Puerto Rico and other areas affected by last year’s hurricanes have been in the news prominently in recent months, but what happens when the media spotlight fades? After the cameras are gone, the physical damages remain and rebuilding is an arduous process. Pro Bono Net recognizes the importance of providing access to legal assistance in the wake of natural disasters and works with partners across the country to build innovative solutions to the short and long-term legal needs arising from these events, which disproportionately impact low income and vulnerable communities.

These needs range from housing instability, job loss, loss of important personal documents, as well as issues applying for FEMA aid or being denied by FEMA, that severely complicate the recovery process. As the Louisiana justice community’s experience with Hurricane Katrina demonstrated, it can take up to ten years (sometimes longer) to resolve the range of legal issues that many survivors face after a disaster.

Continue Reading Update on Disaster Legal Response Efforts in Puerto Rico

Pro Bono Net is teaming up with the Practising Law Institute to bring you a discussion about the access to justice movement and the role of pro bono in closing the gap with Honorable Jonathan Lippman and Pro Bono Net’s Executive Director, Mark O’Brien. Register now for this FREE presentation.

Achieving 100% Access: A Conversation with the Honorable Jonathan Lippman About Pro Bono’s Role in Bridging the Justice Gap is a one-hour discussion between the Honorable Jonathan Lippman, former Chief Judge of the State of New York, and Mark O’Brien, Executive Director of Pro Bono Net, on a number of topics related to the access to justice community and the roles of Pro Bono and technology in closing the justice gap.

Questions to be addressed include: how can pro bono effectively help meet the legal needs of the underserved? How should pro bono respond to emerging trends in the access-to-justice movement? What are – and how do we address – the limitations of the traditional role of pro bono in the access-to-justice movement? Register now for the one-hour briefing on June 5th.

If you are interested in additional discussions between Mark O’Brien and Honorable Jonathan Lippman on access to justice, please visit our website for highlights from our 2016 event A Conversation with Judge Jonathan Lippman.


Practising Law InstitutePractising Law Institute is nonprofit learning organization dedicated to keeping attorneys and professionals at the forefront of knowledge and expertise, as well as preparing them to fulfill their pro bono responsibilities. For more information about PLI’s pro bono programs and activities, please visit www.pli.edu/probono.

The Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) and Pro Bono Net (PBN) won this year’s ClearMark Award from the Center for Plain Language, for best Spanish-language website.  The winning site,  https://immi.org/es, which was launched shortly after the November 2016 elections, helps immigrants understand their legal options and find legal help.  

Immi is a free online resource, in English and Spanish. It uses accessible language to reach a wide audience.  An estimated 15 to 20% of the 10 to 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. are eligible for legal status.  Immi’s interactive quiz asks questions about family, immigration history, and circumstances to help them identify the options.  The site provides additional plain language articles on immigration law, legal rights, how to get good legal help, and more. It has a directory of over 1,000 nonprofit legal service providers, searchable by location. Most recently, we launched a new “Make a Plan” interview on immi, to help immigrants prepare for the risk of arrest or deportation, and protect their families.

Continue Reading Immi Wins 2018 ClearMark Award for Plain Language

Pro Bono Net staff members will be presenting on a variety of equal justice issues at the 2018 Equal Justice Conference (EJC) this week in California. The Conference takes place May 10th – 12th in San Diego 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 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. Staff members will present on a wide range of topics, including cutting-edge collaboration models in the justice communities, technology to expand pro bono participation, and designing and delivering better tools to assist self-represented litigants.

Continue Reading Pro Bono Net at this year’s Equal Justice Conference

In honor of National Volunteer Week we will be highlighting volunteers and sharing ways lawyers and advocates can get involved. Today we would like to highlight Wantee Ramkaran, a LiveHelp Volunteer for LawHelpNY

LawHelpNY.org, is a website designed to help low-income New Yorkers solve their legal problems. Volunteers staff LiveHelp, an online, real-time chat service that directs users towards relevant self-help materials, legal services organizations and court information.  

Continue Reading National Volunteer Week 2018 Highlight: Wantee Ramkaran, LiveHelp Volunteer

In honor of National Volunteer Week we will be highlighting volunteers and sharing ways lawyers and advocates can get involved. Today we would like to highlight the StandWithImmigrants campaign from Immigration Advocates Network.

We need volunteers to join the campaign and pledge to Stand with Immigrants!

Visit www.standwithimmigrants.org to get involved. The site offers volunteer opportunities, resources, trainings, and calls to action. There are many ways to get involved, whether you are a lawyer, educator, social worker, health care provider, interpreter, community activist, or concerned neighbor. Some volunteer opportunities require special skills, such as legal training or language proficiency, while others only require time and the desire to help.

When you visit the site, you are invited to “take the pledge.” We’ll send you the Stand With Immigrants monthly newsletter, and update your “action center” on the site to connect you to volunteer opportunities based on location, interests, and areas of expertise.

Search for general volunteer opportunities by profession and location, or specific volunteer positions on the “volunteers needed” page. Explore our resource pages, and find fact sheets, toolkits, podcasts, and recorded webinars on immigration policy, volunteer opportunities, how best to serve immigrant clients, and much more.

Take the pledge today to #StandWithImmigrants and follow the campaign on facebook and twitter to stay up to date on current events and volunteer needs.

 

 


The Stand With Immigrants campaign is a collaboration of the Immigration Advocates Network, American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), The Advocates for Human Rights, UnidosUS, and Pro Bono Net.

In honor of National Volunteer Week we will be highlighting volunteers and sharing ways lawyers and advocates can get involved. Today we would like to highlight the work of the Pro Bono FEMA Appeals Clinics which were initiated in response to the 2017 hurricane season.

Probono.net/ny is the New York state network site of probono.net and strives to mobilize and support the volunteer legal community.  Probono.net/ny includes the NYC Pro Bono Center (hosted with the Legal Aid Society and the City Bar Justice Center), and a number of different practice area specific sites, including in family law/domestic violence, community development, housing and foreclosure. The information on our site is made possible by the contributions and collaborations we make with our network of legal service providers in the NY community.

The following highlight was originally published HERE.

Pro Bono FEMA Appeals Clinics for the 2017 hurricane season kicked off on December 11 at the New York City Bar Association with three pro bono attorneys and three clients with support from the City Bar Justice Center. The clinics are made possible by the collaborative efforts of the City Bar, the Association of Pro Bono Counsel, and members of the new Task Force on Disaster Relief launched by New York’s Chief Judge Janet DiFiore. As City Bar President John Kiernan described in his statement on disaster relief,

“Veterans of providing disaster legal services knew from the outset that given the scale of the hurricanes’ effects, the need for assistance from volunteer lawyers would certainly ripen and crystallize once the immediate humanitarian crisis advanced to the next recovery stage.”

Indeed, FEMA reported receiving over 4.5 million benefits applications from storm victims, and the call for pro bono lawyers became clear when FEMA began issuing denials in mid-November.

At the clinic, one of the clients had been evacuated from Puerto Rico. Living in a shelter, the client was denied FEMA assistance because the client had not applied first for a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan. The pro bono team called FEMA on a cell phone and engaged in advocacy, filed an online SBA loan application which was immediately rejected, and called FEMA back to pursue his application for relief. Luckily, FEMA’s phone line is open until 10 p.m.

The second client was a mom with two special needs children who is in the midst of a divorce. She is housed and the kids are in school but missing many items from the hurricane. FEMA granted approximately two thousand dollars to repair her home but she needs to appeal, and will return to the clinic next month.

Attorneys were able to help a third client at the clinic – a Superstorm Sandy victim who is still undergoing home repairs. He noticed the FEMA Appeals sign and walked over from the City Bar’s Monday Night Law clinic. This instance of a Sandy homeowner in need of free legal counsel illustrates how years later, New Yorkers are still dealing with home repairs from Sandy and the Build it Back Program.

Please visit the City Bar Justice Center calendar to learn how to volunteer and make the holidays a little brighter for hurricane victims in New York. Pro bono legal help makes an extraordinary difference for families in crises.


In honor of National Volunteer Week 2018, April 15-21, 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.

Make a Plan

What if you or a loved one were taken abruptly by immigration enforcement agents? What would you need to prepare for yourself and your family? At a time of increased and aggressive immigration enforcement, it is good practice to be well-equipped and take appropriate steps to be prepared.

“Make A Plan” is a new resource on immi.org, a project by the Immigration Advocates Network (IAN). Make A Plan was created in response to emergency requests by immigrant families at workshops and community events. Parents wanted to know who their children can stay with, and who can pick them up at school. Heads of household wondered what would happen to their home, business, bank accounts, and insurance policies. The scarcity in organizational knowledge and capacity to provide planning services is what led to the inception of Make A Plan.

Make A Plan puts knowledge in the hands of anyone with a digital device. By answering a few simple questions, anyone can get a checklist of what to do to protect their children, manage their home, bank accounts, insurance and other financial assets if they are detained or deported. Additionally, Make a Plan links to the confidential immigration screening tool in immi, which helps people find out if they may qualify for lawful status in the U.S. Make a Plan is available in English and Spanish. It is free to use on phone, tablet, or desktop at https://www.immi.org/home/make_a_plan.

Let others know about immi. Order free Know-Your-Rights cards to hand out at your office or events: www.immi.org/order. Visit immi’s Facebook Page at www.fb.com/my.immi for graphics to share on social media. Join us in inviting others to #MakeAPlan with immi. Help us get the word out!

Practising Law Institute offers free pro bono skills training for pro bono and volunteer attorneys

At Practising Law Institute, we strive to improve the learning experience by incorporating the latest in interactive technology and research-based instructional design. The award-winning programs in our Interactive Learning Center challenge participants by using “learning-by-doing” techniques in a variety of non-traditional, instructional formats.

For those involved in pro bono representation, PLI’s Interactive Learning Center offers free pro bono skills training. Programs currently available include:

The Art & Science of Interviewing Pro Bono Clients – Participants learn the art and science of collecting information, managing client frustrations, and working with third parties when representing pro bono clients.

Effective Communication with the Legal Services Client – Participants learn techniques for how to meet and communicate effectively with a client, as well as how to educate the client about the legal process and make informed choices.

Introduction to Pro Bono – Participants learn strategies for providing effective pro bono representation and how to handle common ethics issues.  

Upcoming Interactive Training on Advocacy for Survivors of Domestic Violence

PLI is also offering two free massive open online courses for advocates of survivors of domestic violence:

Working with Survivors of Domestic Violence 2018 (March 19-23) – Participants will learn how to interview and counsel domestic violence survivors.

Representing Domestic Violence Survivors in Court 2018 (April 16-20) – Participants will learn how to develop and execute a strategy for handling domestic violence cases in court.

For more information on all of PLI’s pro bono trainings, including Live, Webcast, and On-Demand content, please visit our website at www.pli.edu/probono


Practising Law InstitutePractising Law Institute is nonprofit learning organization dedicated to keeping attorneys and professionals at the forefront of knowledge and expertise, as well as preparing them to fulfill their pro bono responsibilities. For more information about PLI’s pro bono programs and activities, please visit www.pli.edu/probono.

After completing a major technology rebuild of LawHelp Interactive’s (LHI’s) backend in 2015, the LHI team shifted focus to improving the look and feel of LHI. That same year, about 20% of users accessing lawhelpinteractive.org were doing so with mobile and tablet devices making it clear that the mobile and tablet experience should be a central consideration for any redesign of the site.

With that in mind and in partnership with Legal Aid Society of Hawaii (LASH), LHI secured funding for a mobile-first redesign and related enhancements to the LHI platform. LASH and the LHI team formed a group of national partners to serve on a mobile usability committee*. We also enlisted the help of Rootid, a national brand strategy, design and web development firm for nonprofits to create the new designs and layouts. Rootid was a great fit for this project because they were able to leverage their prior experience with LHI where they conducted a device-independent LHI usability study (funded under a Legal Services Corporation Technology Initiative Grant).

Implementation

With the new designs and related enhancements settled upon by the summer of 2017, the LHI Tech team began coding these enhancements. This development was in part funded through another Legal Services Corporation Technology Initiative Grant that supports the LHI infrastructure granted through Ohio State Legal Services Association (OSLSA).

Pro Bono Net’s Mirenda Meghelli and Alice Pucheu were leads on the project, and were supported by their colleagues Doug Carlson, Greg Tenzer, and Kanchana Hedge.  LHI Program Manager Claudia Johnson also acted in an advisory capacity, and others at PBN were also key in helping the project become a reality, including Liz Keith and Mark O’Brien. After deployment, Pro Bono Net’s Community Support Associate Rafael Ramirez has been key in tracking end user help requests.

Though the new look and feel did not include major changes in functionality for the platforms, some improvements were made to take advantage of the opportunity. The new features include improving the search function and abilities through a new grid system, and improving the account creation/sign in experience to make it easier for users. The system now also lets attorneys mark “favorite” forms; a helpful shortcut for regular users.

Plain Language

In addition to an updated design, the new platform underwent a plain language review to improve accessibility of the platform across all devices. The LHI environment has been significantly improved since the redesign went live and additional enhancements and fixes continue to be pushed based on end user feedback and ongoing testing. More than 4,000 people have watched the new informational video, and feedback from partners and users on the new design has been positive:

“I really liked the mobile-optimized interface!”

“Staff are always available and responsive. New website design seems much more user-friendly.”

“The website redesign is a great improvement.”

With more than 1 million interviews served on LHI in 2017, this mobile-first redesign will benefit the large and growing number of LHI users.

Learn More

If you want to learn more about LawHelp Interactive, please contact Claudia Johnson at cjohnson@probono.net. If you have questions related to the LHI Redesign project, please contact Mirenda Meghelli at mmeghelli@probono.net

More information about LHI can be found here: probono.net/lhi or to visit LHI go to http://www.lawhelpinteractive.org

*The mobile advisory group is made up of national partners from California, Ohio, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, South Carolina, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Kansas, Utah, and Georgia. The group also included technology partners from HotDocs Corporation and CALI.


Pro Bono Net leads a national effort to provide online legal document assembly for poverty law and court access to justice programs. LawHelp Interactive allows subject matter experts to create interview templates that can be used to assemble court forms and other legal documents based on a user’s input. The system increases opportunities for self-represented litigants to achieve justice on their own and improves efficiency for legal aid, pro bono and courts-based access to justice programs. Read a case study about how the NY Courts are using LawHelp Interactive. This project is in collaboration with Ohio State Legal Services Association, with funding by the Legal Services Corporation and the State Justice Institute, and using HotDocs software.