Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need and the incredibly important work of pro bono volunteers in building our capacity to meet the vast unmet need for civil legal services.  This year we are celebrating National Pro Bono Week by focusing on disaster resiliency in addition to pro bono work around the country. Throughout the week we will be sharing events, resources, and highlights of the work being done to help people facing legal challenges post-disaster. We are very proud to showcase this work and hope that it will inspire more people to get involved.

We’re excited to commemorate the American Bar Association’s National Pro Bono Week, a celebration of pro bono legal assistance involving events planned and attended by public interest legal advocates and the organizations they work with. This year’s celebration is focused on disaster resiliency. Recent disasters such as Hurricanes Michael and Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut devastated communities in the southeast and U.S. territories in the Pacific.

This month, Pro Bono Net joined Dentsu Aegis Network, a global marketing communications network, for a 2-day event titled IdeaJam Hackathon, to mark the beginning of a media campaign for disaster survivors and pro bono attorneys.

Dentsu Aegis Network IdeaJamThousands of volunteer lawyers and hundreds of legal aid organizations work tirelessly after a disaster to help those who do not have the means to afford an attorney. Disaster survivors not only benefit from access to free legal resources, but also from meaningful legal representation. That’s why providing relevant and timely information to affected communities is important. Recruiting pro bono lawyers who can provide disaster legal aid and connecting them directly with disaster survivors becomes an urgent and vital step towards a long-term recovery process. However, a lot of this information does not reach many communities and legal aid providers simply cannot serve the legal needs of every single person affected by a disaster. Fortunately, Dentsu Aegis Network is committed to solving these challenges.

Miri Miller, Associate General Counsel, Americas, for Dentsu Aegis Network, explained “While working to launch our global legal pro bono program last year, I read LSC’s 2017 report, The Justice Gap, which identified specific reasons why people do not receive needed pro bono legal services. Some of the most significant obstacles were related to knowledge of legal rights and awareness of pro bono legal services. I realized that the resources and skills of the Dentsu Aegis Network would be invaluable in overcoming those communication challenges. Because this initiative is a natural extension of Dentsu Aegis Network’s commitment to tackling the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG #16 is Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions), Dentsu Aegis executives were keen to support the goal of improving access to justice through a strong marketing and communications program.”

Participants, divided into teams, were encouraged to consider two questions: “how do we get legal information into the hands of disaster survivors?” and “how can we recruit and keep pro bono attorneys engaged in disaster relief work?” Pro Bono Net’s Disaster Response Legal Fellow, Jeanne Ortiz, presented alongside Eve Runyon, Pro Bono Institute’s President & CEO, on the legal challenges low-income individuals and families are most likely to face in the wake of a disaster. After a brief session on the challenges, media strategists were divided into teams to work through their initial thoughts and start developing their approach for a disaster relief media campaign. Teams were encouraged to think about as a channel for amplifying legal resources and pro bono opportunities.

Pro Bono Net Staff and Participants

Carat, iProspect, isobar, Merkle, Fetch, Accordant Media, Gravity, Posterscope, mcgarrybowen, MKTG, Amnet, and Dentsu X were all participating Dentsu Aegis Network agencies. At the end of the day, teams had time to work through their expected solution through a “Stress Testing” session. They also checked in with senior DAN business leaders to receive feedback on their proposed campaign strategies.

Staff from Pro Bono Net’s LawHelpNY Program Tim Baran and Quisquella Addison also participated.

“It was exciting and energizing to be part of the IdeaJam and watch brilliant young minds in the media sector come up with creative solutions to legal problems,” said Tim.

After having 24 hours to come up with a groundbreaking campaign, teams had eight minutes to pitch their ideas to the judges, Michael Epstein, CEO of Carat USA, Lilian Laskin, Gravity Media’s VP, Operations & HR, and Jim Pharo, General Counsel, mcgarrybowen.

“One of my favorite ideas was a blockchain-powered supply chain legal services model for unbundled, limited-scope pro bono work that included a killer presentation. It confirmed the value of collaborating with people in other sectors when looking for answers to problems in a changing legal industry,” said Tim.

After an hour of deliberation, judges voted for two teams.

IdeaJam Screenshot

The first winning team created a campaign to allow to “be the lighthouse” in the storm – a place where everyone can go for education and mobilization and to match people needing help with lawyers wanting to volunteer. Campaigns would focus on pre-disaster preparedness and reach, with KPIs around signups for information and volunteer opportunities. They also designed a “Social Gives Back” theme to leverage the strengths of social platforms for different aspects of messaging campaigns: Facebook to educate affected communities, LinkedIn to engage lawyers, Twitter for “what’s happening now” news.

The other winning team was composed of people from Dentsu Aegis’s offices across the country. This team created a holistic plan that was even more impressive considering they worked together entirely over Skype and across three time zones. One part of their plan was to leverage community influencers to get information into the hands of the most vulnerable in their communities.

The team would use experiential and Out-of-Home marketing to reach communities on the ground (particularly important where internet connections may be limited or disrupted). They also built – in less than 24 hours! – a “Wizard App” that is a user-friendly way of getting relevant information into the hands of the people who need it.

Other team ideas included an interactive quiz for the National Disaster Legal Aid Advocacy Center that would assess attorneys’ level of knowledge and lead them to appropriate resources and opportunities based on their expertise. Another team suggested the use of chatbots to keep volunteer attorneys engaged for the long-term.

“We are excited to continue working with Pro Bono Net as we take the ideas presented today and bring them to life. We plan to set up a working group within Dentsu Aegis Network to tackle the execution plan,” said Miri.

Miri is also responsible for managing the Dentsu Aegis Network’s global pro bono program.