LHIIn 2016, Michigan Legal Help (MLH) partnered with expert developer Bob Aubin, and Pro Bono Net to create a tool that helps online form developers automate the identification of text that needs to be translated. When an interview for Pro Bono Net’s LawHelp Interactive (LHI) needs to be changed to plain language, or to any other target language this tool helps to minimize the time and effort required.

The inspiration for this project came about as Bob Aubin worked on creating Spanish forms for Michigan. After finding out how long it took to pull the text that needs translation and how much time it took to reinsert the translated text, the idea came about to develop a more error proof automated way to do this. The idea of creating a “Text Management Tool” (TMT) was born! Below is an interview with Angela Tripp (Co-Director and Project Director of Michigan Legal Help Program), and Bob Aubin.

How did the need to create this tool come up?

Angela: Michigan Legal Help (MLH), michiganlegalhelp.org, has a very complex divorce interview in HotDocs, and we wanted to translate it into Spanish. This process was laborious – Bob had to cut and paste each question, prompt, set of answer choices, help text, etc. from every cul de sac in this long interview, and it took a lot of time and effort.

Then once we had that translated, he had to put it all back together again. It took many hours, and we had to test for many more months to make sure everything was working as intended. In the meantime, over the year it took us to do this, we made multiple changes to the English interview, and had to go back and painstakingly make those same changes. Bob thought that there had to be an easier way to do this, so he created one.

Could you share some details of those interviews and how are they being used?

Angela: We have used the Text Management Tool (TMT) to speed up translation of interviews into Spanish, and to make major changes to interviews. We plan to use it in the near future to improve the plan language of our interviews – we anticipate making a lot of changes to the text when we review our interviews for plain language. We’re also going to use the tool to make our HD interviews more mobile friendly by shortening the questions as much as possible.

How did you develop the tool?

Bob: Knowing that the HotDocs Component File is an XML file, I figured we could develop a way to cycle through the XML and copy any instances of interview text found. All nooks and crannies that can contain interview text were identified. Then we hired HotDocs Corporation as a subcontractor to create the tool in C# to do what we had specified.

Since we created Ayuda Legal in 2014, there have been over 64,000 pages views, representing approximately 2.5% of all Michigan Legal Help visitors. Right now, we have 3 forms available in Spanish, all in family law, including a form to request and interpreter.

What other uses for the tool are there, besides the intended simplification of the process of pulling text from a HD interview and putting it back into it?

Angela: That’s what the tool does; the multiple uses come from the different goals you can accomplish by doing this. When same sex marriage (and divorce) became legal, we had to modify a lot of the language in our divorce interview; this helps do that. When you want to translate into another language, this helps do that.

Any time you need to modify a lot of text at once, this tool help – whether you want to translate, improve plain language, update legal information in the interview, or make more mobile friendly – this tool helps you do that and makes sure all the new text gets put back into the right place in the interview.

Bob: The tool has also proved to be a valuable troubleshooting tool for developers.  We had an interview with a lot of number computations in it, and one of them was misbehaving. The server error could not tell us which computation it was, so we used the tool to produce a report of the computations and all text was scanned. The error was quickly found and fixed.

Finally, we wanted to merge two separate but similar interviews with separate component files into one interview. The tool generated reports for each of the component files, and those reports were compared in Word to show the differences we had to address.

What type of response are you getting from the community?

Angela: People have been very excited. The response at the training and the survey has been uniformly positive, with one training attendee saying,

“This will be fabulous for debugging. And it has potential for managing translations is terrific”

another commented

“BOB AUBIN AND ANGELA TRIPP RULE!!!!!!!!!!!!”

We’d still love to hear from people what they think – we have separate surveys for HotDocs developers (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TMTDev) and document assembly project managers (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TMTprojmgr) – if you haven’t taken a survey yet, please do!

Are there any programs that are now using the tool to improve their existing interview?

Angela: Well, we are in Michigan. Other states are right now learning how to use the tool—and we expect that in the next coming months, developers will use the tool to trouble shoot, create new content, and find new uses for the tool.

Are you now creating any new content/forms with this new capacity?

Angela: Not at this time. Its biggest application for us is maintenance – updates, translations, improving existing content. Maintenance is one the biggest challenges in the document assembly world, and it’s great to have a tool to help make this easier, and less time consuming.

Any last work to project owners on the importance of using plain language for LHI interviews?

Angela: Only that it is extremely important, and as we move to developing more and more for mobile devices, using plain language is even more important. We have to learn to say things in simpler terms and fewer words so that it will fit and make sense on a small screen for people who are on the “go”; the only way to do this is through plain language.

You can find the tool, User’s Manual, and training video all here: https://www.probono.net/dasupport/library/folder.617503-HotDocs_Text_Management_Tool


Michigan Legal HelpThe Michigan Legal Help website and affiliated local self-help centers are part of the Michigan Legal Help Program. The Program works with judges, courts, lawyers, bar associations, nonprofit legal aid agencies, legal self-help centers, libraries and many others to promote coordinated and quality assistance for persons representing themselves in civil legal matters in Michigan.

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

There is an online form available from the New York Courts which allows adults to change their name in the State of New York. The form can be used statewide and it is one of the most popular online forms in the United States, hosted by Pro Bono Net’s LawHelp Interactive. From just October to December 2016, the form was created almost 15,000 times.

Online Form Name ChangeLegal Name Changes via Online Form

Transcend Legal, https://transcendlegal.org/ – a new nonprofit that serves the needs of the trans community in NY state – reached to Claudia Johnson, Pro Bono Net’s LawHelp Interactive Program Manager, in late 2016 to find out more about the online form. The form is created and hosted by the NY Courts Access to Justice Program, and is accessible here: http://nycourts.gov/courthelp/Namechange/forms.shtml

The ability to change their legal name is an important right for transgender persons. Having a name that matches their gender identity can minimize discrimination, increase their personal safety, and make it easier to obtain and maintain employment. However, the ease of changing names can vary, affecting a great many transgender individuals.

With this in mind, Claudia connected Noah Lewis, and Charlie Arrowroot (Transcend Legal) and Milo Primeaux (Empire Justice Center) with Rochelle Klempner, Chief Counsel at the New York State Courts Access to Justice Program. A discussion ensued about the practice of some New York counties adding hoops for the applicants in addition to submitting the printed form. These hoops often require waiting periods, multiple court visits, and additional costs. The New York Access to Justice Program contacted the local courts to inquire about those additional requirements that were creating a hardship for filing pro se in those counties.

A Successful Outcome

By early February 2017, the local requirements and hurdles were removed, and the form can now be filed in all counties in NY State as is, without extra requirements. This is an important victory for the transgender community in New York and is one step further down the road of increasing access to justice for transgender and non-binary individuals.

In addition to developing innovative technologies, Pro Bono Net specializes in connecting members of the civil legal community to facilitate increased access to justice. In NY, the partnership between the New York Courts and Pro Bono Net allowed Transcend Legal and Empire Justice Center to bring the legal needs of the transgender community directly to those who could help make changes. The simplification of the process that makes it easier for adults to change their identity documents allows more people to live safely in the state of NY.

Looking to the Future

Transcend Legal, Empire Justice Center, and the New York Courts Access to Justice Program are now exploring further simplification opportunities to remove access to justice barriers to adult name changes and other forms. They will explore remote work flows and further clarifications on the instructions for those who use the form to change their name in months to come. Collaborations of this kind are crucial in ensuring that the justice system runs smoothly and is accessible to those who cannot afford an attorney.


Transcend LegalTranscend Legal cultivates equitable social, medical and legal recognition of transgender people by offering culturally competent, transgender-led legal representation, public policy advocacy, community education & organizing, and public education.

 

Empire Justice is a statewide, multi-issue, multi-strategy public interest law firm focused on changing the “systems” within which poor and low income families live. With a focus on poverty law, Empire Justice undertakes research and training, acts as an informational clearinghouse, and provides litigation backup to local legal services programs and community based organizations.  As an advocacy organization, we engage in legislative and administrative advocacy on behalf of those impacted by poverty and discrimination.  As a non-profit law firm, we provide legal assistance to those in need and undertake impact litigation in order to protect and defend the rights of disenfranchised New Yorkers.

 

NYCourts ATJ ProgramThe NYS Courts Access to Justice Program is one of the Unified Court System’s many programs and initiatives which strive to increase access, improve the delivery of justice and promote public confidence in the courts. Prior to March 2009, the responsibilities of the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program were overseen by the former Office of the Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives.

 

Immi - Immigrants legal resourcesAs we enter a new year and a new administration, immigrants and advocates have cause to worry. Last week’s executive orders on immigration signal real action on threats to deport large numbers of immigrants and punish the states and localities that try to protect them, among other draconian measures. Many are asking, “what can I do?” Fortunately, there’s something you can do right now to help immigrants in the U.S. learn about their immigration options, know their rights, and find quality legal help.

Step 1: Visit immi, https://www.immi.org.

Immi is a new online tool, created by the Immigration Advocates Network and Pro Bono Net. Available in English and Spanish, immi allows users to confidentially screen for immigration benefits such as family-based petitions, asylum, or U visas; access information about the law; and find a trusted nonprofit legal service provider. The first free online tool of its kind, immi was created to help as many immigrants as possible know their rights and protect their families.

Step 2: Share immi, https://www.immi.org/share.html!

An estimated 1.5 million undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation may have possible avenues to legal status, but do not know it. By sharing immi you are helping to connect immigrants in your networks with free, confidential, and vital legal information.

 


About The Immigration Advocates NetworkThe Immigration Advocates Network
The Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) is a collaborative effort of Pro Bono Net and leading immigrants’ rights organizations designed to increase access to justice for low-income immigrants and strengthen the capacity of organizations serving them. IAN promotes more effective and efficient communication, collaboration, and services among immigration advocates and organizations by providing free, easily accessible and comprehensive online resources and tools.

 

The Immigration Advocates Network Fifth Annual E-Conference FundraiserThe Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) is excited to announce its fifth annual e-conference fundraiser, “Cutting Edge Issues in Immigration Law,” from October 31 to November 4, 2016. Join us for a week-long series of interactive online trainings with national experts on representing children, administrative advocacy, entry & admission, U visas, and provisional waivers. We explore the issues through the lens of current events and the latest legal developments.

IAN offers free webinars throughout the year for pro bono lawyers and nonprofit staff.  However, once a year, IAN hosts an e-Conference Fundraiser, and offers these webinars for a small fee. The e-Conference raises money to support the free online training materials for advocates who represent noncitizens in claims for asylum, changes in immigration status, naturalization and more. Resources include training materials, practice advisories, sample applications and affidavits, government-issued policy memoranda, significant case law, related articles, checklists and links to additional resources.

Join the e-Conference to support IAN and learn about the latest issues and strategies in immigration law.

E-Conference Features 

  • Listen to nationally-recognized experts from the comfort of your own office;
  • Participate in “ask the expert” sessions during each interactive training;
  • Access presentations and handouts before the training session;
  • Take interactive quizzes and polls before and during conference sessions; and
  • Obtain exclusive access to recorded trainings after the conference.

Register

The cost of each two-hour training session is $25. Your support helps IAN offer free trainings and resources throughout the year. For more information and to register, visit https://www.immigrationadvocates.org/econference.


Conference Sessions 

Representing Children in Removal Proceedings
Monday, October 31
This training will discuss legal protections for children in removal proceedings and steps to take if the government breaks those rules. The panel will focus on practice strategies for advocates.

Elevating the Case: Strategies for Helping Clients with USCIS Issues
Tuesday, November 1
This training will cover common issues with DACA and other cases such as processing delays, rejections, requests for evidence, correcting typographical mistakes and agency error. The panel will discuss points of access within USCIS, and how to engage the Ombudsman’s office.

How Entry, Admission, and Parole Affect Your Client’s Case
Wednesday, November 2
This training will review legal concepts of entry, admission, and parole into the United States. The panel will also discuss the practical effects of what happened at the point of entry on a client’s case.

Enhance Your U Visa Practice
Thursday, November 3
This interactive training is a U visa case strategy session, to troubleshoot common U visa issues, including how to frame qualifying crimes, complex inadmissibility issues, and more. Participants are invited to submit U visa scenarios on the registration form so that the webinar can discuss the issues they face in practice.

The Expanded Provisional Waiver Program
Friday, November 4
The panel will explain eligibility for the expanded program, including tips on completing the new I-601A. It will also cover the extreme hardship standard based on draft or finalized agency guidance.

If you are unable to attend a session, but would like to donate to support the Immigration Advocates Network, click here.

 


The Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) is a collaborative effort of leading immigrants’ rights organizations designed to increase access to justice for low-income immigrants and strengthen the capacity of organizations serving them. IAN promotes more effective and efficient communication, collaboration, and services among immigration advocates and organizations by providing free, easily accessible and comprehensive online resources and tools.

Hispanic Heritage month, a chance look at the wealth of contributions the Hispanic community has made and continues to make in our society, is almost over. As we celebrate the contributions, we continue to support our communities in achieving their dreams and goals by providing assistance in overcoming civil legal issues and access to justice. Continue reading to see some examples and learn about how these tools and resources impact Spanish speaking communities nationwide.

In civil law cases, many begin the legal process without the benefit of an attorney due to the cost of retaining one. In order to provide access to information easily and effectively, Pro Bono Net offers a myriad of tools and resources and support, developed by local partners, to assist those who navigate our legal system alone. LawHelp.org is an online resource that helps low and moderate-income people find free legal aid programs in their communities, answers to questions about their legal rights, court information, links to social service agencies, and more. Several states around the country now offer these resources in Spanish to better equip communities to navigate the legal system on their own, or find access to legal aid.

Online interviews and document assemblies help legal aid programs meet the needs of Spanish speaking communities by helping them to help themselves. Many of these households struggle to find the time to go downtown to a legal aid office, so these online tools allow them to handle their legal problems from home on their own time. Providing online resources 24/7 in Spanish and other languages enables the community to better access our justice system in a manner that suits their needs.

Spanish Language Resources

Ayuda Legal MichiganThe Michigan Poverty Law Program has created Ayuda Legal Michigan, a LawHelp powered site, to provide access to their information and resources directly in Spanish. Here Spanish speaking residents of Michigan can access easy to use online forms in their native language in multiple civil legal aid areas. Many of these forms are interactive and guided through the use of LawHelp Interactive (LHI), a Pro Bono Net form generation platform which has supported Spanish online content more than 10 years. All of these forms are available for free. Take a look at an example of a Michigan protective order report.

Ayuda Legal NY offers similar resources and online forms in multiple areas of law in Spanish. The NY State Courts have a Paternity petition form available in Spanish, as well as a Tenant Answer to Eviction, one of the first online forms in Spanish in the LHI system. These online interactive forms make it easier for Spanish speakers to navigate the US legal system, minimizing confusion and increasing efficiency. Ayuda Legal NY also offers various know-your-rights information and tools directly on their website.

Minnesota screen shot spanishIn Minnesota, tenants can request Security Deposit returns using an online interview, available in Spanish, which takes their entered information and produces a document for them to file/ provide to their landlord. For many low income families, not receiving the security deposit back from their landlord within an acceptable time frame can affect their ability to move and secure housing somewhere else. The ability to go through a simple interview that will create the necessary legal forms provides an avenue to ensuring their landlord returns their deposit, enabling them to utilize those funds for a different apartment, or towards purchasing a more permanent residence such as a house.

These are just a few examples of how legal aid programs can put online resources at the hands of our Hispanic communities to ensure equal access to helpful tools. Similar forms and programs can be found in multiple states across the country. The LawHelp Interactive platform supports additional languages and if you are interested in learning more about this capacity please reach out to us.

Resources for Nonprofit Service Providers

At Pro Bono Net we believe that creating online tools to bridge language and culture gaps is key to achieving access to justice for all, and have worked steadily since 2008 across states to support the design and creation of online tools for multiple communities.

In that spirit we would like to share the following resources for legal non profit service providers who are working with multiple languages, as there are now online glossaries that help explain legal language in Spanish. One example is Readclearly, is a glossary shared through Open Advocate. In addition the Sacramento Courts have for years made available some of the most complete legal dictionaries.

Legal nonprofits, courts, librarians and their partners interested in discovering more about Spanish language online tools are encouraged to reach out to us to find out what is available in your state, and/or learn how you can work with us to continue bridging language gaps for those facing civil legal needs.


 

probononet_Logo_with_taglineAbout Pro Bono Net

Pro Bono Net is a national non-profit organization dedicated to increasing access to justice for the disadvantaged. Through innovative technology solutions and expertise in building and mobilizing justice networks, Pro Bono Net transforms the way legal help reaches the underserved. Comprehensive programs including www.probono.net, www.lawhelp.org and www.lawhelpinteractive.org, enable legal advocates to make a stronger impact, increase volunteer participation, and empower the public with resources and self-help tools to improve their lives.

About LawHelp InteractiveLHI logo

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

About LawHelp.orgLawHelp3Logo

LawHelp is an online resource that helps low and moderate-income people find free legal aid programs in their communities, answers to questions about their legal rights, court information, links to social service agencies, and more. This resource was built and is maintained in partnership with hundreds of legal aid, pro bono and court-based programs across the country. LawHelp.org was recognized with the 2007 Webby Award for Best Law site.

CW Mobile logoIn honor of Citizenship day this past weekend, the Immigration Advocates Network and Pro Bono Net would like to highlight our new and improved Citizenshipworks mobile app!

Citizenshipworks is an award-winning free online service that helps those who are eligible to apply for citizenship, step-by-step. With a DIY application and online and in-person legal support, Citizenshipworks is a one-stop-shop for naturalization. The Citizenshipworks app is the perfect companion tool, providing additional resources and tools to help those interested in applying to naturalize!

The Citizenshipworks mobile app helps users:

  • Learn about their eligibility to become a U.S. citizen;
  • Understand the process of becoming a U.S. citizen;
  • Study for the English and Civics tests with flashcards and other tools;
  • Access financial resources, including a tax document checklist and savings calculator; and
  • Find free or low-cost legal help from a network of nonprofit experts.

Nearly 9 million Legal Permanent Residents are eligible to apply for citizenship. However, less than 10% become citizens each year. They face a range of barriers, including high application fees and a cumbersome, lengthy application process. The Citizenshipworks mobile app aims to empower potential applicants to learn about naturalization and give them the tools they need to complete the process successfully.

In collaboration with Citi Community Development and the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund), the new version of the app includes an updated interface, financial empowerment resources, and a Chinese language version (Korean will be available in October).

Check out the App!

 

 

 

 

 

 

To download the app for Apple devices, visit apple.co/1Q4H4s4 or search for “Citizenshipworks” in the iTunes App Store. To download the app for Android devices, visit https://goo.gl/RhTdy5 or search for “Citizenshipworks” in the Google Play Store.


 

The Immigration Advocates NetworkThe Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) is a collaborative effort of leading immigrants’ rights organizations designed to increase access to justice for low-income immigrants and strengthen the capacity of organizations serving them. IAN promotes more effective and efficient communication, collaboration, and services among immigration advocates and organizations by providing free, easily accessible and comprehensive online resources and tools.

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.

Jillian

Jillian Theil is the Pro Bono Net Training and Field Support Coordinator and has been with Pro Bono Net since 2011. She manages the LSNTAP/PBN Community Training series. 

 LSNTAP and PBN recently held a webinar on evaluations, “From Investment to Impact: Recent Outcomes Evaluations of Legal Aid Tech Projects.” The training explored technology project evaluation approaches from legal aid and other fields, and reviewed designing and executing evaluations in resource constrained environments. The webinar was moderated by Claudia Johnson of Pro Bono Net. 

The first presentation by Keith Porcaro and Valerie Elephant of SIMLab kicked off by discussing their organization’s Monitoring and Evaluation (M & E) framework. The framework was inspired by one used commonly in the international development community and in humanitarian settings. They also introduced a new evaluation site they have started, inspired by the evaluation process, feedbackmechanisms.org and evaluation considerations in the legal aid/legal technology setting.

Next, Tara Saylor of Q2 Consulting discussed the Logic Model evaluation framework in the context of an evaluation project for the Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc. She also discussed some key ideas for executing an evaluation when faced with resource constraints. The presentation ended with some great discussion and Q&A with the audience on evaluations in the legal aid technology space. 

Be sure to check out materials available on the SWEB Support Site and join us for the next LSNTAP/PBN webinar, “Future-Proofing Your Projects: Maintenance, Succession, and Continuity Planning.” 


LSNTAPLSNTAP helps nonprofit legal aid programs improve client services through effective and innovative use of technology. To do this, we provide technology training, maintain information, create online tools, and host community forums such as the LStech email list. Read about us, or contact us at info@lsntap.org for more information.

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.


Jillian

Jillian Theil is the Pro Bono Net Training and Field Support Coordinator and has been with Pro Bono Net since 2011. She manages the LSNTAP/PBN Community Training series. Stay tuned for more LSNTAP blogs this summer!

 

 

Pro Bono Net and LSNTAP kicked off their 2016 LSNTAP Community Training series with the recurring favorite, “50 Tech Tips.” The training featured 50 tech tips for project management, collaboration, communication and more, along with a segment on “homegrown” tools and resources developed by and for the legal aid community. We had great engagement from the audience and some wonderful tech tips shared by the crowd, too!

Jenny Singleton of Minnesota Legal Services State Support kicked things off by highlighting some great tech tips for the legal aid community. Some of these included Grammarly, a free tool to help improve written communication by eliminating errors and enhancing clarity and meaning.

Wilneida Negron of the Florida Justice Technology Center covered a number of great security, accessibility and Google Drive tips, including HTTPS Everywhere and SocioViz.

Afterwards, Reece Flexner of the DC Bar presented some general best practice tips for working with technology, including making sure to draw up business requirements and tools for creating minimum viable products for stakeholder feedback.

Samantha Krykostas of Illinois Legal Aid Online also discussed some tools her organization has been using in the revamp of their website. Tips included the New Relic Website Performance tool and GeniusScan, an app to scan written notes.

Rounding out the tech tips was my presentation on great homegrown tech tools the legal aid tech community has created, including WriteClearly.org, a great plain language tool and LSNTAP.org’s Survey Bank. I also spoke about some great RSS tools to help legal techies stay on top of the latest information in our field.

To view the other tips mentioned on this webinar, be sure to check out materials available on the SWEB Support Site and join us for the next LSNTAP/PBN webinar, “From Investment to Impact: Recent Outcomes Evaluations of Legal Aid Tech Projects.”


 

LSNTAP helps nonprofit legal aid programs improve client services through effective and innovative use of technology. To do this, we provide technology training, maintain information, create online tools, and host community forums such as the LStech email list. Read about us, or contact us at info@lsntap.org for more information.