We recently launched a new design of the LawHelp platform (managed by Pro Bono Net) to make major improvements to the aesthetic design as well as the overall user interface (UI) and user experience (UX). We first launched the new design on LouisianaLawHelp.org with our pilot partner Lagniappe Law Lab. Since then we have implemented the new design on just about every LawHelp site across the country. You can see other examples at AyudaLegalPR.orgOKLaw.orgLawHelp.org/DC among many others. We call it the LawHelp Refresh.

The new homepage of LouisianaLawHelp.org

When we set out to re-design LawHelp, we wanted to meet four main design goals:

  1. Mobile-optimized design — A strong mobile design that isn’t an afterthought to the desktop design but rather a primary focus.
  2. Refreshed aesthetic — An overall improved aesthetic to bring LawHelp into the realm of contemporary web design including a wider range of color palettes available, all that meet WCAG 2.0 AA guidelines.
  3. Decreased reliance on text — Reducing the need for explainer text through intuitive and accessible design.
  4. Improved calls to action (CTA’s) — Making it much clearer to users where to go and how to get there.

We have learned a ton during this project across the board and I want to share some of the key things we learned all the way from design through usability testing. In this three-part series, I’ll first describe a bit about our design process. This was a big project spanning more than 20 websites and we learned a lot through it. In Part II I’ll share how we recruited for and structured our usability testing. We’ll dig into what usability testing is, how to structure a usability test script, and pitfalls to avoid. Finally, in Part III, I’ll outline what our results were, how the design succeeded and failed, and what we did next.

Part I

Our design process, with our longtime design partner Ideal Design Co., was rigorous and included extensive input from our LawHelp team, the wider Pro Bono Net team, and of course our state partners across the country. We pored through numerous design iterations and explored several avenues for how to improve the LawHelp design. I can’t count how many rounds of revisions we had but I know it was more than enough! A few things that helped us succeed in the design process:

  1. Tiered feedback
  2. Centralizing documentation and discussion
  3. Folding in technical input
  4. Frequent communication with design

Tiered feedback

The LawHelp platform supports over 20 websites across the country and meets the needs of numerous user types and civil legal aid organizations. This means we have numerous stakeholders which makes design difficult! In the past I have worked on platforms where our stakeholders were much more centralized and our user types were more focused which made for a simpler design process.



A map of the areas LawHelp is active

We needed to get feedback from the internal LawHelp team at PBN, staff in the wider Pro Bono Net organization with experience developing legal information websites and self-advocacy tools, our state civil legal aid organization partners, and our users. That’s a lot of cooks and our kitchen can’t fit them all. So we set up a tiered system of feedback. The LawHelp team was at the center, spending the most time and going through all of the details, big and small. We would then post our design notes and documents to the wider Pro Bono Net organization for feedback and input.

Then, at regular intervals in the design process, we sent out announcements to all of our LawHelp state partners to review and submit feedback. This included an open invitation for emails but also some drop-in sessions where we presented our progress and opened the mic up for feedback. We also drew on findings from past usability testing on LawHelp sites and other legal resource sites such as TenantHelpNY.org to inform our design process. This process struck a good balance between efficiently progressing on the designs while including valuable feedback and perspectives from outside the team.

This diagram shows how we set this up. The white triangle to the left shows the practices we used to ensure that the perspectives and experiences of each group were able to cut all the way through directly to our product team.

The communication structure used to make feedback and input efficient

Centralizing documentation and discussion

A key ingredient to any effective tech team is strong project organization and communication. It’s so important that in the past, at every tech company/organization I have worked at, we have taken time out specifically to redesign our file structure in Google Drive. This was key during our design process because we were able to easily store the numerous versions of design files. We used clear labeling systems for each design file so you knew which was the most recent. Those file names then corresponded to a single design review document that we used for documenting discussion.

Let’s say you were on the LawHelp team and on a Wednesday morning, you had set aside time to review the most recent designs. Instead of digging through emails or Slack, you had one Drive folder bookmarked. In this you could find the design review document. At the top of the document was a header “Wireframes V6 (current).” That header hyperlinked to the design file so you could easily pull it up. A week later, when V7 came out, you’d see that header change to drop the “(current)” part of the title and simply say “Wireframes V6” and above that is a fresh new area for discussion called “Wireframes V7 (current).”

Below is a screenshot directly from our review document.

Screenshot of a section of the design review document

Folding in technical input

A big stumbling block in the software development process can be failing to include the engineering team early on. We included our developers and QA team in the design review process and utilized our project management tool, Jira, to keep track of various discussion points. This was especially helpful when considering new features or major changes to existing ones. This helped prevent some surprises down the road when it came time to code (although you simply cannot prevent all surprises).

Jira is a great tool for software project management. It’s a very powerful tool and requires a large amount of investment in setting up. Its numerous features for organizing projects were a huge help in keeping track of numerous discussion points big and small such as a new Google Maps integration and what dependencies there would be. You may not need a tool as powerful as Jira though depending on the nature of your projects.

Frequent communication with design

Never let design become a game of telephone! It’s tempting to do especially when your designer is not in-house. You hear something from your developer, pass it to your project manager, who then pings the product manager, who then drops a comment in the Google Doc to the designer. This inevitably leads to information loss and your designer then moves forward with only half (or less) of the story.

Since our designer for this project was not in-house, we kept a clear open line of communication. We would easily jump into a video chat if anything was too complex or nuanced to outline in a document. As the product manager for this project, I made sure to utilize active listening skills when centralizing feedback. The key skill here is repeating back to people what you think they are saying and allowing them to correct you. This made sure I was getting it right and allowed for less meetings. It meant I didn’t need to have seven+ people on a call with our designer while still avoiding the game of telephone.

A good phrase to get comfortable using is, “Let me make sure I’ve got this right. What I hear you saying is [X,Y,Z]” That phrase has saved me more time and trouble than I can quantify. I know that because in the times I didn’t exercise that skill, things went in circles.

This lesson on active listening skills applies pretty much everywhere in our lives though, not just work. It’s amazing how much we assume and get wrong. Plus, everyone appreciates knowing that the person they are speaking to is actively working to hear them.

In Part II…

That’s how we structured the design process. Eventually we finished up, went through the development process, and then prepared to usability test as soon as the beta site was complete. Exactly how we usability tested is all in Part II.

“Volunteering doesn’t have to be direct legal services or taking on a case, I think that is actually a misconception. It can also be reviewing or preparing know your rights materials for the public on a topic you’re an expert on, or it can be conducting research on policy or being a mentor to a law student.” – Jeanne Ortiz-Ortiz

This month officially marks the beginning of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, which ends in November. What should attorneys and other legal advocates know about the legal needs disaster survivors face, and why does that matter if we want to help communities recover? Jeanne Ortiz-Ortiz, Pro Bono Net’s Pro Bono & Strategic Initiatives Manager, recently went on Practising Law Institute’s Pursuing Justice: The Pro Bono Files Podcast to discuss Pro Bono Net’s Disaster Response Initiative. This podcast provides a behind-the-scenes exploration of pro bono and public interest legal work.¹ 

In this episode, Alicia Aiken, Director of the Danu Center’s Confidentiality Institute and Faculty Fellow at Practising Law Institute (PLI), talks to Jeanne and other seasoned disaster relief attorneys about how pro bono can make a difference in disasters, and how lawyers can prepare to pitch in.²

When asked about how attorneys can prepare in helping after a disaster, Jeanne says:

“One of the things that Pro Bono Net did with Equal Justice Works and Lone Star Legal Aid was the PLI training on current and emerging disaster response issues, which I think is an excellent resource for people who are new to disaster legal aid, and we cover everything from the lifecycle of disaster legal issues, how to advocate for survivors, and changes in federal regulations that have taken place in recent months.”

Another great resource Jeanne highlights is:

“One of the things that Pro Bono Net did after the 2017 major disasters was build on our partnership with Lone Star Legal Aid to create the National Disaster Legal Aid Advocacy Center, which is an online resource to facilitate connections between advocates working in disaster legal aid and also to give additional visibility to what’s going on in the disaster legal aid field.”

For more information and to listen to the podcast, visit Practising Law Institute’s website. For more information on Pro Bono Net’s disaster work, visit: probono.net/our-work/initiatives/disaster

¹ https://www.pli.edu/probono/probonopodcast 

² https://www.pli.edu/probono/probonopodcast/episode-21

“I’m very excited about the future as we include communities that we have over-policed or stigmatized and under-invested in, because I think that’s where technology and justice, we create the biggest gain for the whole society, not just the communities that were left out, that now we’re bringing in.” 

Claudia Johnson, LawHelp Interactive Program Manager, recently went on the Law 2030 Podcast presented by University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s Future of the Profession Initiative. This podcast focuses on the many changes afoot in the legal profession and implications for lawyers, law students, clients, and leaders across the industry.¹

Claudia was interviewed by Jennifer Leonard, Chief Innovation Officer at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, alongside Miguel Willis, Executive Director of the Access to Justice Tech Program and The Future of the Profession Initiative’s first Innovator in Residence. 

The podcast covers private and public partnerships and asks how the private sectors and for-profits firms can support Access to Justice initiatives. Claudia highlighted the partnership between Pro Bono Net and AbacusNext. AbacusNext is the creator of HotDocs, one of the most robust document assembly software tools. Claudia shared: 

“For over 10 years, we have managed a discount for the legal nonprofit of 70% for those software products, so that they can use them to create legal forms. And this is a longstanding public private relationship. I don’t know if there’s another example in the US of such a longstanding and collaborative partnership.”

She also encouraged the private sector to support nonprofits with cyber security needs and capacity building and talked about the benefits of incentives and collaboration, such as the partnership between CLIO, LawDroid, and others sponsoring the American Legal Tech Awards. The goal of these Awards is to highlight innovation for courts, legal aid, pro bono, and tech companies to improve access to legal services and assistance through tech.

Claudia is the LawHelp Interactive (LHI) Program Manager. LHI is the only free, national online document assembly platform used across 40 states. It allows people representing themselves to create accurate court forms simply, easily, and for free. It is also used by nonprofit legal aid programs and courts across the country to help people navigate complex processes – and to make those processes more accessible, responsive, and person-centered.

For more information and to listen to this podcast, please visit Penn Law’s website. For more information on LawHelp Interactive, visit probono.net/our-work/individuals/lhi, or go directly to their website at lawhelpinteractive.org. For nonprofits who are interested in accessing the 70% discount for LawHelp Interactive, please contact Claudia Johnson at cjohnson@probono.net

¹ https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/law-2030/id1505898171

Pro Bono Net will be represented at the 2022 Equal Justice Conference (EJC). This conference, from May 11-14, 2022, is hosted by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service and the National Legal Aid & Defender Association. 

The Equal Justice Conference is an annual gathering of legal services and pro bono advocates to share and learn about developments and innovations in providing legal services to low-income persons.  

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 and strengthening partnerships among the key players in the civil justice system. 

Look for Liz, Rodrigo or Jeanne at one of the sessions below, at the Networking lunch on Thursday, or reach out to us directly if you’d like to connect. We hope to see many of you there!  

Thursday, May 12th

10:00am – 11:30am CDT: 50 Tech Tips 2022 

This fast-paced, engaging session will provide tips about free and low-cost technology relevant to the access to justice community. This will include new mobile apps, remote work tools, web platforms, information security resources, and solutions for Windows and macOS. Technology leaders will emphasize practical, accessible technology that helps legal professionals do their work more effectively while encouraging audience feedback and participation throughout the presentation.

  • Liz Keith, Pro Bono Net
  • David Bonebrake, Legal Services Corporation
  • LaDierdre Johnson, Legal Services National Technology Assistance Project
  • Glenn Rawdon, Legal Services Corporation
  • Jane Ribadeneyra, Legal Services Corporation

1:30pm-3:00pm CDT: Helping the Helpers: Tech and Training Strategies to Support Community Justice Partners 

This session will spotlight examples of technology and training tools designed to equip frontline allies with knowledge and support to effectively and appropriately help people with legal issues. Drawing on examples in housing, elder justice, public benefits, wage theft, domestic violence, and other areas, panelists will discuss how these models work and what we are learning from them. We will highlight well-established and cutting-edge initiatives alike, and approaches that can be adapted for new settings to strengthen collaborations with community justice allies.

  • Rodrigo Camarena, Immigration Advocates Network
  • Liz Keith, Pro Bono Net
  • Nikole Nelson, Alaska Legal Services Corporation
  • Martina Tiku, Equal Justice Works Fellow, NAACP

Friday, May 13th

8:30am-10:00am CDT: Got Disaster? An Interactive Session on Making Disaster Preparedness and Relief More Equitable

This interactive session will ask attendees to react and plan for a disaster guided by subject matter experts from across the country. The session will focus on real world work with an eye towards equity issues and proposed solutions.

  • Jeanne Ortiz-Ortiz, Pro Bono Net
  • Katherine Asaro, North Carolina Legal Education Assistance Foundation
  • Tiela Chalmers, Alameda County Bar Association & Legal Access Alameda
  • Iris Peoples Green, Disability Rights North Carolina
  • Cheryl Naja, Alston & Bird LLP

Information Justice: Centering Access, Equity and Care in Legal Resource Design

  • Liz Keith, Pro Bono Net
  • Claudia Johnson, Pro Bono Net (via recorded video)

“There is a huge value in ensuring that the legal system, at all levels, is responsive to the needs and lived experiences of those without resources. In order to make that happen, we need interventions by lawyers, legal advocates, courts and community-based organizations at every point in the system. Everyone has a role to play.” – Mark O’Brien

Pro Bono Net’s Executive Director, Mark O’Brien, recently went on Bob Ambrogi’s LawNext Podcast to discuss how Pro Bono Net got its start and how Pro Bono Net’s work and programs support access to justice. In the podcast, Mark O’Brien describes Pro Bono Net’s evolution from “bringing the power of lawyers to all” to “bringing the power of the law to all.”

“The legal know-how of lawyers is still important, and as technology has evolved, some of that know-how can be embedded in the technology itself.” – Mark O’Brien

Pro Bono Net’s mission is to bring the power of the law to all by building cutting-edge digital tools and fostering collaborations with the nation’s leading civil legal organizations. Each day, Pro Bono Net helps thousands of people – particularly those living on the economic or social margins – understand their legal rights and options, find help in their local communities, and resolve life-changing legal problems.

“People should be empowered to understand and participate in the resolution of their own problems.” -Mark O’Brien

For more information and to listen to this podcast, please visit the LawNext website. Thank you to LawNext’s host, Bob Ambrogi, for a thoughtful discussion of Pro Bono Net and access to justice for all.

On August 3, 2021,  the Centers for Disease Control (C.D.C.) implemented a groundbreaking housing federal eviction moratorium in areas substantially hit by COVID infections, so as to ease the burden on public health control measures in the wake of the pandemic. 

As innovative as the edict was, unfortunately the federal order came to an end less than a month later, on August 26, 2021, when the Supreme Court invalidated the housing mandate. The majority opinion stated, “The C.D.C. has imposed a nationwide moratorium on evictions in reliance on a decades-old statute that authorizes it to implement measures like fumigation and pest extermination…It strains credulity to believe that this statute grants the C.D.C. the sweeping authority that it asserts.”¹ Regardless, a stay of execution was temporarily granted by New York Governor Kathy Hochul on September 2, 2021, extending the statewide moratorium until January 15, 2022.²

While the New York State extension of the moratorium brought much needed relief to tenants in crisis, the moratorium in New York was not extended beyond the January 15 expiration date, and with its expiration comes the departure of an important safety net in the battle to curb COVID transmission and the fight against housing inequality. New York, in particular, greatly benefitted from the eviction moratorium, as the state is home to the largest renting population in the country (largely due to New York City). New York State has 700,000 households behind on rent, only to be topped by California with its metric of 750,000 households.³ Although the struggles of tenants facing eviction are similar, some geographic differences on the impact of the eviction crisis are significant.

Specifically, the Bronx reigns as the most indicative example of tenant hardship during COVID-19 as more than 26,000 households have been sued by their landlords since the start of the pandemic, vastly outpacing other large American cities.⁴ Before the pandemic, more than ⅓ of Bronx residents spent more than half their income on rent, a shuddering prospect when considering the ramifications of the expiration of the statewide eviction moratorium.

In New York City and Greater New York, more case studies of housing-related COVID hardships can be found. Those who lost employment during the pandemic will find it hard to procure new housing as a result of not having proof of income, which can result in settling for less than ideal living circumstances and compromises with potentially unscrupulous landlords. For those who have managed to retain their housing despite a lack of income, thanks in part to the state and federal eviction moratoria, rental debt continues to pile up with $2.2 billion accumulated in back rent nationally – a situation exacerbated by the slow disbursement rate of federal rental assistance.⁵

Under the present circumstances, struggling tenants are looking for a reliable source of information to help them understand their rights in an eviction and find free or low-cost attorneys. In response, with the support of the Office of the Attorney General of the State of New York, Pro Bono Net developed TenantHelpNY – a site that focuses on legal resources  and pro bono assistance outside of New York City where there is no right to counsel in an eviction. 

On January 19, Veronica Dunlap, New York Programs Director at Pro Bono Net, shared with attendees at the Legal Services Corporation’s 2022 Innovations in Technology Conference that the site, developed in partnership with upstate legal service providers, was created, “…to be a one-stop hub for tenants facing eviction and attorneys seeking to help them.” On the TenantHelpNY.org site, renters can find information on how to participate in the New York Emergency Rental Assistance Program, find pro bono or low-cost legal service providers, and learn more about their rights and defenses as a tenant. TenantHelpNY materials are curated by legal experts and housing attorneys from the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, Nassau Suffolk Law Services, Legal Aid of Western New York, Legal Aid Society of Mid New York, Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project, Legal Services of Hudson Valley, and Pro Bono Net. 

Tre Dennis-Brown is the 2021-22 AmeriCorps VISTA Fellow at Pro Bono Net. Tre received a Bachelor’s of Arts in Government, with a concentration in Political Theory, from Wesleyan University in 2019. He has previously worked as a Real Estate Junior Paralegal at Greenberg, Glusker, Fields, Claman, Machtinger. Economic equity is a long-time passion of Treshauxn’s, and he is now excited to be addressing justice gaps in legal deserts.






Women’s History Month is an opportunity to think about the long history of immigrant women in the United States. Immigrant women have made important contributions to arts, sciences, and politics in the United States for many years, from Chien-Shiung Wu, the only Chinese scientist to work on the Manhattan project¹, to Ilhan Omar, who fled Somalia with her family as a child and became one of the first two Muslim women in congress.²

Women have made up a significant part of the immigrant population for many years, now comprising slightly over half of the total US immigrant population.³ This is part of a broader trend of women migrating independently, often for work or education.⁴ Still, the majority of immigrant women who get green cards get them through family-based immigration.

Family-based immigration is associated with both social and economic development.⁶ Once here, immigrant women plant roots and contribute to social stability—the average immigrant woman has lived in the US for 25 years, and the average undocumented woman has lived in the US for 16 years.⁷ Additionally, immigrant women are a significant portion of the invisible “care” economy.⁸ 

While family-based immigration is beneficial for the US economy and US immigrant communities, it leaves many immigrant women vulnerable.⁹ Their immigration status is dependent on a backlogged US immigration system, their relationship with a spouse or other family member, and a long wait for work authorization.¹⁰ A lack of independent income makes many immigrant women dependent on others materially as well as legally. This is especially problematic as immigrant women face disproportionate levels of domestic violence.¹¹

Immigrant women comprise 7% of the official US labor force.¹² Two-thirds earn what the American Immigration Council considers very low wages.¹³ However, official numbers only include documented immigrant women workers, and likely skew toward higher earning workers. Additionally, many undocumented women play important roles in the US labor force in an unofficial or “off the record” capacity that may exploit their legal and material precarity.¹⁴¹⁵

The US offers some legal protections that particularly benefit immigrant women. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows victims of abuse to file for a family-based visa based on their own.¹⁶  U Visas and T Visas provide victims of crime with immigration relief based on crimes including domestic violence, sexual assault, and sex trafficking.¹⁷¹⁸ However, U and T Visas place significant burdens on applicants, and VAWA only protects women (and men) related to US citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR)s. 

Immigrant women make up a unique and important subgroup with its own issues that need to be considered by policymakers. Immigration and refugee law contains inadequate safeguards and a lack of specific provisions for women. For example, the US Refugee Act of 1980 doesn’t address gender, and advocates have been forced to argue for years that its protections extend to gender-based persecution. The omission of specific language has kept many women from qualifying as refugees.¹⁹²⁰ Instead, women asylum seekers are subject to political trends and the bias of individual judges. 

Immigrant women have contributed greatly to American society and economy, despite disproportionate challenges and unfair treatment within the US immigration system. If you are interested in getting involved in pro bono legal assistance to such women, you can find opportunities through The Tahirih Justice Center, a national nonprofit that has served immigrant survivors fleeing gender-based violence since 1997.





















Last week was the 2022 AmeriCorps Week, which took place on March 13th through March 19th. In honor of AmeriCorps week we are proud to highlight our current AmeriCorps VISTAS: Treshauxn Dennis-Brown and Dina Knott. Hear from Treshauxn and Dina as they share some of the work they have been doing with Immigration Advocates Network. 

My name is Treshauxn Dennis-Brown and I am the 2021-2022 AmeriCorps VISTA Remote Volunteer Project Coordinator at Immigration Advocates Network. My role centers around enhancing remote legal advocacy through technological advancement and supporting pro bono advocates by providing them with the tools necessary to make innovation to their service delivery models. I accomplish this by conducting a series of interviews and webinars alongside experts in the immigration field. Currently, I am working on IAN’s newest edition of the Remote Legal Support Guide, having compiled a series of profiles from many of our partners. I am excited to see the final version of this Guide be published and serve as a model for future innovations!

My name is Dina Knott. Since the end of last August, I’ve served as Volunteer and Community Education Coordinator at Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) through the AmeriCorps VISTA program. The primary focus of my position is updating IAN’s Nonprofit Library, which consists of finding and reviewing legal training materials and selecting the very best, most up-to-date and accurate ones to post on the site for our pro bono members. I’ve also been working on updating the IAN Legal Directory, which has over 1,200 listings for free or low-cost legal service providers. My favorite part of my job is collaborating with legal partners to make podcasts for our pro bono audience, which has given me the chance to have one on one conversations with legal experts in the field. Since I’m planning on going to law school after my AmeriCorps VISTA term of service, getting to speak to so many practicing lawyers who are well respected in the field is really amazing. Finally, I’ve helped to create our Pro Bono Service Experience for Legal Advocates survey, which will help us identify what kinds of resources our audience of nonprofit and pro bono service providers would find most helpful. In the coming months, I hope to organize my first webinar and look forward to the completion of the directory and library update processes. Outside of work, I enjoy hiking and participating in local theater—you can see me in Theater Company of Laffayette’s production of The Twilight Zone in April!

Also in the spirit of AmeriCorps Week, we wanted to congratulate Dennis Brink on winning the President’s Volunteer Service Award. According to the Presidential Service Awards website: “[t]his award honors individuals whose service positively impacts communities in every corner of the nation and inspires those around them to take action, too.” 

Dennis Brink served three years as an Americorps VISTA Volunteer for Pro Bono Net.  He specifically was working to perform outreach for LawhelpNY running trainings on LawHelpNY’s tools and resources for nonprofits throughout Western New York; providing new tools for nonprofits to assist their constituents. Dennis also worked to assist LawHelpNY with its LiveHelp program. He helped manage, recruit and onboard volunteers, so that can provide impactful assistance to low-income residents.  

Throughout his time as a Vista, Dennis recruited over 300 volunteers who served over 10,000 hours and assisted over 20,000 low-income residents. Dennis also cultivated new strategic partnerships, by working with Monroe’s Access to Justice Coalition to run workshops for local nonprofits on available legal assistance to low-income residents.  Dennis has served over 5,500 hours during his 3 years of Vista service. 

Our final shout out to the Americorps VISTA Program comes from Pro Bono Net’s Development Strategist Kathleen Klock. Kathleen began her career in nonprofit development almost 20 years ago as a VISTA Volunteer at Advocates for Children of New York. Since then, Kathleen has used the skills she learned as a VISTA Volunteer to raise tens of millions of dollars for nonprofit organizations in New York, the US, and internationally.  From Kathleen’s perspective, the Americorps VISTA Program not only provides excellent services to under-resourced communities, but also provides valuable on-the-job training for people who want to start a career in the nonprofit sector.

Pro Bono Net will be represented at the Pro Bono Institute (PBI) Conference this year in Washington, D.C. The PBI conference, which will take place in person from March 8-10, 2022, is an annual event tailored to the interests and needs of pro bono leaders at law firms, in-house legal departments, and nonprofit legal services organizations. The conference will also have a virtual component from April 6-7, 2022. 

Pro Bono Net is a national nonprofit leader in increasing pro bono and access to justice through innovative uses of technology and collaboration. Our staff consists of a cross-disciplinary team from legal, technology, and community engagement backgrounds committed to creating innovative, sustainable solutions that support low-wealth individuals with their legal needs. 

Our Pro Bono & Strategic Initiatives Manager, Jeanne Ortiz-Ortiz, is presenting in two sessions on disaster relief and recovery at this year’s PBI conference. The topics of the sessions align with the 2022 Disaster Resilience Awareness Month, a joint effort of Pro Bono Net, Equal Justice Works, and other leading organizations supporting disaster relief. Disaster Resilience Awareness Month is observed every March and is an opportunity to highlight the vital role pro bono advocates play in helping families navigate the impact of climate disasters. 

Pro Bono Net Board member Tiffany Graves is also participating as a speaker at the conference, and Pro Bono Net will be a part of the conference EXPO, where attendees can learn more about programs and pro bono opportunities. For more information on these panels and activities, you can refer to the information below. For other sessions at the PBI conference, please visit the conference website here

Wednesday, March 9, 2022 

2:15 – 3:15 pm ET
What Counts? Defining Pro Bono

Over the years various organizations have adopted rules promoting a lawyer’s professional obligation to pro bono legal services. These rules include the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® initiative, which was established more than 25 year ago and has become an industry standard. But has the evolution in access to justice issues left room for changes in policies on what counts as pro bono? This session will discuss current efforts by law firm leaders to review the definition of pro bono, as defined by the Challenge, focusing on particular areas, including: public rights, impact finance & social enterprise, global pro bono, and racial justice.

  • Tiffany Graves, National Pro Bono Counsel, Bradley Arant Boult & Cummings LLP and Pro Bono Net Board Member 
  • Wendy Atrokhov – Public Service Counsel, Director of Global Pro Bono Latham & Watkins
  • Paul Lee – Pro Bono Counsel, Steptoe
  • Nihad Mansour – Assistant Director of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project, Pro Bono Institute
  • Angela H. Zimmern – Senior Counsel and Pro Bono Director, McGuireWoods

Thursday, March 10, 2022 

9:45 – 10:45 pm ET
Live, Learn, Pivot: Making Disaster Preparedness and Relief More Equitable (Part I: Panel)

We live in a world where disasters are more frequent and where low-income and underserved communities bear the disproportionate brunt of the massive disruptions and harm left behind. Making disaster preparedness and relief more equitable can help ensure that all residents, regardless of socio-economic factors, can prepare and recover from disasters. This session will explore unique insights and perspectives gained through experiences and collaborations so that attendees can develop tools, strengthen partnerships, and provide a practical framework for responding to future disasters. A panel of experts from California, New York, North Carolina, and Georgia will discuss shared (and differing) experiences and perspectives on issues and pro bono in disaster legal services — all with a lens toward equity and proposed solutions.   

  • Jeanne Ortiz-Ortiz, Pro Bono & Strategic Initiatives Manager, Pro Bono Net
  • Tiela Chalmers – Chief Executive Officer/General Counsel, Alameda County Bar Association and Legal Access Alameda
  • Cheryl Naja – Director of Pro Bono and Community Service, Alston & Bird
  • Iris Peoples Green – Director of Constituent Services, Disability Rights North Carolina
  • Katherine Blass Asaro – Executive Director, North Carolina Legal Education Assistance Foundation
  • Rachel Williams – Pro Bono Counsel, Morrison & Foerster

Thursday, March 10, 2022 

11:00 am – 12:00 pm ET
Live, Learn, Pivot: Making Disaster Preparedness and Relief More Equitable (Part II)

Interactive Workshop (Note: you do not need to attend Part I to attend Part II.) Join this interactive session with experts from California, New York, North Carolina, and Georgia (and put in practice learning from Part I) to model how to organize volunteer responses when disaster strikes. 

  • Jeanne Ortiz-Ortiz, Pro Bono & Strategic Initiatives Manager, Pro Bono Net
  • Tiela Chalmers – Chief Executive Officer/General Counsel, Alameda County Bar Association and Legal Access Alameda
  • Cheryl Naja – Director of Pro Bono and Community Service, Alston & Bird
  • Iris Peoples Green – Director of Constituent Services, Disability Rights North Carolina
  • Katherine Blass Asaro – Executive Director, North Carolina Legal Education Assistance Foundation
  • Rachel Williams – Pro Bono Counsel, Morrison & Foerster

Thursday, March 10, 2022 

4:00 – 5:00 pm ET
Pro Bono Expo and Closing Reception

Join us for more networking!  Don’t miss this program – the annual catalyst for new partnerships, relationships, and pro bono initiatives.  Meet leading advocates from a range of public interest organizations and learn about cutting-edge issues ripe for pro bono representation. 

Pro Bono Net will be well represented at the 2022 Innovations in Technology Conference (ITC) this week, and we hope to see you there! This virtual conference takes place January 12th-20th and is hosted by the Legal Services Corporation. 

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. 

ITC brings together more than 650 legal aid advocates, court personnel, technologists and other professionals exploring new ways of using technology to expand access to justice. This year, we’ll be moderating or presenting a range of cutting edge topics, including creating justice systems designed for universal access, collaborative efforts to respond to the eviction crises, tech tools to empower community justice partners, and more.

See below for where you can find us. For more details on each panel and to view the many other excellent sessions offered at ITC 2022, please visit LSC’s ITC website.

Thursday, January 13th


Online Forms Affinity Group

Come meet and learn from the groups working on online forms, the groups providing online form platforms, and the groups doing online form trainings, evaluations, design work. This is a chance to catch up, ask questions, learn what is new and how online forms are changing in use, and as a vital tool for access to Justice.

  • Claudia Johnson, Pro Bono Net, Program Manager
  • Quinten Steenhuis, Suffolk University Law School, Clinical Fellow

LSNTAP Community Meeting

Everyone’s favorite listserv live. Join LSNTAP for a community meeting where you can share ideas and ask any questions you have. This is an opportunity to meet fellow listserv members and discuss how LSNTAP can help. You will also learn about all the new things LSNTAP has to offer.

  • Ariadne Brazo, Pro Bono Net, Product Manager


Interactive Self-Help Forms: A Cornerstone of Resilient and Responsive Justice Systems 

When the world shut down in 2020, many courts and legal aid programs that had already invested in their technology infrastructures and online self-help forms collections were able to rapidly adapt to remote services, and provide pathways to ensure access to justice for thousands of people facing great hardship and uncertainty. As we look to the future, what can we learn from the experience of frontline staff and leaders who made this pivot effectively and data about what forms proved most helpful? What gaps remain for end users that need to be addressed? Join us for an engaging discussion about how online forms and wraparound services – both remote and in person – can help create justice systems built for universal access and resilience. Panelists will share concrete examples and hard-won lessons that can be applied to other disruptive events as well as everyday access needs.

  • Mark O’Brien, Pro Bono Net, Executive Director
  • Amy Billmire, Michigan Legal Help, Staff Attorney
  • Anne Sheeley, Iowa Judicial Branch, Clerk of District Court, Polk County Courthouse
  • Marilyn Harp, Kansas Legal Services, Inc, Executive Director


Helping the Helpers: Tech Strategies to Support Community Justice Partners

Social workers, community organizers, Americorps/VISTA volunteers, librarians and health care professionals are often the first point of contact for people facing a life problem with a legal dimension. But to bridge the justice gap, these helpers need help — to help people detect legal problems, learn about the law, navigate legal processes and connect to legal services. This session will spotlight examples of tech tools and training strategies designed to equip these frontline allies with knowledge and support to effectively and appropriately help people with legal issues. Drawing on examples in housing, elder justice, wage theft, domestic violence and other areas, panelists will discuss the tech strategies, content, training and support models behind them, and what we are learning from evaluations of these efforts. We will highlight well-established and cutting-edge initiatives alike, and approaches that can be adapted to new regions.

  • Liz keith, Pro Bono Net, Program Director, State and National Justice Communities
  • Rodrigo Camarena, Immigration Advocates Network, Director
  • Brooke Doyle, WebJunction, Senior Project Coordinator
  • Julie Matthews, CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario), Executive Director

Wednesday, January 19th


A Justice Collaborative: How Seven Organizations Responded to the COVID-19 Eviction Crisis

The COVID-19 global pandemic has exacerbated the eviction crisis that advocates, tenants and community organizers around the U.S. know too well. In June 2021, the CDC announced that it would not extend the eviction moratorium, and many legal services organizations across the country are now facing unprecedented eviction litigation. This session will delve into the journey to create TenantHelpNY.org, an online solution that connects tenants with legal resources and pro bono attorneys. Presenters will share the challenges they overcame and insights gained that informed the new site and will describe the initiative and its current uses. This session is open to anyone interested in learning about innovative digital strategies to respond to the eviction crisis.

  • Jeanne Ortiz-Ortiz, Pro Bono Net, Pro Bono & Strategic Initiatives Manager
  • Christine McMenamin, Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project, Inc., Senior Housing Staff Attorney
  • Christopher Oldi, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, Pro Bono Director
  • Veronica Dunlap, Pro Bono Net, Director, New York Programs