Immi - Immigrants legal resourcesAs we enter a new year and a new administration, immigrants and advocates have cause to worry. Last week’s executive orders on immigration signal real action on threats to deport large numbers of immigrants and punish the states and localities that try to protect them, among other draconian measures. Many are asking, “what can I do?” Fortunately, there’s something you can do right now to help immigrants in the U.S. learn about their immigration options, know their rights, and find quality legal help.

Step 1: Visit immi, https://www.immi.org.

Immi is a new online tool, created by the Immigration Advocates Network and Pro Bono Net. Available in English and Spanish, immi allows users to confidentially screen for immigration benefits such as family-based petitions, asylum, or U visas; access information about the law; and find a trusted nonprofit legal service provider. The first free online tool of its kind, immi was created to help as many immigrants as possible know their rights and protect their families.

Step 2: Share immi, https://www.immi.org/share.html!

An estimated 1.5 million undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation may have possible avenues to legal status, but do not know it. By sharing immi you are helping to connect immigrants in your networks with free, confidential, and vital legal information.

 


About The Immigration Advocates NetworkThe Immigration Advocates Network
The Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) is a collaborative effort of Pro Bono Net and leading immigrants’ rights organizations designed to increase access to justice for low-income immigrants and strengthen the capacity of organizations serving them. IAN promotes more effective and efficient communication, collaboration, and services among immigration advocates and organizations by providing free, easily accessible and comprehensive online resources and tools.

 

For Immediate Release
March 23, 2016
CONTACT:
mediarelations@law.georgetown.edu
or Karin Romans, Pro Bono Net
212-760-2554 x496 | kromans@probono.net

Today, the MacArthur Foundation demonstrated its commitment to protecting voting rights by awarding a $1 million grant to the Voting Rights Institute.

Launched in October 2015, the Voting Rights Institute is a joint project of Georgetown University Law Center, the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy and the Campaign Legal Center. Established in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which nullified a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the Institute offers opportunities for students, recent graduates and fellows to engage in litigation and policy work in the field of voting rights and to educate attorneys about the skills and best practices of voting rights advocates.

The initial phase of the Voting Rights Institute began in 2014 with a series of training sessions in New York, Columbus, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Miami. In 2015, a training session was held in Chicago. To date, more than 400 attendees representing a diverse group of attorneys, law students and voting rights advocates have taken part in these activities. Georgetown Law has also provided a venue for training institutes.

As part of this effort, the Voting Rights Institute is also launching a new website, www.votingrightsinstitute.org, which provides voting rights information to the public, resources for attorneys working on voting rights litigation (including expert witness documents and sample legal documents), and a tool for the public to report voting rights violations. It also provides updates on events, publications and other resources to elevate public awareness of voter identification laws and voter registration restrictions. The site leverages a technology platform developed by Pro Bono Net, which is used to support broad-based networks of legal aid, civil rights and pro bono lawyers.

Georgetown Law Dean William M. Treanor said, “I could not be more pleased and proud that the MacArthur Foundation has chosen to honor the Voting Rights Institute and its crucial mission with this generous grant. The motto at Georgetown Law is, ‘Law is but the means, justice is the end.’ And nowhere is the need for justice greater than when it comes to protecting and preserving the right to vote.”

ACS President Caroline Fredrickson said, “This grant represents the tireless commitment of countless individuals to the idea that every American should have a voice in our political system. The Voting Rights Act – one of the most effective pieces of legislation ever passed – may be hobbled, but our dedication to the underlying democratic principles will endure.”

Gerry Hebert, executive director of the Campaign Legal Center said, “We are incredibly grateful to the MacArthur Foundation for investing in this important work. The Voting Rights Institute is preparing the next generation of attorneys, experts and activists to preserve our democracy and protect the ability of all Americans to vote. By providing resources, litigating, educating, training and conducting new and original research, the VRI is growing the pool of voting rights attorneys and experts at this crucial time when they are needed the most.”


About VRIVoting Rights Institute2

The Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder invalidated the coverage formula of the 1965 Voting Rights Act—the most effective civil rights law ever enacted—and has led to an assault on voting rights across the country. To respond to this crisis, the American Constitution Society, the Campaign Legal Center, and Georgetown University Law Center have launched the Voting Rights Institute to help attorneys, expert witnesses, law students, and the public combat discriminatory voting practices across the country.

 

Read More Press Releases HERE

There are approximately 5.2 million undocumented women living in and contributing to the United States, many of whom may qualify for immigration relief now or in the near future. The Migration Policy Institute predicts that women may be more likely to be eligible for DAPA, and many women who are crime victims or survivors of abuse and gender-based violence may already qualify for immigration benefits. However, many immigrant women continue to face significant barriers to accessing vital information and legal services related their immigration options.

Step ForwardToday, We Belong Together and the Immigration Advocates
Network (IAN), in partnership with the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Pro Bono Net, and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, will launch Step Forward (www.womenstepforward.org), a new mobile accessible website for immigrant women and their families that provides tools, trusted resources, and the latest information needed to understand their immigration options and rights.

The story of Adriana Cazorla, a domestic worker living in Washington state, is a powerful example of
how access to legal status can make all the difference in helping immigrant women escape constant fear and control at the hands of their abusers:

“Before, I didn’t think that I had any rights because I was undocumented. For twelve years my ex-
husband abused me. He told me that if I called the police for help he would report me to immigration. Every day that I left to go to work I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to come home to my children. I didn’t know there were programs that could help women like me until I finally met a social worker who told me about VAWA. My children and I are safe now, but we will always be scarred by those twelve years of abuse and fear of deportation.”

Adriana CazorlaAt a time of increased vitriol against immigrants and confusion about the status of new immigration programs like DAPA, it’s vital that immigrant communities have ready access to plain language legal information and referrals to quality legal assistance. Step Forward‘s unique approach to both legal empowerment and mobilizing immigrant women represents a critical step in the fight against abuse, fraud and misinformation.

Step Forward allows immigrant women to take the first step towards understanding their immigration options and rights, including:

  • An online self-screening tool to help undocumented women assess whether they might qualify for various forms of immigration relief;
  • Trusted referrals to nonprofit legal service providers so individuals can access help and avoid fraud or misinformation;
  • Latest news and updates on Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA);
  • Information on what to do in case of immigration raids or other encounters with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE);
  • Know your rights information for immigrant workers; and
  • Resources for crime victims and survivors of abuse.

Please take a moment today to amplify this work, and the voices of immigrant women, by sharing this resource widely.


Immigration Advocates NetworkMatthew Burnett is director of the Immigration Advocates Network, a collaborative effort of leading immigrants’ rights organizations and Pro Bono Net, designed to increase access to justice for low-income immigrants and strengthen the capacity of organizations serving them.

 

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.

 

LawHelp Interactive (LHI), Pro Bono Net’s award-winning online legal document assembly platform, allows low-income individuals without access to a lawyer to prepare their own legal forms online for free. It’s also used by volunteer attorneys, legal aid advocates and court staff seeking to work more effectively and provide innovative models of service delivery.

Thanks to grants from the Legal Services Corporation Technology Initiative Grant program to Blue Ridge Legal Services and the Booth Ferris Foundation, Pro Bono Net has finished a complete overhaul of the current LHI platform that modernizes and streamlines the application architecture.

LHI-powered forms are being produced and used in court and legal aid office settings, at homes, shelters, and in public libraries, for remote legal assistance where advocates may be miles away from a client they are supporting, and in large group clinics where a number of participants complete forms simultaneously with advocate and volunteer support. The forms are available in over 40 states, and in many places available in multiple languages.

Released in April of this year, the rebuild platform promises to be a vast improvement, while still maintaining the previous system’s functionality. We interviewed Mirenda Meghelli, LawHelp Interactive Program Coordinator, about the LHI rebuild and her important role in the process.

 

Can you give me a brief background on LawHelp Interactive?Welcome page LHI

LHI became a project of Pro Bono Net in 2006 and since that time, the project has grown at a rapid pace – from 76,000 documents completed in 2007 to more than 509,000 forms completed in 2014. The LHI team maintains a national server where these forms are hosted.  We also train and support local legal aid, pro bono, and partner courts design the forms on LawHelp Interactive. Legal experts make the templates that are used to create the forms and documents with HotDocs and A2J Author.

The service is being used in ever more creative and compelling ways to empower self-represented litigants and increase the capacity of legal services and pro bono attorneys.  Interactive forms enabled by LHI are now used at remote court and law library kiosks, in online and brick and mortar self-help centers around the country, and in large group clinics. None of these models of service existed 10 years ago; however, this increasing activity is taking place on a system that reflects legacy architectural and software choices made almost a decade ago.

LawHelp Interactive increases opportunities for people to get justice on their own. It also improves efficiency for access-to-justice programs. LHI has grown quite rapidly in the past few years, and yet it was still running on the same technology. We definitely needed to upgrade.

How many states use LHI? Courts? How many users per year?

Over 40 states use LawHelp Interactive. In 2014, more than 509,000 forms we assembled on the LHI platform. We are used by courts, legal aid advocates, pro bono lawyers, volunteers and individuals from all over the country. Users can visit www.lawhelp.org, find their state and subject matter to see if there are available forms and they will be sent to LHI.  People are asked a series of questions, and then their answers are used to tailor their documents. They can use the site anonymously or create an account and save their answers. The site is used by legal aid advocates, pro bono lawyers, and people representing themselves. In some states, forms created by LHI can be e-filed to a court or fax and filed.

What was the need for the LHI system rebuild, and how did the project get started? And why now?

The rebuild started in 2013 with Legal Services Corporation Technology Initiative Grant funding to Blue Ridge Legal Services (BRLS) in support of the project. With all of the new ways that the LHI platform was being used, and the sheer increase in the number of users, it was definitely time to update the system. Working with BRLS, Marlabs, The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI), as well as long-time LHI contractors including Capstone Practice Systems, Todd Pedwell and Associates, and Kaivo, we were able to rebuild the LHI technical infrastructure into a single technology stack creating a more reliable and scalable system. Internally, Claudia Johnson, Liz Keith, Mark O’Brien and the LHI tech team including Alice Pucheu, Kanchana Hegde, Greg Tenzer and Doug Carlson all contributed significantly to this project as well.

Can you tell me a little about your role in the project?

In consultation with BRLS, I’ve served as the program lead on the rebuild project where I worked with the LHI team and contract rebuild developers, Marlabs, to roll out the new LHI technical infrastructure. This involved participating in regular, sometimes daily calls, with developers and the technical team as the project progressed, handling grant and administrative aspects of the project, liaising with LHI partners who tested the system and offered valuable input, and working with the external and internal rebuild team to make sure we reached project goals.

It was really interesting and exciting to be a part of a rebuild of this kind. Our partners and end users utilize LHI to do important work and the system is a means through which access to justice can be increased.  This new platform better supports this important work.

Who else was involved in the project and what were their roles?

Many people have been involved in the launch of this project. Allison McDermott was the original program lead for the LHI rebuild and worked with Jim Wiegand, who previously served as PBN Technical Director, to scope out the project. Ahuva Shabtai, who served as business analyst for LHI, coordinated much of the project including overseeing the documentation phase before the development work began. Alice Pucheu, Pro Bono Net’s Project Manager, has also worked to move this project forward and has been the primary person supporting partners in transition to the new system with respect to LHI widgets, e-filing, and CMS integration projects. Claudia Johnson, LHI Program Coordinator, Mark O’Brien, PBN’s Executive Director, and Liz Keith, Pro Bono Net’s Program Director, have provided guidance on business/program aspects of the project and the LHI technical team and contract rebuild developers under the leadership of Doug Carlson, Pro Bono Net’s Director of Technology & Operations, were responsible for much of the development, testing, and troubleshooting of the LHI rebuild environment.

Longtime collaborators Capstone Practice Systems, Todd Pedwell and Kaivo also played an integral role in transitioning to this new technical infrastructure, and HotDocs Corporation provided invaluable technical assistance on key aspects of the new system and supporting current and new HotDocs interviews in the the rebuild environment Finally, LHI partners who provided feedback and engaged in community testing of the new system provided a tremendous help in the launch of this new system.

Beyond the rebuild project, LHI is supported day-to-day by a longstanding partnership between Pro Bono Net and Ohio State Legal Services. Together we have received generous support for our LawHelp Interactive program from the Legal Services Corporation’s Technology Initiative Grants program, as well as from the HotDocs Corporation.

What were the biggest challenges this project faced?

As part of the rebuild, we migrated an incredibly large volume of user and form data from the old infrastructure to the new one. Migration of data from any legacy system is always challenging as it involves ensuring that there is no corruption or loss of data during the migration.  In the case of LHI, this work has been complicated by inconsistencies in legacy data due to changes in validation rules over a 10-year period of operations. As a result, we needed to develop manual processes to analyze and resolve missing or malformed data required within the new system.  This challenging work affected the project timeline and project costs.

What are the top 2-3 differences between the old system and the new? Tell me about some of the new features?

Interview LHI 2While the plan of the rebuild was to replicate the existing system functionality with minimal enhancements, there are a number of differences in the new system benefiting the different LHI user groups. Notably, load balancing has been implemented with the new LHI system. This basically means there are three servers operating at once for LHI increasing reserve capacity and allowing the usage of the two other servers if one server experiences problems.

Another major difference is that LHI now operates as a unified technical stack & database. The old system’s architecture consisted of a number of distinct technologies maintained by different people. Streamlining LHI into a single technical stack and database makes maintenance and troubleshooting of the system much less complicated and improves the ability for LHI to integrate with other systems.

Finally, we introduced a more simplified uploading and updating process for forms developers to upload their content into the LHI server. This change was implemented given template developer feedback on the upload and update process over the years and during a rebuild focus group.

When did the new system go live, and how can I access it?

The new system went live on April 20, 2015 and can be accessed via www.lawhehelpinteractive.org. It is the same website address as before and old users are able to log into their accounts from the same location. To use the LHI platform, users can create an account which can be done from the main website page or complete an interview anonymously.

With all of the new upgrades to the platform, accessing and filling out the interviews is better supported for users in all of the 40 states utilizing the platform. Backup servers ensure that thousands of users can access the system at the same time and access their compiled documents based on their interviews quickly!

Last week, Jon Weinberg, the Pro Bono Net and Montana Legal Services Association 2014 AmeriCorps VISTA, completed his year of service. Before he left, we asked Jon a few questions about the past year and what’s next for him. We’ll miss him and we hope you join us in thanking him for his tremendous work over the past year!

Our 2014 VISTA, Jon Weinberg
Jon Weinberg

PBN: What interested you in the VISTA program and in service with Pro Bono Net specifically?

Jon: I became interested in VISTA after I decided to defer law school for a year. I realized I could benefit from working and getting non-academic experience working for a cause or organization I believed in, and VISTA really fit the bill. The Pro Bono Net VISTA opportunity particularly stood out because of PBN’s unique role in utilizing technology to advance access to justice and the opportunity to work with the legal community and learn about the law from a different perspective. Also, my family (like almost everyone in the New York area) was affected by Sandy and I saw the continuing needs and wanted to help with recovery.

PBN: Tell us about some of the projects you’ve worked on in the past year.

Jon: My projects have revolved around Pro Bono Net’s efforts related to disaster legal services. In New York, I aided PBN’s efforts supporting attorneys responding to Sandy and helped institutionalize a more permanent disaster legal response network following a reception, needs assessment survey, and focus group meetings. I worked with our partners at the Legal Services Corporation to help develop and convene a national advisory group of disaster legal experts to assist legal services responders. For the re-launch of the National Disaster Legal Aid Resource Center, www.disasterlegalaid.org, I supported the project team by soliciting information for a pro bono opportunities guide, adapting the previously-developed FEMA appeals tool, creating a toolkit and assisting with design choices and content migration.

PBN: What was your favorite project? Why?

Jon: My favorite project was probably working with attorneys in New York and New Jersey on a more permanent disaster network effort. Although I won’t have a chance to see the network truly come into being, I learned so much from assessing needs in the community and working closely with partners to propose a solution that’s both feasible and helpful. It was very inspiring to learn about the substantial response of the legal community to Sandy and I was honored to have had the opportunity to support efforts to continue collaboration.

PBN: How will your experience help you going forward, both personally and professionally?

Jon: Personally, I learned so, so much from working in a professional setting. I now appreciate how different it is from working in school and that working in an office brings with it very different challenges than those faced in classes and with student organizations. Professionally, I’ve learned that the law functions very differently than it’s advertised, and that lawyers have to take on vast, very different responsibilities in their line of work than I would have otherwise expected. The justice gap is very real, and the leap to bridge it requires great strength and determination on the part of lawyers who undertake the challenge.

PBN: What will you miss most about your year at Pro Bono Net?

Jon: I’ll probably most miss getting to work with the program team! It’s really an incredible group. I do look forward to keeping up our gChat conversations though! I’ll also miss being in New York and working at an organization that brings so many attorneys together and supports so many different exciting initiatives nationally. You really do learn something new every day here!

PBN: What are you doing next?

Jon: I’ll be starting law school next month! I’m now much more attuned to the challenges faced by attorneys who want to do good, both from legal services and the private bar, but I’ve also been inspired by those I’ve worked with this year who have been able to help people through the law (also through both legal services and the private bar.)

PBN: What is one, totally non-legal related factoid, you learned from your time here?

Jon: I can now say unequivocally that Gregory’s Coffee is unparalleled in Midtown Manhattan! And that soccer is underappreciated by most Americans (thanks Adam, Kevin, Jake, and Mark!)

In addition to developing new tools, sites, and solutions to increase access to justice, Pro Bono Net looks for ways to grow and adapt its programs to match evolving needs and leverage new technology. In that vein, over the past few months PBN Program Director Liz Keith and I have been hard at work with partners at Lone Star Legal Aid, the American Bar Association, the Legal Services Corporation, the National Legal Aid & Defender Association, and Texas Legal Services Center to re-launch the National Disaster Legal Aid Resource Center at DisasterLegalAid.org. Working on the site has been one of my primary projects this year as a VISTA at Pro Bono Net supporting the organization’s work around disaster legal services. The re-launched site has some great new features, and working on the re-launch was an instructive experience.

The re-launched site builds upon successful web-based efforts following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and has been active since 2009. The three main portals for different core audiences (people in need of help, legal aid professionals, and pro bono volunteers) remain, and each portal includes relevant resources, guides, explanations, and links. For example, people in need of legal help can consult links on methods of assistance while legal aid professionals can use a checklist to guide them through establishing post-disaster operations. The site additionally continues to feature disaster-specific pages with the latest information on deadlines, hotlines, and specific assistance available.

All of that content is greatly enhanced by the re-launched site’s design. The new design is visually appealing and better facilitates navigation through the portals, with images from actual disaster response efforts supplied by LSC and others working in the field after disasters. The colors were selected to make the site more accessible to those who are visually impaired and all images now have associated text. Perhaps most excitingly, the new design is mobile-responsive. Mobile responsiveness is especially important because smartphones are increasingly being used to access information after disasters.

New features and content complement the improved design. A dedicated version of the National Pro Bono Opportunities Guide allows prospective pro bono attorneys to immediately identify how they can help after a disaster. The site also features a FEMA appeals tool, powered by LawHelp Interactive, which allows a survivor of any FEMA-declared disaster to easily appeal an adverse FEMA assistance decision. Legal services attorneys with questions about disaster response can use the site to submit queries to the Disaster Legal Aid National Advisory Group.

I had no idea how much work would go into the re-launch. Pro Bono Net and Lone Star Legal Aid, the project lead, worked diligently with a national stakeholder committee and web designer for months to make this vision a reality. For the new tools and features, we solicited disaster pro bono opportunities nationally and modified a FEMA appeals tool Pro Bono Net developed in 2013 for use by survivors of Superstorm Sandy. In addition, Lone Star Legal Aid led a content coalition of disaster legal services experts charged with identifying, curating and posting new content for the site, and quickly added resources about new disasters as they were declared by FEMA and shared news items about disaster legal response efforts. The re-launch effort was supported with funding from the Legal Services Corporation’s Technology Initiative Grant program.

When all was said and done, everything paid off. I’m very excited to join Pro Bono Net and our partners in publicizing the re-launched site and I hope it will play an important role in disaster legal response efforts. I am happy that in the future survivors and attorneys alike will have a central online hub – for survivors to access legal resources that can help them rebuild and recover, and for attorneys and advocates to better serve survivors and get them the access to justice they deserve.

About the Series

Richard Zorza, one of the founders and leaders of the access to justice (ATJ) movement, recently received the American Bar Association’s 2014 Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access’ Lifetime Achievement Honor for decades of work on behalf of self-represented litigants. Not to be outdone, the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators passed a Resolution of Recognition “express[ing] their deep appreciation to Richard Zorza for his thoughtful, unique, and dedicated service, loyal support and guidance, and for his unfailing commitment to improving the state courts of this nation, and the Conferences extend to him their best wishes for the future.”  Richard was at the Open Society Institute with Mark O’Brien and Michael Hertz when they formed Pro Bono Net, and had a profound influence on our founding and development. As we approach our 15th anniversary, we would like to extent our deepest gratitude and thanks for his tremendous guidance. I recently spoke with Richard, and we are excited to produce this four five-part installment from that discussion. Our second post covers the origins of the Self-Represented Litigation Network. And of course, read more of Richard’s always fascinating thoughts on his Access to Justice blog.

The SRLN Begins

One of the most important projects Richard has spearheaded was the creation and development of the Self-Represented Litigation Network (SRLN). As he noted in the previous episode, the 1999 Conference on Self-Represented Litigants was when the ATJ movement really began to accelerate. At that time, the Open Society Institute brought together various stakeholders (including Pro Bono Net, the National Center for State Corps, and the Legal Services Corporation) to discuss what would become the Technology Innovation Grants (TIG) program. In addition, the same group began discussing self-representation and identified six states where various parties might assemble to develop a long-term strategic plan for assisting pro se litigants. In 2000 at the first TIG Conference, they created a substantive agenda to guide their efforts moving forward.

After the conference, the group continued to meet and the SLRN informally launched as a website in 2001. Further conferences and funding followed the successful initial launch, and the Network continued to grow. Richard stressed that the first steps were very ad hoc and focused on bringing together stakeholders in states that did not have a dominant legal aid entity. Capitalizing on a growing recognition that groups with no collaborative history could and should work together, the founders of the SRLN sought to create a network that could work both in tandem and in isolation to assist pro se litigants. The SLRN would not be an arm of LSC, the bar, or the Courts, and therefore 1) it could achieve far more than any entity could individually and 2) no organization would feel as if it were receiving short-shrift. Thus, it developed into a decentralized network, rather than a command and control program that can quickly and easily adapt to individual situations across the country.

Bringing the conversation back to the present, I asked Richard what changes would make the biggest difference for self-represented litigants today. However, to hear his thoughts for the future, you’ll have to return next week for the third installment of this rapidly growing series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!