OneJustice Blog

Bring life-changing legal help to Californians in need.

Category Archives: California Legal Services Delivery System

Great news for 2016 – all because of you

Thank you for bringing hope, help, and justice to those in need.

Once again, you did something simply amazing.

And you did it for people whom you will probably never meet.  That is truly remarkable.  Thank you.

You see, your continued support for OneJustice will bring life-changing legal help to people in need.  Veterans who are struggling – right now – to access medical care and employment. Women who are – at this very moment – experiencing horrific abuse.   Teenagers who – as you read this – are living in fear of deportation because they cannot apply for the federal immigration relief they deserve.

Thousands of Californians are suffering – right now – from solvable legal problems.

And because of you – help is on the way.

Veterans will get jobs and medical treatment. Women will escape abusive relationships.  Young adults will get immigration relief, driver’s licenses, and jobs.

You will transform their lives in 2016.  So, here at OneJustice, we think you are pretty amazing.

I am so inspired and moved by your steadfast support that I made a short video to try to express how very grateful I am – we all are – for your generous support.  I hope it conveys how much your donation means to me, to the OneJustice Board and staff, and most of all, to the people whose suffering will end this year – because of you.

Thank you.  Thank you for bringing hope, help, and justice to those in need.

Yours,

Julia

2016 Thank You Video from OneJustice on Vimeo.

 

Look what you’ve done over the past year…

You brought justice to 1,383 Californians! Wow!

As we kick off this season of gratitude, we wanted to share with you the tremendous impact you made this past year. Volunteers, donors, and partners like you brought free legal assistance to over 1,000 individuals in need, and we couldn’t be more grateful!

Final 2015 Report Back Infographic (with map pins)

Spread the word! This holiday seasonthe OneJustice Board of Directors will match every gift, dollar-for-dollar. That’s right, that means twice as much justice for veterans, vulnerable seniors, and low-income children and youth. You are our justice heroes – and you make the work possible. Donate now!

Avoiding ethical pitfalls in our sector

Toby Rothschild, a Board member and pro bono Of Counsel to OneJustice, shares valuable insight all nonprofit leaders should know.

Toby is a longtime partner in OneJustice’s efforts to strengthen the civil legal aid system and has been a member of the OneJustice board since 2000. He provides ethics trainings to our network organizations throughout the state. We asked Toby to tell us about his path to becoming an Ethics trainer in the legal services sector.

Please join us in welcoming Toby!


[Photo: Toby Rothschild, Of Counsel to OneJustice.]

Toby Rothschild, Of Counsel to OneJustice.

Thank you for joining us, Toby! Tell us what started your interest in legal ethics?

Shortly after I became Executive Director of the Legal Aid Foundation of Long Beach, I was faced with an ethical conflict. We were representing a client who was attempting to stop the demolition of some low income housing by the city. The president of my Board of Directors raised questions about the client’s eligibility and asked me to show him the intake information. I refused, and told him that I had verified that the client was eligible, and that he had not consented to sharing the information with the board. To avoid a standoff, we agreed to send a joint letter to the Ethics Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar and be bound by their decision. The Committee issued an opinion that made clear that the board was not entitled to confidential client information.

I maintained an interest in legal ethics after that, occasionally doing training for my staff and for other legal services attorneys. When LAFLB and LAFLA merged, I became General Counsel of LAFLA, and ethics advice and training became a major part of my job. I began offering monthly ethics training for LAFLA advocates, and soon began inviting all of the other LA area advocates to attend as well. In addition, I provided counselling on ethics issues for LAFLA and other advocates throughout the state.

When I retired from LAFLA about a year ago, I was looking for a way to continue to use the knowledge I had developed to assist legal services advocates and programs. I talked to OneJustice’s CEO Julia Wilson and we agreed that it would be useful to offer the training and consulting I had been doing through LAFLA as part of OneJustice’s programs.

What are the general topics you cover?

In some ways, ethics in legal services programs is no different than for any other lawyers. The same rules apply. On the other hand, the kinds of ethical issues that arise are often different. Legal services lawyers seldom face ethical problems with how to collect their fees, or how to sell their practice (for example, who would want to buy it?). The two primary ethics issues that do arise, conflicts of interest and confidentiality, come up in different contexts. So the training focuses on the particular issues like these that arise in a legal services setting.

In these trainings, we talk about the unique issues of representing nonprofit organizations, withdrawal from representation, whether you can give a client money for a meal or bus fare, and communication with clients, among other issues. There are many issues that arise in situations where the program is representing multiple clients in the same case. It might be several tenants suing a landlord for lack of maintenance, or several employees suing their employer for wage theft. There are several disclosures that have to be made to the clients in such cases to get their consent to continue representing all of them.

And how do organizations benefit from Ethics trainings and consulting?

Every lawyer needs to keep up to date with their ethics training. First, it is important to understand the rules of the road, so you can avoid ethical pitfalls. Second, ethical conundrums arise in every practice, and it very useful to have a place to go to get guidance on how to address the complexities of the rules and cases. And it is useful to have someone outside the organization to consult with, as there are some circumstances where consulting only with your colleagues can cause ethical problems by itself.

And third, every lawyer is required to obtain a number of hours of Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) on a regular basis. Several of these hours must be in legal ethics. It is much better to obtain the MCLE ethics hours in programs that focus on the unique needs of legal services attorneys. And California law requires paralegals to obtain regular ethics training as well, so we provide the training for paralegals. Particularly for confidentiality, we often include the entire staff, as it is critical for everyone to understand the obligations of a lawyer, and all who work for or with the lawyer, to “maintain inviolate the confidence, and at every peril to himself or herself to preserve the secrets, of his or her client.”

Thank you so much, Toby, for your guidance and leadership!


About Toby Rothschild: He recently retired after serving as the General Counsel of the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) for 13 years. Prior to that, he was the executive director of the Legal Aid Foundation of Long Beach (LAFLB) for 28 years and Interim Executive Director of LAFLA. He graduated from UCLA School of Law in 1969, and has worked at legal aid programs since graduation. He has been the president of the Long Beach Bar Association and was Vice Chair of the California Commission on Access to Justice. Toby has served as a member of the State Bar Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct and as Chair of the Professional Responsibility and Ethics Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar. He also was liaison on access to justice issues to the first commission which drafted the proposed new California Rules of Professional Responsibility, and is a member of the newly appointed Rule Revision Commission. He currently serves as a member of the State Bar Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission and he’s been a member of the OneJustice board since 2000. He currently serves as pro bono Of Counsel to OneJustice.

I could see happiness in their eyes

Healthy Nonprofits Program’s Christopher McConkey tells us about the civil justice shortfall and the need for free legal assistance.

We asked our Staff Attorney Christopher McConkey to give us his insight on why it’s necessary for organizations and programs in the legal sector to transform the civil legal aid delivery system.


Guest Blogger: Christopher McConkey, OneJustice Staff Attorney for the Healthy Nonprofits Program

[Photo: Huffington Post]

Photo Credit: Huffington Post

There is a phenomenon in our society where people who are less able to afford legal help are often the people who need it the most. These low-income individuals struggle every day to find the legal assistance they need to preserve basic life necessities like housing, health care, economic security, and child custody.

This is not a minor phenomenon. Over 60 million people in the United States might qualify for free civil legal services because they live at or below 125% of the federal poverty guidelines. However, people are less likely to access these services due to limited resources, mental health issues, and inexperience with our legal system.

Worsening this crisis, insufficient funding prevents many legal aid programs from serving 50% or more of the people who actively seek their help, leaving attorneys to address less than 20% of lower-income people’s legal needs.1 All of these shortfalls ultimately leave low-income individuals without critical legal assistance.

The Civil Justice Shortfall

The civil justice shortage is especially acute in California. As a legal aid attorney right after law school, I encountered hundreds of people slowly moving from one legal services project to another with the same issues. The recurring problem was program capacity. Staff attorneys reached full caseloads, projects offered fewer services to help more people, and funders carved programs to reflect their priorities. Even waves of talented and eager volunteers could expand an organization’s capacity only superficially, and only to a point.

I recall a monthly legal clinic I helped coordinate in Los Angeles. This clinic aimed to reduce an overwhelming and countywide need for immigration legal aid. The immigration attorneys who volunteered–I was not one of them–helped numerous lower-income Angelenos to understand and pursue their legal options. Limited capacity, however, left some clients on the waitlist for months. Those who persevered accessed expert immigration services for free. Those who dropped off the waitlist continued the long search for assistance or, worse, gave up.

For the clients who received assistance, legal help gave them their safety, jobs, family cohesion, dignity, and peace of mind; I could see happiness in their eyes. To me, this clinic exemplifies why finally eliminating the justice gap is worth our collective effort, resources, and ingenuity.

Transforming the Legal Services Sector through Innovation

As with all solvable problems, we should be optimistic! Our resourceful and morally ambitious society can overcome this justice shortfall. More funding is necessary, but for now, we can and should innovate additional ways to expand legal services for people who are lower-income.

[Photo: Legal Services Nonprofit leaders discussing trainings.]

Legal Services Nonprofit leaders discussing trainings.

OneJustice is already strengthening California’s legal services infrastructure to provide greater access to the legal system. In the Healthy Nonprofits Program (“HNP”), we are supplying nonprofit management consulting, legal technical support, and public policy advocacy to legal services organizations throughout the state.

Additionally, we help connect hundreds of public-interest-minded law students to nonprofit and government employers every year. We are invigorating legal nonprofits while enhancing the environment in which they operate—all so we can transform the legal services sector.

Individual attorneys will close the justice gap one client at a time. Several factors can coalesce to make that possible: additional funding, robust nonprofit management, public policies that value legal services organizations, and the gumption to innovate strategies that will solve one of the most stubborn justice crises of our time.

1 For more information about this civil justice gap, please see the Legal Services Corporation’s report titled Documenting the Justice Gap in America: The Current Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans


Chris_CROPPED

As a Staff Attorney in the Healthy Nonprofits Program, Chris helps guide legal services organizations on matters of nonprofit law and management. He also advocates for public policies that foster the growth of legal nonprofits and–through them–meaningful access to justice for all Californians. In this way, his work bolsters California’s infrastructure for civil legal assistance at the organizational and systemic levels. As part of his role, Chris provides legal support for OneJustice’s consulting and policy work. Additionally, he provides policy briefings and advocacy for OneJustice’s statewide community of legal services organizations.

 

85 trips and counting…

Our very own Justice Bus Program Coordinator, Ruby Kimberly, tells us about bringing vital legal assistance to Hollister.

In her time at OneJustice, Ruby has coordinated 85 Justice Bus trips around the state! These trips are made possible by our amazing volunteers, partner organizations, corporations, and firms, who join forces to bring life-changing legal help to communities all over the state. As a valuable member of our Pro Bono Justice program, we asked Ruby to share a trip that resonated with her the most during her time at OneJustice.


Guest Blogger: Ruby Kimberly, OneJustice Justice Bus Program Coordinator

[Photo: Hollister-CA]

Photo credit: Realty World

I had been an employee of OneJustice for less than eight months when I boarded a bus to Hollister in July 2014. Before this trip, I had already attended over 20 Justice Bus trips bringing free legal services to nearly 600 low-income individuals throughout the state. Since joining the Pro Bono Justice team as the Justice Bus Program Associate the previous October, I had traveled to and helped organize free legal clinics in communities as far flung and geographically diverse as the Klamath, just south of the Oregon border, to Pixley, a census designated place at the far end of California’s drought-ridden Central Valley. And while each mile traveled proved as critical as the next, I felt something special on this particular day as we made our way down the 101, through Santa Clara County and into the sparsely populated San Benito Valley. This was the first time that the Justice Bus had ever traveled to Hollister, but it would not be the last.

The story of Hollister for me is one of a justice gap and how to fill it. For those who have never heard it, “justice gap” is a term used to describe the discrepancy between the concentration of legal resources in urban areas versus the concentration of low-income and particularly vulnerable populations in rural ones. For example, where as in San Francisco there is one attorney for every six low-income individuals, San Benito County has just one attorney for every 120 low-income individuals. Bridging gaps such as this is the entire raison d’etre for the Justice Bus Project, and it is a goal which requires the effort of a diverse group of stakeholders, usually located in multiple different regions, as well as dexterity and mobility (hence the bus!). And, never had it been more evident to me how well suited the Justice Bus Project is for this seemingly insurmountable task than in the case of Hollister.

[Photo: Lowenstein Sandler LLP attorney volunteers assist a client with citizenship matters at the July 2014 clinic.]

Lowenstein Sandler LLP attorney volunteers assist a client with citizenship matters at the July 2014 clinic.

Our journey to Hollister had begun several months earlier when we received a call from a teacher at the local community college. He heard about a Justice Bus clinic we were holding in a neighboring town to assist Green Card holders with their applications for citizenship and wanted to sign some of his students up. Despite the dearth of resources in San Benito County, we would not be able to serve his students, because funding restrictions on this particular clinic limited appointments to locals only.

But the thing I love most about the Justice Bus Project is that where there’s a will, there’s usually a way, and -– after piecing together four different partners from four different counties -– a way we found! Now just over a year later, we’ve held two immigration-focused clinics there, delivering free services to 42 individuals and helping to build a permanent network dedicated to serving the Hollister community.

We continue to receive phone calls from organizations across the County inquiring about our services and how they can help, and together, we’re watching as day-by-day this gap slowly shrinks.

“I am so thankful for this event because much of the time I don’t have the resources necessary to take care of things like [my immigration paperwork]. For me, it is very important to vote but I couldn’t for lack of money to apply for citizenship. Thank you for coming to our community and changing this.” – Client from Hollister clinic


Ruby KimberlyAs the Justice Bus Program Coordinator in the Pro Bono Justice Program, Ruby Kimberly coordinates Justice Bus trips in Northern and Southern California, mobilizing attorney and law school student volunteers to bring life-changing legal help to isolated communities in the state.

A leader in pro bono delivery

Join us as we celebrate Kathryn Fritz

Managing Partner at Fenwick and West LLP and one of our event honorees!

Headshot of Kathryn Fritz, Managing Partner of Fenwick & West LLPEvery year, the OneJustice network gathers at our Opening Doors to Justice event to celebrate three individuals whose outstanding accomplishments have moved the needle on legal services, pro bono, and access to justice. Won’t you join us this year on:

Thursday, June 25th 

6-9 pm

Julia Morgan Ballroom (downtown SF)

*Tickets and auction items are now available

We are incredibly honored to be recognizing Kate Fritz for her work in mobilizing the private sector to bring legal help to those in need. With Kate’s leadership, in 2013, Fenwick & West contributed over 11,000 hours in pro bono services, valued at over $5 million in legal services. The firm is at the forefront of pro bono delivery, as a founding law firm in the Bay Area Rural Justice Collaborative, the Virtual Legal Services Project, and a frequent partner in the Justice Bus Project, reaching isolated communities throughout Northern California. Please welcome our second honoree, Kathryn Fritz, Managing Partner at Fenwick & West LLP!

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Why have you committed your time and energy to working on increasing access to civil legal services and access to justice?

I’ve always viewed service not only to our clients but to our broader community as a core part of being a lawyer. Sometimes we lose sight of just how essential our service is in providing access to justice, but it’s critical that we do not forget, and so critical that we remember what an essential part every member of the legal profession has to play. Philosophically, those ideas are what drew me to the study of law and those same themes have drawn me into pro bono work. It’s both gratifying and deeply humbling to be able to serve those who don’t have easy access to the privilege we take for granted and whose voices often go unheard.  The need is so great and the legal profession has a unique ability to make a difference.  On a more personal note, I’m also very motivated by my two teenage sons and the desire to help make our community one that ensures fairness and protection  for everyone. Community engagement is tremendously powerful, and we all have meaningful contributions to make, but we must act.

What is one particularly rewarding experience you have had in your work on these issues?

Every pro bono case that I have worked on has changed my life: they could not help but do that. But three cases stand out. In two cases I was able to help secure political asylum for clients whose lives were in grave danger in their home countries – one because of his religious beliefs and another because he was a gay man who was HIV positive.  In a third case,  we obtained reversal of the death penalty  for our client. It is hard not to be changed fundamentally by these experiences.

In addition to my personal pro bono work, in my role as Managing Partner of Fenwick & West, I’ve also made it an important part of my focus to promote the firm’s pro bono commitment. Not only do our attorneys and staff devote thousands of hours every year to pro bono work, but we support fellows and organizations (such as OneJustice) who in turn go out and engage even more people to do this work.

What is your favorite part of being a member of the OneJustice network?

How can I name just one?  The Justice Bus project  is just one example of the inspired and innovative way that OneJustice enables the expansion of pro bono work. We have made several trips to serve clients in rural areas, including Napa and Yolo counties, and each time our bus has been oversubscribed. It’s our most popular pro bono opportunity for our attorneys and summer associates (and the client in-house teams that we sometimes partner with on the trips). They come back so energized and engaged. The Justice Bus is a great opportunity to have a personal impact and make a difference in the lives of those you’re helping. We’re also proud of the work being done through the Rural Justice Collaborative which is expanding access to legal services in rural and isolated communities throughout the Bay Area. The group supports the role of pro bono attorneys in the delivery of legal services to the poor, including innovative collaborations between law firms and legal services organizations. We’re also looking forward to working with OneJustice as you host our upcoming Equal Justice Works Fellow, Renee Schomp, and extend the reach of the Justice Bus project even further.

Thank you, Kate, for your commitment to bringing pro bono assistance to Californians in need. We cannot wait to celebrate your achievements next month! 

Someone with such strong character stays with you

I could see his determination to improve his life.

One pro bono attorney’s reflection on bringing legal services to veterans.

Photo of Jennifer Cormano, an associate at the law firm of Nixon Peabody.

Jennifer Cormano, Associate at Nixon Peabody LLP

Last month, Jennifer Cormano joined a team of attorneys from Nixon Peabody LLP and DIRECTV on the Justice Bus to staff a free legal clinic for isolated veterans living in Lancaster. Over the course of just one afternoon, these volunteers provided vital advice and assistance to 29 veterans facing a wide array of legal problems. Working closely with expert attorneys from the Legal Aid Foundation Los Angeles (LAFLA), these attorneys brought much-needed services to those who served our country.

We asked Jennifer to share with us some of her reflections on the experience – what it meant to be able to serve veterans, her experience on the Justice Bus, and her personal connection to pro bono.

We know you’ll enjoy her answers as much as we did!

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Jennifer, tell us a little bit about your favorite memory of volunteering at the Justice Bus clinic for veterans?

All of the veterans I helped while participating in the Justice Bus Project were very inspirational, but one stuck with me. Even though he was recovering from Postraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and some physical injuries, he wanted to go back to school.  When I worked with him, I could see his determination to improve his life. As cliché as it sounds, meeting someone with such strong character stays with you.

A photo of Jennifer sitting on the Justice Bus with other lawyers.

Jennifer with fellow volunteers from Nixon Peabody LLP and DIRECTV head out on the Justice Bus!

What was the funniest thing that happened on your trip?

As an ice breaker to get to know everyone on the trip, we took turns saying our names and our high school mascots. One of the lawyers couldn’t remember his mascot, but was pretty sure it was the fighting fawns. While I appreciate the alliteration, I don’t think  fighting baby deer would be very intimidating. Actually, I think it might be pretty adorable.

What is your personal motivation to do pro bono work? 

I believe it is our professional responsibility as lawyers to provide access to our legal system. I like the Justice Bus model, because it does two very important things.  First, the pro bono model allows me to empower clients to advocate for themselves, which is about more than just legal advice.  Second, the model of having experts on-site allows a team of legal professionals to provide meaningful legal advice to as many clients as possible in a short amount of time.

A photo of Jennifer with another volunteer at the Justice Bus clinic, holding a sign that says "impacting one life makes all the difference."

Bringing free legal help to veterans in isolated communities truly makes all the difference.

What are your plans in terms of continuing to do pro bono work?

Since my commercial work is all transactional, I am most comfortable in a clinic setting.  I plan to continue to volunteer at clinics, participate in pro bono models like the Justice Bus, and where possible partner with my clients. For example, recently DIRECTV‘s legal department participated with Nixon Peabody LLP on the Justice Bus.  It was very rewarding to work with a client to serve our community.

And our final question for you – what fictional social justice hero do you most admire and why?

A fictional social justice hero? There are so many real social justice heroes that I admire – Rosa Parks and Susan B. Anthony come to mind first.  However, if I have to name a fictional character, I’d say Atticus Finch from “To Kill A Mockingbird.”  Like a lot of lawyers, it is my favorite book. One of my favorite quotes in the book is something Atticus said, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Over the past year, the Justice Bus Project has served 144 veterans throughout the state.

A most heartfelt thanks to Jennifer and all of these volunteers, who make the Justice Bus possible! 

We can’t go back and prevent the violence

But we can help them put their lives back together.

We won’t save everyone.  But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try.

One year ago, Kelsey Williams opened up a brand-new legal clinic in Los Angeles.  Working closely with O’Melveny & Myers LLP and Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, as well as a group of dedicated legal services nonprofits, she launched the “IMPACT LA” project to offer a free, monthly legal clinic for domestic violence survivors, held at the Jenessee Center (a domestic violence intervention nonprofit) and staffed 100% by pro bono volunteers.  October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and so we asked Kelsey to share her experience starting and running this new project that provides free assistance to survivors facing pressing legal problems relating to immigration, public benefits, and housing.

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Guest Blogger: Kelsey Williams, Loyola Law School Post-Graduate Public Interest Law Fellow at OneJustice

I have a confession.

Kelsey Williams

Kelsey Williams, Loyola Law School Post-Graduate Public Interest Law Fellow at OneJustice

I was more than a little scared to run the IMPACT LA project. “Terrified” might be a better word. Developing any new program is intimidating, but the domestic violence focus raised the stakes even higher. I worried I wouldn’t do it justice. The learning curve was steep; I wanted the first clinic to be perfect, a seamless experience for our survivors and volunteers. I had to learn quickly and lean on our amazing partner, Jenesse Center.

In the first year of my fellowship, I’ve learned a lot of lessons: to be constantly improving is better than being perfect, and that each day brings another lesson to be learned. One day can be heartbreaking and the next, life affirming. Some lessons come easy –you can never have too many notepads; others, definitely less so– a project like IMPACT LA does not and should not get easier.

The first lesson came not in the office or at the clinic but outside of work. It’s the part of my job I was least prepared for, equivocally. It was the stories.

Lesson one: make no assumptions.

Nothing could prepare me for the most common reaction I get when I explain my work to someone – it’s a story. Maybe it’s about a friend or family member. Usually, it is about the person to whom I’m speaking. And they all start the same way, “you wouldn’t know it from looking at me, but – here’s my story. I’m a survivor.”

“One day can be heartbreaking and the next, life affirming.”

And in the beginning, they were always right. I never would have suspected them to be a survivor of domestic violence. While there is no one type of survivor, I simply didn’t realize just how many people in my personal, professional, and daily life had been impacted by violence in the home.

Of course, just based on the numbers, it’s inevitable that I know someone who has been personally impacted by domestic violence. But statistics are hard to translate into the faces of the people you see everyday. You know them too. Maybe they haven’t shared with you, but they are there. Learning that domestic violence lives among all of us made it more difficult to learn the next lesson.

Lesson two: if you do this work, you won’t save everyone. I can’t, you can’t, but that doesn’t mean we should not try.

The men and women we work with feel the impact of domestic violence long after any physical assault ends. They come to IMPACT LA because they are living with the consequences of abuse.

We worked this year with a woman who left a violent situation more than five years ago who is still untangling legal repercussions and working every day to get things back on track. To restore the future her family should have had until abuse entered their lives. We can’t go back and prevent what happened to her family. But we can try to help her now.

The majority of individuals come in to untangle the legal repercussions of the abuse they have endured. Removed from the violence they are able to regain control of their lives with the help of our volunteers and partners. But, sometimes it’s not enough.

I know now that I can’t save everyone. What I can do is carry the memory of their stories and experiences with me. I hold them in my heart as a reminder and a guide for the hard days.

The more I learn about the reality and prevalence of domestic violence, the more optimistic I become. Our world need not be full of future victims and survivors of domestic violence. IMPACT LA and great projects like Jenesse’s Youth Conversations are trying to bring an end to domestic abuse through education and awareness.

Two IMPACT LA volunteers who staffed the free clinic at the Jenesse Center on Valentine’s Day 2014.

I’m so grateful to all of these survivors who have opened their hearts to me and the strong individuals working with me to end domestic violence. The work that we do with the Jenesse Center at IMPACT LA is important. And we couldn’t do it without our supporters, volunteers, partners, and brave survivors.

Working together, we can save and rebuild lives.

If you or someone you know needs help – please reach out. You can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

 

Our most heartfelt gratitude to the amazing staff at the Jenessee Center, our legal services partners, Bet Tzedek Legal ServicesCentral American Resource CenterInner City Law CenterLegal Aid Foundation of Los AngelesLevitt & Quinn Family Law CenterNeighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, and Public Counsel Law Center, and all the dedicated volunteers from, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLPJones DayKilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLPLatham & Watkins LLPManatt, Phelps & Phillips LLPMorgan, Lewis & Bockius LLPMorrison & Foerster LLPNixon Peabody LLPO’Melveny & Myers LLPOrrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLPSimpson Thacher & Bartlett LLPToyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.White & Case LLP, and Winston & Strawn LLP.

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IMPACT LA is part of the national IMPACT (Involving More Pro bono Attorneys in our Community Together) project of the Association of Pro Bono Counsel (APBCo), which is a series of new collaborations across the country to expand national law firm efforts to increase access to justice.  OneJustice is honored and thrilled to be working together with APBCo on the IMPACT LA Project.

You are part of a networked community.

Better legal services delivery through networked technology . . .  the OneJustice network.

OneJustice supports a network of 100+ nonprofit legal organizations, law firms, law schools and businesses.  Each year this network provides life-saving legal help to over 275,000 Californians facing legal barriers to basic life necessities and core civil rights.  You – like everyone in our network – are an essential part of the solution to the fact that millions of our neighbors suffer needlessly from solvable legal problems.

Liz Keith, LawHelp Program Manager at Pro Bono Net

Liz Keith, LawHelp Program Manager at Pro Bono Net

In honor of the work that our network does, each month we feature an interview with a different participant in the network. This month we interviewed Liz Keith, who is the LawHelp Program Manager with our partner organization Pro Bono Net.

Liz, tell us a little bit about Pro Bono Net, and your role at the organization?

Pro Bono Net is a national nonprofit working to increase access to justice through innovative uses of technology and collaboration. We have offices in New York and San Francisco, which is where I am based. Among other programs, we have developed and support two web platforms, LawHelp and LawHelp Interactive, to provide legal information and self-help tools directly to the public, as well as probono.net, our flagship platform, which supports pro bono engagement and collaboration among advocates. Our platforms have been adopted by justice communities around the country, including here in California through our partnership with OneJustice on LawHelpCalifornia.org, CalifornaProBono.org, SoCalProBono.org, and several other initiatives.

probono.netI work with Pro Bono Net’s partners around the country who are developing initiatives using the LawHelp and probono.net platforms.  I’ve been with Pro Bono Net for about 8 years, first as a Circuit Rider and now as the LawHelp Program Manager. I work both on the technology and human sides of the equation – facilitating the use of our tools, and helping programs understand how to integrate them with their broader service delivery to help more clients.

How does your experience in the national access to justice, pro bono, and technology communities inform your work with OneJustice

The LawHelpCA and CaliforniaProBono.org websites coordinated by OneJustice are part of a national network of similar initiatives – known as “statewide websites” for short — in all 50 states. About half of the states use Pro Bono Net’s platforms. The federal Legal Services Corporation, which provides funding for legal services, has a special innovation fund called the Technology Initiative Grant program, which provided seed funding for these initiatives and continues to support their expansion.

LawHelp.orgIn each state, the initiatives are coordinated by leading public interest organizations like OneJustice that adapt the technology to the community’s needs, spearhead the content development, and facilitate the participation by other providers. The projects are collaborative in nature. While one group “hosts” the statewide websites, many groups contribute resources and content, and the projects are intended to support the entire state justice community. OneJustice is a natural home for the projects in that way.

Like OneJustice, Pro Bono Net has a network of partners that we support. One of the really fun and rewarding parts of my job is being able to help our partners get the most out of being part of that network. Many legal aid programs don’t have the luxury of learning by experience and I try to help them leverage their limited resources by sharing what I think other states are doing well. Often that goes beyond technology topics. Many of our partners are interested in law student engagement, and I’ve encouraged them to look at the Justice Bus and OneJustice Summer programs, and how OneJustice facilitates collaboration among law schools and providers.

In your opinion, what are some of the strengths of the collaboration between Pro Bono Net and OneJustice?

I think there are a lot of parallels between Pro Bono Net’s approach to supporting  technology innovation and OneJustice’s strategies for strengthening and expanding the delivery system. Both organizations are concerned with removing barriers to justice, capability-building and facilitating collaboration.

One of the exciting and unique aspects of the collaboration is that OneJustice has facilitated the expansion of what started as statewide vision, with CaliforniaProBono.org, into CAProBono.orgregionally-tailored strategies. For example, OneJustice worked with pro bono providers in Southern California to develop SoCalProBono.org on the probono.net platform. So the Southern California community now has a collaborative online resource supporting volunteer engagement in that region. OneJustice is working with Central California Legal Services and Pro Bono Net on a similar initiative, CentralValleyProBono.org, to support pro bono participation in the Central Valley. California is a huge and diverse state, and OneJustice has adopted the probono.net platform to create a robust statewide presence while also building regional capacity. That really speaks to the breadth and depth of OneJustice’s reach.

 What do you enjoy about working with OneJustice?

OneJustice has an incredibly creative and dedicated staff. They are great conveners and community-builders. They are able to identify creative solutions to problems, often by turning conventional assumptions on their head. For example, I appreciated Cynthia Luna’s recent blog post talking about “legal deserts” – looking at communities that are not traditionally rural, but are isolated in other ways and face many of the same challenges in accessing services. And lastly, since much of my work with Pro Bono Net is national, I especially enjoy the opportunity our partnership with OneJustice gives me to work for justice in my home state!

Thank you, Liz!  We look forward to many additional great collaborations between Pro Bono Net and OneJustice throughout 2013!

What do small businesses need to thrive?

Are you surprised to hear that low-income business owners and entrepreneurs get help from nonprofit legal organizations?

Today is Small Business Saturday, a day to celebrate and support small businesses and all they do for our communities, designed as a complement to Black Friday, Cyber Small Business SaturdayMonday, and the new Giving Tuesday.  Today the U.S. Small Business Administration urges all of us to shop at small, locally-owned businesses to support our neighbors and strengthen our local economy.

Small businesses have a powerful impact on our communities and larger society. OneJustice supports using our consumer power to support small, local businesses – which are frequently a road out of poverty and toward self-sufficiency for low-income entrepreneurs and small business owners. (For more about entrepreneurship as a poverty alieviation strategy, read here.)

Just like large multi-national corporations, who access legal advice and representation by large law firms, small business owners and micro-entreprenuers often face pressing legal problems.  For small businesses, a legal problem can be the difference between thriving and failure – but they usually cannot afford law firm billing rates.  The free legal help provided to low-income small businesses and micro-entrepreneurs by organizations in the OneJustice network –  like Public Law Center, Public Counsel, Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, Volunteer Legal Services Program (legal help for non-profits), and others – can make all the difference.

The 2011 California Civil Justice Crisis Hearings — which were staffed by OneJustice — documented that businesses rely on a fully-funded civil court system – and small businesses and entrepreneurs need the help of nonprofit legal organizations.  The Hearings Report found that:

“Small businesses, which often do not have the resources to pay for an attorney, depend on courts and the assistance of legal services to protect their interests and enforce their rights when they become subject to a wrongful increase in taxes or involved in a lawsuit.”

Small Business Owner Nina Jun testifies.

Nina Jun, small business owner, testifies about the important legal help she received from the Public Law Center and the pro bono firm Crowell & Moring, during the California Civil Justice Crisis Hearings.

A wonderful example is the testimony provided by Nina Jun, the owner of a small laundry business in Santa Ana.  We were inspired to hear Nina’s testimony about how Public Law Center and pro bono attorneys from the firm of Crowell & Moring helped her fight the wrongful increase of her taxes by approximately $4,000.  You can hear Nina’s testimony first-hand in the video above.

Nina reported that – “For a small business like mine, an increase of this amount in tax is big . . . It was not only a monetary victory, but it was a triumph [of] spirit and the pride of . . . small businesses, who are looking for justice.”

Infographic showing the power of small businesses

The Power of Small Businesses – they contribute positively to their local communities and create new jobs!

So, SHOP SMALL AND LOCAL today on Small Business Saturday.  Our community small businesses need all of us – consumers and nonprofit legal organizations – to help them survive and thrive in today’s complex and competitive business sector.  And not only will you be supporting the local economy – you might just be supporting someone’s path out of poverty to self-sufficiency.

WE WANT TO KNOW – what is your favorite local, small business that you can support today?  Share in the comments here or on our facebook page or LinkedIn page!  (You can also find maps of small businesses in your area participating in Small Business Saturday here.)

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