Each year I and a cadre of Pro Bono Net staff have the privilege of attending the Equal Justice Conference. It provides a time to connect in person with partners and community members, share innovative projects, and meet new people from across the country. This is my fifth EJC, and watching themes emerge, morph and change remains one of my favorite parts of the conference. Below are a few of these themes from this year’s conference from a technology minded perspective.
Going Where Clients Are
Whether it is collaborative justice models, taking legal services to the suburbs, expanding pro bono engagement to nontraditional partners, or bringing on development staff to explore additional resources this year the traditional themes of engaging clients continued to evolve as the conversations and the tools also evolve. No where is this more true than in the technology-enabled access to justice sphere, where sessions focusing on reaching out to client populations through websites, videos, SMS campaigns and other methods joined sessions exploring virtual legal clinics and innovative partnerships to continue the dialogue focused on delivering information and services into the hands of those who need it most.
Once you’re there- Know how to engage!
This year, more than almost any other in my memory, workshops focused on a variety of cultural competency needs and lessons, and explored the needs of different client populations to integrate into our approaches. This is true in the in-person and online contexts, and this year’s session line-up reflected the unique needs in both these arenas.
Don’t divide and conquer- Identify and unite
This year, more than any other, the inner workings of decentralized collaborations seemed to be on everyone’s mind. These types of collaborations, where each partner is encouraged to play to their strengths and rely on others whose strengths complement their own, have long provided a staple of direct services collaborations, and continue to move to online spaces and partnerships. This was crystallized in the phenomenal keynote address by the Department of Justice’s Access to Justice Initiative Director, Lisa Foster when she posited:
We need to assess our community’s strengths and weaknesses and then coordinate and integrate services. We can’t afford to be duplicative or competitive.
These word have never been more true in direct services, national strategy, and in our next steps to implement technology-enabled solutions to address the needs of low-income individuals. The full text of this speech can be found at accesstojustice.net at http://accesstojustice.net/2015/05/08/doj-atj-initiative-director-lisa-foster-keynote-at-equal-justice-conference/ with a great blog by Richard Zorza focused on this keynote and other aspects of EJC.
These are just a few of the many themes heard around EJC this year. As always, it was a great conference with great conversations, and we are all looking forward to Chicago in 2016!