OneJustice Blog

Bring life-changing legal help to Californians in need.

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Meet our summer law clerks! Part 2

OneJustice welcomes four new summer law clerks in its San Francisco office.

Welcome back! This week, we are welcoming four law clerks to the OneJustice network. Each year, summer law clerks join the team to assist with current projects and apply the skills they’ve learned in law school. Today, we’re excited to introduce you to the other two summer law clerks, Kyle and Chris! Please join us in welcoming them!


IMAGE: Summer Law Clerk Kyle Edgerton will be helping with the new Rural Immigrant Connect project.

Summer Law Clerk Kyle Edgerton will be helping with the new Rural Immigrant Connect project.

Welcome, Kyle! Tell us, what drew you to the work of OneJustice and what will you be responsible for at the organization? 

One assumption underlying our adversarial legal system is that both parties make it through the courthouse doors. However, millions of people in California and beyond are prevented from vindicating their rights because of systemic barriers unrelated to the merits of their claims. The challenges of “access to justice” are diverse and dynamic, but OneJustice’s work with a large coalition of legal aid programs positions it to confront those challenges in innovative ways, to develop and workshop solutions, and to disseminate its models so all communities can thrive.

I know the unparalleled satisfaction – and hair-pulling frustration – of direct-service work. Partnering with OneJustice exposes me to a new dimension of legal aid and challenges me to reinvent myself as an agent of social change operating at a different layer of the problem.

I will be part of a team continuing to test and iterate OneJustice’s new Rural Immigrant Connect project, which uses virtual technology to bridge the gap between urban-based pro bono attorneys and the Central Valley youth who need immigration representation. The project is off to an exciting start, and we are working to expand its reach and improve its function.

Thinking big-picture, I want to work with all segments of the legal profession to create – and fulfill – opportunities for pro bono service. A disturbingly small share of California attorneys are currently pitching in to shoulder the heavy burden of legal aid needs, and I want to learn more about the barriers and bottlenecks that create this shortfall so I can help to remove them.

Can’t wait to hear about your upcoming work! What did you do before coming to OneJustice? 

I just finished my first year at UC Davis School of Law (King Hall). Before starting law school, I was the Director of the Immigration Assistance Program at Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada for almost five years; That work was engaging, meaningful, and provided a great mix of direct service and some systemic work and advocacy. My journey toward becoming an attorney grew out of my growing recognition of how great the scope of unmet legal need is, and I am excited to mark OneJustice as a waypoint along that path.

We’re excited to be working with you too! And finally, tell us something quirky about you. 

My son, Asher, will turn 2 in September 2016. I think I’ll lose major Dad Points if I don’t list him as my number-one hobby. Other recent hobbies include homebrewing, a weekly short story club, and trying to build up a bicycle from scratch. In college, I took the Flag Football course for eight semesters in a row. (Seriously.)

IMAGE: Summer Law Clerk Chris Gordon will be assisting with the Justice Bus Project.

Summer Law Clerk Chris Gordon will be assisting with the Justice Bus Project.

And now, let’s welcome our last law clerk, Chris! Tell us, what drew you to OneJustice and what will you be doing here during the summer?

I was drawn to OneJustice’s focus on helping Californians in need by connecting rural communities with legal resources. Programs like the Justice Bus Project‘s expungement and housing clinics allow clients and their families to substantially improve their lives. Additionally, OneJustice’s commitment to forming lasting relationships with local organizations and communities is a major reason why I am excited to join this organization.

This summer, I will be working with Pro Bono Justice and the Justice Bus team to provide free legal services to underserved Californians; Groups such as California’s rural Asian Pacific Islander communities who are often not aware of beneficial legal programs or legal steps they may take. I hope to increase the availability of free legal resources within these communities.

Thank you for working on the Justice Bus Project — we look forward to hearing about your work! What did you do before coming to OneJustice?

I finished my first year of law school at the University of Michigan in May. Before attending law school, I volunteered as a teacher for homeless youth in Manila and worked as an educational consultant with students in Beijing.

Sounds like a great abroad experience! Last question: what is something quirky about you?

I attended a Cantonese elementary school here in San Francisco.

Thank you for joining us, Kyle & Chris — and welcome to the OneJustice network! We’re excited to have you all here this summer! 

P.S. Missed our other two law clerks, Grant and Erika? Click here to meet them!

Meet our summer law clerks! Part 1

Join us in welcoming Grant, Erika, Kyle, and Chris to the OneJustice team!

Each summer, we’re excited to have summer law clerks join the OneJustice team. These law clerks will be responsible for assisting with a variety of our Pro Bono Justice projects and will use their skills at mobile legal clinics. Please join us in welcoming the first two summer law clerks, Grant and Erika!


IMAGE: Summer Law Clerk Grant Lehner will be assisting with the Justice Bus Project.

Summer Law Clerk Grant Lehner will be assisting with the Justice Bus Project.

Welcome, Grant! Tell us, what drew you to the work of OneJustice and what will be you be working on?

I was initially drawn to OneJustice because of our desire to bring access to high-quality legal aid to everyone, not just those who can afford it. Justice doesn’t work if it’s only accessible to some. In order for a society to actually work, everyone has to be playing by the same rules, on the same field, and OneJustice’s desire to bring life-changing legal help to those individuals who wouldn’t be able to afford it otherwise helps balance out the scales of justice. This is something I absolutely love.

I’ll be working on the Justice Bus Project, assisting in the organization and implementation of clinics in rural parts of California. These are places where people almost never get to access lawyers, and I am extremely excited to help bring a little assistance into their lives.

Sounds like great work ahead! What were you up to before coming to OneJustice?

I currently go to school at Georgetown University Law Center (GULC), and have worked for a few environmental nonprofits during my gap. At GULC, I’ve helped with the International Migrant’s Bill of Rights, a submission to the United Nation’s High Commission for Refugees. I have also helped folks with Special Immigrant Visas pass through the immigration process as part of the International Refugee Assistance Project.

Wow — both sound like very rewarding experiences! Finally, what’s something quirky about you?

In my spare time, I really enjoy sleeping on the ground in sleeping bags, and walking very long distances with a heavy backpack for no particular reason. I also love to slather rocks with white powder and fall off of them in dramatic fashion. Back in DC, I volunteer at Catalyst Climbing clinics, helping folks with various disabilities get up on the rock and kick some major boulder booty.

IMAGE: Summer Law Clerk Erika Villaseñor will be helping with Rural Justice Collaborative and the Justice Bus Project.

Summer Law Clerk Erika Villaseñor will be helping with Rural Justice Collaborative and the Justice Bus Project.

Thank you, Grant! And welcome, Erika! Why did you choose OneJustice for your summer clerkship? What will you be responsible for at the organization?

I was immediately drawn by OneJustice’s mission to increase access to high-quality legal services for individuals living in rural parts of California. As someone who grew up in the Central Valley, I understand the needs and share experiences with some of the underserved populations OneJustice serves. I am passionate about reforming both our immigration and criminal justice systems, so I look forward to being part of an organization that serves as an innovation lab and is currently working to transform the civil legal aid system.

As a Summer Law Clerk, I will be supporting the Pro Bono Justice Program in Northern California. I will have the opportunity to provide various types of legal assistance to Californians living in rural parts of the state through OneJustice’s Rural Justice Collaborative and the Justice Bus Project. I will be using the skills I learned during my first year of law school and my experiences to help make legal aid services more accessible to underserved and unserved populations.

Great to have you on the team! Tell us, what did you do before coming to OneJustice?

I am currently a rising 2L at University of California, Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall). As a first year student, I was involved in the La Raza Workers’ and Tenants’ Rights Clinic at Centro Legal de La Raza in Oakland and the Immigrants’ Rights Student-Initiated Legal Services Projects. Prior to law school, I worked alongside community organizations, a state government representative, and grassroots organizations in Bakersfield.

And, final question: what is something quirky about you?

I love gummies! Sprouts Farmers Market has the best ones — 12 Flavor Gummi Bears.

Thank you so much for joining us this summer — we’re excited to have you aboard! 

Paving a path for a just life

OneJustice’s newly appointed Board Chair Jennifer Chaloemtiarana tells us about her work in providing a helping hand to fellow Californians. 

This week, we’re honored to introduce you to our recently appointed Chair of our Board of Directors, Jennifer Chaloemtiarana! She currently leads the legal function of Castlight Health as its General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer, and has served on our Board of Directors for over 5 years. Thanks to our Board’s guidance, the OneJustice network is able to continue bringing help, hope, and justice to Californians in need.

We asked Jennifer to share with us a little bit about her new role and why equal access to justice is so important to her. Please join us in welcoming Jennifer!


IMAGE:Jennifer Chaloemtiarana, OneJustice Board of Directors Chair.

Jennifer Chaloemtiarana, OneJustice Board of Directors Chair.

Welcome, Jennifer! Tell us about how you became involved with OneJustice? What is your role as the new Board Chair?

I have always been involved in social service in some manner, including full time summer jobs in nonprofits serving low-income individuals all throughout college and then significant levels of volunteering as I entered the workforce. As a lawyer, I kept this connection through active pro bono work supported by the law firm I worked for. When I went in-house, pro bono work became harder to incorporate into my work life. I had become familiar with the work that OneJustice does through colleagues and friends, and the approach and business model of the organization really appealed to me. I attended several Opening Doors to Justice events before engaging with Julia Wilson, the CEO, about coming onto the Board. It was just the right fit at just the right time.

I have been so pleased to be on the Board with so many smart, motivated people. I just completed a term as a member of the Governance & Nominating Committee and then moved into the Board Chair role. At a high level, my role as chair is two-fold. One function is to lead the Board in making sure that the organization’s actions are in line with its mission and that the organization is appropriately managing the assets to which it is entrusted. Secondly, my role is to provide resources and assistance to management. Are there tools, skills, or knowledge that they might need that the Board can provide? How can the Board be an extension of staff in promoting the goals of the organization? There are a lot of sub-parts to each of those primary functions, and fortunately, OneJustice has a very engaged Board and skilled staff that make the work seem easy.

Thank you for all of your hard work and support, Jennifer! We look forward to working with you as our Board Chair! Can you now tell us why you support OneJustice? 

The level of unmet need for legal resources and access to justice in the state of California is overwhelming. There is only 1 lawyer for every 351 low-income persons in the state, and only 100 legal aid organizations in California. There is just no way for all of the needed legal services to be provided. OneJustice does so many things to fill in those gaps, including linking law firms and law students to legal aid organizations which expands their reach without stretching their limited resources, providing training and tools so that the organizations can do more with less, and serving as a center for innovation and ideas to move the entire legal aid industry forward to do more, better, and faster. The unique set of strategic services that OneJustice provides really appeals to me as a business lawyer. And the “prize” is really worth going for: if we could level out the playing field for the 8 million low-income individuals in California, think about how the quality of life for our entire state would be lifted!

We couldn’t agree more! Every individual should have access to legal help. Finally, what does justice mean to you? Why is equal access to justice so important? 

One of my favorite quotes comes from Cornel West: “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” We have all experienced it, that moment where we put aside our own troubles, challenges, and prejudices and reached out to another person, whether friend or stranger, offering our hand for no other reason than simply being available when help was needed. To me, justice is what happens in that moment, when we recognize that we are all equally worthy of a chance to simply live a satisfied life. Legal barriers can be especially daunting and can compound other challenges that low-income individuals may be facing. Lawyers are uniquely equipped to help remove those barriers; we can pave that path to a satisfied life. It is our honor, opportunity, and responsibility to provide a helping hand to fellow Californians.

Thank you so much for taking time to talk to us, Jennifer! We can’t wait to see how you lead our Board and organization!

Justice is what love looks like in public

OneJustice’s Board Chair Max Ochoa tells us about his love for justice.

We’re so excited to feature our Board Chair Max Ochoa this week! Max has served on our Board of Directors for over 7 years. Under Max’s leadership, our Board won the 2013 Prudential Leadership Award for Exceptional Nonprofit Boards, an award that honors the innovative and transformative work that nonprofit boards are doing to help position their organizations for success.

Thanks to his guidance and the incredible work and support of our Board of Directors, OneJustice can continue our commitment to equal access to high-quality civil legal aid. We asked Max to share with us a little bit about himself and what justice means to him.

Please join us in welcoming Max!


Photo: Max Ochoa, OneJustice Board of Directors Chair.

Max Ochoa, OneJustice Board of Directors Chair.

Thank you for joining us, Max! Tell us about yourself. How did you become involved with the organization?

I am the General Counsel & Chief Privacy Officer for Turn Inc., an advertising technology company based in Redwood City, CA. I’m also the proud father of two great kids, Catherine and Alex, and the lucky spouse to my wife, Julie.

I have been a proud member of the OneJustice Board since 2008. When I joined, I was a decade out of law school and had spent several years as in-house counsel for small technology companies. Working for small tech companies is great, but it isn’t always easy to find pro bono opportunities. I had been heavily involved in pro bono efforts at my law firm prior to going in-house, and I sorely missed the opportunity to serve.

Tell us why do you support OneJustice? Why is this organization important to you? 

I joined OneJustice because I believe in the mission of increasing access to justice for California’s underserved. When poor, underprivileged, and disenfranchised people need the protection of the legal system, too often they are left to fend for themselves, with predictably unfair and life-shaking results. OneJustice works to ensure timely, free access to a lawyer whose help can make all the difference. That work is as important today as ever.

Max, we can’t thank you enough for your leadership — you inspire us! Why does justice matter? What is it?  Why is it a part of our name? 

Justice is fairness, justice is equal treatment under the law, justice is timely and affordable access to legal aid, justice is looking out for the oppressed. As Dr. Cornel West has observed, justice is what love looks like in public.

Photo: From left to right: Kathryn Fritz, OneJustice Board Chair Max Ochoa, Claire Solot, Martin Tannenbaum, and OneJustice Chief Executive Officer Julia Wilson at this year's Opening Doors to Justice event.

From left to right: Kathryn Fritz, OneJustice Board Chair Max Ochoa, Claire Solot, Martin Tannenbaum, and OneJustice Chief Executive Officer Julia Wilson at this year’s Opening Doors to Justice event.

For OneJustice, the mission is furthered by strengthening the legal system’s ability to deliver life-changing legal services when and where they are needed. We do this by training the leaders of legal services organizations throughout the state, making them more effective. We do it by putting attorneys where they are needed via efforts like the Justice Bus Project. And we’ll continue to do so by innovating and deploying talent, people, and technology where it’s needed most.

OneJustice fills a need in my life, in your life, and in the life of a just society. I’m proud to serve OneJustice and to support its work with my time and my money.  Join us.

Thank you so much, Max, for your leadership! 


This fall, the OneJustice Board of Directors has challenged our network to raise $50,000 before December 31st. Join us by making a donation today, and your gift will be matched by the Board, dollar-for-dollar, up to $50,000! That’s right – together we can bring $100,000 of free legal assistance to Californians in need!

 

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.

 

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