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In honor of National Volunteer Appreciation Week 2015, which took place April 12-18, Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need. Each day during the week we took to social media to highlight a resource from Pro Bono Net to help volunteer attorneys and legal professionals with their work. Below is a list of those highlights.

We also released a press release thanking volunteer attorneys and legal professionals which can be found HERE. Once again we wish to thank all of the volunteers that continue to make our mission of increasing access to justice a reality.

Sponsored by Points of Light—National Volunteer Week was established in 1974 and has grown exponentially each subsequent year, with literally thousands of volunteer projects and special events scheduled throughout the week.

Pro Bono Opportunities Guide

Volunteer lawyers can connect to opportunities through the National Pro Bono Opportunities Guide, an online, easy-to-use, searchable directory of organizations providing pro bono opportunities across the country available through probono.net, the flagship site and namesake of Pro Bono Net. Legal professionals can search for opportunities through organization, topic and even location. The guide can be found here: http://www.probono.net/oppsguide/

The National Pro Bono Opportunities Guide is a joint project of the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, its project the ABA Center for Pro Bono, Pro Bono Net and contributing organizations. 

Pro Bono Libraries

Often volunteer attorneys are addressing legal needs that are outside their usual areas of experience or expertise.  The Pro Bono Net network offers a variety of practice libraries where volunteers can find information and resources that include training materials, model briefs and pleadings, case law, videos and other helpful information. The information is sorted based on subject matter, and is state specific to help volunteers access the information they need.

The Library tool is available to members of probono.net in both the national site and state sponsored websites. To become a member go to http://www.probono.net

Pro Bono Training Calendars

Many sites in our network feature calendars with listings of CLE training and other community meetings, lectures, or legal clinics. This tool provides information about training opportunities to assist Pro Bono attorneys and volunteers find the trainings they need since lawyers are not always working within their usual area of legal expertise. These trainings are also geographically sorted to help volunteers find trainings in their area.

The Pro Bono Net National Calendar can be found at http://www.probono.net/calendar/ and categorized by states. The network sites also have their own calendars.

LawHelp Interactive Forms

LawHelp Interactive (LHI) powers online forms that allow low-income people without access to a lawyer to prepare their own legal forms online for free. It can also be used by overstretched pro bono and legal aid attorneys seeking to work more efficiently. LHI supports volunteer attorneys in direct representation, limited scope and referral and screening contexts by helping them to do their pro bono work more efficiently and providing support in new areas of law.

Visit https://lawhelpinteractive.org/FindForms to find out if forms are available for nonprofit advocate and volunteer use in your state.

More Resources

Here is a listing of additional resources that Pro Bono Net helps to provide volunteer attorneys and legal professionals. For more information visit http://www.probono.net

Disaster Legal Aid http://www.disasterlegalaid.org/ – A national site designed to help advocates and volunteers navigate FEMA applications and appeals, and assist disaster survivors facing with other legal needs.

Pro Bono To Go in MN http://www.projusticemn.org/collections/   – A Minnesota statewide mobile tool which provides mobile guides and checklists to Pro Bono volunteers on their smart phones

The National Domestic Violence Pro Bono Directory http://www.probono.net/dv/ – Online searchable directory that provides access to volunteer opportunities related to Domestic Violence

The Immigration Advocates Network Volunteer Opportunities Guide http://www.immigrationadvocates.org/probono/volunteer – Online searchable directory that provides access to volunteer opportunities related to Immigration issues

Military Pro Bono http://www.militaryprobono.org/probono/ – Online resources and searchable directory that provides access to volunteer opportunities related to military and veteran issues

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.

 

 

 

Mirenda

 

Mirenda Meghelli is the LawHelp Interactive Program Coordinator at Pro Bono Net, where she works as part of a team to support and grow initiatives using LawHelp Interactive, an award-winning national online document assembly platform operated by Pro Bono Net in partnership with legal aid, pro bono and court access to justice programs across the country. Mirenda has been spearheading the LawHelp Interactive rebuild project, along with Doug Carlson, Pro Bono Net’s Director of Technology and Operations.

 

 

Each year, Pro Bono Net’s LawHelp Interactive (LHI) hosts a technical summit, a time to meet in-person with various LHI partners, grantors, consultants and stakeholders.  The summit provides an opportunity for these stakeholders, who are spread throughout the country, to meet in the same room and dedicate at least a full day to planning and evaluating various aspects of the LHI project. This March was my third year in attendance and we spent a lot of time engaging in strategic planning on LHI and how to support evolving partner needs and uses, as opposed to previous years in which there was a much stronger focus on coordination and planning of the LHI technical roadmap for the year.

Something that struck me about the 2015 technical summit is how partner presence and participation adds color to strategic discussions about LHI’s future. While LHI Program Manager Claudia and I are in regular contact with LHI partners on day-to-day needs, and have an opportunity to review the annual LHI survey where we hear from partners about their experience with LHI each year, this summit allowed us to really discuss what is working and what needs to be improved with a geographically diverse group of LHI power users from Courts and legal aid organizations. To do this conversationally, in-person, and while looking at the big picture, with LHI partners is invaluable. For instance, we had partners from four of LHI’s top 5 states in usage.

With the continued growth of LHI users and uses and fast-approaching launch of the LHI rebuild environment, 2015 will be an exciting year for LHI. The whole team appreciates everyone who attended the LHI summit*, and the broader community of LHI partners and users who make the platform a success and work with us when we face challenges.

On another note, I feel the opposite of appreciation for a certain airline who diverted me to Pittsburgh en route to the tech summit and who misplaced my luggage for a week. But that’s a story for another time.

*LHI tech summit participants were as follows:

  • Glenn Rawdon & Jane Ribadeneyra (LSC)
  • Josh Goodwin (Southeastern Ohio Legal Services/OSLSA)
  • Bonnie Hough (California Administrative Office of the Courts)
  • John Mayer (Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction)
  • Michael Mills (Neota Logic)
  • Dave Lampert (HotDocs Corporation)
  • Dora Galacatos (Feerick Center/CLARO)
  • Tony Lu (Immigration Advocates Network)
  • Kristin Verrill (Atlanta Legal Aid Society)
  • Ben Carpenter (Community Legal Services of Mid Florida)
  • Rochelle Klempner (New York State Courts Access to Justice Program)
  • Angela Tripp (Michigan Poverty Law Program/ Michigan Legal Help)
  • Teri Ross (Illinois Legal Aid Online)
  • Marc Lauritsen (Capstone Practice Systems)
  • Bart Earle (Capstone Practice Systems)

Staff participants included:

  • Mark O’Brien, ED
  • Doug Carlson, Tech Director
  • Claudia Johnson, LawHelp Program Manager
  • Liz Keith, Program Director
  • Greg Tenzer, Senior Developer
  • Alice Pucheu, Project Manager
  • Kanchana Hedge, QA Engineer

**Special thanks for Davis Polk for hosting the event.

Karen S. Levy

Karen S. Levy, Director of Global Technology at Debevoise & Plimpton, joined the Pro Bono Net Board to help advance our mission of leveraging technology to provide access to effective legal services.  Prior to her leadership position at Debevoise, Karen held senior technology roles Weil, Gotshal & Manges and Edwards Wildman Palmer.  She has also served as a legal industry consultant, advising international law firms on technology strategies and implementations.

 

PBN: What brought you to PBN?

KSL: I was aware of PBN through my firm’s use of Pro Bono Manager, a software product used to assist our lawyers in identifying and tracking pro bono assignments. I was later introduced to the organization and its mission by Michael Mills, whom I have known for many years through his work at Davis Polk, and former PBN board member John Alber, who I worked with at Bryan Cave some years ago. Through Michael and John I came to gain an appreciation of the full extent of PBN’s services and mission.

PBN: What about our mission most interests you?

KSL: I’m continually impressed by the strong commitment to pro bono work at my firm and the opportunities it presents for individuals to contribute to the greater good and experience personal growth. I’d been contemplating ways in which my technology skills could be leveraged to provide similar opportunities for non-lawyers when I was approached by PBN to join the board. PBN’s mission to leverage technology to provide access to legal services to a large population of those who are in need of assistance made it a perfect match.

A large portion of the U.S. population does not have access to a lawyer, however most do have access to the internet. PBN takes advantage of ubiquitous technology as the access point and the lowest cost route to deliver information and resources to a large number of individuals with common needs. An example of this is the online templates that PBN developed to enable Hurricane Sandy victims to appeal denials of FEMA benefits.

PBN: You work in a field where women are often the minority, how did you develop an interest in technology?

KSL: I took a computer science class in high school that piqued my interest. I then pursued it as my college major which ultimately led to a computer science degree and job opportunities requiring technical skills. It’s the working with lawyers part that wasn’t exactly part of the plan!

PBN: What more can be done to make the field more accessible to young women?

KSL: The field is entirely accessible to women. The problem is that women are often not attracted to the field. We need to help girls see past the stereotype, providing them with an understanding of the breadth and depth of skills required to succeed. I hope the emergence of successful female leaders, such as myself, provides more young women with a positive vision.

PBN: Anything else you’d like to share?

KSL: I am married and the mother of three children who make me smile every day.

Pro Bono Net will host an interactive discussion on technology and increasing access to justice at the International Legal Technology Association’s 37th Annual Educational Conference in Nashville, Tennessee on August 19th.

Pro Bono Net, the nonprofit leader in technology solutions to expand access to justice, is hosting the networking reception and interactive conversation thanks to generous support from Microsoft.  Over 3,000 attendees will be at the conference to discuss the latest knowledge and technology solutions for challenges facing law firms and legal departments.

The Pro Bono Net event will feature a conversation on “Leveraging Technology to Increase Access to Justice” featuring Nishan DeSilva, Senior Director of Business and Technology Solutions at Microsoft Legal and Corporate Affairs, and Michael Mills, President & Chief Strategy Officer at Neota Logic and Pro Bono Net Board of Directors.  The conversation will be led by Pro Bono Net Executive Director, Mark O’Brien.

The event will take place on Tuesday, August 19, 2014 from 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. in the Presidential Boardroom A at the Gaylord Opryland.

In addition to our lead sponsor, Microsoft, the following companies are sponsoring the event: Aderant, ALM, BigHand, Bridgeway, Elevate, Epiq, HighQ, HotDocs, Huron Consulting Group, Intellitech, International Legal Technology Association, LexisNexis, LSI Foundation, Marks Baughan, Neota Logic, Practising Law Institute, and Tabs3.

For more information regarding the event, please contact Karin Romans, kromans@probono.net.

This year’s National Legal Aid & Defender Association’s annual conference, Justice in America: Delivering on the Promise, will take place in Los Angeles later this week.  Technology-enabled self-help initiatives and remote services will be among the topics Pro Bono Net staff focus on, while presenting on a variety of panels.

With ever-expanding caseloads for full time attorneys and dwindling resources for legal services and courts, both Claudia Johnson and Liz Keith will join speakers from across the country to focus on how technology can play a pivotal role in leveraging volunteer attorneys as well as providing self-help resources to litigants and clients.

 They are slated to participate in the following panels:

Claudia Johnson will join Josh Passman of Bet Tzedek Legal Services and Bonnie Hough of the California Administrative Office of the Courts in the panel How to complete over 1,400 complicated cases a year with two FTE’s; The Story of Technology and Partnership.  She will also join Sotivear Sim of the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles,  as well as Veronica Alvarado and Jora Trang of Worksafe Oakland in the panel Cultural Competence: Barriers, Bias and Language.

Liz Keith will join Jessica Bolack Frank, of the Center for Access to Justice & Technology at Chicago-Kent College of Law and John Mayer of the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction in the panel Increasing Access to Justice through Online Self-Help Resources: The Human and Technology Sides of the Equation. And finally, both will join  Haydee Alfonso of Bay Area Legal Aid and Marilyn Harp of Kansas Legal Services for Technology Innovations to Increase Access to Justice in Suburban and Rural Communities.

We hope to see many of our partners and stakeholders at the conference, in panels, and at our PBN Affinity Roundtable on Thursday from 12-1:30!  If you know you’re planning on attending the Affinity Roundtable, RSVP to Xander Karsten at xkarsten@probono.net.  Drop in’s are always welcome!

Today is Citizenship Day (aka “Constitution Day”), which commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitutionin 1787 and recognizes the efforts of people who have made the decision to become American citizens. It’s a great occasion to ask this question: Did you know that there are more than 8 million green card holders in this country (sometimes called “the forgotten 8 million”) who could become U.S. residents right now—if they only wanted to?

In the U.S. there are more than 8 million green card holders who could become residents right now. Photo courtesy of the New Americans Campaign.

Pro Bono Net is pleased to be taking part in Citizenship DayThe National Immigration Forum is partnering with the New Americans Campaign to host a press conference and reception in Washington D.C. to highlight the importance of citizenship services and showcase the way NAC’s national partners have been pushing forward innovations in the field. Pro Bono Net’s Executive Director, Mark O’Brien, will present on the intersection of technology and citizenship services.

“Immigrants are often early adopters of technology, which is why CitizenshipWorks provides easy-to-use online tools to help low and moderate income individuals answer important questions about their eligibility, better understand the process and prepare for their citizenship tests,” says O’Brien.

Details on NAC celebrates Citizenship Day can be found here.

The New Americans Campaign aims to modernize the ways in which service providers help these Lawful Permanent Residents embark on the naturalization process. But to many green card holders it is tempting to maintain the status quo because they think they’re only missing out on the ability to vote. Many don’t realize that there are economic benefits—both for the individual and the nation—to becoming a citizen. For example, a study published in December 2012 by the University of Southern California (“Citizen Gain”) found that citizenship alone can boost individual earnings by 8 percent to 11 percent, leading to a potential $21 billion to $45 billion increase in cumulative earnings over 10 years nationwide. Becoming a U.S. citizen confers other benefits as well: Citizens often become more engaged in their communities, they gain the ability to sponsor family members for immigration, and many government employment opportunities require citizenship.

If you are a Lawful Permanent Resident, simply enter your ZIP code for a list of free legal aid providers near you to get started with your citizenship application. CitizenshipWorks provides easy-to-use online tools to help you answer important questions about your eligibility for naturalization. CitizenshipWorks also has a free app for Android and iOS phones, which can help you get started.

The NAC site has a collection of materials about the economic benefits of citizenship, and a list of activities being sponsored by NAC partners throughout the month of September.

So on this Citizenship Day, if you are a green card holder, mark this special occasion and “zip to citizenship” by entering your ZIP code.  Just give it a try.

Since 2011, the Practising Law Institute (PLI) has helped us champion the necessity of pro bono as one of our Bronze Corporate Sponsors. PLI is dedicated to providing attorneys with information and techniques to develop a professional, competitive edge and recognizes the importance of pro bono in helping attorneys cultivate their skills, develop time management and give back to their communities. We are pleased to share with you some information about their upcoming August 12th program on Defending Immigration Removal.

Immigrants without legal representation face a significantly higher risk of removal regardless of their eligibility for relief. Over half of the immigrants facing removal proceedings go unrepresented.

PLI’s Defending Immigration Removal Program 2013 will provide a comprehensive overview on how to effectively represent immigrants in removal proceedings, and review new developments in the law.  This year the program will also cover special issues in representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender clients including the impact of the recent Supreme Court decisions.

In addition, attendees will learn about representing children, Violence Against Women Act claims, ethical issues, options available to clients with criminal convictions, and recent developments in asylum law.

Parisa Karaahmet, of Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen and Loewry is the Chair of this program and expert faculty from government, legal services and private firms will share their knowledge and experience.

Scholarships are available.  Access scholarship information here – http://www.pli.edu/Content/Pro_Bono/_/N-8q

 

By Rachel Rosenfeld, Amanda Krause, and Tyler Gaston Georgetown University Law Center 

This past February, Mark O’Brien, Pro Bono Net Executive Director, went down to DC to Georgetown Law School to present to Professor Tanina Rostain’s Technology, Innovation, and Law Practice seminar at Georgetown University Law Center about access to justice, current technologies, and Pro Bono Net.

During the class, teams partnered with legal service providers, civil rights organizations, and state agencies to design apps, built in Neota Logic and A2J Author, to increase access to justice. These projects are based on practical needs, not theoretical problems. Students projects were judged at Iron Tech Lawyer, a competition held at Georgetown Law, where student teams show off the apps they built in our Technology Innovation and Law Practice practicum. Appearing before a panel of judges, students compete for prizes for Excellence in Design, Excellence in Presentation, and the all around best app: Iron Tech Lawyer.

Georgetown University Law Center is creating legal applications to help clients around the U.S. with various legal issues as part of a practicum course called Technology, Innovation, and Law Practice.  Our group assisted the National Women’s Law Center with a very current and pressing matter: the bullying and harassment of students who do not conform to gender stereotypes, i.e. “gender-based harassment.” Gender-based harassment includes harassment or bullying because a student does not fit gender stereotypes—for example, harassment of a female student because she does not act the way her peers think girls should act.

The National Women’s Law Center has expanded the possibilities for women and girls in this country by getting new laws on the books and enforced, litigating ground-breaking cases all the way to the Supreme Court, and educating the public about ways to make laws and public policies work for women and their families. Today NWLC continues to advance the issues that cut to the core of women’s lives in education, employment, family and economic security, and health and reproductive rights—with special attention given to the needs of low-income women and their families.

One of the laws NWLC focuses on is Title IX. Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex- including bullying or harassment- in schools that receive federal funding.  It is not just about sports! A school may violate Title IX when serious sex-based harassment by classmates is encouraged, tolerated, not adequately addressed, or ignored by school employees. The Title IX application assists students who were bullied or harassed because they don’t conform to gender stereotypes. The app gives students resources they will need to get help if they have experienced gender-based harassment, including identifying the ways they can advocate for themselves with their schools.

The application was created by Georgetown Students as a public service that will be offered by the National Women’s Law Center on their website. A student experiencing bullying or harassment at school, a parent of the student experiencing bullying or harassment at school, or someone else advocating on behalf of a student (teacher, coach, social worker, etc.) is the target group of users for this application.  By answering the short questions in the application, it is able to give preliminary tailored information for students and parents regarding a student’s rights under Title IX and self-advocacy suggestions. This application helps attorneys collect stories, and aggregate data for later statistical analysis. Though the advisor is not a substitute for an attorney, it is designed to help a student who is experiencing harassment at school understand his or her legal options.

Web apps like the one created for NWLC are the future of the legal profession. The Technology, Innovation and Law Practice practicum course at Georgetown gave students hands-on experience in working with clients to build these apps that will significantly increase outreach in various important issue areas, such as Title IX, to help increase access to justice.


 

 

 

 

 

 

Our segment on NY1.

We are really excited to publicly launch femaappeals.org, a website that empowers those who do not have access to a lawyer to create their own concise and well-crafted appeals of FEMA denials. Over 500,000 households in New York and New Jersey applied for emergency assistance from FEMA following Superstorm Sandy – almost half of them have incomes of less than $30,000 per year. Many of these people have been improperly denied benefits they desperately need, but are unable to get a lawyer to guide them through the complicated appeals process.  With substantive help from numerous partners across New York City, and the support of the New York Community Trust, we’ve created a one-stop website for people to learn about the appeals process, create their own appeal, and find further resources.

Over the past months at Pro Bono Net, we’ve put together resources and information to aid pro bono attorneys engaged in helping those whose lives were turned upside down by Superstorm Sandy. We’ve done our best to foster collaboration in the legal relief effort, and it’s been an amazing experience to watch nonprofits, law firms, law schools, bar associations, and corporate counsel come together in unprecedented ways. But for all the resource assembling, conference call convening, webinar producing, live training webcasting, and more that we’ve done, we realize that the legal community simply does not have the capacity to address the needs of so many who are still struggling in Sandy’s wake.

We designed femaappeals.org to be straightforward and easy to navigate, getting users straight to the content they need. The front page contains a no fuss description of exactly what the site does – assists individuals to create a FEMA Appeal letter and request their FEMA file.  An FAQ page contains answers drafted by an expert to many common questions, demystifying the appeals process. A calendar of upcoming disaster-relief legal clinics, maintained by our partners at LawHelpNY, lists options for seeking further help across the area.

The heart of the site is the interactive A2J Author® interview that guides users, step-by-step and in everyday language, through assembling the information necessary for an appeal.

And through the magic of technology (i.e., the LawHelp Interactive national online document assembly server), this information is transformed into perfectly formatted Word documents that the user can submit to FEMA.  The whole interview can be completed in 10-15 minutes.

 

 

 

 

We’re now doing our best to widely promote this resource so that folks across the disaster area are aware. Our press release has gone out to online, print and television media in NY and NJ, and we are now sending it to area boroughs, municipalities, townships, public libraries, and direct social service providers as well. Last week, NY1 (New York City’s 24 hour newchannel) came by to film a segment:

Despite my clear onscreen charisma and talent for pointing at computer monitors, however, someone else got all the airtime.
But it’s all for the same cause, right? Executive Director, Mark O’Brien.

The piece began running April 12, and is available online now We really appreciate all the support we’ve received around this project, and we’re hopeful it will have a big impact. While the site and interview are currently tailored to Superstorm Sandy, they will be easily adaptable for use in future disasters.

After you link on your website, please drop us a line if you have ideas about further ways to get the word out! And thanks!

Carleton Strouss spent 10 years as chair of the K&L Gates Pro Bono Committee.

We spoke with Robert Mitchell, the new chair of K&L Gates Pro Bono Committee, and Carleton Strouss, who recently stepped down after serving as the committee chair for 10 years, about the firm’s pro bono program, including its international efforts and the role of technology.  K&L Gates handles hundreds of pro bono cases a year around the globe. 

Rob Mitchell just stepped into the role of Pro Bono Committee chair.

Tell me about K&L Gates’ pro bono program – what are you especially proud of? What makes it unique?

Carleton Strouss: I think that one of the more interesting things about the K&L Gates pro bono program is that it reflects the growth of our firm. The firm is now multi-continent and multi-city and our pro bono work reflects that.  We still provide support to meet needs in the local community, but we also see pro bono extending around the world and not confined to one geographic area.  Pro bono is woven into the fabric of our practice, with our commercial work and pro bono work continuing to become more closely aligned.

How do lawyers at K&L Gates typically get involved in pro bono work?

Carleton Strouss: How our lawyers get involved in pro bono work is an evolutionary tale. In earlier days, you might think all pro bono work was local lawyers identifying local needs, mostly ad hoc. [And] that is still present. But people also start affiliations in providing services. By way of illustration, common themes that are present in a few of our offices include working with women and children at risk, assisting veterans, and helping refugees navigate immigration. We have an association with Habitat for Humanity, and we assist with closing documents. Aside from that we may get involved in matters through court appointments, typically criminal or appellate. As I mentioned, we have established ourselves as a global practice, and that increases collaboration in multiple practices as we help clients respond to issues that are global in nature. Also, our Government Affairs practice has grown and we’ve advocated for U.S. funding of projects aiding the underserved.

Can you tell me a little more about your global projects?

Carleton Strouss: Two of them involve the International Senior Lawyers Project. One of our senior environmental lawyers went to Tanzania to provide advice on appropriate environmental standards in developing mineral resources. Also, a senior partner headed to Liberia to help provide advice on criminal justice matters for the government.

Robert Mitchell: He’s in Monrovia (the capital of Liberia) now, training prosecutors and directly assisting in the prosecution of government corruption, which is a serious problem sapping development in many parts of the world.

Continue Reading Q&A With K&L Gates: ‘We are developing global citizens and global lawyers’