On this day in 2007, Pro Bono Net launched our first ever National Pro Bono Opportunities guide. We teamed up with the American Bar Association to create a single online location to make it easier for advocates to find opportunities to volunteer that match what they are looking for. While directories of organizations seeking volunteers have been available prior to this, our online, searchable version was the first of its kind.

Designed to help volunteer advocates find opportunities, the guide provides a listing of over 1500 programs from across the US that need volunteer lawyers. Opportunities can range from legal clinics and lawyer-for-a-day programs to full representation, so advocates can find the best fit for the time and effort they have available for volunteering.

The nationwide guide also includes detailed information on nonprofit organizations that provide legal services. Because the list is interactive, state and local bar associations as well as community-based nonprofits can add or update information to ensure the list is current and accurate.

Volunteers can pinpoint projects that require their skills and experience with features highlighting opportunities for transactional lawyers, litigators, law students and others. They can search for a service project in a specific substantive area of law or for one that serves a specific population, such as children, seniors, or immigrants. Volunteers can also e-mail an opportunity to a friend and suggest updates to the guide.

The National Opportunities Guide is still going strong, more than 10 years later and is one of the most popular features on our probono.net platform. To visit the guide go to www.probono.net/oppsguide and get started volunteering!

Grace Gilligan is an attorney in the Government Investigations and Regulatory Enforcement group (GIRE) in the Legal Department of JPMorgan Chase & Co, and a member of the Department’s Pro Bono Steering Committee.  Prior to joining JPMorgan, Grace was a litigation associate at the law firm of Milbank, LLP.  During her time at Milbank, Grace worked on two pro bono externships with the Juvenile Rights Division of the Legal Aid Society, where she represented clients in juvenile delinquency proceedings.  Grace is a graduate of Fordham Law School.

I believe that lawyers can use technology to make the world a better place.

I am an in-house attorney at JPMorgan Chase & Co., and the recipient of the 2019 JPMorgan Chase Pro Bono Fellowship.  JPMorgan awards the Fellowship to one of its in-house attorneys each year, to work full-time for up to six months on a project that advances its Legal Pro Bono Mission: strengthening communities, empowering families, and advocating for vulnerable individuals.  It’s a unique opportunity that reflects the Department’s commitment to pro bono, and faith in its attorneys to do good in the world.  I chose to partner with Pro Bono Net on my fellowship project, because the organization shares my deep commitment to using the power of technology for social good.

The big picture goal of my fellowship project is finding new ways for in-house attorneys (like me) to participate more effectively in pro bono work.  For structural reasons, in-house attorneys generally don’t have the same tools as law firm attorneys to facilitate long-term pro bono projects – tools like full time pro bono coordinators and 24-hour legal support staff.

As a result, I think there is a vast and underutilized pool of in-house legal talent that could be harnessed in the profession’s efforts to close the access to justice gap.  I’m working on several projects with Pro Bono Net to achieve this goal.  We’re re-designing the PBN Corporate Counsel site as a place for in-house attorneys to communicate with one another about pro bono opportunities, resources, and challenges.

At the end of April, my Pro Bono Net colleagues and also I kicked off a tech project with the JPMorgan Chase Force for Good team in Corporate Technology.  Together, we’ll be building a new platform for attorneys in different sectors of the profession to connect and collaborate on pro bono projects.

The access to justice gap is wide, but I’m confident it can be closed.

We’ve also organized a panel discussion to explore the connections between the two greatest challenges facing the legal profession: the access to justice gap and lack of diversity in the top ranks of the profession.  These two issues are generally considered separately, but we’ll discuss how they are related and whether there are common solutions.  The panel discussion will take place on June 4th from 12-2pm at Latham & Watkins’ office in New York, and will feature speakers from the in-house, law firm, and legal services sectors.  Invitation coming soon!

To summarize, I believe that lawyers can use technology to make the world a better place.  Reading a bold statement like that, you might say I’m an idealist.  People have always been cynical about lawyers, and we live in a time of intense cynicism about technology too – its effects on privacy, democracy, and the social fabric itself. But I won’t join the cynics, on either front.

Ambrose Bierce, in his Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary, defines a cynic as someone “whose faulty vision sees things as they are – not as they ought to be.”  I can’t help but see things the other way around: as they ought to be – not as they are.  The access to justice gap is wide, but I’m confident it can be closed.  The public defender crisis is dire, but I’m convinced it can be solved.  The legal profession doesn’t reflect the diversity of society by a long shot, but I’m certain it can be changed.  And technology has been used in malevolent ways, but I know it can still be a force for good.  That’s because technology is simply an amplifier of all human capabilities.  We confront the malevolence not by abandoning technology altogether, but by using it to amplify the better angels of our nature.

It was through my pro bono work that I first realized the astonishing creative power I have – as just one person with a law degree – to change the entire trajectory of other people’s lives for the better.  As I sat with my pro bono clients in courtrooms and conference rooms over the years, I saw in their eyes an unshakable belief that I could fix the injustices they’d suffered.  I’m deeply grateful to both JPMorgan Chase and Pro Bono Net for giving me the opportunity to amplify my own capabilities through the Pro Bono Fellowship.

Pro Bono Net staff members will be presenting on a variety of equal justice issues at the 2019 Equal Justice Conference (EJC) this week in Kentucky. The Conference takes place May 9th – 11th in Louisville 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. Our staff is made up of a cross-disciplinary team from legal, technology, and community engagement backgrounds who are committed to creating innovative, sustainable solutions for expanding access to justice. The Equal Justice Conference brings together all sectors of the legal community to discuss equal justice issues as they relate to the delivery of legal services to low income and vulnerable communities. PBN’s teams will present on a wide range of topics, including cutting-edge collaboration models in  justice communities, technology to expand pro bono participation, and designing and delivering better tools to assist self-represented litigants.

Staff attending the conference includes Liz Keith, Program Director; Quisquella Addison, LawHelpNY Program Director; Claudia Johnson, LawHelp Interactive Program Manager; Mike Grunenwald, Program Manager; Jessica Penkoff, Pro Bono & Strategic Initiatives Coordinator;  Tim Baran, LawHelpNY Program Manager; Jessica Stuart, Product Manager; and JPMorgan Chase Pro Bono Fellow Grace Gilligan.

Liz Keith and Mirenda Meghelli, Partnerships Manager, will also be attending and presenting at the National Meeting of State Access to Justice Commission Chairs held in conjunction with EJC.

Pro Bono Net staff are participating in the conference and Commission Chairs workshops below. For more details on each workshop, please visit the EJC website here.

National Meeting of State Access to Justice Commission Chairs

Friday, 3:00- 3:30 PM

Transforming Services for Self-Represented Litigants through Technology and Justice Community Partnerships

This session will highlight a major initiative underway in Washington, DC to increase access to justice through the creation of user-friendly, plain language interactive court forms. This initiative is designed to enhance services for self-represented litigants within and outside of the courthouse, increase court efficiencies, and strengthen court processes. Presenters will discuss how extensive collaboration with local access to justice stakeholders is strengthening the efficacy and awareness of these initiatives. We will share successes and lessons learned so that participants from other jurisdictions interested in implementing or expanding document assembly projects can gain practical information and guidance.

  • Mirenda Meghelli, Pro Bono Net
  • Peter Edelman, Georgetown University Law Center, D.C. Access to Justice Commission Chair


Friday, 3:45 PM

Creating Inclusive Justice Ecosystems in Alaska and Hawaii: Insights from the Legal Navigator

Legal Navigator is a pilot project that brings together technology, content and community to help people with civil legal needs more easily access legal information and referrals specific to their issues and find a path forward. This workshop will highlight developments in this project’s novel collaborations between court, legal aid and social services partners, its innovative technology strategy using artificial intelligence and natural language processing, and initial testing results. Presenters will discuss next steps in Alaska and Hawaii, work to advance this vision on a national level, and opportunities for replication in other states.

  • Sergio Alcubilla, Director of External Relations, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii
  • Liz Keith, Program Director, Pro Bono Net
  • Glenn Rawdon, Senior Program Counsel, Legal Services Corporation
  • Ericka Rickard, Senior Officer – Civil Legal System Modernization, The Pew Charitable Trusts

Equal Justice Conference workshops

Thursday, 1:30 PM

50 New Tech Tips

Members of the legal aid technology community present 50 new technology tips! This fast-paced session will provide tips about free and low-cost tools, apps and software covering a broad range of topics that everyone can use.

  • David Bonebrake, Program Counsel for Technology, Legal Services Corporation
  • Liz Keith, Program Director, Pro Bono Net
  • Glenn Rawdon, Senior Program Counsel, Legal Services Corporation
  • Jane Ribadeneyra, Program Analyst for Technology, Legal Services Corporation

Core Online Tools Your Program and Courts Need to Know to Increase Access to Justice

  • Vanessa Batters-Thompson, Managing Attorney, D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center
  • Marilyn Harp, Executive Director, Kansas Legal Services, Inc.
  • Claudia Johnson, Program Manager, LawHelp Interactive Pro Bono Net
  • Margaret Hamlett Shinn, Community Education & Pro Se Coordinator, Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc.

This workshop will present core online tools that are well understood and how they are being used in variety of contexts to remove barriers to Justice. They will show how well designed websites and online forms, supported with web chat tools in strong partnerships, can create new ways to serve areas of high demand, and deepen existing services and relationships.

Thursday, 3:30 PM

Getting to Meaningful Access to Justice for All: Lessons Learned from New York’s Justice for All Pilot

The Justice for All project provided funding to New York to create strategic action plan to provide effective assistance to 100% of those in need. This workshop will highlight the work of two pilot regions Suffolk and Monroe Counties to implement a strategy, the challenges faced and the lessons learned.

  • Quisquella Addison, LawHelpNY Program Director, Pro Bono Net
  • Helaine Barnett, Chair, New York State Permanent Commission on Access to Justice
  • Maria Dosso, Director of Communications and Volunteer Services, Nassau Suffolk Law Services Committee
  • Tina Foster, Executive Director, Volunteer Legal Services Project of Monroe County
  • Ken Perri, Executive Director, Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc.

Legal Navigator: Creating Inclusive Justice Ecosystems in Alaska & Hawaii

  • Glenn Rawdon, Senior Program Counsel, Legal Services Corporation
  • Sergio Alcubilla, Director of External Relations, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii
  • Amber Ivey, Manager – Civil Legal System Modernization Team, Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Liz Keith, Program Director, Pro Bono Net

Legal Navigator is a pilot project that brings together technology, content and community to help all people with civil legal needs more easily find a path forward. This workshop will highlight developments in this project’s novel collaborations with social services and community partners, innovative technology strategy, and initial testing results.

Friday, 8:30 AM

Disaster Legal Tech: How Remote Services Technology and Other Online Resources Can Help Disaster Survivors

Disaster survivors face an urgent need for legal assistance. The majority of federal aid applications are denied, and most applicants cannot access a lawyer to appeal. This session will highlight remote services technology and other online resources to mobilize volunteers and scale pro bono assistance after a disaster.

  • Claudia Johnson, LawHelp Interactive Pro Bono Net
  • Jess Penkoff, Pro Bono & Strategic Initiatives Coordinator, Pro Bono Net
  • Laren Spirer, Director of Pro Bono Programs and Lecturer in Law, Columbia Law School

Expanding Our Reach: The Future of Rural Service Delivery

  • Sarah Carver, Attorney, Project Coordinator, Pro Bono Training Academy, Alaska Legal Services Corporation
  • Liz Keith, Program Director, Pro Bono Net
  • Nikole Nelson, Executive Director, Alaska Legal Services Corporation

Partnering for Native Health is a multi-state collaborative project serving members of over 100 tribal nations in some of the most isolated and rural communities in the country. Panelists will discuss their project and their vision for the  future that integrates post-secondary education, health care, legal aid and technology to build a community-based, culturally-appropriate legal extender network that empowers communities and provides access to justice to people living in places as far flung as Tuba City, Navajo Nation to the native Collage of Selwick, Alaska.

Tapping into Tech: Strategies for Integrating Tech Tools into Pro Bono Recruitment and Retention

In this session, we will discuss strategies for effective use of tech tools for recruiting, organizing, managing, and retaining volunteers. Panelists will share how they are using tech to make it easier—and more enjoyable—for lawyers to take on pro bono work and mobilize volunteer lawyers towards pressing needs. Participants will be able to identify specific strategies they can employ in their own programs.

  • Nancy Anderson, Director of Pro Bono, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • Mike Grunenwald, Program Manager, Pro Bono Net
  • Jacek Pruski, Managing Director & General Counsel, We the Action
  • Laurie Rashidi-Yazd, Pro Bono Director and Pro Bono Unit Managing Attorney, Atlanta Legal Aid Society

Friday, 1:45 PM

Resilient & Ready: Collaboration Strategies to Strengthen Disaster Response

  • Norah Rogers, Pro Bono Coordinator, Nelson Mullins
  • Katherine Asaro, Staff Attorney, North Carolina Pro Bono Resource Center
  • Ariadna Godreau Aubert, Executive Director, Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico
  • Liz Keith, Program Director, Pro Bono Net

This workshop will explore how hard hit disaster regions, especially rural and underserved areas, can benefit from innovative partnerships that mobilize pro bono volunteers and access resources that often go untapped. Learn how recovery efforts in North Carolina and Puerto Rico have joined forces with other programs within and outside of their jurisdictions to build collaborative response networks. They will also spotlight new and forthcoming resources available through DisasterLegalAid to help communities recover, rebuild and become resilient over the long term.

Saturday, 8:30 AM

The Use of Technology and Innovative Collaborations to Improve Victim Access to Legal Services

  • Tim Baran, Program Manager, LawHelpNY
  • Kazi Houston, Legal Director, Rocky Mountain Victim Law Center
  • Remla Parthasarathy, Project Leader, Empire Justice Center

This session highlights innovative collaborations that use technology to improve crime victims’ access to legal information and resources. Panelists from New York and Colorado will share what they have learned developing and implementing victim legal assistance networks that address the various needs faced by individuals in the aftermath of victimization.

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.netwww.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.

Last Wednesday, the Institute for Technology Law & Policy at Georgetown Law held its latest Iron Tech Lawyer Competition, livestreamed for those of us who couldn’t be there in person. Throughout the semester, six teams of students came together to collaborate with legal service providers and public interest law organizations to build legal expert systems that promote access to legal processes and the legal system. The systems are then developed into apps using Neota Logic technology, and the teams present them to judges during the competition who determine a winner.

The competition is the culmination of a class at Georgetown Law called: “Civ Tech: Digital Tools and Access to Justice,” taught by Professor Tanina Rostain and adjuct Professors Mark O’Brien, Pro Bono Net’s own Executive Director, and Kevin Mulcachy. The competition is made possible through the Georgetown Law Center and donated technology by Neota Logic.

Iron Tech Lawyer Award 2019

This year’s Iron Tech Lawyer Award went to the Whitman-Walker Health D.C. Name Change App developed for Whitman-Walker Health. The target users for this app are D.C. residents who are trans or gender expansive, and created to help a community that is often times overlooked or undermined. The app is designed to access the user’s eligibility to change their name in D.C. and then walk the user through entering the information needed for their name change application. It then generates a Motion to Seal, the user’s name change application. This app allows a user to petition for a name change simply and easily, empowering them to access an important legal right.

The winner of the Excellence in Design Award was my personal favorite, The Legal Check-Up, developed for Georgetown’s Health Justice Alliance. This app identifies the legal need of cancer patients, helps patients consider necessary actions with respect to wills, power of attorney, and custody dependents when their illness is terminal. It then provides a report identifying legal needs of the patient for a social worker to connect the patient with the appropriate legal services. This team’s app really impressed me. It helps those going through an already difficult time to identify and navigate possible legal issues. This organized and accessible app uses the help of social workers to get cancer patients through any legal issues that could arise from their situation.

People’s Choice

After the teams have presented their apps and while the judges are deliberating, a call goes out to us watching on livestream to vote for our favorite project. The one that gets the most votes wins the Social Media Award. This year’s winner was the Navigator: Your Guide to the Illinois Conviction Registries developed for The Illinois Work Group on Public Convictions Registries. This app helps people with convictions in Illinois or their family members and friends by informing them of the vast and complex Illinois registry laws as well as supplying a means of determining which laws apply to a person. It provides resources, user stories, and advocacy information and allows users the ability to contribute to crowd sourced information.

Takeaways

The solutions the teams developed based on the challenges they saw were both impressive and unique. It’s exciting to see the next generation of lawyers take on public service challenges and find good solid solutions. As I watched the livestream, I was struck by the hard work, dedication, and creativity that went into these apps. Every one of these projects could make a major difference in the lives of people in need across the country.

I am always intrigued and inspired by the way technology can be used to help those with a legal problem. The legal system can be difficult for the average person to navigate on their own. For underserved communities to have access to tools that help them navigate our legal system makes an enormous impact.

Addition Information

The judges panel consisted of Maha Jweied, a legal consultant; Mirenda Meghelli, Pro Bono Net’s Partnerships Manager; and David Bonebrake, Program Counsel at the Legal Services Corporation.

Additional Teams

Community Navigator Issues Spotting Tool developed for the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii

Team members – Natalia Benitez, Harry Shen, Jack Siverman

WomensLaw.org Resource Finder developed for National Network to End Domestic Violence

Team members – April Paredes, Caroline Shipman, Clara Troyer, Yustina Zakhary

TEXpunction and Nondisclosure Eligibility developed for Texas Legal Services Center

Team members – Socrates Boutsikaris, Kristen Friel, Zakari Hassanaly, Anna Schamberg

 

You can learn more about the teams, apps and judges by going to www.irontechlawyer.com

This Wednesday, April 24th, students from Georgetown Law will compete in the Annual Iron Tech Lawyer Competition, made possible through the efforts of the Georgetown Law Center and Neota Logic. Join us for the livestream at www.irontechlawyer.com from 1:30-4pm.

During the Spring 2019 semester, Professor Tanina Rostain and adjuct Professors Mark O’Brien, Pro Bono Net’s Executive Director, and Kevin Mulcachy taught an experiential class called: “Civ Tech: Digital Tools and Access to Justice.”

Throughout the semester student teams collaborate with legal service providers and public interest law organizations to build legal expert systems that promote access to legal processes and the legal system.

Meet the Judges

Maha Jweied directs a consultancy providing expertise to nonprofit and multilateral organizations on access-to-justice, leveraging insight gained after nearly twelve years in the federal government.

Mirenda Meghelli serves as the Partnerships Manager at Pro Bono Net, a national nonprofit committed to increasing access to justice through innovative technology.

David Monebrake is a Program Counsel for Technology at the Legal Services Corporation and is responsible for helping manage LSC’s Technology Initiative Grants (TIG) Program.

Competing Projects

  • Navi-Gator: Your Guide to the Illinois Conviction Registries
  • Community Navigator Issue Spotting Tool
  • The Legal Check-Up
  • Whitman-Walker Health D.C. Name Change App
  • WomensLaw.org Resource Finder
  • TEXpunction and Nondisclosure Eligibility

Participating Partner Organizations

  • The Illinois Group on Public Convictions Registries
  • Legal Aid Society of Hawaii
  • Georgetown University Health Justice Alliance
  • Whitman-Walker Health
  • National Network to End Domestic Violence
  • Texas Legal Services Center

Georgetown Iron Tech Lawyer Competition
Wednesday, April 24, 2019
1:30-4:00pm

For more information, click here or watch the livestream at irontechlawyer.com. 

Every April, Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) leads communities throughout the country in their annual observances of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. In recognition of this important week, Pro Bono Net is highlighting two collaborative programs that provide legal information and help to those who are victims of crimes in the state of New York.

The Importance of Victim’s Rights

People often have legal needs as a result of being a victim of crime. For many crime victims, the problems they face after a crime can be challenging, especially when they have several legal needs and are unsure where they can go for help.

“Too often, we see crime victims struggling to pull their lives together in the months and even years after they’ve been victimized,” – Office of Victim Services Director Elizabeth Cronin

Having access to information, tools and resources can make all the difference in picking up the pieces and rebuilding their lives in the aftermath.

New York Crime Victims Legal Help

This October, the New York State Office of Victim Services announced a new website connecting crime victims with information and free civil legal assistance that is being piloted in three Western New York counties, allowing victims to learn about their rights and connect with resources or legal representation. New York Crime Victims Legal Help is an online resource that allows victims to learn about their rights and connect with resources and/or legal representation.

The website features a user-friendly screening tool that allows crime victims to identify what legal needs they may have and then locate relevant resources; a searchable legal service help directory with filters to isolate organizations that can assist with specific issues; a self-help resource library to inform them of their rights; and a live chat function to access referral information in real time. The Office of Victim Services partnered with Pro Bono Net, Empire Justice Center, and University at Albany’s Center for Human Services Research to create the website.

Family Offense Petition

A staggering number of Americans experience violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime. Hundreds of thousands of Family Offense Petitions are filed in New York State Courts each year by individuals seeking orders of protection. Domestic violence has serious ramifications and victims are in great need of advice and information to protect their safety.

Under the Family Offense Petition Program, individuals are assisted by advocates from Domestic Violence agencies to prepare the petition electronically and e-file it in any Family Court using our award-winning LawHelp Interactive document assembly technology. This allows clerks to quickly review the petitions so that survivors can go directly to see the judge/court referee, thus increasing the efficiency, accuracy, and pace of the filing process.

In recognition of Pro Bono Net’s 20th Anniversary, we are sharing highlights from our history as part of our “On This Day in PBN History” series. Throughout the year we will be sharing project launches, collaborations and other important milestones that Pro Bono Net has accomplished since its creation in 1999. Since this is National Volunteer Week, we would like to highlight the launch www.immigrationadvocates.org!

Immigration Advocates Network

Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) is a collaboration between Pro Bono Net and leading immigrants’ rights organizations around the country.  IAN supports the largest network of nonprofit and pro bono immigration law practitioners, to whom it provides access to free online training resources, webinars, weekly practice tips and other benefits. With IAN, we have created award-winning websites and mobile applications— Citizenshipworks, immi, ImmigrationLawHelp, and Immigo—to help immigrants on the path to security. IAN’s web-based tools answer questions about eligibility, explain complex processes, provide referrals to legal help, enable immigrants to safely and securely help themselves, as well as allowing lawyers to provide remote consultations and document review via video conference and online document assembly.

Launching www.immigrationadvocates.org

On this day in 2008 IAN launched a free website for non-profit advocates, organizers and service providers to promote collaboration and support pro bono and volunteer efforts in the immigration sector. IAN’s goal was to promote more effective and efficient communication among existing immigration organizations by providing easily accessible and comprehensive online resources.

Features for legal services providers, organizers, and public interest advocates are accessed through Resource Centers specifically designed for nonprofits and pro bono attorneys. Through the Nonprofit and Pro Bono Resource Centers, the Immigration Advocates Network provides free web-based tools, resources and trainings for nonprofit immigration advocates, organizers and service providers.

Members can access a library with manuals and sample materials, podcasts, videos, online trainings with immigration experts, a national calendar of trainings and events, timely news, and listservs on immigration law topics. These tools and resources are developed to support the work of volunteers around the country.

Thank you volunteers!

Pro Bono Net would once again like to extend our gratitude to all attorneys around the country working to ensure access to justice for people through volunteering.

If you are an attorney and would like to volunteer, please visit IAN’s Pro Bono Resource Center to connect you to free resources and training materials from national experts. Or visit Pro Bono Net’s Volunteer Tools page for a list of resources to help get you started.

The Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) is a collaborative effort of leading immigrants’ rights organizations designed to increase access to justice for low-income immigrants and strengthen the capacity of organizations serving them. IAN’s partners include: Pro Bono Net, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., National Immigration Law Center, Unidos, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, American Immigration Lawyers Association, ASISTA, American Immigration Council, American Bar Association, National Immigration Project, The Advocates for Human Rights, and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

Each year, millions of people in the US face civil legal problems and are unable to afford an attorney. Many are turned away from civil legal aid because there are just not enough resources to go around. Pro bono and volunteer attorneys play an indispensable role in providing services to these people, and the impact of their work cannot be overstated. This National Volunteer Week, we would like say “Thank you!” to all attorneys who volunteer their time to ensure those who cannot afford an attorney do not go without their legal rights.

Tools and Resources for Volunteers

In this day and age, technology provides volunteer attorneys with greater resources than ever. Pro Bono Net has several resources and tools for attorneys who are interested in getting involved with pro bono work.

Our flagship site, probono.net is a national, online resource for pro bono and other volunteer attorneys, legal professionals, and other legal advocates. The site promotes collaboration and makes it easier for volunteers to get involved. Members can access a number of resources including the pro bono opportunities guide, the pro bono library tool, and pro bono CLE training calendars. Each statewide probono.net site has multiple practice areas, local opportunities, highlights and more. Learn more by going to www.probono.net and choosing your geographic area.

In addition to our statewide sites, we also offer resources on a national basis in several areas. The Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) website houses its nonprofit and pro bono resource center which provides free web-based tools, resources and trainings for nonprofit immigration advocates, organizers and service providers. Military Pro Bono has online resources and a searchable directory that provides access to volunteer opportunities related to military and veteran issues. The Veterans Consortium website supports and engages both veterans and volunteer attorneys by making it easier for veterans to file federal court appeals and making it more efficient for attorneys to volunteer and ask for cases to represent veterans in need.

In addition to these sites, Pro Bono Net also has dedicated tools like LawHelp Interactive (LHI). LHI creates online legal forms that support volunteer attorneys in direct representation, limited scope and referral and screening contexts by helping them to do their pro bono work more efficiently and providing support in new areas of law.

Our newest addition

Launched this January, catholiccharitiesnyprobono.org is a new probono.net-powered site developed in partnership with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York with funding from New York State’s Liberty Defense Project.

The site serves as the centerpiece of Catholic Charities new statewide pro bono project to expand access to legal services for immigrant communities, particularly in dense and regionally isolated immigrant communities. The probono.net platform plays a central role in Catholic Charities Pro Bono Project’s volunteer mobilization strategy.

“The all-inclusive site provides volunteers with the ability to review available cases, sign up for short-term and case placement volunteer opportunities, learn more about the work of the Pro Bono Project and access a wealth of training materials and practice templates. The online volunteer portal comes with more than 100 practice tools and web-based trainings, with new materials added as needed,” according to Catholic Charities.

Our Gratitude

Pro Bono Net would like to again extend our gratitude to all the attorneys around the country working to ensure access to justice for people through volunteering. Volunteer attorneys truly make a difference in people’s lives.

If you are an attorney and would like to volunteer, please visit our Volunteer Tools page for a list of resources to help you get started.

 

Sponsored by Points of Light, National Volunteer Week was established in 1974 and has grown exponentially each subsequent year, with literally thousands of volunteer projects and special events scheduled throughout the week.

 

In recognition of Pro Bono Net’s 20th Anniversary, we are sharing highlights from our history as part of our “On This Day in PBN History” series. Throughout the year we will be sharing project launches, collaborations and other important milestones that Pro Bono Net has accomplished since its creation in 1999. To kick off the series we are sharing the launch of one of our most popular and important programs – LawHelpNY’s LiveHelp program.

LiveHelp on LawHelpNY.org

“Please keep this platform open and accessible to anyone in NY this has been very helpful.” – LiveHelp User

On this day in 2010 LawHelpNY announced the launch of a real-time, online chat service available in English and Spanish to help guide visitors to needed legal information and referrals. LiveHelp on LawHelpNY has since grown and is now available to visitors to CourtHelp’s Families and Children and Foreclosure pages as well as visitors to the Crime Victim Legal Help website. Monday to Friday 10:00 am – 1:00 pm visitors can be connected with staff at Legal Information for Families Today for family law issues. LiveHelp continues to be available Monday-Friday 9 am – 9 pm, and is also available on mobile devices.

Designed to help unrepresented New Yorkers with civil legal problems, LiveHelp connects those in need with online tools, resources, know-your-rights information and referrals available on LawHelpNY. Every year, millions of New Yorkers face serious civil legal problems – including domestic violence, family disputes, eviction, consumer debt and foreclosure – without legal representation. The Permanent Commission on Access to Justice estimates that approximately 1.8 million New Yorkers continue to navigate the state’s civil legal system without the help of an attorney. LiveHelp provides a place to start for those who need assistance and helps them navigate the resources and referrals available to them online. Each month, LiveHelp helps 900-1000 people find helpful legal information, online forms to prevent or address legal issues, and information about organizations that can help them further. 

The Volunteers

“This service made it much easier to get information I needed.” – LiveHelp User

The program is staffed primarily by volunteer law students and recent law graduates. These volunteers receive training on common civil legal problems that visitors to LiveHelp face including family law, housing, foreclosure, immigration  and assisting crime victims. They also receive a thorough introduction to all of the sites they will be responsible for guiding individuals to resources. Since the service is online, volunteers can staff the program from anywhere, including the comfort of their own home. Students and recent graduates are even able to receive credit toward their 50 hours of pro bono work requirement to take the Bar in the state of New York.

Expansion

“Excellent service, quick response, helpful information, provided exactly what I needed!” – LiveHelp User

In 2016, Pro Bono Net incorporated LawHelpNY into its core programs, and LiveHelp expanded onto additional sites for the first time. Initially only available on the Foreclosure pages of New York’s CourtHelp website, LiveHelp soon expanded to include all of the sites listed above. We are thrilled to highlight such a strong and influential program as our first “This Day in PBN History” highlight.

For 20 years Pro Bono Net has been a nonprofit leader in innovative programs that increase access to justice. Our comprehensive programs enable legal organizations to maximize their impact, increase pro bono involvement, and empower the public by providing legal assistance and information. Through innovative technology strategies, we create economies of scale, better integrate existing resources and services, and build capacity in the nonprofit legal sector. Each day, our programs help thousands of families stay in their homes, put young immigrants on a path to citizenship, ensure the safety of women and children, and enable volunteer lawyers across the country to make a difference.

 

LSC Innovations in Technology ConferenceThe 2019 Innovations in Technology Conference kicks off on Tuesday in New Orleans, Louisiana. The 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 ranging from the Legal Navigator initiative (www.simplifyinglegalhelp.org) to implicit bias in legal technology.

The Legal Services Corporation will be livestreaming select sessions throughout the conference including “Creating Inclusive Justice Ecosystems in Alaska and Hawaii: Developments in the Legal Navigator Initiative” with Pro Bono Net Executive Director, Mark O’Brien, and “Older Adults & Technology: The Changing Landscape of Access to Justice for Seniors” with Claudia Johnson. Claudia will also be providing an introduction to the panel “I Get Diversity but What is Inclusion: The Impact of Implicit Bias in Legal Tech” on Thursday, January 10th.

Prior to the main ITC conference, Pro Bono Net is offering two days of LawHelp Interactive Training on Monday and Tuesday to train advocates on how to develop interactive legal documents and court forms that increasing opportunities for those without an attorney to achieve justice.

In addition, Pro Bono Net and several of our partners are participating in a daylong pre-ITC workshop on January 7 hosted the Open Society Foundations focusing on legal empowerment and technology, along with OSF partners and grantees in South Africa, Ukraine, Moldova, and Mongolia. On January 8, Pro Bono Net is co-hosting a “Global Convening on Legal Empowerment and Technology” that includes a larger number of U.S. invitees and international representatives from the UK, Australia, South Africa, Moldova, Mongolia, and Ukraine. The purpose of the workshop and convening is to explore the current and potential role of technology in advancing legal empowerment strategies, with an emphasis on approaches to building legal capacity and agency within local communities.

Below is a schedule of ITCon panels and sessions with Pro Bono Net participating:

*This session will be livestreamed. To see all livestreaming sessions, view the full livestream schedule.

 

Monday, 8:00am – 5:00pm
LawHelp Interactive Training

 

Tuesday, 8:00am – 5:00pm
LawHelp Interactive Training

 

Wednesday, 10:30am
Resilient and Ready: Transforming Disaster Response through Technology and Network Building

  • Ariadna Godreau Aubert, Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico
  • Clarissa Ayala, Lone Star Legal Aid
  • Saundra J. Brown, Lone Star Legal Aid
  • Jeanne Ortiz-Ortiz, Pro Bono Net

Thursday, 8:45am
Older Adults & Technology: The Changing Landscape of Access to Justice for Seniors*

  • Sarah R Galvan, Justice in Aging/National Center on Law & Elder Rights
  • Claudia Johnson, Pro Bono Net
  • David Travis, Chautauqua County Family Court
  • Molly M. K. White, Center for Elder Law & Justice

Thursday, 10:30am
Made in NYC: Emerging Access to Justice Technology

  • Tim Baran, Pro Bono Net
  • Felicity Conrad, Paladin
  • Thomas Officer, Community.lawyer
  • Kristin Turner, Upsolve
  • Linda Tvrdy, DaisyDebt.org

Friday, 8:00am
LawHelp/probono.net Network Session: What’s New and What’s Next for 2019

  • Quisquella Addison, Pro Bono Net
  • Alex Clark, Montana Legal Services Association
  • Mike Grunenwald, Pro Bono Net
  • Laurie Rashidi-Yazd, Atlanta Legal Aid Society Inc.

Friday, 9:30am
Creating Inclusive Justice Ecosystems in Alaska and Hawaii: Developments in the Legal Navigator Initiative*

  • Sergio Alcubilla, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii
  • Lester Bird, The Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Mark O’Brien, Pro Bono Net
  • Stacey Marz, Alaska Court System
  • Glenn Rawdon, Legal Services Corporation

Friday, 11:15am
Connecting Clients to Access — Remotely Bringing Attorneys and Clients Together for Document Assembly

  • Craig Harrison, Utah Legal Services
  • Michael Hofrichter, Houston Volunteer Lawyers
  • Claudia Johnson, Pro Bono Net

Friday, 11:15am
Measuring Impact: An Analytics Framework for Civil Legal Nonprofits*

  • Tim Baran, Pro Bono Net
  • Maureen Jouhet, Illinois Legal Aid Online
  • Meaghan McDermott, Maryland Legal Aid