PSJD Public Interest News Digest – April 28, 2017

by Christina Jackson, NALP Director of Public Service Initiatives & Fellowships

Happy Friday! What great week we had in San Francisco. As always, new ideas and energy flowed, and we were renewed. LSC this week announced the pilot states for their legal portal initiative, and we check in on a few access to justice projects.

Here are the week’s headlines:

  • Penn Law and Southern Poverty Law Center establish post-graduate fellowship;
  • Legal Services Corporation announces pilot states for access to justice portal project;
  • Indiana Legal Services celebrates 50 years of service;
  • First participants in Texas Bar legal incubator program help close the justice gap;
  • Update on the Alberta Limited Legal Services Project;
  • Free legal advice to survivors of sexual assault through Newfoundland and Labrador pilot program;
  • Bill regarding pro bono hours reporting passes California Senate Judiciary Committee;
  • Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants; and
  • Super Music Bonus!

The summaries:

April 24, 2017 – “Penn Law and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) have created a new, two-year, post-graduate fellowship for a new or recent graduate to work with the SPLC’s Special Litigation Practice Group. The Penn Law Civil Rights Fellow will serve as an integral member of the SPLC’s legal group, conducting legal research and analysis and developing theories to support new litigation projects and advocacy campaigns; drafting legal memoranda, pleadings, affidavits, motions, and briefs; interviewing witnesses and potential clients; participating in discovery and trial practice; and engaging in public speaking and attending meetings and conferences.” “‘Now, more than ever, we need public interest lawyers who are dedicated to representing those who face discrimination and injustice,’ said Arlene Rivera Finkelstein, Associate Dean & Executive Director of the Toll Public Interest Center. ‘Through this partnership, a Penn Law graduate will serve on the front lines of the fight for civil rights. It is an extraordinary opportunity made possible by the generosity of our alumni, and we are truly grateful.’ The fellowship is being funded through the combined efforts of several Penn alumni. They include: Todd R. Snyder, L’88 and Phoebe Boyer; The Joseph H. Flom Foundation; Mr. David J. Loo, WG’87; and The Harry Shapiro Fund of The Philadelphia Foundation, recommended by the Shapiro family.” (Penn Law News and Events)

April 24, 2017 – “The Legal Services Corporation (LSC), Microsoft Corporation, and Pro Bono Net have named Alaska and Hawaii as state partners in a pilot program to develop online, statewide legal portals to direct individuals with civil legal needs to the most appropriate forms of assistance. These portals will use cutting-edge, user-centered technology to help ensure that all people with civil legal needs can navigate their options and more easily access solutions and services available from legal aid, the courts, the private bar, and community partners.” “‘Many people find it difficult to access legal services,’ said LSC President James J. Sandman. ‘The goal of the portals is to simplify that process by providing a single, statewide point of access to effective help for people needing civil legal assistance. Each user will be guided to available resources based on the nature of the matter and the user’s personal circumstances.’ Alaska’s proposal was submitted by the Alaska Access to Justice Commission and Hawaii’s proposal was submitted by Legal Aid Society of Hawaii with support from the Hawaii state judiciary and other justice community partners. Alaska and Hawaii were selected because of their demonstrated track records in establishing new and collaborative resources for meeting civil legal needs; their embrace of technology’s potential to expand access to legal assistance; and their vision of partnering with allied non-legal networks such as social services, public libraries, and health care institutions to help people identify and resolve their legal issues and related social needs.” (Legal Services Corporation)

April 24, 2017 – “Saturday night’s gala marking the 50th anniversary of Indiana Legal Services had the feel of a family reunion. Former and current ILS attorneys, paralegals and staff along with lawyers who volunteer their services and friends of legal aid hugged, laughed and traded stories throughout the dinner held at the Indiana State Museum. Employees were recognized and standing ovations were given to former executive director Norman Metzger and longtime administrative assistance Ida Hayes.” “[Indiana Supreme Court Justice Steven David] praised ILS employees and alumni for having a commitment and work ethic that benefits not only the individual clients but improves the legal health of the entire state. ‘Everyone is better in Indiana because of Indiana Legal Services,’ David said.” (The Indiana Lawyer)

April 24, 2017 – “It’s the first day of the rest of the lives of 10 lucky lawyers who are the first group of participants in the State Bar of Texas’s new legal incubator. The participants in the Texas Opportunity and Justice Incubator, which opened this month, have emerged from an intense three-week boot camp that turbocharged the launches of their solo practices, which will at least in part serve poor and middle-income Texans. ‘They have an entrepreneurial spirit and the desire to build something for themselves while giving back to the community,’ TOJI Director Anne-Marie Rabago said. ‘A big piece of what these incubator programs work toward is making legal services available to those who don’t qualify for legal aid because of income or other reasons, yet can’t afford attorneys at market rates.’ In addition to helping to close the justice gap, TOJI, the main project of State Bar of Texas President Frank Stevenson, aims to help lawyers set up sustainable legal practices that serve modest-means clients.” (Legal Tech News)

April 25, 2017 – “The Alberta Limited Legal Services Project, a research effort looking at the effects of unbundling on access to justice, was formally launched on 18 April 2017. The project offers Albertans a roster of lawyers prepared to provide work on a limited scope retainer and aims to gauge lawyers’ and clients’ satisfaction with limited scope work and ultimately determine whether some legal help is better than no legal help at all. At present, the project boasts a roster of 49 lawyers with offices throughout Alberta, from Peace River to Medicine Hat, practicing in almost every area of civil law, including 39 whose services include family law matters. The project’s website is intended to link potential clients with participating lawyers. It promotes participating lawyers and their firms, and lists their contact information, the areas of law in which they offer limited scope services and the locations of their practices. Roster lawyers are also being promoted through the National Self-Represented Litigants Project.” “The data-collection phase will end in September 2018, following which the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family will analyze the results of the client and lawyer surveys and produce a report evaluating the project and its implications for access to justice in Alberta.

Some interesting observations may already be made.

  • The concept of coaching as a legal service provided to litigants without counsel, which [the author] had thought was relatively new, is surprisingly popular among roster lawyers, 24 of whom will provide coaching for court appearances and other aspects of the ligation process, including disclosure and examinations for discovery.
  • More than a fifth of roster lawyers will provide their services by telephone or online, disposing of the need for a physical office.
  • Three-fifths of roster lawyers will provide help drafting pleadings and other court documents. Two-fifths will appear in court on behalf of a client, and half will provide advice on commencing or continuing court proceedings.

Lawyers may join, or leave, the project at any point during the data-collection phase of the project.” (Slaw)

April 25, 2017 – “Victims of sexual violence will soon be able to avail of free and independent legal advice in Newfoundland and Labrador following the announcement Tuesday in St. John’s of a sexual assault response pilot program. The federal government is funding the three-year program with an annual grant of $250,000. Details are still being finalized, but Justice and Public Safety Minister Andrew Parsons said he hopes the service will be available by the end of this year. ‘By offering free legal advice, the sexual assault response pilot program will help ensure survivors of sexual crime have access to justice,” Parsons said during a joint announcement alongside federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.'” (CBC News)

April 26, 2017 – “A bill by Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) to expand access to justice among indigent Californians by requiring attorneys to report to the State Bar the number of pro bono hours they have worked and the amount they have donated to legal aid organizations passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. SB 316 is a mandatory reporting, voluntary disclosure bill that gives attorneys the option of disclosing the information publicly on their State Bar profile. The public would be able to see if an attorney failed to report at all or chose to keep the reporting private.” (Union City Patch)

Spotlight on Outstanding Public Servants:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issues a yearly list of law firms who meet its “40 at 50” goal — firms where at least 40 percent of attorneys dedicated 50 or more hours to pro bono work the prior year. Seven firms made the first list in 2004, and by 2015, that number jumped to 33. It remained at 33 for 2016. For 2016, 11 firms had at least half of all their lawyers meet the 50-hour mark, compared to 14 firms for 2015. Of those, three firms had 60 percent or more attorneys meet the 50-hour mark in 2016: Jenner & Block and Miller & Chevalier, where more than 65 percent met the mark, and Ropes & Gray, where 75 percent of attorneys met the goal. View the complete list here. Congratulations to the firms and lawyers making a difference in their communities. (National Law Journal)

Music Bonus! Music pick from the PSJD Fellow Delisa Morris.

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