Innovations in Technology-enabled Pro Bono


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Innovations in Technology-enabled Pro Bono

  1. 1. Welcome to LSNTAP’s Innovations in Technology-enabled Pro Bono! If you joined the training via telephone, please click on the telephone symbol and select “Call by phone” and follow the instructions. If you joined with a microphone and headset or speakers (VoIP), please click on the telephone symbol and select “Call via the internet” We will start promptly at the hour.
  2. 2. A few logistics before we start… If you joined the training via telephone, please click on the telephone symbol and select “Call by phone” and follow the instructions. If you joined with a microphone and headset or speakers (VoIP), please click on the telephone symbol and select “Call via the internet” Ask a question or tell us something in the Comment box. PLEASE PLACE YOURSELF ON MUTE.
  3. 3. LSNTAP is recording this training and will post it to An email with a link to this information will be sent out to the LSTech listserv once it has been posted.
  4. 4. Innovations in Technologyenabled Pro Bono October 23, 2013
  5. 5. Presenters Mirenda Watkins LawHelp Interactive Coordinator, Pro Bono Net Adam Friedl Pro Bono Coordinator, Pro Bono Net Carolyn Coffey Supervising Attorney, MFY Legal Services Liz Keith LawHelp Program Manager, Pro Bono Net
  6. 6. Road Map 1. Technology-enabled pro bono Initiatives • • • • 2. LawHelp Interactive NY Family Court Remote Volunteer Attorney Project NYC Consumer Debt Defense Clinic and Forms Latest Innovations: Mobile and remote services If you build it, they will come. Does the Field of Dreams maxim hold true for tech and pro bono volunteers?
  7. 7. What to think about when you think about incorporating tech. Takeaways What volunteers need to embrace new, unfamiliar models. Remember that the Legal Services-Tech empire was not built in a day. A few ideas to explore and how to get started. Image Courtesy of Ginnerobot / Flickr
  8. 8. Goals for Tech-Enabled Pro Bono Pro bono programs New pathways for volunteers to learn about and engage in your programs Pro bono lawyers Enhanced support, access to expertise, and new forms of volunteering Clients Greater resources and efficiencies; increased services to underserved clients and communities
  9. 9. LawHelpInteractive: Examples of Technology Tools with the Power to Enhance Pro Bono Initiatives Mirenda Watkins, Esq. LawHelp Interactive Program Coordinator Pro Bono Net
  10. 10. LawHelp Interactive
  11. 11. What is LawHelp Interactive (LHI)? o o o A training center—we teach people how to create interactive interviews A tech support center—we provide technical support A replication/best practices engine—we share best practices, a community of sharing
  12. 12. What is LawHelp Interactive (cont’d) A personalized document is created from the answers. Advocates or Selfrepresented Litigants answer questions during an interview. Supports use of HotDocs™ and/or A2J Author™ interviews.
  13. 13. How are Pro Bono Volunteers using LawHelp Interactive Forms? Direct Representation: • Pro bono lawyers are taking cases in an area outside their expertise and filing pleadings using LHI technology Limited Scope/Unbundled Legal Services • Remote review of pleadings by pro bono lawyers/not having to go downtown to do pro bono • In person review by pro bono lawyers at self-help centers Information/referral/Screening • Emeritus attorneys staffing self-help centers in libraries and courts • Emeritus attorneys staffing foreclosure hotlines (Georgia) • Screening for N-400s (Citizenship Works) • Law students/AmeriCorps staffing self-help centers, leading workshops, and college students staffing drop-in centers (Los Angeles, Kentucky, Bet Tzedek)
  14. 14. What are the Benefits of Interactive Forms in a Pro Bono Context? • Standardize Content • Electronic remote sharing • Reusable information • Reduce training time by providing checks & balances, references, and calculators • Sample pleadings can be reduced to one interview, one URL–no need to send out multiple documents in one big binder
  15. 15. Building a Program - Partners • Build support among court staff • Engage access-to-justice community partners • Don’t overlook other potential partners • Plan, plan, plan, and plan for delays • Be ready to compromise Pro Bono Net, NPADO ©2008 National Center for State Courts
  16. 16. Lessons Learned • Creative Thinking Plan for sustainability from the beginning • Use standard forms that every court must accept • Learn from other jurisdictions’ projects • Find a “champion” • Build support for the project • Do not be overly ambitious • Integrate the project into existing service delivery channels • Train staff to use the system • Promote the project • Evaluate Pro Bono Net, NPADO ©2008 National Center for State Courts
  17. 17. New York Family Court Remote Volunteer Attorney Program Adam Friedl Pro Bono Coordinator Pro Bono Net
  18. 18. Family Court in New York – the numbers Number of dispositions per judge, 2005: –Family Court: 2,120 –Supreme Court, Civil: 525 –Supreme/County Courts, Criminal: 222 –Court of Claims: 63 Another way to think of it: In 2006, 127 Family Court judges were responsible for 680,791 new filings Percentage of litigants proceeding pro se: >80%
  19. 19. Family Court Remote Volunteer Attorney Project • The Family Court Volunteer Attorney Project (VAP) provides free, discrete, unbundled legal advice by volunteer attorneys to un-represented litigants. • In 2012, we began a pilot that extended the service to Staten Island using videoconferencing. Credit:
  20. 20. Previous Limits on Resources Staten Island (Richmond County) has not been covered in the past by VAP due to geography and limited resources. –Geography • The vast majority of volunteer attorneys participating in VAP are based in Manhattan –Resources • No dedicated space for VAP • No dedicated personnel for the program in Staten Island
  21. 21. How the Remote VAP Works The idea: use technology to make VAP services available • Use web-based communications technology to allow experienced volunteer attorneys in Manhattan to assist pro se litigants in other counties • Use scanning and remote IP printing to deliver documents from litigants to volunteers and vice versa
  22. 22. Project Requirements • Computer stations in Manhattan and target counties equipped with video conferencing software, cameras, microphones, speak ers, printers, and scanners • Secure, stable lines of communication •Trained person to screen litigants and experienced family law attorney to supervise/mentor volunteers
  23. 23. The Process • Screener conducts intake with litigant in Richmond intake room • Screener escorts litigant to consultation room. Volunteer in Manhattan counsels litigant via video call • If volunteer has a question, mutes video call and telephones mentor/supervisor • Volunteer returns to video call, finishes consultation • Volunteer prints any documents litigant needs to IP printer in target county
  24. 24. Current Status •Expanding to service locations beyond New York City –The program is in the process of expanding to multiple counties upstate
  25. 25. Contributors to Success • Staff conducting the pilot in NYC very experienced and enthusiastic – good environment for volunteers • Every county has dedicated IT personnel who are able/willing to make the technology work seamlessly • Workflow has been simplified as much as possible with step-by-step instructions for volunteers • Extensive efforts to create buy-in from local court administrations and bar associations
  26. 26. Challenges • Upstate/downstate divide: initial reluctance and assumption that ―they don’t understand‖ • New and different staffing models required based on circumstances of individual counties • Navigating administrative and political concerns to maintain positive experience for volunteers/litigants
  27. 27. Thank you for your time! For questions or comments, please feel free to contact: Adam Friedl Pro Bono Coordinator
  28. 28. The NYC Consumer Debt Defense Project Carolyn Coffey Supervising Attorney Consumer Rights Project, MFY Legal Services
  29. 29. Consumer Debt • In 2011, 42% of overall debt collection lawsuits resulted in default judgments – but debt buyers obtained default judgments in an estimated 62% of their cases • 95% of people with default judgments reside in low- or moderate-income neighborhoods
  30. 30. Only 2% of people sued by debt buyers in NYC are represented by counsel Only 10% of people sued answered the summons and complaint
  31. 31. The Pro Bono Response • CLARO (Civil Legal Advice and Resource Office) • Weekly, walk-in clinics held in courthouses • Litigants receive advice about their case and assistance preparing some documents • Staffed by experienced experts, pro bono attorneys, and trained law students • Very successful — and very popular
  32. 32. Challenges of this Model • Clinics overflowing with litigants • Significant learning curve for pro bono lawyers and students • Some essential responsive documents too complex to be drafted during brief services (especially MSJs)
  33. 33. Document Assembly Resources for Pro Se Litigants • Motion to Vacate a Default Judgment • Debt Verification Letter • Answer • Demand for Documents
  34. 34. Document Assembly Resources for Advocates Why? • Efficiency for advocates • Support for volunteers
  35. 35. Document Assembly Resources for Advocates • Clinics – CLARO • Attorney for the Day Programs • Legal services attorneys
  36. 36. One Template, Many Documents
  37. 37. Built-in Contextual Information
  38. 38. Editable Word Document
  39. 39. Sample Response to a Motion for Summary Judgment • Created in minutes, as opposed to hours
  40. 40. Benefits and Factors of Success • • • • Clinic volunteers can now serve clients more quickly, and thus serve more clients Less experienced volunteers now have expert guidance just by walking through the interview Most clinic supervisors are strong supporters of technological innovation New volunteers being trained in tech methods from the beginning
  41. 41. Challenges and Considerations • Some personnel are very comfortable with previous “by hand” methods and adjustments they had made • Learning curve of using the software • As tech use expands, adapting to procedural idiosyncrasies of new locations
  42. 42. For More Information Contact: Carolyn Coffey — NYC Consumer Debt Defense Project CLARO website:
  43. 43. Mobile and Remote Innovations to Support Pro Bono Engagement Liz Keith LawHelp Program Manager Pro Bono Net
  44. 44. MN “Pro Bono to Go” Project Overview • • 2013 TIG to Legal Aid Services of Northeastern Minnesota • Partners: Legal Services State Support, MSBA & Pro Bono Net Goal: Create a mobile version of featuring mobile-optimized settlement checklists and client interview guides
  45. 45. Why mobile checklists? • Settlement opportunities can arise unexpectedly, often at court • Good settlements can have tremendous benefits to the client • But settlements have benefits and pitfalls that an inexperienced attorney might overlook • Checklists can help with issuespotting and make volunteers more confident taking cases outside their area
  46. 46. Why mobile interview guides? • Walk-in clinics are a staple of volunteer attorney work • Standardized interview guides can help practitioners get better and more complete information from clients – and provide better advice as a result • The guides can also speed up issue-spotting, making sessions more efficient
  47. 47. Other uses of mobile • Mobile apps to connect attorneys with information about volunteering and practice resources • Illinois Legal Aid Online, Arkansas Legal Services Partnership, Public Counsel (LA) • Screening resource for non-legal volunteers • R3 Domestic Violence Screening app (Recognize, Respond and Refer) • Bay Area medical-legal partnership created an app to help social workers and nurses screen clients for legal issues • Your ideas?
  48. 48. Remote services pro bono models • Virtual legal clinic and lawyer in the library programs • Pro Bono Project of Silicon Valley Virtual Legal Services clinics • Remote document review from court-based self-help centers • LiveHelp/ live chat • Asynchronous online advice platforms • e.g.
  49. 49. Where is LiveHelp / live chat being used with law student and private attorney volunteers? Blue = Live projects staffed by legal aid staff, Americorps*VISTA volunteers, and librarians Green = Live projects using volunteers Yellow = Projects in development that will use volunteers
  50. 50. What kind of assistance are volunteers providing? • • Information-finding and referral assistance (all) • • • • • Help applying for services online (UT) Individualized legal assistance after screening (TX) Help finding & using online self-help forms (MT, KS, AR, OK, TX) Bilingual Spanish assistance (NY, IL) Court self-help services (MD) Pro bono counsel & advice (OH – 2014)
  51. 51. Considerations for using volunteers in LiveHelp • Anytime/anywhere option is attractive • Volunteers who participated in LiveHelp • Does your program have online content (FAQs, instructions, referral info) that volunteers can lean on? • LiveHelp system content and admin tools can help with support and supervision • Use of volunteers requires a greater investment in staff supervisor time • Need a system for back-channel support (e.g. Google chat)
  52. 52. What does the (not so distant) future hold? • More sophisticated & tailored case marketing and matching • Auto-generated personalized referral packets for volunteers (drawing on statewide website content & automated forms) • Virtual law office platforms with secure client and volunteer portals (e.g. RocketLawyer) to provide unbundled or full services • Your ideas?
  53. 53. For More Information LiveHelp: • Contact: Liz Keith, or Xander Karsten, LawHelp Interactive: • Contact: Mirenda Watkins, or Claudia Johnson,
  54. 54. THANK YOU FOR ATTENDING TODAY! Next up by PBN: Beyond Online Intake: Looking at Triage and Expert Systems December 4, 2013 More information at
  55. 55. Contact Information Brian Rowe ( or via chat on Don’t forget to take our feedback survey!