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Celebrate Pro Bono Week

National Celebrate Pro Bono 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 have been celebrating National Pro Bono Week by focusing on disaster resiliency. Today we are highlighting additional pro bono work around the country, and sharing resources to help volunteer attorneys get started. 

Earlier this year, the separation of families at the boarder headlined news outlets everywhere. Now? Not so much. While headlines in the US may have moved on, many families are still separated and immigrant parents are still detained in more than 200 immigrant prisons and jails in the U.S.

According to recent numbers, more than 4,000 parents and children were separated at the US-Mexico border between May 5, 2018 and June 9, 2018 as part of earlier “no tolerance” policy under the current administration. While efforts to reunite families have begun, thousands of parents and children still face uphill legal battles for reunification and relief.

Continue Reading An Interview with Betty Balli Torres, Pro Bono Net Board of Directors | A Pro Bono Week Exclusive

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.

Continue Reading Pro Bono Net Joins Dentsu Aegis Network for an IdeaJam to Connect Disaster Survivors with Free Legal Help

Celebrate Pro Bono WeekPro 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.

Volunteer attorneys make a big difference in the lives of disaster survivors. In order to help those volunteers with their work, Pro Bono Net partners with organizations around the US and its territories to develop resources, tools, and networks to better prepare and facilitate volunteering. In addition to the roundtables we discussed yesterday, Pro Bono Net offers access to news and alerts, listservs, trainings, libraries and volunteer opportunities specially designed for disaster legal aid advocates.

Continue Reading DisasterLegalAid.org Advocacy Center | Pro Bono Week

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.

This summer Pro Bono Net launched a national roundtable series to discuss topics of cross-cutting interest to disaster legal aid practitioners across regions, in partnership with Lone Star Legal Aid and the Legal Services Corporation.

Continue Reading Ready, Willing & Able: Organizing the Legal Community’s Response to Disasters | A Pro Bono Week Roundtable Discussion

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. Today, as a bonus Pro Bono Week celebration spotlight, we are highlighting the work of Major General Michael J. Nardotti, Senior Partner at Squire Patton Boggs, and volunteer with The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program (TVC). Major Nardotti was named The Veterans Consortium’s Volunteer Inspiring Pro Bono (VIP) in 2017. 

Major General Michael J. Nardotti
The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program

TVC’s Volunteer Inspiring Pro Bono (VIP) is Major General Mike Nardotti (US Army, Retired and former The Judge Advocate General, US Army), Senior Partner, Squire Patton Boggs.  Mike represents clients on a broad range of defense, national security and other significant issues at all levels across the Department of Defense and other federal agencies and on matters of special interest to members of Congress. A decorated combat veteran, Mike served for more than 28 years on active duty as a soldier and lawyer. He was The Judge Advocate General – the senior military lawyer in the Army – from 1993 to 1997, advising military and civilian leaders on sensitive, complex and highly-visible legal and policy issues of importance to the Department of Defense, Congress and the media.

Mike was recently recognized by The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program for over 20 years of service to veterans and their families, caregivers and survivors, as a member of TVC’s National Volunteer Corps. Over the past 25 years, Squire Patton Boggs has supported The Veterans Consortium with over 92 attorney engagements in Federal courts, participated in specialized Court of Appeals for Veteran Claims (CAVC) trainings, and assisted TVC in taking dramatic steps forward in our capacity to provide free legal services to veterans and their loved ones.

With Volunteers Inspiring Pro bono (VIPs) like Mike Nardotti and his colleagues at Squire Patton Boggs, TVC’s National Volunteer Corps now stands at more than 2500 attorneys— from both law firms and corporate legal teams—and paralegals and other pro bono professionals from coast to coast.  As the leading national nonprofit focused on providing legal services free of charge to veterans – our nations defenders – TVC consistently delivers on our belief statement that our veterans deserve the care, benefits, and compensation they were promised, and the best legal services free of charge, to meet their challenges.   TVC’s 82% success rate in federal court cases is achieved by the passionate commitment of our National Volunteer Corps members like Mike Nardotti.

Ed Glabus, Executive Director TVC; Major General Mike Nardotti (Photo courtesy of Katharine McKenny)

As The Judge Advocate General, he also served as the leader and senior partner in one of the world’s largest law firms, the Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. His team of 4,000 full- and part-time military and civilian attorneys and 5,000 full- and part-time military and civilian support staff provided comprehensive legal support and services to a worldwide community of more than one million Active, Guard, and Reserve commanders and soldiers and over one million family members.

Mike Nardotti’s military awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. In 2006, he was inducted into the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame, a high honor accorded those specially selected from the nominees of Ranger units and associations representing each era of Ranger history.

“We are privileged to have professionals like Mike Nardotti on the rolls of TVC’s National Volunteer Corps, and we salute his pro bono service as above and beyond the call of duty “, noted Ed Glabus, Executive Director, The Veterans Consortium.

 


The Veterans Consortium is the leading national 501c(3) charity providing free legal counsel in federal matters to qualified veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors worldwide since 1992. For additional information about The Veterans Consortium and our various outreach initiatives, visit: www.vetsprobono.org.

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.  Today, in honor of National Celebrate Pro Bono Week, we’re sharing the profile of Elizabeth Brancati,  a LiveHelp volunteer with LawHelpNY. Her story below was written by Allana Benton, LawHelpNY’s Serve New York VISTA.

 

Elizabeth Brancati
LawHelpNY

After nine years of being a prosecutor in New York City, Elizabeth and her family decided to leave the “Big Apple” for a small suburban town.  With the move she decided to take a break from the frenetic pace of the practice of law and stay home to care for her children. The transition proved to be more difficult than anticipated—she missed working as a lawyer. Finding an opportunity to stay involved in legal services in a way that still allowed her to tend to her family was difficult. Eager to find a way to stay active and connected in the field of law, she began to research pro bono opportunities. She stumbled upon Joan Archer’s “Volunteer Spotlight” profile, which detailed Joan’s volunteer experiences with LawHelpNY—an opportunity to get back into the field while still being at home with her children? It seemed too good to be true.

Volunteering as a LiveHelp operator came to be a perfect fit for Elizabeth. By making a small time commitment each week, she has been able to impact many lives: “I have been able to help people across the state—in real time—that have all kinds of questions and issues going on in their lives… I chat with a lot of users with questions about Family Law – custody, visitation, divorce, guardianship, adoption, and more. With the training sessions for operators and from reading the materials the LawHelpNY site links to, I have learned a ton about this area of law and can now more quickly help users navigate the court websites and information they might need. On one day, I answered three questions in a row about grandparents seeking guardianship of their grandchildren, and I could quickly point them in the right direction.” Most of the site visitors that she encounters are from New York City; this allows her to feel more connected to the place she formally called home. Additionally, it allows her to familiarize herself with areas of law that differ from what she had practiced.

While volunteering, Elizabeth came across a service listed on LawHelp that she often recommends to visitors in underserved parts of the state. The New York State Bar Association’s Free Legal Answers program connects volunteer attorneys to low-income individuals in need of limited representation and advice. Elizabeth has since become a volunteer with them as well! Elizabeth marvels at how technology makes pro bono volunteering so easy and accessible: I interact with people who are chatting from their phones while they are on the go and who live in places 10 hours away from me. I think it is great how convenient LiveHelp is for the users who are looking for help and also for the operators who assist them.

Although her children keep her busy most days, putting aside some time to volunteer has become an import and rewarding addition to her week. Elizabeth has been a consistent and dedicated volunteer, providing compassionate and professional assistance to New Yorkers navigating legal issues without the benefit of an attorney: “When I think about the values and lessons I want to instill in my children, being kind to others, helping those in need, and being a good neighbor are always on my list. Through volunteering for LawHelpNY, I get to do all of those, and my kids can see me doing it. When I first started searching for volunteer opportunities, I didn’t have much hope that a part-time, remote legal pro bono position existed anywhere. I felt so lucky to have found LawHelpNY and am grateful to have contributed in a small way to our New York community.”

 


LiveHelp is an online chat service designed to help users navigate legal aid websites and locate legal information, resources and referrals. LiveHelp volunteers offer individuals real-time assistance by pointing the way towards resources written in plain language about their legal problem and/or by helping them identify a free legal aid organization for representation or advice. LiveHelp operators are primarily law students and law graduates, working under the supervision of an attorney.

LHNYLawHelpNY, a program of Pro Bono Net, is New York’s leading online tool for helping low-income New Yorkers find solutions to their legal programs. Available in both English and Spanish, it provides and promotes access to high-quality online information about free legal services throughout New York, legal rights in a broad range of substantive areas, the court system, and related advocacy, government and social service organizations.

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.  To kick off our Pro Bono Week celebration, we would like to share the profiles of two dedicated Oklahoma based volunteers, Jessica Ortiz Sanchez and Brent S. Howard, who volunteer with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc (LAOK). 

 

Jessica I. Ortiz Sanchez
Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc.

As I grew up, I dreamed to be an attorney to help people, to make a difference in their lives. My main motivation has always been to work for access to justice for all.

I began volunteering for the Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma in 2015 with a Chapter 7 case; which was my first bankruptcy case. The amazing Donna Ellsworth, paralegal for the Lawton office motivated me and guided me thru the process. Thanks to that experience I am now skilled in bankruptcy law and have done one more pro-bono bankruptcy case.

Another memorable case was a name change for a minor child. The parents needed to correct the spelling and last name of their child in the birth certificate. While it seems like an easy task it was a complicated legal issue for the parents who do not understand the process and are not proficient in the English language. Since I am fluent in Spanish and familiar with their culture I was able to relate with the clients and complete the process promptly.  The clients were satisfied and very grateful for my work.

Pro Bono net has many resources available for volunteers. The HotDocs platform for documents templates, LawHelp Interactive, is very convenient and the CLE programs curated on the calendar are outstanding. Moreover, the extraordinary people from  LAOK are always available to mentor when needed. Besides fulfilling the dream to help people, this experience has equipped me with new skills, vast knowledge and understanding of legal topics.

I’m also involved with the Oklahoma’s Lawyers for Hero’s Program. Thru this program I have the opportunity to serve active duty, retirees and veterans in need of legal services. As of today, I have spent several volunteer hours representing those who have dropped their own affairs to serve our Country.

It might be time consuming and challenging at times but it’s satisfying knowing you have made a difference in the client’s life. I will definitely recommend it to my colleagues attorneys.

I am a proud supporter of the Pro Bono Net and LAOK, and will continue to work to remove barriers and bring access to justice for all.


Brent S. Howard
Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc.

Brent S. Howard is a homegrown attorney.   He attended grade school and High School in the rural surrounds of Altus, Oklahoma.  He attained an Agricultural Economics and Accounting Degree from Oklahoma State University and a Law degree from University of Oklahoma.  He then went on to attain Legal Masters (LL.M.) in Taxation from the New York University School of Law.  He has been certified to practice by the Oklahoma Bar Association as well as the United States Tax Court.

Mr. Howard has now come home because he “saw that there was a lack of information and a lack of people knowledgeable in implementing estate and tax planning on a comprehensive basis.”  Since returning home Mr. Howard has become a valued asset to the community he volunteers in all aspects of the community.  He is the Chairman of the Board of Regents for Western Oklahoma State College, committees at the First United Methodist Church, he is the past President of the local Bar Association, a member of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and he is a State Director for the Young Farmers and Ranchers Association.

Mr. Howard uses his knowledge “to help tax-exempt organizations organize their paperwork.  For all Non-Profit Organizations he “donates half of his time when he helps with filing for IRS recognition, organizing documents with the State, or other non-litigation work.”  Some of his most memorable work he has done is with the youth of our community.  He holds much esteem in a quote he heard at a local seminar “Your job or profession should not define who you are, it should only be a platform for you setting that definition.”

Mr. Howard continually helps with annual legal clinics involving the youth in our high schools featuring the Oklahoma Bar Association own guide “You are 18 now”.  He thrives on being a mentor to local youth and giving guidance into future endeavors.  Although he may not be the traditional Pro Bono Attorney Legal Aid sees daily he brings a world of knowledge to other areas of law we do not delve in so that our clients have a growing appreciation for our referral systems.  We are a small rural community that work hand and hand with other local Non-profits and by Mr. Howard helping these smaller non-profits it brings more advantages to our communities.  For example, one such non-profit he has been helping is our local House of Grace and Mercy which would help mothers and children be provided the basic skill sets to be independent or less dependent on others to care for their children.  This would help mothers reintegrate with their children after separations have occurred.  This also extends to the local Exodus House which is a “proven effective program for ex-offenders to get on their feet and prepare to be an asset to the community.  This program has succeeded in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas.

Without Mr. Howard’s help and initiative to serve this community these smaller non-profits may not be able to move forward.  He should be acknowledged for his long standing help and the guidance he provides for both the youth of our community as well as the overall community.  We would like to thank him for his service and we look forward to our futures together in this community.


Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc. (LASO) is a non-profit, statewide organization that provides civil legal assistance to low-income people throughout Oklahoma. LASO has 18 offices throughout Oklahoma. LASO is a proud partner with Pro Bono Net providing information and resources to support our volunteers and staff through www.probono.net/ok.

Read our press release thanking volunteer lawyers across the country.

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 through a special Volunteering Through Technology Initiative, which features someone who volunteers though one of Pro Bono Net’s innovative legal tech solutions on our Connecting Justice Communities blog. We are very proud to showcase these volunteers from our pro bono community and hope they may inspire you to get involved as well! Today we would like to highlight the volunteers of our Citizenshipworks Brooklyn Public Library – Central Branch Clinics. Special thanks to Sandra Sandoval, Immigration Advocates Network’s Citizenshipworks Program Manager, for the article!

CitizenshipworksSince 2013, the Immigration Advocates Network (IAN), in partnership with New York’s Brooklyn Public Library – Central Branch, has teamed up with non-profit legal service providers around New York City to host a free, monthly citizenship application assistance workshops using the innovative Citizenshipworks platform.

Each month, partners like CUNY CitizenshipNow!, Catholic Migration Services, International Rescue Committee – New York, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Make the Road New York, and NALEO Education Fund provide the legal support needed via pro bono volunteers to ensure that lawful permanent residents applying for citizenship have access to free, quality legal services.

With the upcoming election there has been a sharp increase of people interested in applying for citizenship in the last year. Waiting times for appointments at nonprofit organizations in New York can be weeks or even months, leaving many people struggling to find help. These workshops give people in Brooklyn and the surrounding boroughs the opportunity to receive a free, quality service to help them file their form.

Others sometimes just need a push to get the ball rolling. One such individual made the decision to apply for citizenship after passing by the Info Commons at the Library and noticing the workshop in progress. She registered for the very next event to complete her form. A couple of months later, she came back and thanked the volunteers at the workshop for having helped her and is currently waiting to take the Oath to become a citizen. She also brought a friend to the clinic to begin the process!

Through this innovative partnership, applicants are able to use the Citizenshipworks system to complete their N-400 and then connect with the legal service provider partners hosting the event at the library to receive a free, legal consultation. As the workshop series continues, the number of applicants has continuously grown, with Summer 2016 averaging 20 potential applicants receiving application assistance to file their Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, and I-912, Request for Fee Waiver form (when applicable).

A couple of months later, she came back and thanked the volunteers at the workshop for having helped her and is currently waiting to take the Oath to become a citizen.

To begin the process, lawful permanent residents interested in applying for citizenship register for the event through Citizenshipworks. Citizenshipworks walks the applicant through every question of the N-400 and connects them to the non-profit legal service provider prior to the event. The partner’s pro bono attorneys are able to review the applicants’ forms beforehand (checking for any potential legal issues) and help the applicant prepare for their final review the day of the event. At the event, the applicant will meet with the volunteer or BIA representative from the partner organization to complete a final review of their form before filing.

This partnership has allowed non-profit legal service providers to connect with more applicants while continuing to provide quality assistance at no cost to the applicant. Additionally, the partnership has ventured into using more innovative models to reach more applicants needing assistance.

Through the Citizenshipworks Virtual Review features and the technology provided by the library, the partner’s legal service providers and volunteer attorneys who are unable to assist in person can review the applicants form and provide a legal consultation by connecting with applicants virtually. This model has expanded not only the reach of the partnering organization, but has begun to change how legal assistance can be provided.

The naturalization process can be daunting, but through the easy process of the Citizenshipworks platform, along with legal volunteers to help with questions and complications, becoming a citizen is easier and simpler than ever before.

The volunteers at these workshops are absolutely crucial to applicants by providing much needed legal services. The naturalization process can be daunting, but through the easy process of the Citizenshipworks platform, along with legal volunteers to help with questions and complications, becoming a citizen is easier and simpler than ever before.

With the continued support of non-profit legal service providers and pro bono attorneys, the workshop provides access to legal services that otherwise would not be as readily available for many of the applicants. The volunteers at these clinics provide crucial services for immigrants in need, helping them through the naturalization process.

Non-profit legal service providers or pro bono attorney interested in joining this innovative partnership, should contact Sandra Sandoval, Citizenshipworks Program Manager, at ssandoval@immigrationadvocates.org for more information.

 


CitzenshipworksCitizenshipworks provides easy-to-use online tools to help low and moderate-income individuals to answer important questions about their eligibility for naturalization, to better understand the naturalization process, and to prepare for the naturalization tests. Citizenshipworks is a collaboration between the Immigration Advocates Network, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and Pro Bono Net. We aim to make the immigration system accessible everyone through user-friendly technology, plain language legal information, and a national network of nonprofit immigration service providers.


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.


 

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 through a special Volunteering Through Technology Initiative, which features someone who volunteers though one of Pro Bono Net’s innovative legal tech solutions on our Connecting Justice Communities blog. We are very proud to showcase these volunteers from our pro bono community and hope they may inspire you to get involved as well! Today we are highlighting Joan Archer, a LiveHelp Volunteer at LawHelpNY, and the NYC Pro Bono Center‘s October Volunteer Spotlight! We would like to extend special thanks to Michelle Born, LawHelpNY’s LiveHelp Co-ordinator, for sharing this story.

Joan Archer, LiveHelp Volunteer
LawHelpNY

Joan Archer“Joan saves the day!” This was a frequent phrase in my emails to Joan Archer over the course of the last year. As LiveHelp Coordinator at LawHelpNY, I work with dozens of law student and law graduate volunteers at any given point in time. Joan has been a dream volunteer.

Joan Archer began her work as a LiveHelp operator with LawHelpNY shortly after completing the New York Bar exam in July 2015 and before resuming her studies for the Connecticut bar exam in February 2016.

She had already completed the 50-hour pro bono requirement for New York State through her judicial internships, and she had plenty to keep her occupied with two young children at home, but she wanted to stretch herself while also giving back to the community. LawHelpNY/Pro Bono Net in particular was attractive to Joan: “Coming from a tech background, I am very interested in how technology is, or isn’t, being used in the legal field. In the past twenty years, technology has made so many things more accessible to more people.”

Coming from a tech background, I am very interested in how technology is, or isn’t, being used in the legal field. In the past twenty years, technology has made so many things more accessible to more people.”

“LawHelpNY sounded like a progressive organization in terms of using technology to make legal information accessible to people who don’t know where to go. I wanted to see how it worked and also hopefully point a few people in the right direction.” Joan attended a LiveHelp training at her alma mater, Elizabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, and eagerly signed up for several weekly shifts.

Joan took on her work as a LiveHelp operator with the same enthusiasm I have since realized that she brings to any challenge. When asked what she enjoyed about the experience, Joan replied, “I love hearing about all the different issues people are facing – and the issues are all over the place.”

“I see LiveHelpNY volunteers as EMTs for law, doing legal triage. Aside from feeling good for doing good, I appreciate that this experience has exposed me to complex issues and areas of law that I otherwise would know nothing about.  For example, I recently heard from a woman who was applying for jobs with nanny agencies in New York City but was being turned down because she had a criminal conviction.” It was the caller who mentioned the Fair Chance Act, and Joan quickly read up on the law and provided the caller with relevant referrals.

“During training, we touched on divorce, domestic violence, foreclosures, and landlord tenant issues, and I’ve definitely seen those but I’ve also seen international patent disputes, corruption claims, claims involving farm animals, and internet fraud/stalking/invasion of privacy claims.”

When asked what she found challenging about the experience, Joan noted that it is hard not knowing the outcome for people she assists via LiveHelp.  “I’d love to know what happens with the people I chat with – if any of the phone numbers or information I gave them wound up helping them get what they need. For example, I got an email from a veteran who was homeless and living in a shelter for veterans in New York City. The shelter provides short term housing and he was looking for permanent housing. I did a lot of research on programs for veterans. I found some programs that sounded like they might help, but was left wondering how much of a runaround he was going to face and wishing I could do more.”

Aside from feeling good for doing good, I appreciate that this experience has exposed me to complex issues and areas of law that I otherwise would know nothing about.”

After several months of volunteering as a LiveHelp operator, Joan signed off to focus on her studies for the Connecticut bar exam in February. I heard from her shortly after, when she sent me an email with the magic words: “Reach out to me any time you need coverage!” Joan became my go-to person whenever I had a last-minute cancellation, or exams took many of my regularly scheduled volunteers away. Yet, I was keenly aware that Joan had much more to offer LawHelpNY.

Before attending law school, Joan had worked many years as a software developer and coder in prominent companies such as Merrill Lynch, as well as tech start-ups. When I approached her with a request to help as we transitioned the software through which we operated LiveHelp, she jumped at the chance. She was later instrumental in setting up a system through which to manage and track the many emails that come in to LawHelpNY requesting legal information.

Joan continues to make herself available to LawHelpNY, even while becoming certified as a FINRA arbitrator, taking on paid tech projects, serving on the town’s Wetlands and Conservation Commission and the community’s Board of Directors as the representative for the youth programs, volunteering at her children’s school, training for the New York City Marathon, and searching for the legal position that will be a good match for her skills and her commitment to remaining available to her family. Such a balancing act is unsurprising, given Joan’s ability to simultaneously excel at law school (she made Dean’s list every semester), engage multiple judicial internships, and be present to her then diaper-clad children. When asked how she did it, Joan replied “Time management is my superpower. I knew what my priorities were and built a routine around them. Errands will always be a low priority for me, I do most of them on my phone – sometimes I buy groceries at the gas station while filling my tank…”

When asked what she envisions for her legal career, Joan replied, “I’m still trying to figure this out. In tech, I always had a lot of flexibility and even though coders are predominately male, it’s actually a great fit for women and work-life balance. … I’ve found that law is not so progressive, so it’s a little tricky to get started at this stage in life. I have met a lot of moms who are lawyers but not practicing, even though they would like to be in some form. Apparently, the way law is generally practiced today is not conducive to being the primary parent. I think there’s an opportunity here, especially with the demand for legal services, but I haven’t figured it out yet.” There is one thing though that has become clear– there is a place in the legal services world for tech skills like Joan’s.

 


LiveHelp is an online chat service designed to help users navigate legal aid websites and locate legal information, resources and referrals. LiveHelp volunteers offer individuals real-time assistance by pointing the way towards resources written in plain language about their legal problem and/or by helping them identify a free legal aid organization for representation or advice. LiveHelp operators are primarily law students and law graduates, working under the supervision of an attorney.

LHNYLawHelpNY, a program of Pro Bono Net, is New York’s leading online tool for helping low-income New Yorkers find solutions to their legal programs. Available in both English and Spanish, it provides and promotes access to high-quality online information about free legal services throughout New York, legal rights in a broad range of substantive areas, the court system, and related advocacy, government and social service organizations.

Are you an In-House Counsel with a resolution to do Pro Bono work in 2016? Are you a non profit looking to engage In-House Counsel volunteers? Watch this free webinar provided by the Practising Law Institute, partnered with Pro Bono Net!

To kick off the 7th Annual National Celebrate Pro Bono Week this past October, the Practising Law Institute partnered with Pro Bono Net to host a free webinar about matching up interested In-House counsels with pro bono projects and programs. The webinar, “In-House Counsel and Pro Bono – Making the Match,” was moderated by Pro Bono Net’s Pro Bono and Special Initiatives Coordinator, Niki DeMel, and featured panelists who were able to shed light on partnerships and programs with in-house counsels, including how they encourage participation, effectively run in-house counsel pro bono programs, and work with partners.

Each of the three panelists spoke about their organization’s efforts and they are outlined below.

Rachel Epps Spears, Executive Director for the Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta, discussed some of the challenges faced by in-house counsel in doing pro bono work, and how organizations can work with them to mitigate some of these challenges and garner participation. The most common issues voiced by in-house counsel include that they are not litigators, have no malpractice insurance, are not licensed in jurisdiction, have no pro bono infrastructure, have fewer colleagues than other attorneys, pro bono is not rewarded/recognized/allowed, and they don’t have enough time. Rachel offered various solutions and considerations to take into account when encouraging participation by in-house counsels. Her solutions, and more about how Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta works with in-house attorneys, can be found by watching the webinar here: http://bit.ly/1j7MveU.

Beth Henderson, Chair of Pro Bono Steering Committee at Microsoft Corporation, discussed several considerations that need to be made when creating and maintaining a successful in-house pro bono program. This included four very specific questions that should be asked when getting started: How do you define a successful in-house pro bono program; Is this something leadership supports and is willing to promote; Do certain countries restrict the provision of pro bono representation; How will you measure pro bono participation? After addressing these concerns, Beth highlighted some strategies to effectively manage an in-house pro bono program: Work with partners to develop pro bono opportunities that align with company interests and availability of potential volunteers; Develop an effective channel for evangelizing pro bono opportunities; Recognize the contributions and efforts of volunteers and partners; Highlight the value that pro bono service brings to the company. To learn more about these considerations and strategies, watch the webinar here: http://bit.ly/1j7MveU.

Carol Bockner, Director of Pro Bono Initiatives at the City Bar Justice Center for the NYC Bar Association, discussed how Legal Service Providers can partner with in-house counsels to perform pro bono work. These kinds of partnerships present different challenges as partnerships rather than individual programs and so require different considerations and solutions. Carol suggests that there are specific elements that are required for a successful partnership including identifying a point person at the corporation who is managing the pro bono program, and developing strong communication between the Legal Service Provider and the In-House pro bono professionals. To hear more about these elements and best practices for these partnerships, watch the webinar here: http://bit.ly/1j7MveU.

Interested in volunteering?  Check out our “Volunteer Tools” page to learn about the range of resources we have at Pro Bono Net to help mobilize and engage pro bono volunteers, or start searching for opportunities right now by using our national Pro Bono Opportunities Guide!

 


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.