Better legal services delivery through networked technology . . . the OneJustice network.
OneJustice supports a network of 100+ nonprofit legal organizations, law firms, law schools and businesses. Each year this network provides life-saving legal help to over 275,000 Californians facing legal barriers to basic life necessities and core civil rights. You – like everyone in our network – are an essential part of the solution to the fact that millions of our neighbors suffer needlessly from solvable legal problems.
In honor of the work that our network does, each month we feature an interview with a different participant in the network. This month we interviewed Liz Keith, who is the LawHelp Program Manager with our partner organization Pro Bono Net.
Liz, tell us a little bit about Pro Bono Net, and your role at the organization?
Pro Bono Net is a national nonprofit working to increase access to justice through innovative uses of technology and collaboration. We have offices in New York and San Francisco, which is where I am based. Among other programs, we have developed and support two web platforms, LawHelp and LawHelp Interactive, to provide legal information and self-help tools directly to the public, as well as probono.net, our flagship platform, which supports pro bono engagement and collaboration among advocates. Our platforms have been adopted by justice communities around the country, including here in California through our partnership with OneJustice on LawHelpCalifornia.org, CalifornaProBono.org, SoCalProBono.org, and several other initiatives.
I work with Pro Bono Net’s partners around the country who are developing initiatives using the LawHelp and probono.net platforms. I’ve been with Pro Bono Net for about 8 years, first as a Circuit Rider and now as the LawHelp Program Manager. I work both on the technology and human sides of the equation – facilitating the use of our tools, and helping programs understand how to integrate them with their broader service delivery to help more clients.
How does your experience in the national access to justice, pro bono, and technology communities inform your work with OneJustice?
The LawHelpCA and CaliforniaProBono.org websites coordinated by OneJustice are part of a national network of similar initiatives – known as “statewide websites” for short — in all 50 states. About half of the states use Pro Bono Net’s platforms. The federal Legal Services Corporation, which provides funding for legal services, has a special innovation fund called the Technology Initiative Grant program, which provided seed funding for these initiatives and continues to support their expansion.
In each state, the initiatives are coordinated by leading public interest organizations like OneJustice that adapt the technology to the community’s needs, spearhead the content development, and facilitate the participation by other providers. The projects are collaborative in nature. While one group “hosts” the statewide websites, many groups contribute resources and content, and the projects are intended to support the entire state justice community. OneJustice is a natural home for the projects in that way.
Like OneJustice, Pro Bono Net has a network of partners that we support. One of the really fun and rewarding parts of my job is being able to help our partners get the most out of being part of that network. Many legal aid programs don’t have the luxury of learning by experience and I try to help them leverage their limited resources by sharing what I think other states are doing well. Often that goes beyond technology topics. Many of our partners are interested in law student engagement, and I’ve encouraged them to look at the Justice Bus and OneJustice Summer programs, and how OneJustice facilitates collaboration among law schools and providers.
In your opinion, what are some of the strengths of the collaboration between Pro Bono Net and OneJustice?
I think there are a lot of parallels between Pro Bono Net’s approach to supporting technology innovation and OneJustice’s strategies for strengthening and expanding the delivery system. Both organizations are concerned with removing barriers to justice, capability-building and facilitating collaboration.
One of the exciting and unique aspects of the collaboration is that OneJustice has facilitated the expansion of what started as statewide vision, with CaliforniaProBono.org, into regionally-tailored strategies. For example, OneJustice worked with pro bono providers in Southern California to develop SoCalProBono.org on the probono.net platform. So the Southern California community now has a collaborative online resource supporting volunteer engagement in that region. OneJustice is working with Central California Legal Services and Pro Bono Net on a similar initiative, CentralValleyProBono.org, to support pro bono participation in the Central Valley. California is a huge and diverse state, and OneJustice has adopted the probono.net platform to create a robust statewide presence while also building regional capacity. That really speaks to the breadth and depth of OneJustice’s reach.
What do you enjoy about working with OneJustice?
OneJustice has an incredibly creative and dedicated staff. They are great conveners and community-builders. They are able to identify creative solutions to problems, often by turning conventional assumptions on their head. For example, I appreciated Cynthia Luna’s recent blog post talking about “legal deserts” – looking at communities that are not traditionally rural, but are isolated in other ways and face many of the same challenges in accessing services. And lastly, since much of my work with Pro Bono Net is national, I especially enjoy the opportunity our partnership with OneJustice gives me to work for justice in my home state!
Thank you, Liz! We look forward to many additional great collaborations between Pro Bono Net and OneJustice throughout 2013!