts.

To learn about all the tips, and tools shared during this webinar, you can find the full presentation here, and the corresponding slides here.

Author: Eliza Xie, 2017 Pro Bono Net Outreach and Engagement Intern


LSNTAP helps nonprofit legal aid programs improve client services through effective and innovative use of technology. To do this, we provide technology training, maintain information, create online tools, and host community forums such as the LStech email list. Read about us, or contact us at info@lsntap.org for more information.

Pro Bono Net is at the 2017 Equal Justice Conference

Posted in Conferences, Legal Services, Pro Bono, Staff News, Technology

At the 2017 Equal Justice Conference (EJC) this week, several Pro Bono Net staff members will be presenting on a variety of equal justice issues. The Conference takes place May 3-6th in Pittsburgh and is hosted by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service and the National Legal Aid & Defender Association.

Pro Bono Net is a national nonprofit leader in increasing access to justice through innovative uses of technology and collaboration. Pro Bono Net’s staff is made up of a cross-disciplinary team from legal, technology, and community engagement backgrounds who are committed to finding innovative, sustainable solutions for expanding access to justice.

The Equal Justice Conference brings together all components of the legal community to discuss equal justice issues as they relate to the delivery of legal services to the poor. Pro Bono Net will present on a wide range of topics, including emerging technology trends in the equial justice community, technology to expand pro bono participation, and designing and delivering better tools to assist self-represented litigants.

Staff attending the conference includes Mark O’Brien, Executive Director; Liz Keith, Program Director; Claudia Johnson, LawHelp Interactive Program Coordinator; Mike Grunenwald, Program Coordinator;  Sam Halpert, LawHelp Program Coordinator; and Jessica Stuart, Pro Bono Manager Product Manager.

Pro Bono Net staff are participating in the following pre-conference activities and conference workshops. For more details on each workshop, please visit the EJC website here.

Thursday, 10 AM

Emerging Technology: Envisioning Broad Benefits to Legal Aid
  • IV Ashton, LegalServer and Houston.AI
  • Liz Keith, Pro Bono Net
  • David Neumeyer, Virginia Legal Aid Society
  • Roger Skalbeck, University of Richmond School of Law
Hot Topics in Civil Right to Counsel: Pilots, Research Results, Legislation
  • Lise Adams, D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center
  • Mike Grunenwald, Pro Bono Net
  • Mairi McKeever, Justice & Diversity Center of the Bar Association of San Francisco
  • John Pollock, National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel

Thursday, 11:45 AM

LawHelp / probono.net / LawHelp Interactive Network Gathering

Room 301

Programs are invited to share project highlights and connect with others around the country working on or interested in LawHelp.org, probono.net or LHI online forms initiatives. Pick up your lunch in the gallery and join us in room 301!  Contact Liz Keith at lkeith@probono.net with any questions.

Thurdsay, 1:30 PM

Delivering Better Tools to Self-Represented Litigants: Tips for Websites and Document Assembly
  • Sam Halpert, Pro Bono Net
  • Rochelle Klempner, New York State Courts Access to Justice Program
  • Angela Tripp, Michigan Legal Help Program

Friday, 8:30 AM

Closing the Justice Gap with Remote Service Delivery
  • Mike Grunenwald, Pro Bono Net
  • Claudia Johnson, Pro Bono Net
  • Lillian Moy, Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New Yor

Friday, 10:30 AM

Big Ideas: The Future of Pro Bono
  • Kevin Curnin, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan
  • Sharon Goldsmith, Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland
  • Mark O’Brien, Pro Bono Net
  • Eve Runyon, Pro Bono Institute
  • Steve Scudder, American Bar Association
  • Joe Sullivan, Pepper Hamilton
  • Witold “Vic” Walczak, ACLU of Pennsylvania

Friday, 1:45 PM

Learning to Love and Use Your Data
  • Claudia Johnson, Pro Bono Net
  • Sam Halpert, Pro Bono Net
  • Mary Kaczorek, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid

Friday, 1:45 PM

50 Tech Tips
  • David Bonebrake, Legal Services Corporation
  • Liz Keith, Pro Bono Net
  • Glenn Rawdon, Legal Services Corporation
  • Jane Ribadeneyra, Legal Services Corporation
  • Brian Rowe, Northwest Justice Project

About Pro Bono Net

Pro Bono Net is a national non-profit organization dedicated to increasing access to justice. 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,  www.lawhelpinteractive.org and the Immigration Advocates Network, 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 the Equal Justice Conference

The Equal Justice Conference, hosted by the American Bar Association and NLADA, brings together all components of the legal community to discuss equal justice issues as they relate to the delivery of legal services to the poor and low-income individuals in need of legal assistance.

The emphasis of this Conference is on strengthening partnerships among the key players in the civil justice system. Through plenary sessions, workshops, networking opportunities and special programming, the Conference provides a wide range of learning and sharing experiences for all attendees.


New Text Management Tool: An Interview with Angela Tripp and Bob Aubin

Posted in Legal Services, Resources, Technology

LHIIn 2016, Michigan Legal Help (MLH) partnered with expert developer Bob Aubin, and Pro Bono Net to create a tool that helps online form developers automate the identification of text that needs to be translated. When an interview for Pro Bono Net’s LawHelp Interactive (LHI) needs to be changed to plain language, or to any other target language this tool helps to minimize the time and effort required.

The inspiration for this project came about as Bob Aubin worked on creating Spanish forms for Michigan. After finding out how long it took to pull the text that needs translation and how much time it took to reinsert the translated text, the idea came about to develop a more error proof automated way to do this. The idea of creating a “Text Management Tool” (TMT) was born! Below is an interview with Angela Tripp (Co-Director and Project Director of Michigan Legal Help Program), and Bob Aubin.

How did the need to create this tool come up?

Angela: Michigan Legal Help (MLH), michiganlegalhelp.org, has a very complex divorce interview in HotDocs, and we wanted to translate it into Spanish. This process was laborious – Bob had to cut and paste each question, prompt, set of answer choices, help text, etc. from every cul de sac in this long interview, and it took a lot of time and effort.

Then once we had that translated, he had to put it all back together again. It took many hours, and we had to test for many more months to make sure everything was working as intended. In the meantime, over the year it took us to do this, we made multiple changes to the English interview, and had to go back and painstakingly make those same changes. Bob thought that there had to be an easier way to do this, so he created one.

Could you share some details of those interviews and how are they being used?

Angela: We have used the Text Management Tool (TMT) to speed up translation of interviews into Spanish, and to make major changes to interviews. We plan to use it in the near future to improve the plan language of our interviews – we anticipate making a lot of changes to the text when we review our interviews for plain language. We’re also going to use the tool to make our HD interviews more mobile friendly by shortening the questions as much as possible.

How did you develop the tool?

Bob: Knowing that the HotDocs Component File is an XML file, I figured we could develop a way to cycle through the XML and copy any instances of interview text found. All nooks and crannies that can contain interview text were identified. Then we hired HotDocs Corporation as a subcontractor to create the tool in C# to do what we had specified.

Since we created Ayuda Legal in 2014, there have been over 64,000 pages views, representing approximately 2.5% of all Michigan Legal Help visitors. Right now, we have 3 forms available in Spanish, all in family law, including a form to request and interpreter.

What other uses for the tool are there, besides the intended simplification of the process of pulling text from a HD interview and putting it back into it?

Angela: That’s what the tool does; the multiple uses come from the different goals you can accomplish by doing this. When same sex marriage (and divorce) became legal, we had to modify a lot of the language in our divorce interview; this helps do that. When you want to translate into another language, this helps do that.

Any time you need to modify a lot of text at once, this tool help – whether you want to translate, improve plain language, update legal information in the interview, or make more mobile friendly – this tool helps you do that and makes sure all the new text gets put back into the right place in the interview.

Bob: The tool has also proved to be a valuable troubleshooting tool for developers.  We had an interview with a lot of number computations in it, and one of them was misbehaving. The server error could not tell us which computation it was, so we used the tool to produce a report of the computations and all text was scanned. The error was quickly found and fixed.

Finally, we wanted to merge two separate but similar interviews with separate component files into one interview. The tool generated reports for each of the component files, and those reports were compared in Word to show the differences we had to address.

What type of response are you getting from the community?

Angela: People have been very excited. The response at the training and the survey has been uniformly positive, with one training attendee saying,

“This will be fabulous for debugging. And it has potential for managing translations is terrific”

another commented


We’d still love to hear from people what they think – we have separate surveys for HotDocs developers (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TMTDev) and document assembly project managers (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TMTprojmgr) – if you haven’t taken a survey yet, please do!

Are there any programs that are now using the tool to improve their existing interview?

Angela: Well, we are in Michigan. Other states are right now learning how to use the tool—and we expect that in the next coming months, developers will use the tool to trouble shoot, create new content, and find new uses for the tool.

Are you now creating any new content/forms with this new capacity?

Angela: Not at this time. Its biggest application for us is maintenance – updates, translations, improving existing content. Maintenance is one the biggest challenges in the document assembly world, and it’s great to have a tool to help make this easier, and less time consuming.

Any last work to project owners on the importance of using plain language for LHI interviews?

Angela: Only that it is extremely important, and as we move to developing more and more for mobile devices, using plain language is even more important. We have to learn to say things in simpler terms and fewer words so that it will fit and make sense on a small screen for people who are on the “go”; the only way to do this is through plain language.

You can find the tool, User’s Manual, and training video all here: https://www.probono.net/dasupport/library/folder.617503-HotDocs_Text_Management_Tool

Michigan Legal HelpThe Michigan Legal Help website and affiliated local self-help centers are part of the Michigan Legal Help Program. The Program works with judges, courts, lawyers, bar associations, nonprofit legal aid agencies, legal self-help centers, libraries and many others to promote coordinated and quality assistance for persons representing themselves in civil legal matters in Michigan.

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. 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.

Volunteer Week 2017: Michael Fuller, Legal Aid Services of Oregon

Posted in Legal Services, Pro Bono, Volunteer Profile

Pro Bono Net would like to highlight the volunteer efforts of Michael Fuller with Legal Aid Services of Oregon!

In honor of National Volunteer Week 2017, which takes place this week, April 23-29, Pro Bono Net would like to extend our gratitude to the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need.  For those at risk of losing their homes, income and even their children, volunteer lawyers are an indispensable resource. Now more than ever it is important for us to support our most vulnerable communities. This wouldn’t be possible without the immense efforts of volunteer lawyers around the country and the organizations that facilitate volunteering. The following profile is one such volunteer!  

Michael Fuller, Olsen Daines PC

Michael Fuller Michael Fuller is a committed pro bono volunteer and strongly believes in increasing access to justice to low income populations.  About 20% of Michael’s case load is pro bono work.

Michael volunteers for several Pro Bono Projects with the Portland Regional Office of Legal Aid Services of Oregon (LASO).  He began volunteering with the Bankruptcy Clinic in June of 2013.  He volunteers on a regular basis for the Bankruptcy Clinic and the Senior Law Project.  The majority of the cases that Michael accepts are time intensive cases.  Michael also accepts direct referrals in the areas of consumer law, student loans and landlord/tenant.  Michael has represented almost 40 clients and dedicated 140 hours to pro bono case work through LASO.  The numbers only represent a small amount of the pro bono work that Michael does.

We greatly appreciate Michael’s dedication to pro bono work and passion to make a difference in the lives of his low-income clients by advocating for their legal rights.

How did you become interested in pro bono work?

My passion to practice law came from TV shows and movies. As a kid, I watched street-smart attorneys like My Cousin Vinny and Matlock fight for underdogs regardless of their ability to pay.

Growing up poor, we didn’t know any lawyers. The day I passed the bar was the best day in my life. I was held back in the first grade and expelled from middle school. I come from humble beginnings, was raised in a trailer park by a single mom, and am the first in my family to go to college.

Can you share a highlight from your: a) most recent, or b) most memorable pro bono case?

Last year we wiped out over $700,000 in student loans for pro bono clients in bankruptcy. Yesterday we settled our first pro bono eviction defense case from legal aid. The landlord ended up paying our client $2,450 cash and giving him 6 months free rent! The landlord also agreed to donate $2,500 to Legal Aid Services of Oregon. The landlord also agreed to pay my rate of $410 per hour, which we’re donating to the Oregon Consumer League. I’m very proud of the result – especially considering it started out as an eviction defense case!

Why do you feel it’s important for you to do pro bono work? What motivates you?

Everybody knows lawyers make too much money. Pro bono work is the least we can do as a profession. I’m motivated by evening the score for the poor. And by the constant fear of losing.



Legal Aid Services of Oregon (LASO) is a statewide non-profit organization that provides access to legal help for people to protect their livelihoods, their health, and their families. As a civil legal aid program, LASO assures fairness for all in the justice system, regardless of how much money you have. Through our own staff attorneys and hundreds of volunteers, LASO gives free legal help to thousands of low-income and elderly clients each year in matters relating to their physical safety, access to food and shelter, and other critical legal needs.  

LASO’s mission is to achieve justice for the low-income communities of Oregon by providing a full range of the highest quality civil legal services.

Read our press release thanking volunteer lawyers across the country.

Volunteer Week 2017: David Hood, Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc.

Posted in Legal Services, Pro Bono, Volunteer Profile

Pro Bono Net would like to highlight the volunteer efforts of David Hood with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc!

In honor of National Volunteer Week 2017, which takes place this week, April 23-29, Pro Bono Net would like to extend our gratitude to the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need.  For those at risk of losing their homes, income and even their children, volunteer lawyers are an indispensable resource. Now more than ever it is important for us to support our most vulnerable communities. This wouldn’t be possible without the immense efforts of volunteer lawyers around the country and the organizations that facilitate volunteering. The following profile is one such volunteer!  

David HoodProfile: David Hood

Legal Aid’s Stillwater Law Office  signed up new pro bono attorney, David Hood at our October 28, 2016 free CLE.  David agreed to take a case and was willing to accept a case assignment that very day! Grateful, LASO Staff member, Stacy Boyles let Mr. Hood know that the case documents and notes would be sent to him the following Monday.

This case involved a senior citizen, a veteran living in Logan County requesting help  with a divorce to end an abusive marriage.  The client had obtained a protective order on his own but did not have the money for a divorce.  His wife had 2 domestic violence convictions.   On Monday morning, as Stacy prepared the case documents for Mr. Hood, he called to let Legal Aid know that he was able to reach the client and the client was sitting in his office.  Needless to say, David’s efforts were extraordinary!  Mr.. Hood’s quick response enabled this client to get the protection he needed close the divorce by the end the year.

Legal Aid truly appreciates the extraordinary efforts of all of our volunteer attorneys but it is especially nice when an assignment is wrapped up so quickly!

About David

David Hood is a life-long Guthrie resident.  He earned his undergraduate degree in history at the University of Oklahoma, followed by graduate degrees in law and international relations at the University of Washington.  Following law school, David worked overseas with an American Bar Association program in the Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union helping organize grass-roots legal institutions such as judicial associations, legal clinics and student bar associations.  He also taught law in Lithuania.

Upon returning to the U.S., David worked for a decade for a variety of firms in the Oklahoma City area.  For the last eleven years, he has maintained his solo practice in Guthrie, where he engages in a wide variety of practice areas typical of a small-town attorney.  For the past eight years, David had served as the Municipal Judge for the City of Guthrie, and he was also recently appointed as the Municipal Judge for the Town of Wellston.  David’s real job is being father two his two beloved daughters, ages 9 and 5.  He and his family attend the First Christian Church in Guthrie.

This profile originally appeared on probono.net/ok, March 2017.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s volunteer profile!

LASOLegal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc. (LASO) is a non-profit, statewide organization that provides civil legal assistance to low-income people throughout Oklahoma. LASO has 18 offices throughout Oklahoma. LASO is a proud partner with Pro Bono Net providing information and resources to support our volunteers and staff through www.probono.net/ok.

Read our press release thanking volunteer lawyers across the country.

Volunteer Week 2017: Leveraging Volunteer Lawyers, Dora Galacatos

Posted in Legal Services, Pro Bono, Volunteer Profile

Pro Bono Net would like to highlight the work of Dora Galacatos, Executive Director of The Feerick Center for Social Justice, for her work in leveraging volunteer work through AmeriCorps VISTA fellows!

In honor of National Volunteer Week 2017, which takes place this week, April 23-29, Pro Bono Net would like to extend our gratitude to the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need.  For those at risk of losing their homes, income and even their children, volunteer lawyers are an indispensable resource. Now more than ever it is important for us to support our most vulnerable communities. This wouldn’t be possible without the immense efforts of volunteer lawyers around the country and the organizations that facilitate volunteering.

DoraGalacatos 2017Dora Galacatos
Executive Director, The Feerick Center for Social Justice

As Executive Director of the Feerick Center for Social Justice at Fordham Law School, Dora Galacatos oversees diverse initiatives aimed at combating poverty and addressing common challenges faced by low-income New Yorkers.

The programs developed by the Feerick Center work by leveraging limited resources through volunteer engagement. In addition to overseeing the design and implementation of these efforts, Dora sponsors and coordinates a rotating team of AmeriCorps VISTA fellows, who in turn, are largely responsible for marshalling student, alumni, lawyer, and community volunteers.

One project made possible by Dora’s work with AmeriCorps VISTA fellows is the Unaccompanied Children Resource Center. This website provides curated legal resources and highlights pro bono opportunities for attorneys interested in working with unaccompanied immigrant children. By encouraging and facilitating pro bono engagement, this project aims to address the legal needs of children who would otherwise be forced to represent themselves in immigration proceedings.

The highlight of my work related to access-to-justice at the Feerick Center is collaborating with extraordinary partners to build volunteer capacity. Through our partnerships we are able to harness the work of volunteer attorneys to carry out social justice work and to make access to justice meaningful for low-income and vulnerable clients. It is such a noble and inspiring effort and I am so very honored and privileged to be able to do it with the community of stakeholders with which the Center is involved. – Dora Galacatos

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s volunteer profile!

Fordham Law’s Feerick Center for Social Justice works with students, alumni, lawyers, and community volunteers to connect low-income New Yorkers to the legal resources they need and cannot afford. We train law students and others to engage in social change efforts.

Read our press release thanking volunteer lawyers across the country.


Online forms: A Catalyst for Partnership & ATJ Improvements

Posted in Legal Services, Pro Bono, Resources, Staff News, Technology

There is an online form available from the New York Courts which allows adults to change their name in the State of New York. The form can be used statewide and it is one of the most popular online forms in the United States, hosted by Pro Bono Net’s LawHelp Interactive. From just October to December 2016, the form was created almost 15,000 times.

Online Form Name ChangeLegal Name Changes via Online Form

Transcend Legal, https://transcendlegal.org/ – a new nonprofit that serves the needs of the trans community in NY state – reached to Claudia Johnson, Pro Bono Net’s LawHelp Interactive Program Manager, in late 2016 to find out more about the online form. The form is created and hosted by the NY Courts Access to Justice Program, and is accessible here: http://nycourts.gov/courthelp/Namechange/forms.shtml

The ability to change their legal name is an important right for transgender persons. Having a name that matches their gender identity can minimize discrimination, increase their personal safety, and make it easier to obtain and maintain employment. However, the ease of changing names can vary, affecting a great many transgender individuals.

With this in mind, Claudia connected Noah Lewis, and Charlie Arrowroot (Transcend Legal) and Milo Primeaux (Empire Justice Center) with Rochelle Klempner, Chief Counsel at the New York State Courts Access to Justice Program. A discussion ensued about the practice of some New York counties adding hoops for the applicants in addition to submitting the printed form. These hoops often require waiting periods, multiple court visits, and additional costs. The New York Access to Justice Program contacted the local courts to inquire about those additional requirements that were creating a hardship for filing pro se in those counties.

A Successful Outcome

By early February 2017, the local requirements and hurdles were removed, and the form can now be filed in all counties in NY State as is, without extra requirements. This is an important victory for the transgender community in New York and is one step further down the road of increasing access to justice for transgender and non-binary individuals.

In addition to developing innovative technologies, Pro Bono Net specializes in connecting members of the civil legal community to facilitate increased access to justice. In NY, the partnership between the New York Courts and Pro Bono Net allowed Transcend Legal and Empire Justice Center to bring the legal needs of the transgender community directly to those who could help make changes. The simplification of the process that makes it easier for adults to change their identity documents allows more people to live safely in the state of NY.

Looking to the Future

Transcend Legal, Empire Justice Center, and the New York Courts Access to Justice Program are now exploring further simplification opportunities to remove access to justice barriers to adult name changes and other forms. They will explore remote work flows and further clarifications on the instructions for those who use the form to change their name in months to come. Collaborations of this kind are crucial in ensuring that the justice system runs smoothly and is accessible to those who cannot afford an attorney.

Transcend LegalTranscend Legal cultivates equitable social, medical and legal recognition of transgender people by offering culturally competent, transgender-led legal representation, public policy advocacy, community education & organizing, and public education.


Empire Justice is a statewide, multi-issue, multi-strategy public interest law firm focused on changing the “systems” within which poor and low income families live. With a focus on poverty law, Empire Justice undertakes research and training, acts as an informational clearinghouse, and provides litigation backup to local legal services programs and community based organizations.  As an advocacy organization, we engage in legislative and administrative advocacy on behalf of those impacted by poverty and discrimination.  As a non-profit law firm, we provide legal assistance to those in need and undertake impact litigation in order to protect and defend the rights of disenfranchised New Yorkers.


NYCourts ATJ ProgramThe NYS Courts Access to Justice Program is one of the Unified Court System’s many programs and initiatives which strive to increase access, improve the delivery of justice and promote public confidence in the courts. Prior to March 2009, the responsibilities of the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program were overseen by the former Office of the Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives.