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Connecting Justice Communities

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.


Sanctuary Cities: Rights of State and Local Governments in Immigration Enforcement

Posted in Immigration, PLI, Technology

In its executive orders, the Trump administration announced plans to enforce immigration law more aggressively, and recruit state and local governments to help. The plans include punishing “sanctuary cities” by withholding federal funds. What does “sanctuary” mean? And what are the rights of state and local governments to resist a role in immigration enforcement?

Sanctuary is historically a church-based movement, rooted in faith, as an assertion of a first amendment right to act in accordance with one’s religious beliefs. This is different than labeling a city or state a place of sanctuary. While some municipalities call themselves sanctuary, others call it asserting their law enforcement goals and priorities.

Understanding the Rights of State and Local Governments

To understand the rights of state and local governments in immigration enforcement, we asked Cristina Rogríguez, Professor of Law, Yale Law School. Her expertise includes constitutional law and theory; immigration law and policy; and, administrative law and process. Ms. Rodriguez cites these important strategies for localities and states that don’t want to participate:

  • Don’t sign the “287(g)” agreement. This is a federal program to deputize local law enforcement to carry out immigration enforcement. Municipalities are not required to participate in the program.
  • Governments need not honor ICE holds or detainers at all, or they can choose to respond only to those involving a non-citizen who has committed an offense the jurisdiction deems serious. ICE can issue a detainer notice, asking a jail to hold someone until ICE picks them up. But the jail can release a person who is otherwise eligible for release under state law. In some jurisdictions, federal courts have found continued detention beyond the state law purpose violates the person’s 4th amendment rights. Though the law is developing on this issue, a local jurisdiction could be found liable for a Fourth Amendment violation if no probable cause or warrant exists for the non-citizen in question.
  • Invoke 10th amendment Constitutional rights. States successfully challenged federal power in Printz v. U.S. (1997). The Supreme Court reviewed provisions of a federal handgun control law, and found that requiring local law enforcement officials to enforce a federal regulatory program was “fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereignty.” States can argue that requiring state and local enforcement of federal immigration law violates the state’s sovereignty.
  • Cite limits to the spending clause doctrine. Congress can offer funds to states, and set conditions for the funding. But there are Constitutional limits to what is permissible under the spending clause. In a recent Supreme Court decision, National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (2012), States successfully challenged provisions of the Affordable Care Act that would have “punished” States by withholding all Medicaid funds if they failed to comply with the ACA’s expanded Medicaid coverage requirements. This and other Supreme Court precedent may help so-called “sanctuary cities” challenge a federal funding penalty for failure to enforce immigration law.

Cities, counties, and states have strong legal arguments against enforcing immigration law. They can choose to not enter into agreements with federal law enforcement, decline ICE detainer requests, and assert Constitutional rights. Advocates can support local and state policies that follow their own enforcement priorities, or seek to provide sanctuary and humane treatment to the people who live in their community.

We interviewed Cristina Rogríguez, Leighton Homer Surbeck Professor of Law at Yale Law School and faculty member for the Practising Law Institute’s Annual Supreme Court Review, for this blog. Cristina’s research interests include constitutional law and theory; immigration law and policy; administrative law and process; language rights and policy; and citizenship theory. 

Support Immigrants in Two Easy Steps

Posted in Announcements, Immigration, Legal Services, Mobile, Resources, Technology, Website Launch

Immi - Immigrants legal resourcesAs we enter a new year and a new administration, immigrants and advocates have cause to worry. Last week’s executive orders on immigration signal real action on threats to deport large numbers of immigrants and punish the states and localities that try to protect them, among other draconian measures. Many are asking, “what can I do?” Fortunately, there’s something you can do right now to help immigrants in the U.S. learn about their immigration options, know their rights, and find quality legal help.

Step 1: Visit immi, https://www.immi.org.

Immi is a new online tool, created by the Immigration Advocates Network and Pro Bono Net. Available in English and Spanish, immi allows users to confidentially screen for immigration benefits such as family-based petitions, asylum, or U visas; access information about the law; and find a trusted nonprofit legal service provider. The first free online tool of its kind, immi was created to help as many immigrants as possible know their rights and protect their families.

Step 2: Share immi, https://www.immi.org/share.html!

An estimated 1.5 million undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation may have possible avenues to legal status, but do not know it. By sharing immi you are helping to connect immigrants in your networks with free, confidential, and vital legal information.


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


Pro Bono Net at the 2017 TIG Conference

Posted in Announcements, Conferences, Courts, Legal Services, Staff News, Technology

2017 TIG ConferenceThe 2017 Technology Initiative Grants Conference (TIG) kicks off on Wednesday in San Antonio, Texas. The TIG Conference brings together technologists, legal aid staff, courts, funders and others to explore innovative ways of using technology to promote full access to legal assistance for low-income individuals.  

Pro Bono Net will be well-represented again this year, with a cadre of our program and technology staff in attendance. We’re also presenting in workshops covering topics such as strategies to grow adoption of online forms among advocates, technology to build partnerships with non-traditional justice actors, and expanding assistance through remote services. An affinity session on Thursday will highlight the Statewide Justice Portal Initiative collaboration between the Legal Services Corporation, Microsoft and Pro Bono Net, including the RFP for pilot jurisdictions.

On Friday we’ll be convening our statewide website partners for a networking session to share recent network highlights and updates on major initiatives such as the probono.net template redesign rolling out this year.

Just prior to TIG, we’re hosting a two-day training in San Antonio for legal aid, court and other staff on how to how to author interactive court forms and legal documents for LawHelp Interactive. The training is featuring instructors from Capstone Practice Systems, the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI), and Pro Bono Net.

Below is a schedule of panels and sessions with Pro Bono Net staff for the TIG conference:

Wednesday, 3:30pm

Preventative Law: Using Storytelling to Engage Clients Early

  • Lisa Gavin, Iowa Legal Aid
  • Liz Keith, Pro Bono Net
  • Quisquella Addison, Pro Bono Net
  • Adam Stofsky, Briefly

Thursday, 8:30am
All Aboard with Online Forms: Getting Support from Program Leadership and Adoption by Attorneys

  • Joshua Goodwin, Southeastern Ohio Legal Services
  • Richard Granat, DirectLaw
  • Claudia Johnson, Pro Bono Net
  • Marc Lauritsen, Capstone Practice Systems

Thursday, 10am
High Touch, High Tech: Innovative Non-Attorney and Non-Traditional Justice Partnerships Using Technology

  • Dianne Woodburn, JASA
  • Rochelle Klempner, New York Courts Access to Justice Program
  • Mirenda Meghelli, Pro Bono Net
  • Renee Schomp, One Justice

Thursday, 2:25pm
Using Data to Improve your Projects

  • Haydee Alfonso, Bay Area Legal Aid
  • Claudia Johnson, Pro Bono Net
  • Mary Kaczorek, Legal Services State Support
  • Jenny Singleton, Legal Services State support

Statewide Justice Portal Initiative Discussion and Technology’s Role in 100% Access Efforts (Affinity Session)

  • Lucy Bassli, Microsoft
  • Liz Keith, Pro Bono Net
  • Glenn Rawdon, LSC

Friday, 8am
LawHelp / probono.net Networking Session: What’s New and What’s Next for 2017

  • Quisquella Addison, Pro Bono Net
  • Mike Grunenwald, Pro Bono Net
  • Sam Halpert, Pro Bono Net
  • Barbara Siegel, Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association
  • Mary Kaczorek, Legal Services State Support

Friday, 10am
Closing the Gap: Remote Service Delivery in Action!

  • Mike Grunenwald, Pro Bono Net
  • Melody Harkness, Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York
  • Lillian Moy,  Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York
  • Anna Steele, Legal Assistance of Western New York

Representing Children in Immigration Matters: Effective Advocacy & Ethical Best Practices

Posted in Immigration, Legal Services, PLI, Seminar, Webinar


Author: Peter Bogdanich is the Immigrant Youth Resources Coordinator, and AmeriCorps VISTA at the Immigration Advocates Network.

Representing Children in Immigration Matters screenshotIn November, the Practicing Law Institute (PLI) held an engaging seminar designed for attorneys representing children in immigration proceedings. Over the course of three panel discussions, PLI faculty and guest panelists discussed the unique challenges that they face while representing child clients. View a recording of the entire seminar HERE.

Responding to a Humanitarian Crisis

This training can be viewed in the context of the ongoing surge in Central American asylum seekers arriving at the southern border of the United States. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, over one hundred thousand ‘unaccompanied alien children’ (UACs) from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have made the treacherous journey to the United States seeking asylum or other forms of relief since the beginning of fiscal year 2014.

The arrival of so many UACs has put a spotlight on one previously overlooked immigration option known as Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). Designed for children who have suffered from parental ‘abuse, abandonment, or neglect,’ SIJS offers children who meet the criteria a relatively simple way to gain legal status in the United States. SIJS cases go through state family court rather than the specialized immigration courts. However, the process for applying for this relief is fraught with procedural difficulties. For example, advocates for SIJS applicants must locate and present documentation (marriage licenses, birth certificates, etc.) proving the parentage of the child. This is not always an easy task, especially for children born in rural communities where marriages aren’t formally registered or orphaned children. During this panel, attorneys Jodi Ziesemer and Angela Hernandez discussed international service of process, and the different policies relating to service in Central American countries.

Profound Ethical Challenges

Professor Theo Liebmann of the Hofstra Youth Advocacy Clinic and Elizabeth Frankel from the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights led the next panel through a series of ethical scenarios that often test advocates representing immigrant children. One key dilemma was how to ensure that the child, not the attorney, is ultimately making the decisions regarding their case. This can be particularly difficult when the client has developmental disabilities that limit their ability to understand the options available to them, or is suffering from post-traumatic stress. Other common ethical quandaries involve what the advocate is required to do if they believe their client is experiencing abuse and what to do when the interests of the child and parent/guardian diverge. As the panelists explained, navigating such issues is never easy, but learning how to respond to them is key to becoming an effective advocate.

Evolving Nature of Asylum Claims

The UAC surge caught many immigration advocates off-guard; particularly those who specialize in asylum law. In one panel, Heather Axford, Staff Attorney at Central American Legal Assistance, explained how the very concept of political asylum has changed along with the influx of child asylum seekers. Most asylum seekers have traditionally been overtly political actors, like opposition politicians, human rights defenders, or journalists who had been persecuted by an established government body in their country of origin. The Central American UACs arriving at our border are often fleeing gang violence, which raises the question of whether gang intimidation and violence can constitute ‘persecution’ under asylum law. Axford argued that, for Central American UACs, political expression goes beyond traditional electoral politics. In countries where the rule of law is tenuous, where criminal organizations actually exert political power, defiance against such groups may constitute a political act.

The Unaccompanied Children Resource Center

To address the influx of UACs, the Immigration Advocates Network, in partnership with Pro Bono Net and the American Bar Association, built the Unaccompanied Children Resource Center (uacresources.org). This online tool provides free legal resources for immigrants and advocates, and helps guide attorneys to Pro Bono opportunities involving UAC clients.


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

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

Pro Bono Net is at the NLADA’s 2016 Annual Conference!

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

The National Legal Aid & Defender Association‘s 2016 Annual Conference starts today and Pro Bono Net is participating! The NLADA’s annual training conference provides the opportunity for those in the civil legal aid, indigent defense, and public interest law communities to exchange ideas and further develop their professional skills. Mark O’Brien, Sam Halpert and Mike Grunenwald will be representing Pro Bono Net at this year’s conference. Keep reading to learn more about Pro Bono Net’s participation.

Statewide Justice Portal Initiative Update and Technology’s Role in 100% Access Efforts

Thursday, 4:15 – 5:45 pm
Speakers: Glen Rawdon, Legal Services Corporation; Lucy Bassli, Microsoft; and Mark O’Brien, Pro Bono Net

In April, the Legal Services Corporation, Microsoft, and Pro Bono Net announced a new partnership to develop up to two statewide “justice portal” pilots to designed to help ensure that all people with civil legal needs can navigate their options at each step of the process and more easily access solutions and services available from legal aid, the courts, the private bar and community partners. The technical approach will use open standards and be open sourced to facilitate replication and contributions by other technology partners in the future. This workshop will provide an update on the project thus far, the conceptual vision for the portal and the selection process for pilot jurisdictions. We will also discuss how both existing and new technology initiatives can support the 100 percent access vision and strengthen the work of state justice communities working toward it.


Turning Data into Intelligence: Using the Data Our Programs Produce to Improve Services and Generate More Dollars

Friday, 2:30 – 4 pm
Speakers: Ken Smith, The Resource for Great Programs; Alex Gulotta, Bay Area Legal Aid; and Sam Halpert, Pro Bono Net

Every day, our programs generate a wealth of data such as intake statistics, case outcomes data, client demographics, and on-line form user statistics. Ken Smith, President of The Resource for Great Programs, will be conducting the workshop session on this topic, joined by co-presenters Alex Gulotta, Executive Director of Bay Area Legal Aid (and chairperson of NLADA’s board) and Sam Halpert, LawHelp Program Coordinator at Pro Bono Net. This session will show three examples to demonstrate to participants how their programs can turn raw data into strategic intelligence for use in program improvement and fundraising.


Smart Advocates Use Smart Forms: Better Advocacy through Document Automation

Saturday, 10:30 am – noon
Speakers: Josh Goodwin, Southeastern Ohio Legal Services; Mark Lauritsen, Capstone Practice Systems; Gelnn Rawdon, Legal Services Corporation

More than 40 states have forms on Pro Bono Net’s Law Help Interactive (LHI), the national automated document server. But most of those forms are targeted for client self-help, not for advocates. Document automation has been around for more than 30 years, and yet most legal services advocates are still drafting pleadings by using search and replace or cut and paste. Evaluations of LSC TIG projects have shown that advocates can reduce the time it takes to prepare forms for their cases by more than 30 percent by using automated forms for the most common practice areas. Not only that, having automated forms ensures that changes in the law are immediately reflected in the forms of every advocate. These same forms can be provided to pro bono attorneys so that they can be more comfortable representing clients outside their usual areas of practice. This session will help you develop a strategy for introducing or expanding automated forms to support the work of the advocates and pro bono attorneys for your program.

There are several other workshops of interest to legal aid and pro bono technology initiatives listed in the full agenda: http://www.nlada.org/2016AnnualConference


NLADANLADA is America’s oldest and largest nonprofit association devoted to excellence in the delivery of legal services to those who cannot afford counsel. Their Annual Conference is the leading national training event of the year for the civil legal aid, indigent defense, and public interest law communities. The conference offers advocates the substantive information and professional skills they need to respond to the legal needs of low-income people, provides unparalleled opportunities to meet and exchange ideas with colleagues from across the country, and helps fulfill continuing legal education requirements.