Originally published by NYS Office of Victim Services

New York, NY (October 1, 2018) – The New York State Office of Victim Services today announced a new website connecting crime victims with information and free civil legal assistance is being piloted in three Western New York counties, allowing victims to learn about their rights and connect with resources or legal representation. Established using $1.5 million in federal funds secured by the state agency, the New York Crime Victims Legal Help website will initially serve Erie, Genesee and Niagara counties and will expand to serve crime victims Upstate and on Long Island by the end of 2019.

Continue Reading New York Crime Victims Legal Help being piloted in Erie, Genesee and Niagara counties

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.

Professional Pic

On June 23rd 2016, the New York State Permanent Commission on Access to Justice, in partnership with NYSTech, held the New York Statewide Civil Legal Aid Technology Conference. Pro Bono Net’s summer legal intern was in attendance and offers her perspective on the conference below. Darlene Mottley is a 2L student at Brooklyn Law School in New York. 


As a first time attendee of the 2016 New York Statewide Civil Legal Aid Technology Conference, I was inspired by the heartfelt commitment displayed by members of the civil legal aid community towards the goal of making justice available to all.

My day began by attending a panel composed of various key players in the tech and legal world currently developing innovative technology that would soon be available to the civil legal services community to help serve their clients. I assumed the panel would specifically discuss how to use the technologies and where to gain access to them. Instead, surprisingly, the panel discussion centered on the developmental strategies employed by the different design teams to ensure the final web programs and mobile applications would be user friendly and accessible by the target audience.

CLA Conf. Graphic 1Another major focus item was the concept of privacy and the importance of ensuring that programs created to help low-income civil litigants protected their personal information. I thought the privacy discussion was a good reminder that not only should the civil aid community be focused on using innovative technology to promote access to justice, but such innovation should not be at the expense of sacrificing the privacy of the individuals such programs are designed to help. As I sat through various panel discussions throughout the day, it was clear that in order for technology to have a successful and prominent role in promoting access to justice, technologies would have to be designed from the perspective of end-users.

Out of all the technologies presented, there were two innovations I found the most fascinating. First, the Statewide Access Portal Project, run by the Legal Service Corporation in partnership with Pro Bono Net and Microsoft, and second, the Human-Centered Design to Build Tools for Access to Justice, run by Blue Ridge Labs at Robin Hood.

The goal of the Statewide Portal Project was to develop a unified online system that all civil legal aid providers could use for intake and triage efforts. The ability to streamline the intake and triage process would help legal aid providers be able to best assess the needs of a client and place clients in contact with the most appropriate legal help. With a unified system, data could easily be transferred and multiple legal aid partners could work simultaneously to help an individual if so required.

Blue Ridge Labs is conceptualizing the possibility of developing an application that would allow users to essentially self-triage and access free legal information from their mobile devices. User testing plays an invaluable role in the development of the company’s programs. The Design Insight Group is a paid user-testing group that tests programs currently in development for several months and record their experiences along the way. The company uses the group’s feedback to alter problematic aspect of the program and rethink their design approach.

Both of the aforementioned technologies addressed important issues the civil legal aid services community faces when looking to develop technologies for individuals in need of legal aid:

  • accessibility of the program;
  • technology that is user friendly in both usability and comprehension; and,
  • technology that can be used across the board by multiple legal aid providers.

Keynote speaker, Seth Andrews, senior adviser in the Office of Technology and Policy at the White House, addressed all of these reoccurring themes in an impassioned presentation. Drawing reference to the challenges the White House faced in updating many federal government websites, he encouraged leaders in the civil legal aid community to work together to reach goals in promoting access to justice, and also to align their projects with more popular technologies. For instance, promoting an application that allows pro se litigants to independently fill out necessary court forms for a court proceeding on a platform like Facebook or Twitter.

There is still much to figure out regarding how technology can best be used to close the justice gap. However, the civil legal aid community has already taken several progressive leaps in accomplishing their goals. I had an enriching experience at the conference and I look forward to seeing what happens in the civil legal aid community with technology in the near future.

Several Pro Bono Net staff members participated in panels in the conference: Mark O’Brien, Executive Director; Niki DeMel, Pro Bono and Special Initiatives Coordinator; Mike Grunenwald; Program Coordinator; Tony Lu, Product Manager, Immigration Advocates Network; and Sandra Sandoval; Citizenshipworks Program Manager, Immigration Advocates Network.

Yesterday, LawHelpNY (www.LawHelpNY.org), a family of online legal information and referral Internet portals for low and moderate income New Yorkers, announced the launch of its LiveHelp chatting service for visitors to the New York State Unified Court Systems website, CourtHelp (www.nycourthelp.gov).  The LiveHelp service will allow site visitors  to chat with operators who can guide them to legal resources and organizations that may be able to assist them in their case. The initiative is a collaborative effort of multiple organizations working to create a more seamless and integrated help system for vulnerable New Yorkers seeking assistance with legal problems.

Since 2010, LiveHelp operators, primarily trained law student volunteers, have assisted individuals visiting the LawHelpNY website who are often facing serious legal problems, but can’t afford a lawyer. LiveHelp will now be available to visitors on the foreclosure pages of the CourtHelp website, primarily homeowners facing foreclosure, as well as tenants of buildings in foreclosure.

Overwhelmingly, homeowners in foreclosure cases in New York State appear in court without counsel, while 100% of the plaintiffs are represented. It is this disparity, as well as the potential devastating impact on families of losing their home in foreclosure, that led to the selection of this particular topic for which to offer LiveHelp assistance on the CourtHelp website. Visitors to the website can click the button (shown below) to access the service. The button is available on 10 foreclosure-related webpages on CourtHelp. An example can be found at the following link: http://nycourts.gov/courthelp//Homes/foreclosures.shtml.

Press Release Image LHNY




The project is funded by an LSC (Legal Services Corporation) Technology Initiative Grant awarded to Legal Assistance of Western New York. The initiative serves as a pilot to explore the effectiveness of providing real-time assistance to unrepresented litigants visiting the CourtHelp website to further close the justice gap in New York State Courts.

This project is a groundbreaking collaboration in the provision of assistance to unrepresented litigants, bringing together LawHelpNY, the New York State Courts Access to Justice Program, and Pro Bono Net. These organizations collaborated closely to launch the initiative – installing coding, developing operator scripts, and training LiveHelp operators.

“We believe that for individuals going to court on their own who face the very real prospect of losing their home, having the ability to make a connection with an individual who can help, even if it’s in some small way, pointing them to resources or information, can have a significant impact,” said Rochelle Klempner, Chief Counsel, New York State Courts Access to Justice Program.

In making LiveHelp available to visitors on the foreclosure pages of the CourtHelp website, LawHelpNY hopes to expand its reach to serve even more low and moderate-income New Yorkers, in particular those who are facing the dreaded prospect of losing their home.


An article appeared today in the New York Law Journal about the project. You can view that article here on probono.net courtesy of New York Law Journal.


This year, Pro Bono Net celebrated our 15th Anniversary. As we reflect back on the past 15 years, we caught up with a few individuals who were critical to our early growth and development. Below is an interview with Michael Cooper, Pro Bono Net Founding Board Chair. His understanding of the justice gap and support for new ideas were critical during Pro Bono Net’s early years. Mr. Cooper continues to sit on the Pro Bono Net board, and we are very grateful for his continued passion for our mission. 

Pro Bono Net: How did you first become involved with Pro Bono Net?

Michael Cooper: My recollection is that, as I was finishing up a term as President of the New York City Bar Association around May of 2000, Mark and Michael just asked to meet with me. I didn’t know either one of them— I didn’t know their names, I didn’t know anything about them.  But they just asked to meet with me and I said sure.

Michael Cooper
Michael Cooper accepting his award for dedicated service to Pro Bono Net as the Founding Board Chair.

They described their concept of facilitating the connection between the users of legal services and the providers of those services, whether they be lawyers in private practice or the Legal Aid Society or any other organization. And I’m a luddite, I do use the laptop, but I don’t have an iPhone, I don’t have an iPad – I’m really not technology-oriented. But I have devoted a lot of thought, for a long time, to the justice gap.

I guess it was just before I became President of the City Bar in the late 90s, Chief Judge Judith Kaye asked me to chair a task force to try and find permanent funding for legal services. I don’t remember the names of many of the people from the task force, but we got this idea, which I thought was brilliant, to tap the Abandoned Property Fund.  In New York, because there are lots of bank accounts, insurance policies, and dividends that don’t get claimed, this fund is $300 million a year. So we said okay, let’s assign $25 million a year to legal services, and we drafted a statute. I went up to Albany with this idea, and I went to see the Governor’s Secretary and he said, “That’s a really good idea why don’t you go to see the Senate Majority leader.”  So I went to see his Chief of Staff, and he said, “Well that’s a very good idea, see how it strikes the Speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver.”  So I went to see Sheldon Silver and he said, “That’s a very good idea, why don’t you run it by the governor.”  And then I realized I was never going to get anywhere.

So I had this awareness of the gap and frustration with efforts to fill it.  Although I’m not technology-savvy, I intuited that Pro Bono Net had an idea that was potentially invaluable. If you can’t diminish the needs, and they never seem to diminish, and you can’t increase the resources, then you have to make them connect more effectively. So intuitively, I said this is a great idea and I signed up. They asked me if I would be the Board Chair, I signed on, and then it just grew.  I looked away and then looked back and all of a sudden there were two new national sites, and other great leaps.

PBN: How was Pro Bono Net different from the other legal services organizations you had been involved with?

MC: The other legal services organizations that I knew, they all gathered lawyers together, but they basically were providing or arranging for the provision of the service – they were only one part of the equation. The genius of Pro Bono Net was that it connected both parts, originally through probono.net and LawHelp, and then we had this dramatic incident – the World Trade Center attack.  Pro Bono Net created a site for volunteer lawyers, there were more than 2,000 of them at the City Bar, who were willing to help but didn’t know how to find people in need.  Then it has gone on to create sites for Katrina, the tornadoes, and Sandy. That was a very dramatic example of this new concept of using technology to bring together the consumers and the providers.

PBN: How has Pro Bono Net evolved over the years?

MC: It seems like it grew up without my being aware of it. Gradually it accumulated more and more state sites, and two sites in Canada. I have been very interested the relationships that Pro Bono Net has established with the courts, in New York and elsewhere. There’s a huge potential for having a simple work station in a court house where somebody can get help.

PBN: As someone who is not a big technology user, could you discuss how you knew technology could have a powerful effect?

MC: I intuited it. I sensed that there was immeasurable potential there. But I didn’t really understand what it could do.

PBN: What role has PBN played in the broader access to justice movement, especially in terms of bringing technology to the movement?

MC: Well, I don’t know of anybody that was promoting the use of technology to bridge the justice gap – it’s really a very apt phrase – before Pro Bono Net. There was growing interest and capability in getting lawyers to volunteer their services, but there was some connector missing. It’s like having a power station in one place and 100,000 consumers with no electricity in another place and no wires between them.  There was no connection, and that’s what Pro Bono Net has provided.

PBN: What has motivated you to stay involved over the past 15 years?

MC: It’s the only organization where I wasn’t present at the birth, but I saw it in the nursery.  I just watched it grow and it has been such a joy to be there from day one and I want to continue.

PBN:  Is there any part of the growth that has surprised you?

MC: The connection with the courts – that may be the one thing that I didn’t see, or didn’t see it happening as fast, but it didn’t surprise me.

PBN: Where do you see Pro Bono Net going in the future?

MC: I think it’s going to be doing more of what it’s doing.  I’m sure that there will be development of additional national sites – take an example of something that’s been recognized fairly recently, so called human trafficking, there will be additional sites as additional needs arise. I suspect that there are still going to be additional states that will want to work with Pro Bono Net as well. Where else it’s going, I just don’t know, but I sure as hell would like to be along for the ride.

There are over 4,000 online forms on LawHelp Interactive, the largest national online document assembly platform designed specifically to meet the needs of low-income communities and the legal aid providers that serve them.

Forms are available in various areas of law and for a range of audiences. By and large, family law is the area with the greatest number of interviews posted and documents assembled. For example, in looking at the most recent quarter of statistics, from June to September 2014, 135,459 interviews were done in the family law area (excluding guardianship/conservatorship), compared to 12,408 housing forms, another area of great need for help and forms.

However, when diving in and looking at the numbers more carefully, it is striking to see that there are not a lot of domestic violence pleadings posted in LHI. This comes as a surprise, since all states have a uniform domestic violence form instead of forms that vary county by county, and the many benefits to survivors of being able to ask for protection from outside a courthouse from safe locations..

Divorce forms account for approximately 40% of resources and assemblies in LHI. Divorce and separation and annulments, including debt relief make up about 54,000 of all the assemblies during this period (out of 135,549 totals). Compared to this, DV form assemblies (at 19,214) make up only 14% and  pale in comparison. However, when diving in and looking at each state, there are some states that are having enormous success in the utilization of their DV and protection online forms; in these states the courts have whole-heartedly embraced online forms as part of their self-help strategies online and in brick and mortar self-help centers.

In New York, the NY Courts through their DIY form initiatives are seeing good use of their online form interviews that help survivors obtain protection orders. In fact, in New York DV protection order document creation via LHI is almost at par with Divorce/Separation/Annulment. In New York, 4391 Orders of Protection were created from June to September 2014. This success is mostly due to the e-filing initiative that was piloted out of the Bronx County self-help center which has now expanded to all judicial districts in New York and is part of a collaboration between Safe Horizon, Pro Bono Net, and other partners to make the forms available to survivors at self-help center with the assistance of trained advocates.

In Minnesota, also the home of an innovate e-filing project, a 1,612 forms were created for DV survivors in the 3rd quarter of 2014. In August 2014, the Minnesota Courts restarted an e-filing pilot that allows survivors to file DV protection requests through the Minnesota MyCourts page. This pilot recently won a State Innovation Award from the Humphrey School of Public Policy. Over 680 harassment petitions and orders for protection have been filed at the Hennepin County self-help center through the pilot.

Another state that is seeing great utilization of online forms is California. In California, the courts are using online forms in self-help centers that provide services in person with the Riverside Self-Help Center providing assistance online. During this period, over 6,700 DV assemblies were created (34% of all family law documents created across the state). The bulk of these assemblies come from Riverside County. In January 2014 they started making the online forms available for filing through faxing using the LHI platform to let survivors access the forms online from safe shelters, police departments, and other locations. Part of this volume is also explained by the partnership between Neighborhood Legal Services in Los Angeles and the LA Superior Courts through the Domestic Violence Self-Help Assistance project (DASH)—which has been allowing survivors to create protection orders and file them in person at over 5 self-help centers for years.

The benefits of providing online DV forms are many. DV forms are a natural form to automate given that as mentioned before there are statewide DV forms available in each state. So instead of having to create county-by-county forms—a legal aid or court wanting to automate a form could create a statewide form with the same level of effort. Once a form is available online either through select self-help centers or survivors assistance projects, the form could be e-filed from any safe location, as NY courts and Minnesota Courts are doing. For survivors, who generally are working under difficult financial conditions, often are afraid of running into the abuser in person, and might be trying to protect their children, and keep their home safe while living in danger, avoiding the trip to the court is an amazing improvement. They can ask for their protection form from a shelter (as they do in Idaho, Los Angeles and surrounding counties and Riverside), they can do it a police station with the help of a trained officer or with the help of survivors services, or at a DOJ Justice Center (as they do in Los Angeles), or they can do it from a library, or a virtual self-help center, as they do it in Arkansas or Washington State.

October is DV awareness month. Legal nonprofits and those working on Access to Justice need to consider making easy-to-use online DV pleadings available to their communities. Working with courts to accept the pleadings produced, and promoting the forms so that shelter workers, and other survivor advocates can access the forms and help survivors complete them, can go a long way in protecting a life.  Survivors should not be required to take time off from work and spend an entire day to get the benefits of a protection order. Access to Justice should be reachable from anywhere at anytime, including after hours. Incorporating e-fillable self-help friendly forms into survivor advocacy projects and working in partnership with providers that already work with these groups, including civil legal aid non profits, will go a long way in removing some of the difficulties and barriers when they need to figure out how to protect themselves, their children, and their homes.

In June, Pro Bono Net partnered with LSNTAP to produce a webinar on technology tools for Limited English Proficiency communities. Moderated by Mirenda Watkins of Pro Bono Net, the webinar examined some of the challenges of creating and maintaining multilingual tech tools and showcased possible solutions to these challenges through innovative examples in the legal technology community.

With 25 million people in the US classified as LEP, the webinar first explored the challenges of using technology to help the LEP community navigate the legal system. Rochelle Klempner, Chief Counsel of the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program covered the difficult task of updating multilingual forms, including document assembly programs, written self-help materials, training materials, videos, webpages, posters, flyers, signs, and more when something changes. She provided some great tips on how to keep these resources current.

Additionally, Kathy Daniels of Statewide Legal Services of Connecticut discussed the fotonovela video project, an alternative solution to the challenge described above. A fotonovela uses photos with conversation bubbles and is similar to a comic book. She has developed PDF and video (with audio) resources in the fotonovela format. Daniels noted that the videos can be easily modified for additional languages and adapted to almost any legal topic or jurisdiction.

Sandra Sandoval of the Immigration Advocates Network also presented on CitizenshipWorks, a collection of multilingual online tools and resources that assist the public and advocates involved in the naturalization process. Resources are accessible via a mobile application, SMS text, and LiveHelp. Multilingual resources include document assembly tools and an e-learning module.

Lastly, Mike Monahan of the State Bar of Georgia Pro Bono Project / Georgia Legal Services Program covered resources his program developed for attorneys assisting LEP clients. He demoed their online MCLE videos, as well as an SMS tool that allows attorneys to text for interpretation and other resources.

The webinar was well attended, with lots of great questions. Materials from this informative webinar are available on the SWEB Support Site, and be sure to join us for the next LSNTAP/PBN webinar!

In the fall of 2009, Squire Sanders (which became Squire Patton Boggs on June 1 through a combination with Patton Boggs) launched the Public Service Initiative (PSI), a new model of pro bono delivery that enables the firm to 1) devote more time and resources to taking on complex cases and 2) assist pro bono attorneys across the country with needed services such as communications and public relations consultants. In particular, the PSI focuses on death penalty, prison, and innocence cases, which can be years-long efforts requiring substantial groundwork and investigation to litigate. Squire Patton Boggs hired George Kendall to develop and run the PSI.

A quick interlude for a moment of Pro Bono Net History: George was a member of the Pro Bono Net Board from 2004 to 2007. And now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

The two full-time attorneys assigned to the PSI, Corrine Irish and Carine Williams, devote 70% of their time to pro bono cases and the remaining 30% to paying matters. Through the PSI, Squire Patton Boggs is able to help close the justice gap by tackling cases that are beyond the scope of most pro bono attorneys. Rather than be discouraged by the cost and time of complex pro bono litigation, Squire Patton Boggs has developed a model that allows them to devote a large law firm’s attention and resources to these difficult cases.

Recently, Squire Patton Boggs collaborated with Holland & Knight and Miller & Chevalier to represent Richard Cooper, a 30-year resident of Florida’s death row. In 1982, Cooper was convicted of capital murder in a case where the only evidence presented in his defense was his mother’s testimony. His trial counsel did not attempt to discover any other evidence. George began working on the case in 2004 at Holland & Knight and brought it with him to Squire Patton Boggs and the PSI in 2009. In 2011, a federal appeals court overturned the death sentences, but the Florida DA filed for a retrial despite Cooper’s “remarkably positive record.” The case was finally resolved in May with Cooper receiving three life sentences.

In 2013, the PSI was able to marshal its unique resources to overturn the 1974 murder conviction of Herman Wallace, an innocent man who spent 41 years in solitary confinement. Wallace was convicted of murdering a prison guard despite an absence of physical or forensic evidence, and on the testimony of witnesses influenced by the state. Over the next 26 years, Louisiana steadfastly refused to disclose evidence necessary for Wallace’s defense. In 1990, Wallace appealed pro se and in 2005, while at Holland & Knight, George joined the case and a corresponding civil rights suit against Louisiana’s use of solitary confinement. When George moved to Squire Patton Boggs in 2009, he brought Wallace’s case with him to the PSI and after 19 unsuccessful years in Louisiana Courts, PSI lawyers filed a federal habeas corpus petition for Wallace in 2009. On October 1, 2013, US District Court Judge Brian Jackson declared Wallace’s conviction unconstitutional and ordered his immediate release from prison. Wallace, 71 and suffering from advanced terminal liver cancer, returned home to his family and passed away three days later.

The PSI provides Squire Patton Boggs with capacity to devote the time, resources, and care that is integral to success in these complicated and life-altering cases. George is particularly proud that Squire Patton Boggs has established a proven model for providing cost-effective and successful pro bono services on complex cases. Lawyers have a monopoly on the provision of legal services, but with that great power comes great responsibility and firms and the legal community can only fulfill their duty to meet the massive unmet demand for services through collaboration. As the PSI moves towards its 5-year anniversary, George hopes to fortify the initiative by taking on more difficult cases and fostering collaboration with other firms on costly and lengthy litigation.

On June 9th Pro Bono Net Executive Director Mark O’Brien and Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) Director Matthew Burnett participated in the inaugural conference of the New York Immigrant Assistance Consortium. Close to three hundred immigration advocates, legal service providers, government officials, and community members joined together to discuss how to better coordinate legal support for New York’s immigrant communities.

Pro Bono Net and IAN have been leading the conversation on the role of technology in helping to meet the inevitable increase in demand for services in the event of large scale changes to immigration law. O’Brien and Burnett moderated panels at the conference, sharing their knowledge and expertise with the wider New York immigration advocacy community. Both also sit on the Steering Committee of the New York Immigrant Assistance Consortium.

O’Brien moderated a panel on “Innovations in Outreach and Service Delivery through Technology.” Burnett joined the panel along with Adam Stofsky of New Media Advocacy Project, Jennifer Ching of Queens Legal Services and Lauren Burke of Atlas DIY. The panel focused on the existing work that is being done in the legal field – including IAN’s work developing cutting edge tools and approaches to increase access to justice for low-income immigrants, the role of technology in response to Superstorm Sandy, social media strategies for DACA and beyond, and the use of video and new media for community education and empowerment. The panel also discussed available opportunities for non-profits to engage with technology and the ways that technology can transform service delivery.

Burnett moderated a panel on “National Perspectives on Legalization Planning and Implementation.” Joining the panel were Charles Kamasaki of the National Council of La Raza, Larry Kleinman of CAPACES Leadership Institute, and Michelle Sardone of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC). The group focused on preparing for large-scale immigration reform, and discussed lessons of past immigration reform efforts, the importance of planning for local issues, and current efforts to build capacity in the nonprofit immigration field.

“It was clear from the conference and the feedback from attendees that there’s much more to be done to plan and prepare for administrative or legislative changes to the immigration law,” said Burnett. “This conference was just the start of what I hope will become a larger conversation about how to more effectively meet the needs of New York’s diverse immigrant communities.”

Certain features of the American legal tradition are so fundamental as to be virtually sacrosanct: the adversarial system, attorney-client privilege, and pounding on the table to make a forceful point. Some basic assumptions underlie this model, including that lawyers provide litigants with beginning-to-end “full representation” in a case. To do otherwise has long been considered ethically questionable, if not explicitly forbidden, under rules of professional conduct.  However, when this model fails to provide representation of any sort for the millions of Americans engaged in potentially life-changing cases, it’s time to try some new thinking.

The Practising Law Institute recently presented an excellent program titled “Limited Scope Representation 2014: Ethical & Practical Challenges” that explored this relatively new approach to legal representation. “Limited scope” representation, in which a full attorney-client relationship is formed between lawyer and client for a brief period to address onlya discrete aspect or stage of a fuller legal matter, is increasingly seen as a way to bridge the justice gap for litigants who typically face important legal issues, for example housing rights or eviction prevention, without any legal counsel. The program held particular interest for me as I developed the first Volunteer-Lawyer-for-the-Day pilot for litigants in consumer debt cases in the New York City Civil Courts, under the auspices of the New York State Courts’ Access to Justice Program and its pioneering Director, the Honorable Fern Fisher.

The program was moderated by Liliana Vaamonde, Training Director of the Civil Practice for The Legal Aid Society, and featured an excellent lineup of speakers with unique experiences and points of view, including Professor Philip Genty of Columbia Law School (on the concept of unbundled legal services and recent disciplinary rule changes to endorse them), Brenna DeVaney of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meager & Flom LLP (on an innovative school-based program to provide limited-scope services to families in need), Lauren Donnelly of The Legal Aid Society (on the Housing Help program that provides a range of legal services from advice to full representation to prevent homelessness), and, of course, Judge Fisher herself, who is both a champion of the limited scope movement and a foremost expert on its theory and implementation.

The panelists touched on a number of key issues around the benefits and challenges of limited scope in a relatively short time, including the mechanics of limited scope representation (sign a new limited scope retainer for each brief engagement!), conflicts (see ABA Model Rule 6.5 and its state analogs), and its attractiveness to busy pro bono attorneys (help clients in need through a predefined time commitment, without the threat of becoming locked into an ongoing case). They were also careful to acknowledge the legitimate shortcomings of these models for certain subsets of litigants. For example, some litigants’ circumstances are legally complex, while others need a more meaningful and long-term relationship with a legal provider for reasons including domestic violence, age, or disability.

While all agreed that full representation for every client who needs it is the ideal, we live in the practical world, and it was inspiring to see PLI and these talented and thoughtful panelists explore these practical solutions.