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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Panel

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

What is a nonprofit?

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

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

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

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

What ethical issues should attorneys be aware of?

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Understanding the Rights of State and Local Governments

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

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

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


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

 

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

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

Responding to a Humanitarian Crisis

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

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

Profound Ethical Challenges

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

Evolving Nature of Asylum Claims

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

The Unaccompanied Children Resource Center

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

 


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

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

18th Annual Supreme Court ReviewThis summer, the Practising Law Institute (PLI) held its 18th Annual Supreme Court Review. PLI faculty and guest panelists came together to discuss the most recent session of the Supreme Court’s greatest takeaways, surprises and insights. These experts discussed the most recent session’s cases, merits, and how the justices came to their conclusions. They also addressed the future of the court and what they expected for the new session. One of the biggest topics on the table was, of course, the loss of Justice Antonin Scalia, and how his passing has affected the rulings of the court and its future.

Tomorrow, the Presidential Election is here, but more than just four years’ worth of policies will be decided alongside it. With the next president comes the next appointed Supreme Court Justice, the replacement for the late Justice Scalia. The next sitting president will be responsible for appointing a Supreme Court Justice who will hold the office for a good number of years. However, since several of our current sitting Supreme Court members are reaching the age in which it is common to retire from the court, the new president may have the opportunity to appoint more than one justice in the next four to eight years.

A Court of Eight Justices

18th annual supreme court erwinPractising Law Institute’s Dean Erwin Chimerinsky started the discussion of the consequences of Justice Scalia’s passing, mainly that the court is less effective without its final judge. The most important cases since Scalia’s passing, according to Dean Chimerinsky, fit a pattern that highlighted the crutch faced by the current court one justice shy of a full deck – deadlock.

We have seen several cases in which a justice crossed sides in order to sway a decision, but the lack of a ninth vote has deadlocked the court in some of the most controversial cases, forcing rulings to stand at the state level. On topics like abortion and immigration passions and partisanship are high, which can lead to a deadlocked court. Sometimes this provided a liberal outcome, and sometimes a conservative one, but either way leaves the standing ruling without commentary from the Supreme Court. Likely, these cases and issues will resurface in future sessions once the court is whole again.

An interesting result of this deadlock is a willingness in the justices to broker a compromise. The first panel of the day addressed the outcome of Zubik v. Burwell, a case on contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act. When the court looked to be deadlocked once again, the justices decided on an attempt to reach a compromise, asking the two parties to work together to find an alternative solution. Once the parties agreed to continue to look for a solution, the decision was once again provided to the lower courts for specific deliberations. The attempt at brokering a solution for both parties was unprecedented, and one must wonder whether there will be more compromises suggested in future cases.

The Future of the Court

With the election comes quite a challenging atmosphere for the Supreme Court. The newest elected president might have the opportunity to appoint more than one justice who will sit on the court for more than a decade, affecting a great deal of cases. In addition, a potential continued block from Senate Republicans in a Democratic victory this election leaves the ninth seat in a state of uncertainty. Without a ruling on crucial cases that affect a great number of people in the country, and the continuing potential for a deadlocked court, it begs the question as to whether the court can continue to be as effective in future sessions without the addition of a ninth justice.

Whatever the outcome of this election and future appointees, the Practising Law Institute’s expert faculty and panelists will undoubtedly address it at next year’s review!

 


Faculty & Panelists

  • Erwin Chemerinsky
    Dean of the School of Law
    Distinguished Professor of Law Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law
  • Martin A. Schwartz
    Professor Emeritus of Law
  • Joan Biskupic
    Journalist
    Visiting professor at the University of California, Irvine, law school
  • Sherry F. Colb
    Professor of Law & Charles Evans Hughes Scholar
    Cornell Law School
  • Michael C. Dorf
    Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law
    Cornell Law School
  • Leon Friedman
    Joseph Kushner Special Professor of Civil Liberties Law
    Hofstra Law School
  • Marci A. Hamilton
    Senior Fellow, Program for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society
    University of Pennsylvania
  • Burt Neuborne
    Norman Dorsen Professor of Civil Liberties, Founding Legal Director, Brennan Center of Justice
    New York University School of Law
  • Cristina Rodríguez
    Leighton Homer Surbeck Professor of Law
    Yale Law School
  • Theodore M. Shaw
    Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law  & Director of the Center for Civil Rights
    University of North Carolina School of Law, Chapel Hill
  • Honorable Jeffrey S. Sutton
    Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
  • Jeffrey B. Wall
    Special Counsel, Co-Head Appellate Litigation Practice
    Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

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

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

On August 8th, the Practising Law Institute presented a seminar/webinar entitled “Electronic Evidence in the New York State Courts: Representing the Legal Services Client 2016” to explore best practices, safety concerns, and ethical considerations in the case law surrounding electronic evidence for legal services clients in New York.

Erica Olsen, National Network to End Domestic Violence
Erica Olsen, National Network to End Domestic Violence

Technology has become a ubiquitous part of our lives, permeating every public and private space we have. Information can be accessed with the swipe of a finger or the press of a button, and records are accessed from locations all over the world via the cloud. Modern conversations not only happen over phone lines, but via texts, instant messaging, emails and digital recordings. These can be considered electronic evidence in a court of law if properly authenticated.

In addition to witness testimony, these pieces of evidence can help to establish relationships, prove authenticity of intentions, and fact check claims. Especially in domestic violence cases, these pieces of evidence can make a big difference in the outcomes. However, while technology can be used to assist legal services clients in their cases, it can also be abused to monitor, control and coerce victims.

In the first session of the seminar, Erica Olsen, from the National Network to End Domestic Violence, addressed many of the ways that abusers use technology to control their victims. There are plenty of ways technology can be used by abusers including, but not limited to: using spyware on computers and phones; putting physical surveillance equipment in the home or car; making disguised calls to manipulate evidence or sabotage a victim; and creating fake social media profiles and accounts to harass victims or undermine their integrity. Erica spoke on each of these methods and the best practices for discovering, undoing or mitigating the consequences for each of these.

Co-Chairs Terry Lawson & Ian Harris; Speakers Alexis C. Lorenzo & Erica Olsen
Co-Chairs Terry Lawson & Ian Harris; Speakers Alexis C. Lorenzo & Erica Olsen

While an attorney is not responsible for knowing about all technology abuse, being able to recognize the various ways and means can help them prepare for the case, keep their clients safe, and collect evidence. An anecdote, shared by Co-Chair Ian Harris of Staten Island Legal Services, involved a woman being able to avoid danger from her abuser by taking a screen shot of a text containing a gun emoji and using it to alert the judge and the police that he had threatened her. While many may believe a simple emoji is harmless, in this particular situation it was indicative of a threat made on her life.

Ian was able to recognize the danger inherent in the text and arrange for a warrant to be issued for the abuser’s arrest. He was also able to remove his client from her home, so she was not present when her abuser showed up to her home with a gun and asked for her. The abuser then proceeded to kill himself in front of her family when they told him she wasn’t there. If Ian had not taken his client seriously, or had not understood the implications of technology abuse, his client may not have survived.

A frequent advice to domestic violence victims is to get rid of the technology that the abuser is using to monitor them. However, Erica recommends NOT removing technology from the equation with domestic violence clients until after the court proceedings, as the removal of the technology won’t stop the abuse and can lead to an escalation. It also removes the ability for the client to monitor their abuser, look for warning signs of escalation, and collect necessary evidence. However, it would be prudent to find alternative means for the client to use technology so that the information being provided to the abuser is minimized or managed well to protect the client.

Even if technology can be used to abuse victims, it can also be used to provide victims leverage in their cases and can sometimes be the difference between freedom and continued abuse. The evidence provided in text messages, emails, phone records and other forms of communication can be submitted upon authentication during cases and used to establish controlling and abusive behavior as well as harassment of the client to lend authenticity and urgency to the proceedings.

In the second and third parts of the seminar, Ian Harris touched upon some best practices and ethical concerns both in presenting and authenticating the evidence, and in obtaining and storing information collected. Finally, the panel conducted a mock trial in order to provide an example of authenticating electronic evidence, and provide for questions and feedback from those present.

To learn more about electronic evidence in the New York Courts including best practices, ethical considerations and authentication procedures, you can watch the seminar for FREE at the Practising Law Institute.

Co-Chair(s)

  • Ian Harris – Director, Family Law Unit, Staten Island Legal Services
  • Terry Lawson – Director, Family and Immigration Unit, Legal Services NYC – Bronx

Speaker(s)

  • Alexis C. Lorenzo – Senior Attorney, Foreclosure Prevention Unit, Legal Services NYC – Bronx
  • Erica Olsen – Deputy Director, Safety Net Project, National Network to End Domestic Violence

Segments

  • Ongoing and Emerging Technologies Utilized by Litigants
  • Electronic Evidence in the New York State Courts
  • Ethical Issues in Electronic Evidence Under the New York Rules
  • Mock Trial: Electronic Evidence in the New York State Courts

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

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

Development Communications Intern, Summer 2016


Nicole is a senior at the Sy Syms School of Business in Manhattan studying business management and psychology. She is currently a Summer Development & Communications intern at the Pro Bono Net New York Headquarters.  

On July 12, 2016, the Practicing Law Institute, a nonprofit continuing legal education and professional training organization, hosted a webcast entitled “Serving on a Nonprofit Board – Practical Considerations for Attorneys.” In the webinar, experts Nancy Eberhardt and Courtney A. Darts, Director of the New Jersey Program and Director of Education at the Pro Bono Partnership, discussed practical tips and ethical considerations for attorneys serving or thinking of serving on the board of a nonprofit.

For many lawyers, joining the board of a nonprofit can be an incredibly rewarding experience, both personally and professionally. It provides an opportunity to get involved in a cause important to you, as well as to make valuable connections with other lawyers and professionals. The key, as they discussed, is finding a non-profit whose cause interests you and is one you feel you could be of value to.

They began the seminar by discussing the role of a nonprofit board and the roles one can take on as a board member. Ensuring compliance with laws and regulations as well as supervising top level staff are key responsibilities. As a lawyer, you are in a pivotal position to use your legal expertise for issue-spotting and legal strategy within the organization. The discussion also touched on the overall structure of a nonprofit, where the board should delegate important tasks to the organizations’ employees and help define the overall direction and strategy. Another crucial role for board members is acting as a representative of the organization to the community at large and promoting the organization in whatever way possible.

From there the discussion turned to why one would serve on the board of a nonprofit. First and foremost, you should have commitment to the cause, this is the driving factor that allows you to be properly dedicated and what usually attracts someone to getting involved in a nonprofit. “Because you were asked”, Darts and Eberhardt mentioned, can’t be the only reason. Lawyers, as they said, are heavily sought after for board positions within nonprofits, and it is important to choose a cause that you feel strongly about and feel you are in a position to help.

Darts and Eberhardt went on to talk about different considerations one should take into account before joining a nonprofit board, such as interest level, availability, and experience with the organization. They stressed again the importance of joining a cause you are interested in, but also finding out what the organization requires of its board members in terms of duties, time, and money. They encouraged asking to see the minutes from previous meetings to get a sense of what role the board members play, as well as finding out how often they meet, for how long, etc. and what sort of obligations you would have outside of attending meetings.

Organizations vary greatly in what they expect of their board members in terms of advising, personal donations, and fundraising help. It is also important to do your research on the organizations reputation within their community, which Darts and Eberhardt stated as “a nonprofit’s most valuable asset.” They advised looking into where the organization gets its funding and how stable of a source it is, as well as any legal issues it may be currently having, and to be clear from the beginning on your financial abilities and what sort of contributions they can reasonably expect from you.

As a lawyer, your role within the board is unique in that you have the option to give legal advice to the organization. However, there are a number of concerns associated with this; the organizations Directors and Officers Liability insurance (D&O) coverage, attorney client privilege issues, and potential conflicts of interest to name a few. They advised making sure the organization has D&O coverage before acting as their legal council, and thinking about not serving on their board and simply offering your legal services should you wish to avoid any potential conflict of interest. Similarly, they advised speaking to someone within the organization to clarify what types of services they expect you to offer. They did point out however, that whether you decide to offer legal council or not, as a lawyer you are in a unique position to still use your legal expertise for issue spotting and other strategic uses as a board member.

Overall, this hour-long webinar helped shed a lot of light on important considerations any attorney should think about before joining a nonprofit board and getting more involved in the access to justice community. It can be a highly rewarding experience for both lawyers and nonprofits.


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

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

Next Steps in Social Media for Nonprofits and Public Interest Organizations: Deepening Your Online Outreach and Engagement Strategies Webcast Available

Join Pro Bono Net’s Program Manager, Liz Keith for The Practising Law Institutes newest free seminar for nonprofits! On March 30th, 2016, PLI is hosting a seminar/webinar to discuss the use of social media by legal organizations and nonprofits, as well as tools and tips on how to effectively integrate social media with your overall communications and digital strategy. Sign up for the seminar, or corresponding webcast HERE.

Date: March 30th, 2016 Time: 9:00 am Pacific (12pm EST) Location: 685 Market Street, Suite 100 San Francisco, CA 94105-4202

Why You Should Attend

With the focus of social media in the legal profession, smart non-profits and public interest organizations are cultivating a robust social media presence. Learn what uses of social media are gaining traction, tools and tips that nonprofits are embracing, and how to effectively integrate social media with your overall communications and digital strategy. We’ll discuss how to deepen your understanding of what’s working to grow your network, engage your supporters and build on success.

What You Will Learn

Drawing on the latest research and trends and case studies of non-profits in the legal sector, we’ll explore how social media and networking tools can be used to grow your organization’s online presence, and in turn, attract more supporters and volunteers and reach more beneficiaries.  By the end of this seminar attendees will be familiar with:

  • Practical tips for getting the most out of social media tools
  • How to identify and define achievable social media goals
  • How to develop an effective and sustainable content strategy
  • How to build a culture of social media within your organization
  • How to create a “listening” dashboard to provide insight into how others view your organization and issues you care about
  • How to engage with and respond to diverse constituencies online
  • How to monitor and measure your social media impact

Who Should Attend

The session is appropriate for executive directors, program administrators, pro bono managers, and communications and fundraising staff at non-profit and legal services organizations.  We will draw on research and real-life examples from the public interest legal community as well as the non-profit sector at large.

This program is a companion to the introductory Social Media for Non-Profit and Public Interest Organizations 2015 program available as an On-Demand webcast.

Faculty and Speakers

Chairperson(s)
Speaker(s)
  • Sayre Happich ~ Assistant Director of Communications & Public Relations, The Bar Association of San Francisco
  • Regina Walton ~ Co-Organizer, @SFTech4Good and Marketing Director, Pole to Win International
Program Attorney(s)

 

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

 

 

In a series of panels, Practising Law Institute experts discussed the various considerations and potential complications that can arise when bringing domestic violence cases before the court systems. The webinar, entitled “Addressing Domestic Violence Across Practice Areas 2016,” provided crucial information and advice in relation to handling trauma experienced by the victims, utilizing expert witnesses, and presenting different forms of evidence before the court. This and other webinars featuring experts in the legal field can be accessed at www.pli.edu.

Domestic Violence and IVP affects more than 12 million people each yearThe first of the three panels addressed the relationship between advocate and client, including best practices for building trust and managing interviews with a potentially traumatized victim. Advocates that are beginning to take domestic violence cases and seasoned domestic violence alike can benefit from an in depth look at strategies and complications that surround representing a victim of trauma.

The panel was moderated by Charlotte Watson, Executive Director, New York State Judicial Committee on Women in the Courts, New York State Unified Court System, and also included: Dr. Ruth Forero, Clinical Consultant, Supervisor and Psychotherapist; Jennifer C. Friedman, Managing Director, Center for Legal Services, My Sisters’ Place; Angela Yeboah, Deputy Director, Bronx Legal Project, Bronx Family Justice Center, Sanctuary for Families.

While advocates are often aware that there is a relationship that needs to be built between client and attorney in order to ensure the best services to the client, this is even more important when taking clients who have suffered domestic or intimate partner violence. Trauma can play a huge role in the life of a victim and reliving these moments can be triggering. As an attorney, it is crucial to understand how trauma works, and how best to work with your client to get what you need to represent them while building a sense of trust and partnership. Trauma presents differently in different people and understanding what questions or subject matter may provide a trigger for your client is integral to providing the best service possible.

Being up front, honest, and patient with your client is absolutely essential to building trust. The brain often responds to trauma by shutting down. This can present in a myriad of ways from extreme emotional outbursts to a total shut down of emotions. Dr. Forero suggests changing the subject, or asking questions that seem mundane if your client begins to present signs of triggering during interviews. For example, Dr. Forero discussed an incident where a client was triggered by the conversation and was exhibiting signs of trauma. She asked the client to take a deep breath and recite her social security number (it can be any number really, but something familiar). This seemingly irrelevant question helped the client to come back to the current surroundings and regain control over her immediate situation. While this is useful for helping the client regain control during an interview, it may be better to find more relevant questions should the client experience triggering while on the stand.

The interview process with a client is the cornerstone for all of the legal preparations involved in the case and it is very important for traumatized clients to feel safe and comfortable during this stage. The trust and relationship involved between attorney and client can take time and patience to create, and this is only that much more true for survivors of trauma. It can help to make sure that attorneys seem non-judgmental and to ask questions in a non-confrontational manner. For instance, explaining the reason behind asking certain intimate questions can help put the client at ease, and detailing the possible outcomes of the case can assist in keeping the expectations of clients grounded.

In building this relationship during the interview process, it can be useful to try phrasing questions in such a way as to show the client that you are on their side. For example, you may need to ask your client details they may not wish to provide, or are uncomfortable speaking on. By explaining to your client that these are questions the judge or prosecutor needs you to ask, it can deflect any animosity the client may feel being asked these questions off of you personally and simultaneously prepare them for the types of questions they may be asked to answer in court.

Other ways to build trust include ensuring safety measures, explicitly detailing the differences between confidentiality and attorney-client privilege, helping them to find support structures within the system, and supporting their choices even when you don’t agree with them. These victims should be seen as whole individuals and not just within the context of the legal case. Remember that the “perfect victim” doesn’t exist and attorneys should utilize whatever strategies are necessary to prepare their clients for what is coming next, always bearing in mind what your client is capable of handling.

To learn more about representing domestic violence victims, listen to additional panels from the presentation, or find the other resources offered by the Practising Law Institute, visit their website www.pli.edu.

Lecture Topics

  • Trauma Informed Lawyering
    Jennifer C. Friedman, Charlotte A. Watson, Angela Yeboah, Dr. Ruth Forero
  • The Expert Witness
    Deborah A. Kaplan, Dorchen A. Leidholdt, Kim Susser, Dr. Luz Towns-Miranda, Carmen M. Rey
  • Evidence
    Mary Rothwell Davis, Michelle Kaminsky, Betsy C. Tsai, Hon. Elyse Lazansky

 



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

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