Spotlight on Tim Ethier, OneJustice Client

For many low-income Californians, finding employment is challenging, and for those with criminal records, can be nearly impossible. People with a criminal record can face lifelong barriers to housing, employment, parental rights, public assistance, and permanent immigration status.

During the pandemic OneJustice has worked to expand access to expungement clinics both in person, and virtually to provide clients with free legal services to restore their criminal records. Expungements have the potential to provide low-income clients with a fresh start, a clean slate, and a fair opportunity to fully engage in their communities.

Today I’m honored to share with you the first-hand story of Tim (pictured above), who received free legal assistance at a OneJustice clinic, in partnership with our legal aid and pro bono partners, to expunge his criminal record.

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“My name is Tim Ethier, I live in Ventura, California, I have been a lifetime resident of California, and a lifetime resident of Ventura. And basically I am here today to tell my story, briefly, so that OneJustice, the organization that I am speaking about understands not only the gratitude and the importance of the organization, but also to give a personal testimony about what my struggle was throughout the years of my life.

To give you a brief overview, when I got into a bad place with addiction and alcoholism, like a lot of people a criminal record always accompanies that and sometimes it is a result of that or it manifests itself in different ways, so it is important to realize that my testimony is my personal experience, and everybody has their own story, so whatever I can do to inspire you to move on without getting too drug down with the personal details.

My story started about six years ago and I had gotten to a place with drugs and alcohol that was unmanageable at that point. As things happen and your irresponsibility happens with your addiction you create a path behind you that creates a criminal record, and a lot of us have it. It can be anything from a DUI, which I had, to petty theft and domestics and things like that. All misdemeanors but all horrible results of my irresponsibility and my inability to get to the core of my addiction and my problems.

Once I addressed those issues, I was able to do that with the assistance of the Ventura County Rescue Mission, which helped me in the Life Recovery Program and when I graduated that program I was able to start the process of restoring my criminal record. For a lot of people that is uncharted territory like it was for myself, and so I reached out and I put myself out to different organizations and even private lawyers, and I started with the Public Defender’s office in my county and they referred me to the National Legal Defense Fund, which referred me to OneJustice.

The reason why I want to give my testimony today for OneJustice is because this organization was imperative in the process of assisting me to represent myself throughout my expungement process. I say imperative because you can’t really do it by yourself. The legal community is a very tight knit and very difficult place to navigate if you don’t really know the process of lawyers and public defenders and all that, or how to get this process done.

So once I got to a clearheaded place and I started to practice my sobriety, I wanted to restore my character and my criminal record, and when I got to the place where I was able to do that I had a plethora of resources available. But what I want to emphasize is that it takes individual work, individual time and individual patience for anyone to put these things into action. So by no means are you going to be able to rely solely on an organization, whatever the entity is, to do the work for you. But OneJustice was invaluable in the process from the beginning, not only advocating for my recovery, but advocating for the process of wanting to restore my character.

I keep referring to restoring my character because when you look at somebody, and you do an interview in this day in age, especially via Zoom or you do it in an interview for a job or anything, you can create a beautiful resume and a beautiful story about yourself, but if they look at your background it can be a problem, and a lot of people say oh we just have to clear your background and you’ll be good, I can’t tell you how many times I lost prime jobs because of my background and my criminal background. I was thinking that I’m just going to be stuck in this job, and I’m not going to be able to flourish and get back on my feet and so I got tired of that, I got tired of the refusal of jobs that I knew I deserved and I knew that I could perform at because of a bad criminal record. Criminal records can haunt you for the rest of your life if you don’t do anything about them. For those people who don’t have a criminal record it’s easy, but for those that acquire them due to results of irresponsibility and phases in their life, if they don’t address those things they can haunt them for many years, and I was experiencing that. Being a middle aged guy looking to restore my income and find a career, I found the obstacles were huge for me with this criminal record.

So I went backwards and went back to square one and was able to find OneJustice, which advocated for me, and wrote letters for me and connected me with pro bono lawyers to represent me in court when I wasn’t able to do that myself. So basically my testimony today is just to tell you that if you don’t put work in and you don’t reach out, nothings going to happen and obviously nothing comes from nothing. The action that you need to take requires patience and diligence, and forethought, but you also have to be able to communicate with people and trust the process, because if you don’t trust the process and be patient with it, you can give up on it easily. And I did that for years, I gave up on myself and I gave up on a lot of things. But this was something I really wanted for myself and I felt like the team at OneJustice really embraced that passion for me to come back into the fold and address what was necessary for me to restore my character and restore my criminal record.

We all want instant gratification, we all want things to happen right away, and restoration takes a long time to reconcile, and so I had to learn patience, and it has helped me in my job, in the way that I approach people, its helped me in the way I approach my kids, they see a difference, and it is rewarding to see them flourish and not worry about the past that you had, and so I feel honored and blessed that I had the opportunity to be able to trust an organization that went all the way to the wall for me, they went all the way. And you didn’t have to do that , and that is something that I really feel blessed and honored to be a part of because of course I was really doubting that it was going to get done, and when you go on a website and you look up interior superior court, and you see all these things that are dismissed by expungement, and then you get the letter, I didn’t really believe it online, I had to have the hard copies of the letters, which I have at my disposal now, and I’m probably going to frame them and put them up somewhere, but I felt like it wasn’t really tangible until I had the paper in my hand, and it wasn’t something I could imagine.

For some people they buy their way out of this stuff and they are able to look the other way because they have a job that is fine, but it was a personal thing for me, it was personally embarrassing and personally something I didn’t want to be out there, so when you take that initiative to restore your character it is a different road, you can restore a lot of things, but restoring your character takes a lot of time with people, believe me not everyone bought into it and I hurt a lot of people along the way. That reconciliation with them was a motivator, especially with my kids because they look at me totally differently now and that’s representative of putting things into action and not just talking about it, and that’s what people need to realize. I can tell you all day how to do things, what to do, and inspire and motivate you, but you have to put the work in, and if you don’t put the work in, then you won’t get the results you want, so I just feel blessed that you gave me the chance to do that, so thank you.

On February 24, 2021 all six of my charges were dropped. And they were dropped free of charge because I was able to get a waiver. I owed over $10,000 to the courts, and they waived all of that. So there is hope and a path that you can take and doesn’t apply to everyone, but it applied to me. And I was able to take the time and energy to trust people to write letters on my behalf, and I finally got a judge to sign off on all my stuff and I can’t tell you the sense of accomplishment that you have when you are able to clear that. I work for UPS now, and I just got another promotion, so this is a process that happened because of the team and the energy that comes from trusting an organization like OneJustice, and so I am eternally grateful for their time and energy and resources that they provided for me, so I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being able to have a chance to tell this story, so thank you.”

Spotlight on OneJustice’s Newest Board Members

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Christian Abasto 

Legal Advocacy Unit Director, Disability Rights California

What made you interested in becoming a member of the OneJustice Board of Directors?

I participated in your Executive Fellowship Program many years ago.  I helped shape me a leader and a manager and is part of my foundation that lead to me being the legal director at DRC.  I love the program and try to send staff to the program every year.

What is your professional role and how do you hope to use your perspective in your work with OneJustice?

Legal Director at a Disability Rights Organization and longtime legal services lawyer.  I have developed substantial expertise on disability justice, race equity, DEI issues, etc.  I am hoping that my extensive background will help one justice as it adapts and grows in a post pandemic world.

What would you like to accomplish as a Board member?

Help the organization develop a clear mission and vision and support Phil in any way that I can.

Tell us about yourself – any interesting facts or what do you like to do for fun?

I like to stay active and fit.  I do a lot of weight lifting.  I am a foodie and a gin drinker.  I also like getting tattoos.

 

Ben Adams

Vice President, Chief Commercial and IP Counsel,  PayPal

 What made you interested in becoming a Board member for OneJustice? 

I have had the chance to work with OneJustice as a volunteer, as well as sponsoring an Equal justice Works fellow who spent the last 2 years working with OneJustice.  I am committed to service and am excited to support the work and mission of OneJustice.

What is your professional role and how do you hope to use your perspective? 

I’m a senior leader in PayPal and within the PayPal legal department I serve as our Chief Commercial and IP Counsel and lead our global legal pro bono efforts and have recently begun working on a mission to expand skills based volunteering more broadly across PayPal.  I also bring a unique global perspective having spent much of my professional career outside of the US, having lived and worked in places as varied as India, Finland, England and Cameroon.

What would you like to accomplish a member of the Board of Directors? 

I’m keen to help challenge the status quo and understand not only how we can best manage thru the current challenges facing the OneJustice community, but also understand how we can take the lessons learned and leverage new practices to make OneJustice stronger and even more impactful for the longer term.

Tell us about yourself -any interesting facts or what do you like to do for fun?

I served in the Peace Corps in Cameroon, Central Africa from 1994-1997 and that experience is foundational to my service mindset.  I had the great fortune to marry an amazing person (Elizabeth) that has been up for a life of adventure and we have 3 wonderful daughters (14, 16 and 18) that do their best to keep us on our toes.  For relaxation, I love to get outside and you can regularly find me exploring the wilds of California, whether it’s biking, hiking, skiing or surfing…I love it all.

 

Cindy Pánuco

Vice President and Chief Program Officer, Public Counsel

What made you interested in becoming a member of the OneJustice Board of Directors?

As someone who is new to legal services, but not to systems change work, I was interested in the cutting edge initiatives to increase the capacity of legal services providers across the state. At a time when those already living at the margins are surviving through the worst economic and health crisis of our generation, the work of One Justice to support the legal aid attorneys who are on the front lines is more critical than ever.

What is your professional role and how do you hope to use your perspective in your work with OneJustice?

I am the Vice President and Chief Program Officer of Public Counsel – the nation’s largest pro bono law firm. I am also the daughter of low-income immigrants from Mexico. Because of my own background, and the socio-economic status of my family, all of the wok of Public Counsel is personal to me. I hope to bring my perspective coming from the client community, and as a leader with knowledge of on the ground issues to guide the work of One Justice to meet those needs.

What would you like to accomplish as a Board member?

I hope to work with the staff of One Justice to provide the resources and guidance they need to meet the challenges and crises of the day.

Tell us about yourself – interesting facts or what do you like to do for fun?

When not working or carrying out service on the boards of non-profits and professional associations, I enjoy trying to develop a green thumb, and growing and caring for over 50 house plants I acquired during the quarantine. I’m taking any and all tips for keeping a zebra plant alive.

 

Rachel Williams

Pro Bono Counsel, Morrison & Foerster

What made you interested in becoming a member of the OneJustice Board of Directors? 

I have been a fan of OneJustice for many years—since Julia Wilson, who had the locker next to me in law school, took the helm.  In the early days, Julia asked me to be part of an advisory committee to help think through the ambitious idea she had that later became the Executive Fellows Program.  Over the years, I have had the pleasure of talking with dozens of current and past Fellows who have spoken rhapsodically about how much they benefitted from the program.  I have also worked closely with wonderful OneJustice staff members in countless ways in the 12 years I have been helping to manage Morrison & Foerster’s pro bono program.  I know what a critical role OneJustice plays in supporting the legal aid and pro bono community in California and am looking forward to contributing to the organization through board service.

What is your professional role and how do you hope to use your perspective in your work with OneJustice?

I am one of three Pro Bono Counsel at Morrison & Foerster.  I manage the pro bono program in our Bay Area and European offices.  I hope to share my perspectives on law firm and in-house legal department pro bono programs and how OneJustice can collaborative most effectively with those parts of the pro bono community in California.

What would you like to accomplish as a Board member?
I would like to help get the word out about OneJustice’s great work in hopes of increasing broad support for its mission.  It can sometimes be a challenge to explain OneJustice’s critical role in the legal services and pro bono realms in California since much of its work is done behind the scenes.  I hope to help more people understand the importance of its work.

Tell us about yourself – any interesting facts or what do you like to do for fun?

I love hiking, swimming, cross-country skiing, cooking, and spending time with my husband and our daughters, ages 11 and 13.  We have been lucky enough to have taken our daughters to see two Women’s World Cups;  our hope is that the world will open up again before the next one in 2023!

Employee Spotlight on Miguel Martinez

Can you tell us about your role at OneJustice?

My role at OneJustice involves assisting the Statewide PBJ team with logistical preparation of the clinics, implementation of the clinics, and support with after clinic administrative tasks. I also support the Healthy Nonprofits team with the logistical and administrative work with the Executive Fellowship. Most recently I am also part of the Homelessness Prevention Project and will assist the team with the planning, coordination, and implementation of the Remote Housing Court Hearing Toolkit.    

Can you tell us about the impact COVID has had on managing clinics? What is the most challenging aspect of virtual clinics?

In the beginning one of the most challenging aspects was converting all of our physical clinic documents into pdf fillable forms. Prior to COVID all of our clinics were done using physical papers, which did not have fillable pdfs. Before COVID hit us, the client and probonos were given physical folders that contained paper clinic documents. Since we had several different clinics such as housing, expungement, estate planning and immigration, each clinic folder had specific paper documents that were not electronically accessible or fillable. I was tasked in the beginning with ensuring that all our clinic forms contained in probono folders and client folders were all accessible and fillable electronically.

We also prepared a client clinic preparation guide that explained to clients what to do to prepare for their remote clinic, which included instructions about how to download zoom, how to log into zoom, and how to sign their documents virtually. This part was also challenging given that it required translating the client prep guide into Spanish. 

Can you describe your role with the Executive Fellowship program?

As a Program Associate I am tasked with three areas to support the Executive Fellowship program, including: (1) Assisting the Director to prepare materials for each session, (2) maintaining communication with fellows with any assistance they may need,  and (3) serving as the main host in managing all zoom sessions of the executive fellowship. 

How has the program had to shift due to COVID and work from home?

The program has had to modernize the implementation of it’s program. Similar to the clinic’s challenges, the fellowship had several paper documents that were not electronically accessible or fillable in pdf format. In the past, the fellows met physically in a location and everything was done using traditional paper work. The fellows had physical folders. Due to COVID many of the fellowship materials had to be made electronically accessible and fillable. The program has also had to use zoom as a platform to hold virtual clinics. Since fellows meet virtually, the experience is not the same as it was in person. This is such that in person fellows were able to physically be with each other and build relationships.
Virtually it was a bit challenging for fellows to connect since they were not in the same room physically. One way to foster fellows’ sense of connection was implementing ice breakers and putting them in break out groups of 4 in each room to do their ice breakers. This has allowed the fellows to get to know each other by doing fun activities that build connections. We also pair up fellows at the end and give them time to talk about what they enjoyed, learned, or would implement at their organization. This was also a strategy we used to foster building relationships among the fellows.

What do you think has been the most valuable takeaway from this year’s Executive Fellowship program for the attendees?

One of the most valuable takeaways from this fellowship has been that the fellows feel informed and empowered as leaders. Many have expressed that they will implement the ideas, techniques and strategies they are learning in their work.

Pro Bono Conference Opening Plenary

Thank you to our Pro Bono Conference Opening Plenary speakers! Following are some highlight quotes from each participant. To view the recorded video, click here.

Zöe Polk, East Bay Community Law Center:

“We are recovering from the wounds of 2020.”

“We don’t want to go back to a pre-COVID world in which people use the word equity in this very ambiguous way and were scared to say racial equity.”

“We can no longer accept a system that values white wealth above black and brown lives.”

“We have to act like it’s radically possible to change the world.”

 

Ilyce Shugall, Immigrant Legal Defense:

“Our immigration system has been broken for a long time.”

“From an immigrant advocate perspective, we’re not only exhausted because of the relentless attacks on the communities we serve, but we’re also exhausted just from the almost daily changes in immigration law and procedure.”

“We’re also preparing for more exhaustion in trying to learn new changes in the laws and procedures that we know are coming.”

 

Cindy Pánuco, Public Counsel

“…feeling like we can catch our breath and maybe start getting out of this survival crisis mode so we can assess how to best move forward.”

“We have to really look at radical change.”

“…there was a larger focus on our mental health and well-being. Organizations and advocates are recognizing the secondary trauma that we’ve all felt.”

“We have to put our oxygen masks on first.”

 

Maureen Alger, Cooley LLP

“There have been shifts in the type of pro bono that we’re doing.”

“We’ve been shifting from one crisis to another, learning really well how to pivot.”

“Need to figure out how to help with the housing crisis that is coming.”

“There is more of a focus on some of these systemic issues, and systemic racism in particular.”

Inclusive Leadership Resources

This month the Executive Fellowship cohort welcomed Neha Sampat, CEO of GenLead/Belong Lab to discuss the topic of Inclusive Leadership: Building Belonging and Busting Bias. Below are some essential and valuable resources shared by Neha and other members of the cohort which address techniques for inclusive leadership.

Welcome our newest Advisory Board Member, Allison Day!

Allison Day, Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP

What made you interested in becoming an Advisory Board member for OneJustice?

During my first few years at my firm, I had the privilege of working with some amazing organizations on pro bono matters addressing immigration and education adequacy issues.  Based on those experiences, I wanted to find a way to support other lawyers looking to contribute.  I learned about OneJustice from a former colleague, Josh Meltzer, and thought that it would be a fantastic way to promote pro bono efforts in my community.

What is your professional role and how do you hope to use your perspective?

I am currently a litigation associate at Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP in San Francisco.  I know that my colleagues are always looking for opportunities to give back while simultaneously honing their litigation skills.  I hope to contribute ideas and insights about how to make pro bono work a seamless and fulfilling part of my peers’ practice.

What would you like to accomplish as an Advisory Board member?

As an Advisory Board member, I hope to both learn more about the needs of my local community and help OneJustice extend its outreach.  I’m looking forward to contributing my love for developing new organizational systems and structures to support the great work that is already being done.

Tell us about yourself – interesting facts or what do you like to do for fun?

My father was in the military and I moved around quite a bit as a child, but I’ve always thought of California as my home.  After spending 7 years on the East Coast, I’m thrilled to be back in the Bay Area and have enjoyed being able to get outside and enjoy all that California has to offer, whether its walking along the coast or hiking in the Sierra.

OneJustice’s Partnership with Inland Counties Legal Services, Inc.

Inland Counties Legal Services, Inc. (ICLS) is a legal aid organization headquartered in Riverside County and serves the Inland Empire. The work they do provides essential and life changing legal assistance to those in greatest need within the vast and diverse regions of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. OneJustice has recently partnered with Inland Counties Legal Services to assist with their strategic planning. Additionally, several of the staffers have attended some of OneJustice’s online trainings!

As part of OneJustice’s Healthy Nonprofits Program, OneJustice provides consulting services in a variety of areas. Organizational strategic planning has been a top priority for many organizations across California as legal aid organizations attempt to be nimble in these ever-changing times while still holding up their mission and their clients. OneJustice worked with ICLS to develop and implement their own strategic planning process. According to Tori Praul, ICLS’ Deputy Director of Community Engagement, “OneJustice’s assistance was invaluable. The guidance and behind-the-scenes work provided by Chris (and Gail) enabled us to complete what would have been an unwieldly project efficiently, effectively, and on time. The finished project is a departure from past ICLS strategic plans and the roadmap it provides for the coming years places ICLS on track to grow from a good to great organization.”

Additionally, OneJustice provides educational opportunities to those in the legal services. These trainings, as part of the Capacity Building Academy and Organizational Change Accelerators, are designed to increase and organizations effectiveness and efficiency in how they service their clients and run their nonprofit. One of the great aspects of these opportunities is that they are not limited to being in-person. Therefore, OneJustice has seen an increase in participation during the pandemic as more people turn to online training especially for new staffers. According to Paulette Gray, ICLS’ Pro Bono Coordinator, “As a new Pro Bono Coordinator, I received the tools and information needed to grow in my new position by participating in the discussions and connecting with other Pro Bono managers across the state, who were experienced and engaging, which provided a free flow of information and networking.  Throughout my interactions with OneJustice staff, each has demonstrated nothing but professionalism, patience, and purpose.”

ICLS and OneJustice have a shared goal of bringing life changing legal aid to those most in need. OneJustice hopes that our role assists ICLS in doing their critical work in the Inland Empire even better than before.

Spotlight on Gracia Berrios

Can you tell us about your role at OneJustice?

I am a program coordinator on the NorCal clinics team. One of my main roles is to develop and maintain long term relationships with legal services providers (support them in whatever it may be) and community partners throughout our virtual legal clinics. I also connect with our clients in the immigrant communities and establish and build a trusted relationship with them. I am also a co-lead of the Equity and Inclusion Committee. 

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your work, and the work of our partner organizations?

It was difficult to brainstorm virtual clinics in the very beginning of the pandemic! Our physical clinics were an opportunity for the legal service providers, clients and the pro bono volunteers to come together for a day and build stronger relationships with them all and provide multiple free legal services to underrepresented communities.  

What has the process been like developing and facilitating remote legal clinics?

Once we figured out our strategy to have remote legal clinics we had a lot of momentum! We noticed a huge shift with clients attending the remote clinics versus physical clinics. In our virtual setting, clients could do it out of the comfort of their own home and not have to drive somewhere, worry about a babysitter, etc. We experienced some hiccups because  at times it is a bit more difficult to build relationships with the pro bono volunteers virtually, or to give people the benefit of the doubt. We can only see so much in our virtual setting.  

What types of clinics have you been able to assist with since March? 

Since March we have been able to assist with DACA renewals, citizenship applications, record clearance, estate planning, and general immigration screenings. 

Have you been able to get a sense of the greatest challenges the clients are facing during COVID?

Since we concentrate primarily with the immigrant community with our remote legal clinics a lot of these clients are essential workers and caregivers/parents in the midst of a pandemic. Unfortunately, some of them didn’t qualify for a stimulus check due to their immigration status which is incredibly frustrating. Overall, when you are a low income BIPOC this pandemic hits a lot harder in different ways. 

Anything else you think would be valuable or important for readers to know?

If anyone is interested in volunteering in our virtual legal clinics (especially Spanish speaking people) please email us gberrios@one-justice.org. We are always in need of legal volunteers for our clinics.

Spotlight on Dana Marquez Richardson and OneJustice’s Policy Advocacy Work

Dana is a Program Manager for OneJustice’s Healthy Nonprofits Program, as well as a member of OneJustice’s Policy Advocacy Team.

Which field of policy work do you primarily focus on?

I focus on federal and state policy that impacts low-income Californians and legal aid. We advocate every year on the need to increase the federal Legal Services Corporation (“LSC”) funding. LSC funds eleven legal aid organizations in California that serve low-income individuals in every county, and collectively these organizations provide services to approximately one-third of Californians that seek help from legal aid in the state each year. On the state level, we stay apprised of changes at the State Bar and any legislative action that will impact legal aid or the individuals they serve. This year in particular, there has been a lot of movement on all levels to try to address the needs stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak.

How does OneJustice’s policy team work intersect with the work you do in your role for OneJustice?

Policy really does impact everything we do at OneJustice on some level. Our work on federal policy impacts our relationships with the organizations that receive federal funding, through LSC or otherwise. Similarly, on the state level, our advocacy related to rule changes or funding increases directly impacts our work with other legal aid organizations and their ability to send their employees to our capacity building programs.

Can you provide a few examples of actions you or the policy team have taken in 2020?

Before the COVID-19 lockdown, we sent a small team to Sacramento to participate in the Legal Aid Association of California’s lobby day where we met with multiple legislators and their staff to discuss the importance of legal aid. As things began to close down, the American Bar Association’s Lobby Days in Washington D.C. switched to a virtual convening where I was still able to advocate for the importance of robustly funding LSC and expanding broadband access across the nation. In addition, we have been able to participate in two other virtual lobby convenings where we met with legislators and staff to discuss specific bills that impact the communities we serve. The ability to attend meetings in a virtual space has increased our ability to be involved in conversations occurring across the state on a vast array of issues including the State Bar’s Paraprofessional working group, and remote hearing and eviction related concerns.

What are some important bills or laws that our supporters should be aware of right now?

What we really need to see on a federal level is another COVID-19 relief bill. The CARES Act was passed at the end of March and provided important relief for those impacted by the pandemic. In the last seven months, we have seen additional relief packages fail in Congress due to partisan bickering and leadership that is failing to protect our most vulnerable. It is essential that the federal government act to protect people that have been devastated by bad policy and the pandemic. The California State Legislature will be back in session in December and it’s likely we will see new legislation introduced to extend pandemic protections. While we wait for important bills to be introduced, you can still contact your legislators, both federal and state, and express to them the importance for coronavirus related protections and stress that the people it most directly impacts cannot wait.

 

Spotlight on Patrick Fodell

 

 

Can you tell us about your role at OneJustice?

My role at OneJustice is first to lead OneJustice’s efforts with the Pro Bono Training Institute (PBTI) which is an on demand online training library for pro bono attorneys. Additionally, I work with OneJustice’s new Inland County Small Business Transactional Clinic project. This project will create new transactional clinics in the Inland Empire with two partners, Catholic Charities of San Bernardino and Riverside County and Inland Counties Legal Services. 

Can you tell us more about the Pro Bono Training Institute, and what work you do as the Training Institute Manager?

My role at PBTI is two fold. The first is to collaborate with our PBTI partner the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles as PBTI, at its core, is a collaboration between OneJustice and LAFLA. Together we listen to the legal services community and come up with timelines and goals that will address the training needs of pro bono attorneys. LAFLA has been an excellent partner from the start and has really helped PBTI gain a better understanding of the legal services community and the training needs of the pro bono community. Additionally, I serve as the primary tech person for PBTI. This means that I’m the point person for training modules edits and any website edits. However, I do not do this all alone. I work with staff at both OneJustice and LAFLA to ensure that the training modules are edited, uploaded, and updated over a period of time. We treat each training module as a living breathing training that can easily be edited as case law and other factors change. 

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the work of the Pro Bono Training Institute?

PBTI’s work has always been driven by the needs of the California legal services community, and the start of the pandemic was no different. Before the pandemic, the PBTI team was already in the midst of a total website overhaul. This overhaul involved recreating all 100+ training modules in order to move them to a more accessible platform. The initial plan was to have this website overhaul done sometime in the middle of 2020, but once the pandemic hit staff realized that the need for remote training would be needed now more than ever. Therefore, PBTI staff updated the timeline to sometime in mid-April about a month after the initial shutdown and several months before the initial goal. It was tough work but the website was overhauled and now more people than ever can easily access our on-demand training library. Additionally, staff developed a whole resource page dedicated to COVID-19 resources which can be found here. PBTI continues to listen to the legal services community and welcomes any and all training needs specifically related to COVID-19. Staff are currently in the process of developing a robust housing training module program that will cover housing rights under COVID-19. We hope that this will be launched by the end of 2020. 

Can you tell us about any upcoming trainings/ projects that you are excited about?

We are particularly excited about our revamped housing training modules that will be available in the fall of 2020. Housing has always been a training course that PBTI staff have wanted on our website. Due to the vast and complex nature of housing law it was hard to determine what should be included and when. PBTI staff have reached out to several trainers and will be launching our new revamped housing series later on this year. 

As a recent graduate of the 2020 Executive Fellowship cohort, did the program help to prepare you for the challenges and changes the legal aid community is facing now? If so, how?

The Executive Fellowship has greatly helped me prepare for the challenges of the legal aid community. It gave me a great background regarding nonprofit management so I, along with the PBTI staff, were able to pivot during the start of the COVID-19 crisis to ensure that the legal services community was met. It also gave me an excellent opportunity to learn about program management and execution that helped us move our new website development up several months to ensure the community would be able to training its pro bono attorneys.