OneJustice Blog

Bring life-changing legal help to Californians in need.

Tag Archives: Fenwick & West LLP

Bridging the justice gap with technology

Rural Immigrant Connect launches its first pilot case.

Over the past few years, the number of human beings fleeing horrifying violence in parts of Central America and Mexico for the U.S. has escalated dramatically. In 2014, the number of women crossing the U.S. border multiplied by more than three times compared to 2013, while the number of separated or unaccompanied children reached over 66,000 in 2014, up from an average of 6,775 children in the years 2003-2011. This stream of refugees fleeing Central America and Mexico has not ceased, and many arrive in California on a daily basis.

IMAGE: Image explaining to clients how Rural Immigrant Connect works.

Image explaining to clients how Rural Immigrant Connect works.

Unfortunately, arriving in the U.S. is only half the battle — not only do immigrants face constant worries about family left behind, but many are placed into deportation proceedings in immigration court, where even very young children are not guaranteed a lawyer. It’s even worse for immigrants who reside in California’s Central Valley, a region with few legal organizations offering services within its vast geographic expanse.

The need for innovative models to connect pro bono attorneys with immigrant clients in rural California has never been greater. Through a generous Equal Justice Works fellowship sponsored by the law firm Fenwick & West LLP, OneJustice recently launched the project Rural Immigrant Connect, putting technology to creative use by connecting pro bono attorneys in the Bay Area with immigrant clients in need in the Central Valley.

Rural Immigrant Connect addresses the dearth of legal representation for low-income immigrants in the Central Valley by tapping the resources of the Bay Area and Silicon Valley, home to law firms and corporations that can provide an incredible amount of resources to serve Central Valley clients. To bridge the geographic gap, the project uses videoconferencing for the majority of communication between pro bono attorneys and clients, following an initial in-person meeting. In addition, OneJustice places laptops at community organizations in the Central Valley to provide clients with easy access and in-person technology support.

Thanks to the wonderful work of Fenwick & West LLP attorneys Vikram Iyengar and Rajendra Panwar with support from Partner Lynn Pasahow and the mentorship of Director and Immigration Attorney Emily Abraham of Social Justice Collaborative, Rural Immigrant Connect took on its first pilot case this spring — leading the way for the marriage of pro bono and technology to bridge the justice gap for immigrant communities throughout the Central Valley.

UPDATED_Rural Immigrant Connect Pro Bono Attorneys_061316_SMH

Rural Immigrant Connect is more than simply a means through which we can connect more Central American and Mexican refugees in the Central Valley with vital pro bono legal representation. This innovative project also provides us with a means of gathering data regarding the efficacy of videoconferencing to demonstrate a model that can be replicable throughout the U.S. A project like this can bridge the often daunting urban-rural divide separating many rural low-income communities from access to affordable legal services.

Rural Immigrant Connect is at its core a collaborative project that has only been made possible through incredible partnerships with legal services organizations Social Justice Collaborative and Centro Legal de la Raza; community organizations El Concilio and Centro La Familia; the law firm Fenwick & West LLP; and national organization Equal Justice Works. Thanks to the dedication of pro bono volunteers like Vikram and Rajendra, partnerships like those mentioned above, and the collaboration of the OneJustice network, we can work together to bring help, hope, and justice to individuals escaping the violence that continues to plague our neighbors in parts of Mexico and in regions of Central America.

IMAGE: Image explaining to pro bono attorneys how Rural Immigrant Connect works.

Image explaining to pro bono attorneys how Rural Immigrant Connect works.

To view the full infographic presented above, please click here.

Renee_Grid PicRenée Schomp is an Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by Fenwick & West LLP and Staff Attorney at OneJustice. She currently spearheads the Rural Immigrant Connect project in California’s Central Valley.

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!


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! 

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