To believe is power. Justice is power. This is justice.

Sometimes you get to be part of something really special.

That’s what happened when Mr. Salazar invited me into his home.

Last October, something really special happened to me.  I drove in the early morning from my home in Pacifica to a small town in the Central Valley – Firebaugh, California.  And there, I met Mr. Florentino Salazar, who invited me into his home.

Mr. Salazar in the Dave Brick Film for OneJustice

Click on the image above to view the 3-minute film Dave Brick created about the power of legal services.

You see, a couple of months earlier, OneJustice won an amazing contest run by Dave Brick of Brick Films.  Dave is an incredibly talented filmmaker (you can see his work on his website) – and he decided to provide a free film to a nonprofit as a way of giving back.  After 47 contest submissions and thousands of votes cast for the finalists, OneJustice was the contest winner – and the recipient of Dave’s generosity with his time, energy and expertise.  Working with Dave, we all decided that the best possible idea was a film that could be used by the entire legal services sector to relate the power of our work – through the lens of one client’s experience.  And with OneJustice’s focus on reaching isolated areas of the state, and Dave’s prior work for CRLA and PolicyLink documenting the needs of small unincorporated communities in rural areas, it was a no-brainer that we would focus on the Central Valley.

And so we worked with Chris Schneider and the dedicated team at Central California Legal Services, who introduced us to Mr. Salazar.  He agreed to meet with me, to hear more about the film idea, so I trundled off to Firebaugh.

And had my heart broken wide open.  As we sat around his kitchen table, Mr. Salazar was incredibly open with me about his experience.  He had worked his entire life to provide for his family.  Like many low-wage workers, they lived one pay period away from truly hard times.  And then came medical problems, surgery, and trouble making ends meet – followed by a terrible experience with a loan modification company whose unlawful practices brought Mr. Salazar and his family to the brink of losing their home.  Somehow they miraculously made it to Central California Legal Services – who stepped in, saved the home, and ultimately won an injunction that prohibited the company from continuing their illegal and predatory behavior.

Now I know that this story is repeated hundreds and thousands of times throughout California.  Legal services attorneys work miracles in family’s lives every day.  But sitting in Mr. Salazar’s modest and immaculate home, meeting his wife, sons and family members, hearing him describe the attorneys at Central California Legal Services as angels who came into his life – it reminded me what an honor and a privilege it is to do this work.

And so it seems particularly right to share this film with you all on Martin Luther King Jr. day.  Because I think Dr. King would have agreed with Mr. Salazar that “To believe is power.  Justice is power.  This is justice.”

(Click here or on the image above to watch the film.)

Making Joe Biden proud

Creating Impact in Los Angeles

A new lawyer’s reflection on launching an ambitious new pro bono project

What’s a Leslie Knope-type to do after law school graduation? For me, as my 3L year at Loyola Law School began, I was hoping to land a fellowship and start a public interest career in Los Angeles.

Luckily for me, some wonderful people over at the Association of Pro Bono Counsel were looking for someone to work on a brand-new project working with domestic violence survivors in Los Angeles at the same time.  Through fate, and a dash of speedy emailing, I was able to get an interview for this new position, armed with little more information than I’ve spelled out here.  And I think they mentioned something about Joe Biden.  After a few hours of incessant email refreshing; a quick application period; and a bit more waiting, I found out I’d received a Loyola Fellowship to coordinate the Los Angeles Project of a nationwide program, IMPACT.

LA City Attorney Mike Feuer

LA City Attorney Mike Feuer opens yesterday’s IMPACT LA launch clinic.

From there, it was a whirlwind of bar studies and life changes. A few months later, I found myself in the Los Angeles office of OneJustice, hoping I was the only one who thought I had no idea what I was doing. My friends all gave me time-tested 20-something advice, “fake it ’til you make it.” After just a few months of working with the fabulous OneJustice team and the great folks from APBCo, I know I’m incredibly lucky to be here and that I have a remarkable opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives.

My role as the Loyola Law School Post Graduate Public Interest Law Fellow is to coordinate the IMPACT LA Project. IMPACT is a nationwide project that was formed in response to a meeting between ABPCo members and Vice President Joe Biden.  The APBCo IMPACT (“Involving More Pro Bono Attorneys in Our Communities Together”) Project is taking root in eight urban centers, including Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. The objective of the IMPACT Project is to design innovative and sustainable new solutions that will increase access to free legal services by utilizing pro bono volunteers.

Here in LA, our project is a monthly clinic that provides free wrap-around legal services to survivors of domestic violence in South LA at the Jenesse Center, a leading domestic violence shelter and support center. At the clinics, volunteer attorneys from Los Angeles APBCo-member law firms provide free legal assistance in the areas of housing, immigration, and public benefits. And just yesterday, with the help of the LA City Attorney, Mike Feuer, we kicked off 2014 decisively.

Photo of IMPACT LA volunteer attorneys.

Volunteer attorneys from Latham & Watkins and Morrison & Foerster staffed the IMPACT LA launch clinic yesterday working with supervising attorneys from Public Counsel and Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County.

At our official IMPACT LA launch clinic yesterday, eight volunteer attorneys from Morrison & Foerster and Latham & Watkins gathered at the Jenesse Center to give generously of their time and energy.  During the clinic, the volunteers met with and advised six women, working closely with two supervising legal services attorneys from Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County and Public Counsel.

And this was just the beginning.  We will now be running monthly clinics at the Jenesse Center, staffed by a rotation of pro bono attorneys from law firms and supervised by a partnership of local legal services nonprofits.

For me, the most impressive thing about last Friday’s clinic was the outpouring of support from volunteers for survivors of domestic violence.  It’s an issue that can be difficult to talk about for many.  However, my experience with the clinic has been that all of our volunteers are compassionate people who enjoy the opportunity to provide these services to women in the city that we all share.

And most importantly, the women who receive the services are able to better understand their situations and take control of their own lives.  And that is what makes my job so worthwhile. Well, that and being able to imagine that somewhere out there, Vice President Biden is proud of me.

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Kelsey Williams sitting at her desk.Kelsey Williams is a Loyola Law School Post-Graduate Public Interest Law Fellow at OneJustice and runs IMPACT LA in Southern California. During law school, Kelsey spent one summer working in the Students’ Rights Project at the ACLU of Southern California and her second summer working with foster youth at Public Counsel. Kelsey is loving running IMPACT LA, learning more about the needs of domestic violence survivors, and devising ways for IMPACT LA to meet them.  If your law firm or corporate legal department is interested in volunteering for an IMPACT LA clinic, please email Kelsey at kwilliams@one-justice.org.

A little trivial pursuit . . . January justice contest

Seriously – it’s National Trivia Day

Most of the time we think our work is anything but trivial.

Trivia ChallengeBut in honor of National Trivia Day, our January justice contest is exactly that!

True confessions – the first justice contest of the year always feels like a lot of pressure.  Like we’re setting the tone for an entire year, so it had better be great!

And then we found out that today is National Trivia Day.  Yep, even though that sounds like its very own April Fool’s joke – this is completely serious.

(Well, it’s not soooooooo serious.  And it’s actually also National Spaghetti Day – but even the hyper-creative OneJustice staff team couldn’t find a way to turn noodles into a justice contest!)

And then we realized that we have to celebrate this amazing holiday – OneJustice style.  How could we pass up this opportunity to share a tidbit of OneJustice trivia with you?

So here is the January justice contest.  Like December’s contest, it’s another guessing game – this time about the upcoming February 1st Public Interest/Public Sector Career Fair, affectionately known by law students and nonprofit legal organizations alike as “PI/PS Day.”  (And if you want to know more about PI/PS Day, read last month’s great blog post by Program Manager Kim Irish, check out the OneJustice website here, or watch the video at the end of this post.)

So, here is the number to guess to win our January 2014 Justice Contest (drum roll please……)

How many INTERVIEWS took place during PI/PS Day 2013?

You can win this nifty water bottle!  Post today!

You can win this nifty water bottle! Post today!

Some background factoids to help you calibrate your guesses:

  • PI/PS Day brings together law students from nine Northern California law schools with public interest employers from all over the state, for the largest public interest law career fair on the west coast.
  • Most of the day consists of employers interviewing law students for summer internships or post-graduate public interest positions.
  • In 2012, over 100 public interest employers participated in PI/PS Day.
  • In 2013, 635 law students attended PI/PS Day.

And you know the routine by now: post your guesses in comments to this blog post, or on our facebook or LinkedIn pages, or tweet it to @OneJusticeOrg using hashtag #OneJusticecontest.  All guesses must be posted before Monday January 13th, you may post more than one guess, and the guess closest to the correct number wins this nifty OneJustice water bottle.

And, to sweeten the pot in honor of National Trivia Day, if someone guesses the exact correct number of interviews granted in 2013, they will win a $25 Amazon gift card.  Yippee!

Let the guessing begin!  (And this post didn’t satisfy your appetite for trivia, check out this additional site with 45 amazing facts in honor of National Trivia Day). Enjoy!

We have a winner – the best of 2013

Movies and songs and book titles – oh my!

The top 5 justice contest results in 2013.

Almost every month we run some kind of justice-related contest.  Tell us your favorite book (or movie, or song, or image, etc. etc) that deals with justice or injustice.  Or guess how many poor people there are per attorney in Merced County.  And every time you all – the most awesome members of the OneJustice network – rise to the challenge.  Together, you create the best must-watch, must-read, must-sing lists ever.

Thank you all for participating in these contests.  Congrats to all the winners!  And here, for your general enjoyment as 2013 draws to close, is our selection of the top five contests from the year.  Enjoy!

  • January 2013:   Justice movies   (The winner?  My Cousin Vinnie!)
  • September 2013Your icons of justice – the individuals you feel most represent the concept of justice.  Winner was Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • October 2013Images that sear the mind – won by the photo below of civil rights leader and member of the Little Rock Nine, Minnijean Brown Trickey.
  • November 2013Best book club ever – and the winning title: The Buffalo Creek Disaster by Gerald M. Stern

 

How could we not move mountains to get to him?

It’s that time of year.

Not just the holidays – but the barrage of nonprofit fundraising.

I know, I know.  If I get one more nonprofit fundraising email, I think my head might explode.

I’m sure you feel the same way, too.  And this is true even for nonprofit causes that I hold very close to my heart.  With the deadline for tax-deductible donations quickly approaching, I guess it’s a given that the bulk of the year’s charitable contributions will be made over the next four days.  And all us nonprofit folks are clamoring to be heard.

And hey, I get it.  I’m not a fundraiser by nature, or by profession – but I am deeply proud to be part of OneJustice’s development team.  I believe with 100% of my heart, mind and spirit in our mission of bringing life-changing legal help to those in need.  And so, just like most of the rest of the nonprofit folks out there, I will be spending much of the next four days emailing, calling, writing, posting, and tweeting as many engaging, interesting, attention-grabbing messages to raise funds for OneJustice as possible.

But it’s also too easy to get caught up in the activities of fundraising in times like these – and to forget what it’s really all about.

The Justice Bus reaches veterans in isolated communities.So I keep this photo right beside my computer screen.

The brave gentleman is a veteran who received legal help through a Justice Bus trip that brought a team of volunteers to the isolated region where he lives.  He is brave because he served our country – at great personal cost – and brave twice over for seeking legal help he now needs.

And seeing his face every day deeply inspires me.  First, it means a great deal to me that our organization – working together with our amazing teams of volunteers and legal services partners – was able to help him.  Second, with that inspiration comes a deep, deep sense of responsibility.  Because for the hundreds of veterans we have helped this year, there are thousands more who are – right now as I type this – suffering.  With no access to the legal help they need.  They live right across the county borders from some of the highest density of attorneys in our state – Lancaster, Palmdale, the Inland Empire, Merced County, Los Banos – and it is as if they live in the middle of the Mojave desert in terms of access to legal help.

How can we not move mountains to get to them?

So every time I pick up the phone to call a donor – or post something about our New Year’s Eve Challenge – this photo reminds me of the deeper meaning of these fundraising campaigns.

It’s not the action of making the call or sending the email that matters.  And although they are so appreciated, neither are the generous donations that are made in response to our outreach, ultimately, the point.  The ultimate deep, soulful part of all of this – is that this veteran – and thousands and thousands more, just like him – are waiting.  Waiting for the statewide network to expand and grow and deepen our services, and finally, finally, finally reach them.

And that day – that beautiful day when they walk into a Justice Bus clinic and are served and heard and empowered – that is what every other piece of all of this is all about.

Your support for OneJustice – for one justice system that serves all – is a blessing in the world.  I hope you will join us by making a year-end donation to support this work.  Not because of this yet-another fundraising message.  But because you know that together, we can truly make a difference.

Julia R. WilsonThank you for everything you do,

Julia R. Wilson

OneJustice Executive Director & Chief Fundraiser

How I got hooked on a public interest career

Ten years ago, I suited up for what turned out to be a life-changing interview

Public Interest/Public Sector Day, then and now

As a first-year law student at the University of San Francisco nearly 10 years ago, I had my heart set on working in public interest law. When I learned about Public Interest/Public Sector Day (also known as “PI/PS Day”), I knew I’d hit the jackpot.  An annual event that gathers dozens of local and not-so-local public interest and public sector employers in one place?  Wow!  Where else would I be able to indulge my love of learning about possible career options and summer internships on a cold Saturday in February?   And I could meet staff from organizations as cool as Justice Now, Equal Rights Advocates, and AIDS Legal Referral Panel and ask geeky questions about their work?  Awesome!

This is me back in the days of law school - when PI/PS Day got me hooked on a public interest career!

This is me back in the days of law school – when PI/PS Day got me hooked on a public interest career!

I did my homework beforehand, researching organizations’ mission statements, staff bios, and services provided before preparing my applications.  I visited USF Law’s career services office, seeking advice from staff familiar with public interest legal organizations, and asked questions about the kind of work experience employers were looking for, and how I should address my cover letter.  It all seemed kind of intimidating, but the advice I received about taking everything one step at a time really helped.

Much to my surprise and delight, I was granted an interview with an amazing organization.  I practiced my answers to possible interview questions in front of my bathroom mirror, and on that gray February day, headed to UC Hastings wearing a suit and clutching extra copies of my resume.  Those came in handy when I attended Table Talk (an informational fair where all of the employers have tables), where I tried to hide my nervousness as I spoke with staff doing the kind of life-changing legal work I aspired to do.

I clearly remember how kind all the PI/PS Day staff were to me and the countless other students attempting to launch our public interest law careers.  And here is the interesting thing – I actually didn’t receive an internship offer from the organization with which I interviewed.  But it didn’t matter; my student experience of PI/PS Day was incredibly positive.  I met inspiring people who dedicated their lives to advancing justice for marginalized people in San Francisco and beyond. And most of all, I was hooked that day.  I knew I’d found a career path for myself.

And this is me now, working the other side of PI/PS Day as the Healthy Nonprofits Program Manager!

And this is me now, working the other side of PI/PS Day as the Healthy Nonprofits Program Manager!

Almost a decade later, it’s such an honor to now be working on the other side of PI/PS Day!  As the recently hired Healthy Nonprofits Program Manager at OneJustice, I am working with a fantastic team to ensure the success of 2014’s PI/PS Day – which will be on Saturday, February 1st  at UC Hastings College of the Law. It’s my goal to make the day the wonderfully positive experience for students and employers that it was for me years ago.

There are over 130 employers registered as of today, which means students attending can expect to encounter a wide range of everything, from types of law practiced to client communities served to geographic locations available. If you want to learn more about being an attorney for a government agency, sign up to attend! If you are interested in serving low-income clients at a legal services organization in an urban or a rural area, please come! And there’s so much more.

Law students can apply for interviews starting at noon on January 2nd, 2014, and should plan to attend the big day itself.  You may just have a life-changing interview that day, or make connections with staff attorneys during Table Talk that could lead to a great summer internship.  And maybe you’ll end up hooked on a public interest career, too!

OneJustice is proud to match future legal services leaders with their future employers! And I personally look forward to seeing you there!

The magic number: 363

Rural justice by the numbers

We have two winners; Merced County sadly is the loser.

For the past two weeks, the OneJustice network has been trying to guess the number of poor people per attorney in Merced County for our December justice contest.  We have two winners, whose guesses were so close that they basically tied.  Congrats to David Lunbeck for his guess of 379 and Karen Irish for her guess of 349.  Both were within 20 of the correct ratio!

The lowest ratio guessed?  10 to 1  (meaning 10 poor people to 1 attorney)

The highest ratio guessed?  175,000 to 1   (we’re so glad this isn’t the correct answer!)

The magic number?  There are actually 363 poor people living in Merced County for every 1 attorney practicing there.

And this is the highest ratio in the entire state, all 58 counties.

363 poor people for every one attorney.

363 poor people for every one attorney.  (And no, that doesn’t actually show 363 people.  Our hands got tired.  Which also says something – 363 is a big number!)

For comparison purposes, San Francisco has 6 poor people to every attorney.  (There are a lot of attorneys in San Francisco – over 17,000!)

San Mateo County has 12 to 1, and Santa Clara County 16 to 1.  We’re not saying that is bad or good.  But what we are saying is that Merced County – on its own – does not have enough attorneys to make pro bono a realistic solution to the overwhelming need for free legal assistance for its residents.

Merced also has one of the highest poverty density rates in the state.  Of the over 255,000 people living in Merced County, 23% are living at or below the poverty.  Only Tulare County has a higher poverty density rate.

And here’s the rub: Merced City (the county seat with population just over 80,000) is just 2 hours by car from San Jose and 2.5 hours from San Francisco.  Los Banos (the county’s 2nd largest city with population of just over 37,000) is just 1 hour and 30 minutes from Palo AltoIt is totally possible to drive to Merced County and back in one day.  So why aren’t we?

So we think that in 2014, the Bay Area needs to share some of its attorney resources with Merced County.

How’s that for a New Year’s resolution that would truly make a difference?

And YOU can be part of making that happen in 2014!  Donate to the Justice Bus Fund online today and write “Get to Merced County” in the comments box with your donation – and we promise you that 100% of your donation will be used to get Bay Area volunteers into Merced County in 2014. 

Thank you!

Donate Online Now

Q: what do a trail runner and rugby player have in common?

A: The OneJustice Team

Happy Holidays from the newest members of our staff!

Hello OneJustice network and Happy Holidays from all of us on the OneJustice staff team!  We’re super excited to introduce you to the two newest members of our team!  Kimberly Irish was hired to create a brand-new position at OneJustice: the Healthy Nonprofits Program Manager.   And Ashley Lynette will be stepping into the role of Operations & Program Assistant.  We wanted to make them pose for photos wearing Santa hats……. but we’ll save that for the mandatory all-staff Halloween costume contest in 2014!

In the meantime, we thought you’d want to get to know them just a little better . . . so we posed some Q&A.  Enjoy!

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So, Kimberly . . . tell us, what drew you to the work of OneJustice?

Kim Irish PhotoI first became familiar with OneJustice’s work as a University of San Francisco law student when I participated in Public Interest/Public Sector Career Day. Since then, I’ve been impressed with the innovative programs OneJustice has created, such as the Justice Bus Project and the Healthy Nonprofits Program. Working as the Healthy Nonprofits Program Manager will allow me to develop programming that will support and strengthen the incredible network of legal services organizations in California.

  • What will you be responsible for at OneJustice – and what do you hope to achieve?
I’ll be responsible for ensuring the success of signature projects like Public Interest/Public Sector Day and will work with the entire team on projects like the Executive Fellowship program. I will also expand the coaching, consulting, training and resources of the Healthy Nonprofits Program, including developing new webinars and trainings that will provide information on the business side of running a nonprofit to better support legal services organizations in delivering legal assistance to underserved Californians.
  • What did you do before coming to OneJustice that led up to you coming on board to create this new position?
My recent work as the Volunteer Manager at San Francisco’s Eviction Defense Collaborative demonstrated to me the importance of having great back-end support for nonprofit legal organizations that serve low-income clients. I am honored to currently serve as the board president of Human Rights Advocates, an organization that promotes and protects international human rights in the United States and abroad. My nearly 5 years of board experience with Human Rights Advocates will undoubtedly inform my work with the Healthy Nonprofits Program at OneJustice, too.
  • And what else should we know about you?
In 2013, I started trail running regularly and have explored many beautiful trails in Marin County and the East Bay. I also spend most Saturdays volunteering as a mentor with First Exposures, a fantastic program in San Francisco that empowers youth through photography.
Awesomesauce!

And now Ashley, let’s get to know you! What interested you in the idea of working OneJustice?

Ashley Lynette photoI’ve volunteered with a few legal aid service groups in the past, but it was the comprehensive manner in which the group confronts injustice that drew me to OneJustice: from direct service to providing organizational assistance via Healthy Nonprofits, I truly appreciate how OneJustice assists folks in need from every angle.
  • What are your responsibilities at OneJustice?
As the Operations and Program Assistant, I will be primarily responsible for maintaining office equilibrium. This will include soothing our finicky machines and ensuring that we never run out of coffee or good cheer. I’m also excited to provide support for the myriad programs OneJustice has to offer, with a focus on advancing projects for the Healthy Nonprofits Program, which supports leaders at nonprofit legal organizations with trainings and best practices in nonprofit management.
  • What did you do before coming to OneJustice that led up to this job?
During my undergraduate studies at Brandeis University, I interned with several domestic violence service and advocacy groups, including New Hope, Inc and Family Violence Law Center.  After graduation I worked for a group called Democracy.com that provided a free web platform for individuals running for political office. This fall I also served as a Program Support Intern with Spark and volunteered at the Women’s Building with their Job Search program. I am thrilled to have this opportunity now to work with OneJustice!
  • And tell us something else about yourself!

I played rugby in college and was once crowned “Prom Queen” at a prom-themed 7s tournament.

Welcome Ashley and Kimberly!  And Happy Holidays from all of us at OneJustice!