Pro Bono Innovation Fund Grants 2014

In 2014, we awarded the Pro Bono Innovation Fund grants to 11 organizations to support innovations in pro bono legal services.

California

Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles

  • Project Term: 24 months (November 2014-October 2016)
  • Grant Amount: $309,451

Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles and OneJustice will create a more efficient system of meaningful pro bono trainings for the large legal aid network in California. The partners will collaborate to develop the California Pro Bono Training Institute, a state-wide online forum of “universal” substantive trainings supported by a state-wide network of civil legal aid nonprofits that will provide legal services organizations and pro bono attorneys with high quality, engaging, on-demand CLE trainings. These trainings will be on a variety of pro bono topics and legal issues affecting low-income individuals in California. The Training Institute will draw on recent innovations in adult learning techniques. After participating in an Institute training, a pro bono attorney or advocate will be empowered to help low-income and underserved clients in select subject areas on a statewide level, regardless of the partnering legal aid organization. The objective is to better serve low-income individuals in communities across California by enabling pro bono attorneys state-wide to provide free legal services in a variety of legal areas.

Colorado

Colorado Legal Services

  • Project Term: 24 months (November 2014-October 2016)
  • Grant Amount: $173,808

It is a challenge for many legal aid organizations to provide equitable and uniform treatment for all clients.  A client’s residence in a rural area should not preclude the individual from accessing services that are more often available to clients who live in urban areas.  In Colorado, pro bono resources are concentrated in urban areas with larger attorney populations, while many rural counties have few or no attorneys, and, therefore, have a very limited or no pro bono program. While there are many clinic models that seek to address this gap, Colorado Legal Services will collaborate with the Colorado Bar Association to develop and test different technologies and clinic structures to identify the most effective ways to replicate metropolitan-area pro bono clinics in isolated, rural parts of the state.  It will evaluate Live Chat, Virtual Clinics, and Flying Squads (attorneys who travel to rural areas on a regular basis), and it will also seek to develop clinics that provide pro bono services beyond brief advice, offering more extensive assistance to clients with pro se cases.

Georgia

Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Inc.

  • Project Term: 24 months (November 2014-October 2016)
  • Grant Amount: $212,837

After closely studying outcomes for seniors who received advice through its statewide Senior Legal Hotline, Atlanta Legal Aid Society sought to significantly improve client follow-through on the advice provided using pro bono attorneys to make follow-up contact. The initial and notable results of this effort have shown that follow-up contact by pro bono attorneys increases successful outcomes for advice clients. Over the next two years, this project will expand upon this initial success and systematically integrate volunteer attorneys in other Atlanta Legal Aid practice areas and offices. Pro bono volunteers will place follow up calls to existing advice and brief services clients to provide additional assistance and better equip clients to represent themselves. The follow up contact will also be designed to collect more data to help the organization continuously evaluate and improve the outcomes and effectiveness of their legal advice and brief service cases. The project will be launched at the same time that the organization is establishing a complementary Senior Lawyer Program that will recruit and provide supports to engage senior attorneys in pro bono service.

Illinois

Prairie State Legal Services, Inc.

  • Project Term: 18 months (November 2014-April 2016)
  • Grant Amount: $158,815

Studying case and demographic data, Prairie State Legal Services found that their resources and levels of service available for single parents seeking legal assistance were inadequate, particularly in rural areas and small towns where there are few pro bono attorneys and frequent conflicts of interest in family law matters. To better serve the legal needs of single parents, Prairie State Legal Services will actively recruit volunteer attorneys, including corporate attorneys in suburban areas and other attorneys from the “collar counties” surrounding Chicago, to provide legal information, advice and brief services on family law issues. Prairie State Legal Services will collaborate with Illinois Legal Aid Online to leverage online recruitment of volunteer attorneys, online intake for parents seeking legal services, and to develop on-demand, e-learning modules that can be used by pro bono attorneys throughout the state. Volunteers will also teach legal information classes and lead pro se assisted clinics to aid eligible clients with limited-scope legal services.

Massachusetts

Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association

  • Project Term: 24 months (November 2014-October 2016)
  • Grant Amount: $158,045

In a period of extended unemployment and slow economic performance, Chapter 7 bankruptcy can relieve many of the financial problems that low-income families face. The Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association will develop a project to leverage the expertise of Boston-area bankruptcy attorneys to benefit clients and other pro bono volunteers statewide. The Volunteer Lawyers Project currently has over 330 active and experienced bankruptcy volunteers including law professors, partners at large law firms, bankruptcy trustees, and solo practitioners. Partnering with other legal aid organizations in the state, this project will test and prototype “pop-up” clinics, a customized virtual law firm platform, and cost-effective videoconferencing to allow pro bono bankruptcy volunteers in Boston to train and mentor pro bono attorneys in other parts of the state. Boston-area volunteers will also be able to remotely reach and represent more eligible clients in areas where there are no pro bono bankruptcy attorneys available. The innovations proposed in this project will bring greater efficiency to evaluating, preparing, and referring pro bono bankruptcy cases.

Maryland

Maryland Legal Aid Bureau, Inc.

  • Project Term: 24 months (November 2014-October 2016)
  • Grant Amount: $265,464

Maryland is home to 465,000 veterans of the United States Armed forces. Many of these veterans are homeless or living at or below the poverty line, struggling to meet their basic living needs. Currently, there are no comprehensive statewide legal aid organizations that provide comprehensive legal services to veterans. Maryland Legal Aid will establish a single, statewide Veterans Hotline, staffed by pro bono attorneys who will be trained to effectively and efficiently meet the needs of Maryland’s veteran population. Many questions and issues posed by veterans may be resolved through brief advice, and where more extensive assistance is needed, a pool of qualified pro bono lawyers, willing to handle veterans’ legal matters, will be available for representation. Maryland Legal Aid with its project partner, the Pro Bono Resource Center, will recruit and train volunteers on a statewide basis and will collaborate with other service providers on referrals.

Montana

Montana Legal Services Association

  • Project Term: 24 months (November 2014-October 2016)
  • Grant Amount: $141,087

The state of Montana encompasses over 145,000 square miles with one attorney for every 14,000 people living in poverty. Montana Legal Services Association’s project will strengthen and expand a statewide network of pro bono volunteers to provide legal advice and assistance to low-income clients. This project will address the challenges to statewide pro bono service delivery by targeting the barriers for the solo practitioners, small firms, government attorneys, law students, and paralegals that form the backbone of pro bono service delivery in the state. The project will also support existing local pro bono programs and create new opportunities for limited-scope pro bono representation, developing a statewide limited-scope technology platform that allows pro bono attorneys and law students to remotely assist and prepare clients to represent themselves in court.

New York

Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc.

  • Project Term: 18 months (November 2014-April 2016)
  • Grant Amount: $314,068

In New York State, Chief Judge Hon. Jonathan Lippman has established two major pro bono initiatives: one requiring 50 hours of pro bono for applicants admitted to the New York State Bar on or after January 1, 2015 and another establishing the Attorney Emeritus Program to encourage experienced attorneys to offer their skills to legal aid providers. The six LSC grantees in New York State which provide legal services to every urban, suburban and rural community outside of New York City are partnering to create a new pro bono practice group between their organizations to coordinate pro bono opportunities among their 33 offices and nine area law schools, including the Feerick Center for Social Justice and Dispute Resolution at Fordham University School of Law which staffs the Attorney Emeritus Program for the Office of Court Administration. Through the project, thousands of hours will be donated to help low-income New Yorkers resolve civil legal problems in areas affecting the essentials of life – housing, family matters, subsistence income and access to health care and education. 

Pennsylvania

Philadelphia Legal Assistance Center

  • Project Term: 24 months (November 2014-October 2016)
  • Grant Amount: $240,305

People who live in poverty disproportionately experience legal and health problems from homelessness, being uninsured and having to choose between food or heat. These “socio-legal needs” can affect the health of low-income families and the efficacy of medical services, as even the best care is undermined by unmet legal needs. Philadelphia Legal Assistance Center, Inc. will create a pro bono law student driven Medical Legal Community Partnership that will improve access to comprehensive, coordinated health and legal care and promote the well-being of underserved individuals and families. The project will use the network of existing neighborhood public health centers to provide consistent access to legal services delivered by area law students, pro bono attorneys and large law firms in Philadelphia. Law student volunteers will participate in “Skills Lab” sessions and weekly group supervision to facilitate effective and collaborative problem-solving in a generalist environment. The project is independently funded to engage the research and evaluation arm of the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation to develop an evaluation framework that will assess the impact of direct legal services on patient well-being and health.

Utah

Utah Legal Services, Inc.

  • Project Term: 24 months (November 2014-October 2016)
  • Grant Amount: $190,000

People who represent themselves in legal proceedings need advice and assistance at critical points during the process to avoid costly mistakes and overcome daunting obstacles. Utah Legal Services is partnering with the Self Help Center of the Utah State Courts, local Utah State Bar Pro Bono Committees, Timpanogos Legal Center and volunteer law students and attorneys to create a continuum of service for clients representing themselves in family law matters in rural areas. The project will expand a successful collaboration between these partners that provides tiered services to pro se clients at Self-Help Centers. Eligible individuals in need of legal assistance at pilot Self-Help Center sites will immediately access an online meeting and document sharing platform to receive advice and assistance from on-call pro bono attorneys. Clients who need additional assistance preparing documents will be referred to document clinics hosted in rural areas and using the online platform for pro bono law students and attorneys to provide document preparation assistance virtually. Utah Legal Services plans to pilot the project in two judicial districts to replicate the project in other parts of the state.

Washington

Northwest Justice Project

  • Project Term: 24 months (November 2014-October 2016)
  • Grant Amount: $211,120

 One of the most significant obstacles to pro bono work for lawyers is the fear of providing legal representation to clients in an unknown area of law. Northwest Justice Project will pilot an effort to address this challenge and systematically increase the levels of extended services provided to low-income clients by pro bono attorneys. The project will develop a comprehensive set of resources to support volunteer lawyers in providing significant assistance beyond advice or limited action. The resources will include mentoring and research assistance, in addition to sample pleadings and discovery documents, memoranda of law, substantive law and local procedural information sheets, a sample limited scope retainer agreement and a series of short video clips by subject matter experts. The project will partner with three local volunteer lawyer programs in northwest Washington: Legal Assistance by Whatcom (LAW) Advocates, Skagit County Volunteer Lawyer Program and Snohomish County Legal Services. The second year of the project will expand to rural eastern Washington and partner with Chelan-Douglas Volunteer Attorney Services to pilot remote mentoring and pro bono support.