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

Ethics discussions can be incredibly complicated. Often the correct ethical decision is dependent on multiple factors and interpretations. While usually ethics discussions focus on what a lawyer can do, Jennifer Kroman, Director of Pro Bono Practice for Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, and the panel for the Practising Law Institute’s webinar “Ethical Issues in Pro Bono Representation 2015” ask pro bono attorneys to focus on what a lawyer can and should do in order to provide the best service to the client.

For pro bono attorneys, it is important to bear in mind the best interests of the client beyond the usual ethics as an attorney. Many clients in need of pro bono services may also be facing additional legal and other challenges that make their situation unique. Through the use of several hypothetical situations, the panel walked through various ethical issues that commonly arise while providing volunteer or pro bono service. From client-attorney relationship concerns to best practices, PLI’s webinar provides information and recommendations from experts in the field on the best ways to handle ethics quandaries that arise in practice.

For example, the first hypothetical situation handled a domestic abuse client seeking pro bono assistance who already had a lawyer handling an immigration claim. Unfortunately, in this hypothetical, the immigration claim submitted by the client’s other attorney did not align with the information the client provided to the pro bono attorney. The questions that arise in this situation hold various ethical connections and concerns.

First, should the pro bono attorney request to take on the additional immigration law dynamic? This question should be dependent on the pro bono attorney’s understanding and experience of immigration law, as well as the consideration of the client’s best interests. It also begs the question of how the pro bono attorney should discuss this option with the client themselves.

Many clients have difficulty deciding which lawyer to trust, and what decisions to make without a full and complete understanding of their rights and options. It is ethically, as well as practically, important that the attorney be honest and clear with the client, provide information and options in plain language so the client can understand, and allow the client to make their own decisions.

From here the hypothetical continued allowing the panel to discuss ethical questions that arise when dealing with immigration law, remediating false immigration statements, and providing multifaceted service to clients with multiple legal concerns.

The second hypothetical handles a situation of attorney client relationships when the issue of confidentiality is involved. In this hypothetical there are two individuals who are potential clients, a mother and her son. The son was referred to the attorney by the mother’s social worker who is currently in the hospital, and discusses various issues in regards to the mother’s housing situation. The son has moved in with the mother to help take care of her and to help with the rent. However, the intended client is the mother. Therefore, it is imperative for the attorney to make it very clear who they intend to represent, and ensure that if in representation of both clients, that they do not have any conflicting interests.

In this particular hypothetical, the mother has a complaint against the son which complicates the matter ethically. In the webinar, the panel discussed what these issues are and what options are available to the mother, son, and attorney in a situation of that kind.

With three additional hypotheticals, the panel discussed legal ethics hotlines, client retainer forms, unauthorized practice of the law, and best practices for speaking with clients who need translators. Access to this webinar is available here: http://bit.ly/1Nn8s2u

Co-chairs:

Professor Bruce A. Green – Director and Louis Stein Professor, Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics, Fordham University School of Law

Louis S. Sartori – Director, Pro Bono Practice, The Legal Aid Society

Panelists:

Erin M. Correale – Compliance Director, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Jennifer L. Kroman – Director of Pro Bono Practice, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP

Randye Retkin – Director and Founder, LegalHealth, New York Legal Assistance Group

Janet Sabel – Chief Deputy to the New York State Attorney General, New York State Attorney General Office (for institutional affiliational purposes only)

Program Attorney(s):

Janet L. Siegel – Program Attorney, Practising Law Institute

 



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.

Stanley Ramdhany Pro Bono Net Development & Communications Intern Summer 2015
Stanley Ramdhany Pro Bono Net Development & Communications Intern

 

Stanley Ramdhany is a senior at Columbia University majoring in Sociology with a particular interest in the field of law and society.   He interned at the New York office of Pro Bono Net in the summer of 2015 as a Development & Communications Intern. 

On July 16, 2015, I had the privilege of attending a webinar hosted by Lauren E. Aguiar and Susan B. Plum at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, & Flom LLP entitled “Innovative Uses of Technology in Your Public Interest Practice.”  Skadden Arps is part of our Leadership Circle, an elite group making a significant investment in the work of Pro Bono Net to increase access to justice. The webinar was presented by and addressed towards Skadden Fellows, distinguished lawyers devoted to innovative public interest work who are recipients of a fellowship from the Skadden Foundation.  Claudia Johnson, Pro Bono Net’s Program Manager of Law Help Interactive, was one of the panelists on the webinar, and graciously discussed some of the issues raised during the event with me.

In the field of public interest work, Claudia Johnson is renowned as one of the first law professionals to address the union between technology and legal aid.  On the topic of how she first entered the field, Claudia stated, “I decided to go to law school at U Penn, and there I fell in love with public interest work, by working with DV victims in Northern Philadelphia. At this point, I was very interested in national origin discrimination and LEP advocacy, so I did my Skadden Fellowship on language access for Medicaid/disabled communities with focus on LEP groups.”  It was there that Claudia first focused on the union of legal services and technology:  “I wanted to have a way to track patterns by health care plan, zip code, and client demographics. So I was looking for a relatable multidimensional database—in 1997. That did not exist in legal services, so we had to build our own.”

For Claudia, the focus on LEP communities is a personal investment.  “I am one of the few Central American public interest lawyers I know in the US. I grew up in El Salvador and due to the civil war, my family moved to San Juan PR. […] I am usually the only Latina in the room, the only person who speaks languages other than English at home, often the only first generation immigrant.”

Claudia has spent her whole career in public interest work, having achieved other important successes with technology.   She spent eight years in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she “had the chance to work at VLSP with Tiela Chalmers who is now on our Board, and also with Haydee Alfonso who is now leading the legal advice line at Bay Legal. At Bay Legal, the LAL changed the way law was practiced in the Bay Area using 1930s technology in a good way, so that confirmed my interest in technology as a game changer to bridge the gap.”

Claudia later joined Pro Bono Net as the Program Manager of Law Help Interactive in 2008.  She stated that she joined PBN “to make online forms a ‘go to’ tool to improve access to justice.”  Very satisfied with her work thus far at PBN, she added, “The number of states using LawHelp Interactive has more than doubled since I started. Our usage rate is fantastic, and every day legal aid groups and their court partners rely on online forms to serve hundreds of persons per day. LHI is now integrated with court e-filing systems, legal aid CMS systems.”

Left to Right: Susan B. Plum, Director, Skadden Fellowship Foundation; Brooke Richi-Babbage, Founder & Executive Director, Resilience Advocacy Project; Adam Stofsky, Executive Director, New Media Advocacy Project; Dora Galacatos, Executive Director, Ferrick Center for Social Justice; Claudia Johnson, LawHelp Interactive Program Manager, Pro Bono Net.
Left to Right: Susan B. Plum, Director, Skadden Fellowship Foundation; Brooke Richi-Babbage, Founder & Executive Director, Resilience Advocacy Project; Adam Stofsky, Executive Director, New Media Advocacy Project; Dora Galacatos, Executive Director, Ferrick Center for Social Justice; Claudia Johnson, LawHelp Interactive Program Manager, Pro Bono Net.

Like Claudia, the other panelists at the webinar represent innovative and successful ventures in uniting technology with the delivery of legal aid to those most in need.  Each panelist in the seminar presented aspects of their work in legal services and public interest projects which related directly to technological innovation.  Claudia presented alongside Brooke Richi-Babbage, Founder and Executive Director of the Resilience Advocacy Project, Adam Stofsky, Executive Director at New Media Advocacy Project, and Dora Galacatos, Executive Director of the Ferrick Center for Social Justice.

The focal issue of the webinar, as stated by Claudia, is that “there aren’t enough lawyers for all of the people that have legal needs.”  These panelists advocate technology as a means to bridge the gap in access to justice between the disadvantaged populace and the limited number of lawyers available.  In particular, Claudia outlined three forms of traditional legal services that technology can supplement: information and referrals, advice or counsel in the form of online services, and legal representation.

Claudia specifically advocated for online services such as videos and web chats or forums.  When I followed up with her afterwards on these ideas, she discussed their utility in relation to filling out legal forms online: “Videos and graphics supplement the forms.  […] Before they start the form, they can watch a video about what the form will do for them, and what they need to complete it. Once they get the notice of hearing, they can watch a video for that. The beauty of videos is that they can be short and to the point. A good video can convey a lot of information in 2 minutes. Videos can be stopped and rewatched. So I think that videos that supplement forms (not inside forms) are the way to go. Also forms and webchat—not to answer questions about how to fill out a form, but to guide people to the forms and help them find other resources about the process the forms invoke are also a great combination.”

Even simple graphics do a great job of translating complicated legal procedure into universally comprehensible information.  Reviewing Pro Bono Net’s own use of graphics in its online services, Claudia remarked, “the mini-guides that LawHelp.org has created do this extremely well. But originally, I think it was the icon designs that Pro Bono Net first introduced in the early 2000s in its LawHelp platform that were genius. Those icons have survived 15 years, and replicated across the country. I hope the mini guides will continue to be created for the high volume areas of law.”

The utility of graphics and videos in facilitating the delivery of legal information was made salient in the comments of other panelists at the webinar also. Brooke Richi-Babbage underscored how the Resilience Advocacy Project used videos produced in conjunction with Adam Stofsky’s New Media Advocacy Project to explain the barriers faced by young urban fathers in the New York court system.  Visual media plays the dual role of making invisible individuals visible to legal services providers and making information accessible to navigate the legal system.

This observation led the panelists to emphasize the importance of knowing the context of access to justice in a given community.  On one level, this means networking with other public interest organizations in the area.  Claudia mentioned Richard Zorza’s Access to Justice Blog, where she serves as a commentator, as one such resource for the most cutting edge methods of technology integration in access to justice.   She also praised The Access to Justice Index, which gives metrics of where a state is ranked in access to justice in different categories, such as for LEP communities and those without lawyers.

The final topic addressed by the webinar was the issue of data and cyber security.  From my discussion with Claudia I learned that this is an especially delicate matter for legal services professionals who integrate technology into their work.  Claudia referenced the 2012 Model Rules of Professional Practice, which she interprets to mean that lawyers cannot be ignorant of tech security if they intend to use it to communicate with their clients.

Remote interaction between lawyers and clients is a trend Claudia forecasts for the future of the legal profession.  She argues that “by and large for most poor people, if they are going to be lucky enough to get a free lawyer most of them will still need to schlep to the court or the legal aid office, take the afternoon off from work, spend time and money to get there, park and walk and figure out what to do with the kids, to work with the lawyer. Through hotlines, advice is done over the phone and via fax and that is an established model. The challenge now for public interest law firms is to develop remote practices using online and hand held technology.”

However, there is a trade-off between security and convenience as there is in all areas of online services.  For Claudia, she encourages lawyers to think carefully about how they will employ technology in their communications with clients: “I don’t imagine clients who retain a lawyer to advise them expect lesser protection when they use Gmail or text messages to communicate with their lawyers. Clients are not aware there might be trade-offs between convenience and cyber risks. And I don’t know if lawyers tell their clients or give them the choice and the pros and cons of using SMS texting, email, or new and emerging technology to communicate with them about confidential matters or even if they give the clients a choice. They should.  In practice, I don’t know if retainers now include standard language on methods of communication and options for clients describing the trade-off between convenience vs. security. I hope so.”

Others in the panel had advice on the topic: firms and non-profits in the legal sector should identify the types of information being held internally, control who has access to it and know which systems are most vulnerable.  However, the issue of cyber security remains unavoidable if the legal profession is to move forward with continued integration of technology, and Claudia is right to start the discussion now.

The uncertain future aside, Claudia is optimistic about what organizations like Pro Bono Net had accomplished already.  “These concerns should not stop innovation. We just need to be thoughtful about it and clear and purposeful,” she advocated.

And indeed, I feel that panels on the integration of technology into legal services and public interest practice fulfill this goal of being thoughtful about innovation.  I hope to see more from Claudia and others in the field on the subject of access to justice and technology to promote remote services soon!

 


 

 

 

The Skadden Fellowship Program, described as “a legal Peace Corps” by The Los Angeles Times, was established in 1988 to commemorate the firm’s 40th anniversary, in recognition of the dire need for greater funding for graduating law students who wish to devote their professional lives to providing legal services to the poor (including the working poor), the elderly, the homeless and the disabled, as well as those deprived of their civil or human rights. The aim of the foundation is to give fellows the freedom to pursue public interest work; thus, the fellows create their own projects at public interest organizations with at least two lawyers on staff before they apply.

Damilola Kolade, Development & Communications Intern, Summer 2015
Damilola Kolade, Development & Communications Intern, Summer 2015

 

 

Author: Damilola Kolade is an Undergraduate student in her senior year at Binghamton University, currently studying English Literature and Rhetoric. Passionate about the work of advocacy and witnessing vulnerable and marginalized populations receive access to justice, she previously interned in ProBono Net’s Development and Communications department, and is now a student intern with the Legal Aid Society of Mid-NYC, Inc.

 

 

 

Young New Yorkers is an art-based restorative-justice intervention program founded by Columbia School of Architecture graduate, Rachel Barnard. Aimed at 16 and 17 years olds in the justice system who have been charged as adults, the initiative initially centered on empowering youth through art, to voice on issues concerning them and advocate for change. Since its successful startup in 2012, Young New Yorkers has soon evolved in a court-mandated program, wherein it serves as an alternative to adult sentencing upon its participants’ successful completion.

Young New Yorkers needs to be able to access and work with the confidential information in the youths’ files in a secure and convenient manner in order to provide the best and most successful experience for the youth involved. In order to accommodate the need for access to confidential files on the individuals in the program, the initiative utilizes Intralinks, a secure digital information sharing platform. Using Intralinks, all parties who need to can access the youth’s confidential information for a limited time while the youth is involved in the program. This technology allows Young New Yorkers to keep the confidential information in their care safe and secure, and properly run their program.

Rachel Barnard is a Percival and Naomi Goodman Fellowship recipient from Columbia University’s Advanced Architectural Design Program, and Executive Director of the public art project, Young New Yorkers (YNY). Adam Licht previously worked with Pro Bono Net for 8 years (2006-2014) as Director of Product Management and Business Development. He is currently the Director of Business Development at Intralinks. He has worked with various non-profit organizations, including Young New Yorkers, to provide state of the art security vital to protecting sensitive information involved in such environments.

We asked Rachel and Adam to answer a few questions on the work of Young New Yorkers and the role that the Intralinks technology has played in making this program a success.

Rachel, upon graduating from Columbia University’s Advanced Architectural Design Program, you received the Percival and Naomi Goodman Fellowship. How did your educational journey culminate into the Young New Yorkers initiative, which seeks to intervene on behalf of youth with misdemeanor through the use of art?

Rachel Barnard (RB): The proposal for which I won the Goodman Fellowship was for a public art project that I had called Young New Yorkers. The project’s goal was to give voice to 16- and 17-year-olds being prosecuted classified as adults and who are facing the life long collateral consequences of an adult criminal record. That we provided a platform for the young people to be heard on this issue was particularly important to myself and the YNY team given 16- and 17-year-olds are too young to vote and meaningfully impact change on an issue that effects them the most.

On winning the Fellowship I was struck by the significant responsibility of working with young people in the criminal justice system. The first ten months of starting Young New Yorkers was focused mostly on research and development. A working committee formed of 10-12 people, made up of public defenders, social workers, therapists, advocates, artists and architects. We met every three weeks to discuss this issues surrounding young people who are justice involved and exploring what a public art program could look like.

Young New Yorkers as a court-mandated program came out of this work, and out of Chief Judge Lippman’s call to “Raise the Age” from 16-years-old to 18-years-old when being prosecuted as an adult. We introduced our program to Judge Gubbay and to the Center of Court Innovation, and with their partnership it evolved into an alternative to adult sentencing rather than simply a project for young people to advocate for change.  However to this day the young people’s voices are central to our mission which is to provide arts-based transformative justice programs to court-involved young people, with the ultimate goal of transforming the criminal justice system through their own creative voices.

What is the vision behind YNY and how does it aim to bridge the gap in our criminal justice system?

RB: To provide court-mandated programs which provide a space for young people to take responsibility for their actions while giving them an opportunity to advocate for themselves, their communities and a social issue that is important to them. All of our programs culminate in a YNY Finale, a public art exhibition that is designed and implemented by the young participants. Members of the criminal justice system—including judges, defense attorneys, social workers, district attorneys, and court officers—are invited to attend YNY Finales, and to re-meet the young participants as creative, worthy contributors to their communities. Central to our commitment to a transformative justice model, our programs serve to shed light on the system, though the voices of the young people that we serve.

A recent article on InformationWeek suggests the uniqueness of the Young New Yorkers program, by highlighting a strong relationship between art and technology to in contributing to a successful impact. Why is this relationship of particular importance to you?

RB: Young New Yorkers makes use of powerful technology, like Intralinks, to maintain the integrity of our programming. Its secure systems ensures that the sensitive information of our young participants remains confidential, and the leaders of particular programs are the only ones who are able to access such information.

Adam, YNY has partnered with Intralinks VIA in this regard.  Could you elaborate on Intralinks’ role in this program and the decision to utilize this specific service?

Adam Licht (AL): The challenge that YNY has is that it must share information with third parties while protecting the sensitive information of minors, and a secure platform is needed to do this. The question to ask is: how secure is the platform? Intralinks has been around since 1996, handling the most sensitive information in the business world and has never been breached in its 18 years of supporting the largest commercial Merger and Acquisition deals in the world. A consumer grade platform, like DropBox does not have the level of security that would be needed for such sensitive and personal information. A hypothetical to describe this: someone shares out a document to someone in your program. If you email it, or someone downloads it from the traditional platforms, you no longer have control over that document, and they will be able to do whatever they’d like with it.” Intralinks, particularly Intralinks VIA, one of its product lines, helps to provide control over that information by allowing the owner of the document to control permissions at any time, even if it’s been downloaded.

Intralinks’ product can prevent screen capturing and printing. Unsharring is another feature, which allows the owner to revoke access to particular information; the document “calls home” to the server and if that individual no longer has permission to access the document, it will be denied. In these ways, Intralinks helps Young New Yorkers to maintain a high level of security while still being able to share sensitive information with those who need it within the program.

RB: All our files are stored in the Intralinks Cloud and are highly secure. Intralinks facilitates two essential things: First, it allows us to share files with different work groups with ease, and helps our teams to function seamlessly, even when many of our collaborators are working remotely; second, it has high levels of security so that information of the participants involved in our programs remain confidential. YNY’s primary purpose is to offer a space for the creative self-expression of our young, court-involved participants, and in doing so, facilitate the movement of our young people out of the criminal justice system. A significant part of our job is in keeping their participation confidential, IntralinksVIA ensures that that happens with relative ease on our part. There’s peace of mind knowing that those files are secure.

Young New Yorkers is in its early stages. Do you see any adjustments that might need to be made on the part of technology to better accommodate the program’s aims?

RB: Intralinks caters to large, complex organizations, with thousands of staff members. I don’t envision any challenges that will come up with IntralinksVIA, since their technology is powerful – I envision that we will simply be able to grow into it. 

AL: Intralinks handles issues that are much bigger in scope than this program. The company works with most of the largest banks in the world. These banks demand the highest level of security. Luckily, this means that any foreseeable accommodations and needs for the Young New Yorkers’ program have most likely already been met!

In the work of Young New Yorkers, the arts, the justice system, and technology come together to offer a powerful platform by which young students who had been prosecuted as adults may have an opportunity to creatively express themselves, develop emotionally and behaviorally, and through the integration of technology, be assured that their records are secured throughout the program, to the closing of their case.


About Young New Yorkers 

Young New Yorkers is a restorative justice, arts program for 16- and 17-year-olds who have open criminal cases.  The curriculum is uniquely tailored to develop the emotional and behavioral skills of the young participants while facilitating responsible and creative self-expression. 

About Intralinks

Trusted globally for nearly two decades, we bring collaboration and document sharing that’s safe, secure, compliant and fully auditable. Whether it’s documents or files, you can get work done quickly regardless of what you’re using at your desk or on the move — all you need is a browser and a web connection.

 

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need. We are celebrating Pro Bono Week, October 25-31, by honoring those dedicated volunteers. Each day we are spotlighting a pro bono volunteer in the community on our organization’s website in the Volunteer Profile section.
Today’s feature is authored by the Legal Aid Society and describes the recent success of class action lawsuit, Nunez v New York. The article speaks to a partnership between the Legal Aid Society’s Prisoners’ Rights Project and Pro Bono Counsel, Ropes & Gray, which was led by our featured volunteer, Bill Sussman, a business and securities litigation partner.  The piece reflects on 30,000 hours of pro bono work over a 3 year period and a continued and deepened commitment to pro bono by Ropes & Gray following the success of the case.
Bill Sussman, Ropes & Gray

 

For over 30 years, Bill has represented private equity and corporate clients, and their partners, officers and directors, in M&A and corporate governance disputes, antitrust matters, and complex business tort and contract disputes. Bill is co-chair of Ropes & Gray’s Pro Bono Committee, and is active in pro bono representations.

 

 

 

The Legal Aid Society Prisoners’ Rights Project, together with pro bono co-counsel Ropes & Gray LLP are proud to announce the settlement of Nunez v. New York, a class action lawsuit, brought along with Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP and later joined by the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”), to redress systematic excessive force in the jails in New York City.

On Oct. 21, Judge Laura Taylor Swain of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted final approval of the settlement, which outlines a comprehensive set of reform measures to be implemented by the Department of Correction.  Judge Swain called the settlement “groundbreaking” and noted that it “provides an important example for other correctional systems around the country.

The reform measures include:

  • A new use of force policy providing clear directions on when force may be used, and expressly limiting certain categories of force;
  • Revamped training to teach staff to defuse conflicts without force and avoid unnecessary injury to anyone when force is necessary;
  • Robust accountability measures, including requiring staff to report force honestly and completely, ensuring fair and professional investigations of use of force, and requiring fair and timely discipline of staff who misuse force;
  • Vastly expanded video surveillance, through stationary, handheld and body-worn cameras.

With the final court approval, the agreement becomes an enforceable federal consent decree, monitored by correctional expert Steve J. Martin of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. It requires the Department of Correction to implement new policies and practices to curb the rampant misuse of force and end the culture of violence which emboldens staff to abuse prisoners and lie about such abuse with impunity.
“We are proud of the work of our team of lawyers and other professionals on the Rikers Island case, which led to a landmark agreement to enact much-needed reform measures,” said David Chapin, managing partner of Ropes & Gray.  Ropes & Gray lawyers worked over 30,000 hours on the case over a three-year period on a pro bono basis. 

The firm will use the court awarded attorneys’ fees to fund public service initiatives, including:

  • Establishing the “Ropes & Gray Prison Reform Counsel” at Legal Aid’s Prisoners’ Rights Project (PRP). Funding the senior-level counsel position will allow the PRP to help ensure the City’s compliance with the Nunez agreement over its lifetime, and to fund its other public service projects.
  • Contributing funds to The Legal Aid Society to help that organization with its many and varied public service projects that help New Yorkers.
  • Funding an ongoing Ropes & Gray Fellowship in New York through Equal Justice Works, a public interest law program, for 10 years.
  • Financing expenses— which do not include cost of lawyers’ time—the firm incurred over the years its lawyers and other professionals worked on the Nunez case. Those include expert fees and expenses, the costs to set up a discovery database, expenses involved in taking depositions, and other case-related costs.
  • Dedicating the remaining fees to a special fund at Ropes & Gray, separate from the firm’s general budget, to be used exclusively for future pro bono expenses.

“It is all the more gratifying to put the attorney fees to good use to help ensure that the reform measures become reality and that other worthy public service projects can move forward. Our protocol is that any fees awarded to Ropes & Gray for its work on pro bono matters are used only for pro bono purposes —either at public service organizations or at the firm,” said Chapin.

“This agreement requires the City to make deeply important changes to the supervision of staff on Rikers Island, and reflects our view of the best path to reform,” said Jonathan Chasan, a supervising attorney at the Prisoners’ Rights Project. Staff Attorney Mary Lynne Werlwas added,  “These reforms will make the jails safer for inmates and staff, and reduce the number of serious injuries New Yorkers sustain while incarcerated.”

The New York-based Ropes & Gray team has been led by business & securities litigation partner Bill Sussman, government enforcement partner and Legal Aid Society Board member Chris Conniff, and former government enforcement associate Anna Friedberg.

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Ropes & Gray’s public service commitment is a hallmark of the firm, rooted in the example set by the firm’s founders nearly a century and a half ago. From securing asylum for endangered immigrants, to helping people keep their homes, to winning the release of the wrongly convicted, Ropes & Gray strives to provide the highest level of pro bono legal advice and support to those who need it most. Learn more here  If you want to learn more about the Rikers Island Pro Bono Case, watch this 5 minute video.
The Legal Aid Society is a private, not-for-profit legal services organization, the oldest and largest in the nation, dedicated since 1876 to providing quality legal representation to low-income New Yorkers. It is dedicated to one simple but powerful belief: that no New Yorker should be denied access to justice because of poverty.The Prisoners Rights Project featured in this article protects and enforces the legal rights of New York City and New York State prisoners through litigation, advice, and assistance to individual prisoners.

 

Once again we wish to thank all of the volunteers that continue to make our mission of increasing access to justice a reality. Come back each day this week to view the next Volunteer Profile spotlight!

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!

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need. We are celebrating Pro Bono Week, October 25-31, by honoring those dedicated volunteers. Each day we are spotlighting a pro bono volunteer in the community on our organization’s website in the Volunteer Profile section. As our second profile, we are spotlighting a piece on Christopher Mendez, a former volunteer at Volunteers of Legal Service (VOLS) NY, written by Bill Lienhard, its Executive Director.

Fifty Hour Pro Bono Requirement Prods Former Marine to Help Bronx Health Organization

Author: Bill Lienhard, Executive Director, Volunteers of Legal Service NY

Chris Mendez, Former Marine and Pro Bono Volunteer
Chris Mendez, Former Marine and Pro Bono Volunteer

 

 

Bill Lienhard, Executive Director of Volunteers of Legal Service (VOLS), shares this very special story about Christopher Mendez, a Senior Compliance Officer for Invesco Ltd, and a former Marine. This piece speaks to Chris’ journey through NY’s 50 hour pro bono requirement, his passions and time as a volunteer in VOLS Microenterprise Project, and the important work of his client, Community Health Worker Connections. 

 

 

 

 

With nearly 1,000 volunteer lawyers serving 3,000 clients each year, it’s not possible for me to get to know every client and volunteer and to take the time to understand the impact of pro bono legal assistance in particular cases.   Every so often, however, my feet get itchy, and I have to get out of the office, meet the people involved, and see what my organization, Volunteers of Legal Service (VOLS) is actually doing.

I was in this mood when, in response to a mass email to VOLS’ Microenterprise Project participants, I received this concise and enthusiastic email from Chris Mendez, a volunteer in the project:

“I believe you’ve been briefed on the pro bono work that I’m doing with Community Health Workers through SoBRO [South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation] to satisfy NY’s pro bono requirement for admission. The project is moving along nicely. I thought perhaps we can grab lunch or coffee in the coming weeks so that I may formally introduce myself and give you an update on the work that I’ve done and what I’ll be doing with them going forward.”

Here was my opportunity to get out there and see VOLS in action! Although VOLS focuses on recruiting lawyers from large law firms, and not on individual volunteers, I was curious to see, first hand, the impact of Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman’s requirement that people applying to become lawyers in New York State first complete 50 hours of pro bono service.   Who was Chris?  What was the impact of the 50 hour rule? Why was Chris volunteering? What was he doing? Who was he volunteering for and what impact was it having?  I decided to go and find out the story. I am very glad that I did.

Chris and I met for lunch near Bryant Park, and then again at his office at Invesco, where he works as a Senior Compliance Officer. Chris grew up in Mt. Holly, NJ, as the eldest of five children.  His father emigrated here from Guatemala in 1981 and his mother is from Florida.

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Volunteers of Legal Service is a New York based organization. It leverages the good will, resources, and talents of New York City’s leading law firms to provide pro bono legal assistance to the city’s neediest residents.  Through their projects, their attorneys provide pro bono assistance that helps reunite families, stave off evictions, resolve immigration issues, win vital government benefits, and start small businesses.

VOLS logo

 

 

 


Once again we wish to thank all of the volunteers that continue to make our mission of increasing access to justice a reality. Come back each day this week to view the next Volunteer Profile spotlight!

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!

Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need. We are celebrating Pro Bono Week, October 25-31, by honoring those dedicated volunteers. Each day we are spotlighting a pro bono volunteer in the community on our organization’s website in the Volunteer Profile section. To kick off the week, we are starting with Alicia A. Handy of Latham & Watkins in Houston, TX.

 

Alicia A. Handy is an Associate at the Houston Office of Latham & Watkins LLP. She is a member of the Environmental Transactions Practice and her practice focuses primarily on environmental, land and regulatory matters within the oil and gas industry. Ms. Handy has maintained an active pro bono practice that has included landlord-tenant and immigration matters, and a criminal appeal before the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

Why do you feel it’s important for you to do pro bono work? What motivates you?

I think it is important to do pro bono work because people should not be denied access to an attorney simply because they lack financial resources. The U.S. legal system is complicated enough for those of us who have attended law school, and the complexities often make it insurmountable for those who are trying to go it alone.

In addition to the ethical aspects of pro bono engagement, my personal experiences have shaped my views and understanding of the role of race and poverty on a person’s every day experience. I have spent countless hours listening and talking to family members about what it means to be black (or any minority) and/or poor in the U.S. I also went to school in one of the most segregated school districts in New York, which also had a high rate of student poverty. I have lost family, friends, classmates to drugs, prison, HIV/AIDS, and violence, some of whom were honor students, from “good” families, and seemed to have everything going for them. My experiences have shaped my perspective and have motivated me since the start of my legal career to do pro bono work.

What do you see as some of the most important area of need? What kind of cases does your firm/company prioritize?

The justice gap is wide and it’s hard to say where the need is greatest.

My firm works on matters across the public interest spectrum. In Houston, where I am based, we handle a number of immigration, estate planning, transactional, and veterans matters. We are also starting to handle more clemency and criminal justice matters.

So it is obvious that the need is overwhelming, but so is a busy work day: how do you find the time?

There’s no easy answer to this one. For me, pro bono engagement is a fundamental aspect of what it means to be a lawyer – it is important to me, it is important to my practice and it is important to this profession. If it is important enough to you, you find the time.


Latham & Watkins has a long-standing commitment to providing pro bono legal services, financial support and volunteer time to those most in need within our communities.Latham’s dedication to pro bono work is a source of pride and reflects a fundamental part of the firm’s culture. Each year, our lawyers and professional staff take on matters in nearly every area of public interest law, including veterans’ rights, asylum and immigration, domestic violence, Holocaust reparations, anti-human trafficking, prisoners’ rights, microfinance and social entrepreneurialism, children and civil rights.

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Once again we wish to thank all of the volunteers that continue to make our mission of increasing access to justice a reality. Come back each day this week to view the next Volunteer Profile spotlight!

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!

 

There has been a lot of interest in involving the talented cadre of in-house counsel into the pro bono volunteering world, and in recent years, tremendous momentum has been gathering.  In the spirit of the upcoming 7th Annual National Pro Bono Week, please join this one-hour briefing to learn more about the art of making the match.

Click here to register now!

Topics to be addressed in this free briefing include:

  • The experience of in-house counsel compared to law firm attorneys, and strategies to overcome concerns like time constraints, or lack of experience and resources;
  • Insight about the rewards of engaging in pro bono work and examples of successful in-house counsel volunteering programs and experiences;
  • A legal services organizational insight into engaging this community; and
  • Pathways to pro bono – volunteer opportunities and the tools available to help identify the right opportunity for you and to help you sustain your pro bono momentum.

We welcome all in-house counsel interested in pro bono.  Whether you are part of a small or large in-house department, with or without a formal pro bono program, a novice or experienced volunteer, we encourage you to attend.  Legal services organizations that are interested in engaging this important group of volunteers are also welcome.

Panelists:

  • Beth Henderson, Attorney and Chair of Pro Bono Steering Committee, Microsoft Corporation
  • Rachel Epps Spears, Executive Director, Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta
  • Carol H. Bockner, Director, Pro Bono Initiatives, City Bar Justice Center, NYC Bar Association

Moderator:

  • Niki De Mel, Pro Bono and Special Initiatives Coordinator, Pro Bono Net

 


Practising Law InstitutePLI is a Bronze level sponsor of Pro Bono Net. For more information or to register for the event follow Click Here, or copy and paste into your browser: http://bit.ly/1LCwISP 

 

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

 

Pro Bono To Go - Checklist Options
Pro Bono To Go – Checklist Options

Volunteer attorneys, paralegals and law students routinely work in field settings such as clinics, courthouses or community legal education events. Providing comprehensive support to legal volunteers in these settings can be challenging, but the ubiquity of mobile devices and tablets makes them ideal vehicles for supporting pro bono in these contexts. In Minnesota, Legal Aid Services of Northeastern Minnesota, Legal Services State Support and the State Bar of Minnesota worked with Pro Bono Net to create new solutions for legal professionals on the go.

Pro Bono to Go” is a mobile-optimized library of Interview Guides and Settlement Checklists designed for pro bono attorneys. The resources are available through ProJusticeMN.org, Minnesota’s statewide advocate site. Interview Guides contain questions that help attorneys and legal service providers navigate a client interview on a selected topic. Settlement Checklists include issues likely to be relevant to a settlement within the selected topic. While these guides and checklists will not cover every situation, the attorneys and legal service providers can adapt to the client’s situation using these resources as a road map.

Pro Bono To Go - Housing Law: Eviction Settlement Checklist
Pro Bono To Go – Housing Law: Eviction Settlement Checklist

The Interview Guides are intended to help gather important information from clients. Each guide contains a series of model questions to solicit information likely to be relevant to the topic area. The Settlement Checklists can help volunteers assist clients in reaching comprehensive settlements with adverse parties. Each checklist contains issues that should be discussed with the client, and issues to consider addressing in the client’s agreement.

By constructing a series of mobile-optimized client interview guides and settlement checklists to help volunteer attorneys and legal service advocates, ProJusticeMN and Pro Bono Net have given practitioners a powerful new tool as omnipresent as their smartphones. With so much information literally at their fingertips, attorneys and legal service providers are better able to serve those unable to afford paid legal services.

ProJusticeMN.org is a unique collaboration of the Minnesota public interest legal community. The Minnesota Legal Services Coalition, Minnesota State Bar Association, Legal Services Advocacy Project, and the federal Legal Services Corporation worked together to develop ProJusticeMN.org.

Mark O'Brien Pro Bono Net Co-Founder & Executive Director
Mark O’Brien, Pro Bono Net Co-Founder & Executive Director

“I Don’t Have a Pro Bono Coordinator in My Office, How Can I Do Pro Bono?”

This Tuesday, June 23rd, the NYC Bar Committee on Pro Bono and Legal Services and the Encouraging Pro Bono Outside Big Law Sub-Committee is offering a CLE-credited event entitled “I Don’t Have A Pro Bono Coordinator in My Office, How Can I Do Pro Bono?” to discuss the ways in which firms and attorneys with limited resources can still contribute to pro bono activities.

The panel will identify “how-tos” and best practices for attorneys seeking to perform pro bono services without institutional assistance, and provide an opportunity to network with people who are already doing it.

Pro Bono Net’s co-founder and Executive Director, Mark O’Brien is one of the panelists. In addition to participating in the panel, O’Brien will present a tutorial on the Pro Bono Net platform and how it can be used to overcome some of these challenges.

Other Panelists include:

Yacine Barry-Wun, Special Counsel for Housing Court Initiatives, New York State Courts Access to Justice Program;

  • Russ Bleemer, Program Coordinator, Monday Night Law Program, City Bar Justice Center;
  • Scott Kohanowski, Director, LGBT Advocacy Project, City Bar Justice Center; Staff Attorney, Foreclosure Project, City Bar Justice Center;
  • Sarah Diane McShea, Law Offices of Sarah Diane McShea.
  • Moderator, John H. Ogden, Of Counsel, Falcon & Singer P.C.

There will be an introduction by Debra L. Raskin, President of the New York City Bar Association and Partner at Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard, P.C.

We encourage you to join this important discussion. In addition to providing best practices, the event offers an opportunity to network with people doing pro bono work. Event information and registration details are available here.