OneJustice Blog

Bring life-changing legal help to Californians in need.

Q: Where Can You Find a Ballet Dancer and Martial Arts Enthusiast?

A: On the Justice Bus, of course!

A Huge Welcome to Our DreamSF Fellows!

Jesus and Talissa

Talissa and Jesus on the Justice Bus with a team of volunteers

We are so honored to have been selected as the host organization for two amazing and talented DreamSF Fellows.

The DreamSF Fellowship is an opportunity for DACA-approved youth to serve San Francisco’s immigrant communities while gaining valuable professional experience and training. DreamSF Fellows commit to working 20 hours per week on a project-based fellowship with an immigrant-serving nonprofit organization (like OneJustice), and receive a stipend, leadership training, mentorship, and training in technology, public policy, civic participation, and nonprofit administration.

Please join us in extending a warm welcome to our very own DreamSF Fellows, Talissa Carrasco and Jesus Castro.

We’re pretty nosy here, so we forced them to sit down and answer a series of questions.  Now, we can all get to know them a little better!

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Talissa, tell us what drew you to the work of OneJustice?

I was interested in OneJustice’s unique role in supporting a large network of legal nonprofits to create mutual benefits for both nonprofit legal organizations and Californians who need legal help. It is fascinating to see the collaborative efforts of many stakeholders in bringing positive social change.

And what are your primary responsibilities at OneJustice – and what do you hope to achieve?

Currently, I am helping the OneJustice team with outreach for Justice Bus trips and other Rural Justice Clinics. We (Jesus and I) are also working on creating a comprehensive outreach database that will serve as an access tool for the OneJustice team where they can search by county, name of the organization or name of a personal contact.

I really enjoy outreach, because it allows me to engage with different organizations in the counties OneJustice will be serving. It helps spread the word about the free legal clinics we offer, and I always talk to folks who are so thankful for the services and clinics OneJustice offers.

What did you do before coming to OneJustice?

Talissa

Talissa working  out of OneJustice’s SF office

This is actually my first time working at a nonprofit organization and I absolutely love it. Most of my professional experience has been in the restaurant industry, which has helped me pay for my college tuition. What made me want to fight for social justice started from my work at City College of San Francisco where I became very involved with the undocumented student club called SAFE (Students Advocating for Equity).

Through SAFE, I found a new family – made of a group of students who came to US very young with dreams of finding a better life. We created a “safe” haven for students like us who were afraid to speak about their status. We have gone to marches to stop deportations of immigrants, held fundraisers for our resource center, and even held workshops for undocumented immigrants about knowing their rights if ever approached or stopped by ICE.

And tell us something quirky about you!

I used to be a ballet dancer from the age of 5 until about 16. I stopped dancing, because the cost became too expensive for my family. But every year, I go watch the San Francisco Ballet perform “The Nutcracker” in December.

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And Jesus, could you tell us why you chose to do your Fellowship at OneJustice?

Jesus at this year’s Opening Doors to Justice event

Being part of the DreamSF Fellows program is truly an honor. The DreamSF program gave me the opportunity to put my professional skills, interpersonal skills, and most importantly, my work permit to use. I now see the benefits of being a DACA recipient. When I first walked in the OneJustice Office, the first thing that caught my attention was the energy that Mike Winn, the Senior Staff Attorney, brought to the table.  This was the first plus. Later, Renee Schomp (Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow) began talking about all the Justice Bus trips that we would be participating in to help bridge the gap for the rural areas that can’t access legal services. That was when I made up my mind and knew I wanted to be part of the OneJustice team.

Tell us a little more about your work at OneJustice and your big picture goals for your time in the Fellowship. 

My work at OneJustice has mainly been focused on outreach for Justice Bus trips as well as my actual participation at the Justice Bus mobile legal clinics. I do have to say that the best part about the Justice Bus trips is seeing the faces of the clients that we have helped. The clients always leave very thankful and with a smile on their faces.

What did you do before coming to OneJustice?

Before being a part of the OneJustice team, I was part of the San Francisco OCEIA (The Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs) team. The experience that I got from OCEIA definitely helped me with the work that I do at OneJustice. The work varies from having to work on an excel spreadsheet or a Google form, to then getting the chance to work one-on-one with a client in order to ensure they get the help that they need.

And what else should the OneJustice network know about you?

Something that most people don’t know is that I practice Mixed Martial Arts. It gives me a rush and keeps me active.

Thank you so much, DreamSF Fellows  – and a very warm welcome to the OneJustice team!

 

Hungry for justice?

Just 4 more days to drink and dine for rural justiceCredo cocktail 2014

As Credo Restaurant gives back 

For the next four days, you can indulge – without guilt.

Well, okay.  Maybe not without guilt . . . but at least while also feeling great. Because for every cocktail and appetizer you order, you’ll be bringing life-changing legal help to rural communities.

That’s right!  For just four more days – through the end of July – every time  you order a OneJustice appetizer or cocktail at Credo Restaurant in downtown San Francisco, they will donate $2 to OneJustice’s Rural Justice Initiative.  So we know you will enjoy the:

  • OneJustice cocktail – the “Kentucky Buck” – Strawberry Infused Bourbon, Lemon juice, Simple Syrup and Ginger Beer
  • OneJustice appetizer – Oven Roasted Mussels with Spicy Tomato-Shrimp Brodo and Ciabatta Toast

Credo Appetizer 2014At Credo, community involvement is not a peripheral action; it’s a central element of their business model. They actively seek to reinvest in their community through direct action, charitable giving and long-term partnerships with organizations whose goals and aspirations they share.

With the “Credo Community Partners” program, they reach out to groups they believe in, organizations that have matched the strength of their convictions with energy and action. Each month, Credo highlights a specific issue that they care about – and in July 2014, they chose the issue of Rural Justice – and OneJustice as the beneficiary of this terrific program.

(And you can find out even more about Credo‘s steadfast support for OneJustice through our January 2014 interview with Sales Manager Jason Eriksen posted on this blog here).

So take advantage of this absolute permission to indulge – and feel justified while doing it!  (At least for four more days . . . )  Don’t miss out!

Credo

 

 

Credo Restaurant  |   360 Pine Street, San Francisco, CA 94610
Monday to Friday: 11:00 am to 10:00 pm
Saturday: 5:30 pm to 10:00 pm
info@credosf.com
415.693.0360

You are my hero.

Really, there just aren’t any other words for what you did.

You are a justice hero.IMG_8122

Ok, so I understand that might seem a little over the top.  Or even silly.  But here’s the thing – I think what you did was exceptional.

We know that there are millions of poor Californians living in rural areas who are facing pressing legal problems – all alone.  Why?  Because there are no attorneys in their communities to help. So they suffer – needlessly – from solvable legal problems.

And you all are changing that.  In my book, that makes you all heroes – justice heroes!

You see, last Thursday night, the OneJustice network raised over $335,000 for rural justice projects.

That just takes my breath away!

Generous law firms, corporations, law schools, and others donated over $195,000 in sponsorships for the event – bringing life-changing legal help to rural veterans, seniors and families.

And a group of over 125 amazing individuals ensured that the OneJustice network raised $60,000 for the Rural Justice Challenge. And because you achieved that goal, the law firm Cooley LLP provided a $65,000 matching donation.  Folks who participated in our live and silent auctions contributed over $20,000.  Working together, these justice heroes raised over $140,000 for those in need.

And my personal promise to all of you is that these donations will support 75 mobile legal clinics reaching at least 1,000 rural Californians. Your support will bring teams of volunteers to serve these communities and will supply hours of free legal help for those facing legal barriers to basic necessities.

So you see, I’m pretty sure that makes everyone involved a hero!  I believe that the individuals involved in the OneJustice network are pretty special, and my heart is full to overflowing with gratitude.  I wish I could thank each and every one of you in-person.

Thank you all so much for your generosity.  Your dedication to rural justice, pro bono, and legal services for those in need was palpable throughout the evening.  You can see it in all the photos from the event below!

I look forward very much to keeping you all posted – on this blog and elsewhere – on our progress as we implement the rural justice clinics made possible by the OneJustice network’s commitment, passion, and support.  Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.

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We’ve got just two words for you . . .

Rural. Justice.

(Ooops, we lied – one more word: Challenge)photo 2 (13)

Q: What is a Rural Justice Challenge?

A: A time-limited opportunity to double your donation and bring more legal services to over 1,000 rural Californians.

Rural Californians face terrible legal barriers to basic necessities – all alone. Why? Because there are simply not enough attorneys in their communities to help them. So they suffer – needlessly – from solvable legal problems.

You can bring them the legal help they need! Your support brings attorney volunteers right to these communities.

photo 4 (5)The law firm Cooley LLP has made an amazing gift commitment to bring more mobile legal clinics to rural communities.  They have challenged the OneJustice network to raise $60,000 at our Opening Doors to Justice event tomorrow night – and they will match every single donation, dollar-for-dollar, up to $60,000.

If you donate today – right now – Cooley will double your donation.  Can’t attend tomorrow night’s event?  We’ll miss you – and you can still be part of this challenge! Cooley will count all donations through our secure online site at www.one-justice.org/RuralChallenge.

Right now, millions of rural Californians are suffering – needlessly – from simple and solvable legal problems. They face legal barriers to basic necessities – like a home, medical care, freedom from violence, and even food and clean water. All because there are simply no lawyers in their community to help them. And yet the solution is so easy – often it just takes one hour of legal advice to right these wrongs and solve their problems.

You can change this!

photo 3 (3)You can bring life-changing legal help to those who are suffering. Your kind gift brings teams of volunteer attorneys to help these rural communities. Each donation means hours of free legal help for those facing pressing legal problems.

Because of you, a veteran will access medical care.

A child with disabilities will get the speech therapy she needs but is currently denied.

You can keep a family safe from their abuser and help a senior stay in her home.

Working together, we can make sure that every single rural veteran, senior, family and child has the legal help they need to end needless suffering from solvable legal problems.

Your generous contribution means so much! Thank you!

Donate Now - Thank You

Rural Justice heads to Washington

California Rural Justice Collaborative discussed in DC!

APBCo Representatives went to Washington D.C. for a Second Meeting with Vice President Joe Biden

This Rural Justice Clinic Volunteer knows that just a little bit of our time makes all the difference for those in need!

This Rural Justice Clinic Volunteer knows that just a little bit of our time makes all the difference for those in need!

Wow, we can’t believe this – but May 17, 2014 marked the one year anniversary of the Rural Justice Collaborative, San Francisco Bay Area’s IMPACT (Involving More Pro bono Attorneys in our Communities Together) Project!

That’s right – the Rural Justice Collaborative has been working to increase free legal assistance to isolated and underserved regions of the greater Bay Area for a full year. And, we couldn’t be more thankful to our legal services and law firm partners for making each and every Rural Justice clinic possible and the first year of the project such a success.

Since its launch, the Rural Justice Collaborative has held 37 limited scope legal clinics in six regions – South Santa Clara, West Marin, Napa, East Contra Costa, El Dorado, and coastside San Mateo Counties. The Rural Justice volunteers have assisted 256 clients with immigration, housing, special education, and other civil legal matters. We are so grateful to our amazing legal services partners – including Asian Law Alliance, Bay Area Legal Aid, Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, International Institute of the Bay Area, Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, Legal Aid of Marin, Legal Aid of Napa Valley, and Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County.  They provide skilled expertise and training to ensure our pro bono attorneys are well-prepared to provide legal assistance to low-income Californians in our target communities.

Rural Justice Collaborative by numbers:

Rural Justice volunteers frequently staff clinics helping immigrant youth who are eligible for the federal DACA program.

Rural Justice volunteers frequently staff clinics helping immigrant youth who are eligible for the federal DACA program.

  • 37 clinics
  • 6 different regions
  • 70 pro bono attorneys
  • 14 law firms and 3 corporations
  • 256 clients assisted

In addition to the one year Rural Justice Collaborative anniversary, we are excited to report that on June 5, 2014, Vice President Joe Biden met with the Board of Directors of the Association of Pro Bono Counsel (“APBCo”), and senior management leaders from board members’ law firms, in the Vice President’s Ceremonial Office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington D.C.  This was the second occasion on which the Vice President met with APBCo to focus on access to justice issues and the significant role that pro bono counsel at law firms play in the delivery of legal services to the poor. The Rural Justice Collaborative, and other IMPACT Projects across the country, were developed in direct response to the first meeting with Vice President Joe Biden in 2012.

The Rural Justice Collaborative was the first APBCo IMPACT project to launch. Other projects followed quickly throughout the country, including IMPACT LA, another IMPACT project housed at OneJustice which brings legal assistance to survivors of domestic violence in Los Angeles through limited scope legal clinics. We look forward to another great year of bringing free legal assistance to underserved communities through the Rural Justice Collaborative with our wonderful legal services partners and our amazing law firm partners:

Thank you to all the Rural Justice volunteers and legal services attorneys who made our first year such a success!

Thank you to all the Rural Justice volunteers and legal services attorneys who made our first year such a success!

  • Baker & McKenzie LLP
  • Bingham McCutchen LLP
  • Cooley LLP
  • Covington & Burling LLP
  • DLA Piper
  • Fenwick & West LLP
  • Hewlett-Packard Company
  • Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP
  • Latham & Watkins LLP
  • LinkedIn
  • Morgan Lewis & Bockius
  • Morrison & Foerster LLP
  • Nixon Peabody LLP
  • O’Melveny & Myers LLP
  • Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
  • Perkins Coie
  • Prudential Financial, Inc.

Do you want to help tackle rural justice?  We’d love to have you involved!

For more information about the Rural Justice Collaborative, please contact Lauren Roberts at lroberts@one-justice.org.

It takes a network . . . of law students who care

From the Governor’s office to rural California

How one law student’s career path intersects with rural justice

Casino night headshotOneJustice supports a statewide network of nonprofits, law schools, law firms, and businesses that provide life-changing legal help to hundreds of thousands of Californians facing legal barriers to basic necessities.  You – like everyone in our network – are an essential part of this collective effort!

This month we’re excited to feature Lauren Plunkett, a law student at Southwestern Law School as another example of how “It Takes a Network” to achieve access to justice for Californians in need. Lauren volunteered for Southwestern’s two-day Justice Bus trip on April 15-16, where she and the other student volunteers conducted mobile legal clinics providing family law services in Palm Desert an immigration services in Coachella, serving 27 low-income residents.  We were able to connect with Lauren for a quick Q&A about her experience.

Lauren, could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself and your path to Southwestern Law School.

As I graduated from the University of Colorado, the thought of going to law school was always in the back of my mind. I was not interested in becoming an attorney per se, I just wanted to know the laws and use that knowledge to help others. After a brief stint as a flight attendant in Washington D.C. in 2005-06, I began my first career as a public servant in Colorado in the Governor’s Office of Information Technology. Over my six-year tenure with the state I held various positions managing several statewide initiatives leveraging technology to improve service delivery in a variety of areas and improving the state’s broadband internet capacity; especially in rural areas. I also became a foster parent to two children, and we began navigating the confusing world of the child dependency legal system. After nearly four years, I adopted the two children that were placed in my care, and we celebrated becoming a forever family on National Adoption Day in 2011.

From these personal and professional experiences, I found my purpose for law school that had been pulling at me since college. I wanted to learn all the laws and policy behind how the states protect children and their families, and my ultimate goal is to leverage the experience I gained in the Governor’s Office with my law degree to implement changes in the systems used by human services agencies, and transform state government operations so they are enabled to truly work in the best interests of children and families.

Tell us a bit about the pro bono and public interest work you’ve pursued during law school!

Since I was young as a girl scout, I have gravitated towards work and volunteer activities where I can listen to people’s needs and direct them the resources available to help them. I want to make a difference helping others because I get such joy out of seeing their happiness when they get what they need, or are listened to for the first time.

Southwestern has no shortage of ways to get involved public interest through its Public Service Program (PSP), various student organizations, and countless summer externship opportunities. I have volunteered for the homelessness prevention law project and for the Teen Court program and have also been active in Southwestern’s Public Interest Law Committee (PILC). I have also had two public interest externships – one at the Children’s Law Center and then at the Alliance for Children’s Rights. Both positions offered opportunities to work with foster youth and were very fulfilling because I saw first-hand what a difference the advocacy I provided made in the lives of other foster youth.

What made you decide to go on the Justice Bus trip? Lauren Plunkett

I was very interested in participating in the Justice Bus Project because a classmate told me that on a previous Southwestern Justice Bus trip, the students helped the same number of people in two days that the local legal services nonprofit can help in three months! I knew I wanted to be part of the student group who made that level of services possible.

What was your favorite thing about going on the Justice Bus trip? 

My favorite thing about this year’s Justice Bus trip was that it fulfilled my desire to provide assistance to victims of domestic violence and learn more about family law. I helped one client in particular that touched me. She was only 22 years old and was 8 months pregnant. She had only been married 8 months, and had no job and had dropped out of school to be with her husband who had become very abusive to her both physically and verbally. She came to the Justice Bus clinic because she wanted to be able to move back closer to her family to have her baby, stay safe, and get the financial support she needed until she was able to start working again. We assisted her in completing a temporary restraining order that would keep her safe and allow her to begin the divorce process. She was scared, emotional, and very thankful that we were able to help her that day. It felt really good to be able to offer the services that made her feel safe and supported during a difficult time.

Lauren, from everyone here at OneJustice, thank you for being a Justice Bus Rider and for your outstanding commitment to public service!  We look forward to many future collaborations!

It all started with just one caller

A mom caring for her child with cancer.

She launched my path to public interest work.

“What drew you to public interest work?”

For Cheryl, it all started with one caller to the Cancer Legal Resource Center.

For Cheryl, it all started with one caller to the Cancer Legal Resource Center.

I have been asked this question more times than I can count since graduating from law school. I used to never have one answer to this question. My litany of responses has included: I want to help others who lack access to legal services. I want to do my part to close the “justice gap.” I want to be able to do something that matters.

More recently, when I am I asked this question I think to myself, “why wouldn’t I be interested in public interest work?”  However, that internal response would have never come to me that naturally when I started law school.

I will be honest that when I started law school, I did not know where my legal career would take me. Before law school, I worked at a major movie studio and then for the City of Los Angeles.  Two places where I had very little exposure to the law and definitely had no exposure to public interest other than knowing that there were legal non-profits out there, but I definitely could not give you their names.

So where did it all begin?

During the summer after my 1L year, I had the opportunity to extern at the Cancer Legal Resource Center (CLRC) of the Disability Rights Legal Center in Los Angeles. It was there where I started learning more about pro bono and the public interest world. I worked primarily on the CLRC Intake line, where day in and day out I talked to people who had been impacted by cancer, either being diagnosed themselves or family members and even friends of those with cancer.

It was one caller in particular that really helped me understand the impact of the CLRC and the work I was doing. A mother called distraught because her employer was not allowing her to take time off from work to care for her child who had cancer. As I had done with many other callers, I spoke with the supervising attorney about her situation, and then I provided her with information and additional resources that would allow her to advocate for herself to her employer. However, unlike any other caller before, she got a little choked-up, and I could hear the huge sense of relief in her voice knowing that there was a way for her to be able to care for her child.

WLC Justice Bus Clinic_June 2014

Now Cheryl runs the Justice Bus Project bringing legal services to isolated communities, such as this recent successful expungement clinic in Watsonville.

My experience at the CLRC is what motivated me to continue to seek other opportunities in public interest. Furthermore, I think the real reason I work in public interest is because of the people I meet and the stories they tell. This is what has kept me coming back.

That is also what drew me to work with OneJustice, running the Justice Bus Project in Southern California. It is an opportunity to work on a project where the work is always “moving” (no pun intended) and changing. In the short time I have been at OneJustice, I have worked with the Justice Bus team and  partners to provide free legal services to seniors, families, veterans, and youth eligible for new federal immigration programs. I’ve met people from all walks of life and have visited towns and cities in Southern California I had never been to or even heard of.  Each trip, there are new people to help with their own stories to tell.

So I guess when I am asked, “what drew you to public interest work?” It really boils down to one simple answer, “the people.”

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Cheryl Banares, Justice Bus FellowOur guest author, Cheryl Banares, is an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow and member of the national Equal Justice Works Veterans Legal Corps.  She joined OneJustice in the fall of 2013 and runs the Justice Bus Project in Southern California, bringing life-changing legal assistance to low-income Californians in rural and isolated communities.

Q: where do a coffee geek and sax player both hang out?

A: In the OneJustice office!

Welcome to some new faces on our team.

Welcome to our newest team members, Wendy Lau and Stephanie Hernandez

We’re excited to introduce you all to some new members of the OneJustice team!  Please join us in extending a warm welcome to Wendy Lau, our new Executive & Operations Assistant, and Stephanie Hernandez, our new Development & Communications Assistant.  We’re pretty nosy here with new staff, so we forced them to sit down and answer a series of questions to satisfy our curiosity and yours.

Read on and get to know them a little better!

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So Wendy, tell us what drew you to the work of OneJustice?

Welcome Wendy Lau!

Wendy is our new resident coffee geek!

I was interested in OneJustice’s unique role in supporting a large network of legal nonprofits to create mutual benefits for both nonprofit legal organizations and Californians who need legal help. It is fascinating to see the collaborative efforts of many stakeholders in bringing positive social change.

And what are your primary responsibilities at OneJustice – and what do you hope to achieve?

I will be providing support to Julia Wilson, our executive director, and to the Board of Directors, as well as assisting with office operations. I hope to help the organization run smoothly and efficiently through back-end support so that our entire team can better fulfill OneJustice’s mission.

What did you do before coming to OneJustice?

I worked various administrative positions in the past and interned at the environmental nonprofit Earthjustice, where I grew interested in nonprofit work. Most recently, I was traveling and teaching English abroad in Japan.

And tell us something quirky about you!

I am a coffee geek who cringes at the sight of instant coffee and poorly steamed milk. I enjoy trying different specialty coffees, experimenting with my coffee gadgets, and working on art at local cafes.

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And Stephanie, could you tell us why you decided to work at OneJustice?

Welcome Stephanie Hernandez

Stephanie is sure to win the next OneJustice staff talent contest!

I was inspired by OneJustice’s work and its ability to connect legal services organizations with law firms to provide assistance to low-income and impoverished people. As someone who has received this kind of help, I know the difference one hour of help can make for a family. I am passionate about leveraging an organization’s intellect and experience to draw attention to key issues and creating long-lasting support.

Tell us a little more about your position and your big picture goals for the work?

I will be responsible for providing support to the Development and Communications team in variety of areas, from our yearly event Opening Doors to Justice to developing relationships with key audiences in our digital and print media and through our social media channels. I hope to raise awareness and solidify new relationships with clients, legal services nonprofits, and legal firms.

What did you do before coming to OneJustice?

After graduating from UC Santa Cruz, I worked closely with several environmental nonprofits in providing development and communications support. Most recently, I have worked in a competitive tech public relations firm building engagement and recognition between start-ups, the tech world, and the media world.

And what else should the OneJustice network know about you?

I love music and considered pursuing it when I was younger. I have played saxophone (alto & tenor) for the past 8 years, primarily doing improv jazz and rock, and I also enjoy playing the ukulele and singing. My goal is to have the capability of playing both wind and string instruments.

Thank you so much, Wendy and Stephanie – and a very warm welcome to the OneJustice team!

A pro bono pioneer in Silicon Valley

Create an inaugural Pro Bono Coordinator position?

All kinds of amazing things happen!

OneJustice supports a statewide network of nonprofits, law schools, law firms, and businesses that provide life-changing legal help to hundreds of thousands of Californians facing legal barriers to basic necessities.  You – like everyone in our network – are an essential part of this collective effort!

This month we’re excited to feature another example of how “It Takes a Network” to achieve access to justice for Californians in need. We’re so proud that Allison Barnum, the first ever Pro Bono Coordinator at the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley,  is a member of the OneJustice network and a frequent partner on new pro bono projects.  We were able to connect with Allison for a quick Q&A about the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley and her work to support and expand its Pro Bono Program.

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Headshot of Allison Barnum

Allison Barnum is the first ever Pro Bono Coordinator at the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley

Allison, could you tell us a bit about the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley and your role as Pro Bono Coordinator?

The Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary, is the largest provider of free legal services in Silicon Valley. Our mission is to advance the rights of under-represented individuals and families in our diverse community through legal services, strategic advocacy, and educational outreach. The Law Foundation is comprised of five programs in addition to our Pro Bono Program: Fair Housing Law Project, Health Legal Services, Legal Advocates for Children & Youth, Mental Health Advocacy Project and Public Interest Law Firm. The Law Foundation specializes in housing law, health and public benefits, mental health and disability law, dependency, education, guardianship and family law. In 2013, the Law Foundation’s 43 attorneys, 30 support staff and many, many pro bono volunteers served over 8,000 low-income and underrepresented individuals in Silicon Valley.

The Law Foundation has a long history of providing much-needed legal services to our community’s most vulnerable populations. Since its inception, the Law Foundation has partnered with pro bono attorneys throughout the Bay Area to help achieve its mission. In 2011, the Law Foundation created a pro bono coordinator position, a realization of our long-time goal of significantly expanding our pro bono program. After spending six years as an attorney with the Legal Advocates for Children & Youth program, I took on the challenge of further developing the Law Foundation’s Pro Bono Program as our first hired pro bono coordinator.

The last two years have been extremely busy and we have accomplished a ton! We launched six new pro bono projects, including our School Discipline Legal Assistance Project, the Loan Modification Scam Redress Project, the Nonprofit Legal Assistance Project, and the Volunteer Eviction Assistance Collaborative. We have also partnered with OneJustice and the Association of Pro Bono Counsel (APBCo) to launch the Rural Justice Collaborative and are working with Skadden Arps on a ground-breaking educational outreach project to local high schools entitled, “Know Your Rights & Know the Law: Sexual and Social Media Misconduct.” These pro bono programs are in addition to our long-standing Guardianship Representation Project and impact litigation co-counsel opportunities.

And how does your position at the Law Foundation intersect with OneJustice’s work?

Though I had heard of OneJustice prior to assuming my role as pro bono coordinator, I admit I knew little about the organization. My first true exposure was the OneJustice Pro Bono Managers group. After the first meeting, I knew that OneJustice was not only an incredible resource for me as a new pro bono coordinator, but also to the larger legal services community. I immediately felt as though the Law Foundation had found a soul-mate organization – one that shared our values of providing high-quality legal services to all members of society. For the last two years, I have participated in OneJustice Pro Bono Manager meetings, attended OneJustice Pro Bono conferences and summits, and most significantly, partnered with OneJustice and the Association of Pro Bono Counsel (APBCo) to develop and launch the Rural Justice Collaborative, an effort to provide legal services to those in rural communities that have extremely limited access to legal assistance.

Tell us about a recent “win” in pro bono at the Law Foundation.

Nikki Dossman and Allison Barnum standing together

Nikki Dossman received an award from her firm, Lowenstein Sandler, for her pro bono work with the Law Foundation.

As I mentioned, the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley is composed of five individual programs, one of which is Legal Advocates for Children & Youth (LACY).  LACY refers cases to volunteer attorneys through several different projects, including the School Discipline Legal Assistance Project launched in 2012.  Through our school discipline project, LACY has connected over a dozen students in Silicon Valley with pro bono attorneys who help to ensure that students’ educational rights are adequately protected.

We have had many successes through the School Discipline Legal Assistance Project.  However, I would say the biggest “win” is finding a pro bono attorney at a supportive firm who is committed to taking on multiple cases and developing his or her own expertise, which increases our organization’s capacity to serve even more students facing expulsion.  In the case of our school discipline project, Nikki Dossman from Lowenstein Sandler LLP is our “win.”  She has taken three school discipline cases through LACY in the last year.  In each case, she has achieved remarkable results – a suspended expulsion after an evidentiary hearing in a case with very difficult facts, and two wins on appeal!  She is a tremendous resource to the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley as well as the larger community.  A true partnership is the best “win” in the eyes of a legal services pro bono manager!

What aspect of your participation in the OneJustice network is the most exciting to you right now?

Well, as you know, the Law Foundation worked very closely with OneJustice on the development and implementation of the Rural Justice Collaborative (RJC). The goals of the collaborative were completely aligned with several of the Law Foundation’s strategic objectives including better meeting the needs of individuals and families living in South Santa Clara County (Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy) and engaging the larger legal community to increase access to legal services within our region. Consequently, partnering with OneJustice on this project was an obvious fit.

Allison Barnum with Rachel Burns of Latham & Watkins.

Allison with Rachel Burns of Latham & Watkins, a repeat volunteer at the Gilroy Rural Justice Clinic on housing.

The collaboration has been remarkable – from design to development and implementation, the Rural Justice Collaborative has been an example of true best practices in leveraging pro bono support to serve an unmet legal need. Though the collaborative has already been very successful, the partnering organizations are committed to on-going evaluation and improvement in order to provide the highest quality legal services to as many individuals and families as possible. This includes examining the possibility of incorporating technology in order to increase the number of clients we are able to serve. When committed and capable legal services organizations and pro bono volunteers form true partnerships, the possibilities seem endless – I look forward to our continued collaboration in this endeavor and am excited to see just how big of an impact we can have on providing access to justice to folks in rural communities.

Thanks so much, Allison, for chatting with us, for your important role in the OneJustice network, and for your terrific work at the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley!

Rural Justice: it’s not just for people!

Nonprofit corporations suffer from legal problems, too!

We’ve learned that rural justice isn’t just for veterans, seniors, and kids.Expert attorneys provided advice.

I know, it’s kind-of our constant refrain here at OneJustice. We’re pretty much always going on about rural justice and the urban/rural divide. We can’t help it! We care a lot about the legal needs of rural Californians – and we are all about addressing the fact that nonprofits providing civil legal aid in rural areas have less funding, less access to volunteer attorneys, and larger geographic regions to cover.

So you’ve heard us talk before about veterans, children with disabilities, seniors, and families living in rural and isolated areas of the state. Reaching those folks is the whole point of our statewide Rural Justice Initiative, including the Justice Bus Project.

And yet, we never really thought about the legal needs of the rural nonprofit organizations serving those same isolated communities. Until yesterday.

Volunteers working with a nonprofit client.Our staff had the amazing experience this week of working with volunteer attorneys from Hewlett-Packard Company and Morgan Lewis & Bockius to put together the first-ever Rural Justice Clinic for Nonprofits. Yesterday a terrific group of attorneys from HP and Morgan Lewis – together with the entire national class of Morgan Lewis summer associates, from all of the firm’s offices, came together for a high-octane free legal clinic for nonprofits serving the North Bay counties.

In just 3 hours, the volunteers assisted 12 nonprofits – walking them through a comprehensive legal “audit” (like a health check-up on their legal needs) – and then providing individualized advice. It was beyond awesome. The volunteers brought incredible understanding and expertise to help these nonprofits, whose missions range from cultivating healthy families to providing shelter and services to victims of domestic violence to ensuring affordable housing for persons with development disabilities.

And here is our big takeaway from yesterday: rural justice isn’t just for individuals. It is also for nonprofit organizations – and in these isolated communities, the local network of nonprofits  serves as an essential safety net of services and assistance to the same individuals that the OneJustice network reaches through the Rural Justice Initiative.

It was pretty much an eye-opener for us. And we’re already working up the idea of replicating this clinic in other rural areas.  More to come, both in our Rural Justice Initiative and on this blog!

So, a most heartfelt “thank you” to the attorneys at Hewlett-Packard Company and Morgan Lewis, both for providing all the volunteers to make yesterday’s clinic possible, but even more importantly for opening our eyes to the need for this kind of rural justice.

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