Pro bono means safety, security, and love

Pro bono makes all the difference for families.

Safety from violence.  Security after heart-breaking loss.  Keeping loved ones together.

Today’s daily dose of the power of pro bono focuses on families.  One mom helping another – and it just happens that one is a pro bono attorney and the other is escaping an abusive relationship.  Children who need the stability of loved ones in the face of heart-wrenching loss.  Family members who face legal barriers to staying together.

These stories could have happened to our neighbors, co-workers, and friends– and they might be similar to our own experiences.  Nothing is more central to the human experience than family. And what made the difference in each of these stories of loss and crisis?  Attorneys who were willing to donate their time, expertise, and energy to give back.

During this Celebrate Pro Bono Week and Campaign for Justice month, we raise a glass to all the amazing attorneys who step in to provide life-changing legal assistance to families in need.  Thank you.

What pro bono have YOU done for a family or a child?  Share your pro bono stories with us, as the OneJustice networks celebrates the power of pro bono to make all the difference!

The Power of Pro Bono – to save lives and serve seniors

Join the national pro bono party!

Yep, it’s Pro Bono Week and Campaign for Justice month.

Alright OneJustice network – are you ready?  We’ve got a lot to celebrate this week!

In honor of national Celebrate Pro Bono Week and California Campaign for Justice month, we’ve prepared a daily dose of pro bono bites for your enjoyment.  Tune in every day this week for a series of 4-5 videos starring folks who are on the ground delivering pro bono services.  Hear their stories about why they do pro bono, some of the clients they have helped, and lessons they have learned.

And of course we want to hear YOUR pro bono stories, too!  Don’t be shy – be a part of the national pro bono conversation.  Share your pro bono tales in the comments here or on any of our social media sites.

To launch our “Power of Pro Bono Bites”, below a set of powerful stories about how pro bono brings life-changing legal assistance to older Californians – bringing peace of mind, preserving Adult Day Health Care, helping in the midst of a medical crisis, and saving lives.  Dig in and enjoy!

Share those images of justice . . . or injustice

Nope, not your selfies please . . . 

Win this awesome OneJustice water bottle!But please do share photos and images for October’s contest

It’s time for the October “social justice on social media” contest, and you could win this nifty OneJustice water bottle!  Just post the most striking image you can think of showing JUSTICE or INJUSTICE to any of our social media sites.  Post by October 11th to have your image  reviewed by the team of OneJustice judges.

Don’t know where to post?  Great question – here is the list of options:

  • Post the URL to the image in a comment to this blog post (below)
  • Post the URL or the image to our facebook wall
  • Post the URL or the image to our LinkedIn page
  • Tweet the URL or image to twitter, using #OneJusticecontest @OneJusticeOrg
  • Post the photo or image on Instagram, using #OneJusticecontest @OneJusticeOrg
  • Pin the image on Pinterest using #OneJustice or pin to our special group Pinterest board

We’ll start your wheels turning by posting the first photo here. For us, this image is an iconic representation of INJUSTICE.

October Injustice Photo: water hoses in Birmingham

Birmingham 1963

Birmingham in 1963 had become a focal point in the civil rights movement as nonviolent demonstrators led by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. repeatedly faced jail, dogs, and high-velocity hoses in their tireless quest to topple segregation. This picture of people being pummeled by a liquid battering ram rallied support for the civil rights movement.

See the image online here.

Thank you for posting!

Andrea is a pro bono dynamo

Removing barriers to justice . . . in both the nonprofit and private sectors!

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 for the millions of Californians who are suffering needlessly from solvable legal problems.

Andrea knows pro bono - from her prior work at the Justice & Diversity Center and now as Pro Bono Manager at Covington & Burling LLP

Andrea knows pro bono – from her prior work at the Justice & Diversity Center and now as Pro Bono Manager at Covington & Burling LLP

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 Andrea Fitanides, California Pro Bono Manager at Covington & Burling LLP and former Supervising Attorney and Pro Bono Manager at the Justice & Diversity Center of the Bar Association of San Francisco.

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Andrea, you are involved in managing pro bono work at Covington & Burling LLP. How do you approach that work, and how does your approach also inform your work with OneJustice?

I have been fortunate to be involved in pro bono work from several different angles. First, as an associate at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP volunteering on a range of pro bono matters. Second, as an attorney with the Justice & Diversity Center of the Bar Association of San Francisco (JDC), developing pro bono projects and cultivating relationships with our volunteers and pro bono partners, including large law firms. And, currently, in my position as Pro Bono Manager at Covington & Burling LLP, partnering with legal services organizations on pro bono matters.

Having worked at a legal services nonprofit, I have a strong awareness of the invaluable support such organizations provide for law firm pro bono programs, from expertly screening matters for placement, to structuring volunteer opportunities, to training and mentorship over the course of the matter. And, as a corollary, we couldn’t have provided the services we did for the community at JDC without pro bono support from law firms. At Covington, I’m glad to have the opportunity to be part of providing resources to legal services programs, both in terms of volunteer hours and charitable giving.

Because of this, I believe strongly in collaborations in our pro bono work. OneJustice, in bringing together different pro bono stakeholders, is a great resource for supporting collaborations and thereby strengthening the services delivered to the most vulnerable in our society.

How does Covington & Burling approach its pro bono work and what are some recent successes?

Covington has a strong commitment to public service, and we strongly encourage all of our attorneys to participate in pro bono work.  We devote significant resources to finding pro bono projects that reflect the interests of our attorneys. Because of this, our pro bono program encompasses a wide range of areas, including civil rights, gay rights, veterans benefits claims, criminal matters, and transactional work for nonprofits.

Most recently, we are excited about victories in two racial profiling cases this year. The first was in Melendres v. Arpaio, a nationally publicized Arizona racial profiling case where a Covington team challenged disproportionate stops and arrests of Latino drivers and passengers by an Arizona sheriff’s office. The court there permanently enjoined the use of race as a factor in such stops and arrests—a significant civil rights victory for our clients.

The second was in Floyd v. City of New York, a federal class action lawsuit, challenging the unconstitutional stops-and-frisks made on the basis of race or ethnicity. In August of this year, a federal judge found the New York City Police Department (NYPD) liable for a pattern and practice of racial profiling and unconstitutional stop-and-frisks.

What have you enjoyed about being part of the OneJustice network, from both the nonprofit and law firm perspectives?

The Bay Area Rural Justice Collaborative brings monthly clinics to Napa County, as well as the Gilroy area and the coast of San Mateo County.

The Bay Area Rural Justice Collaborative brings volunteers to staff monthly free legal clinics in Napa County, as well as in the Gilroy area and the coast of San Mateo County.

I have always had a wonderful experience working with OneJustice and its dedicated, passionate staff. I greatly appreciated the support OneJustice provided to me as an attorney at a legal services nonprofit, including its orchestration of quarterly meetings for legal services pro bono managers throughout the Bay Area where we had a forum to share ideas, problem-solve, and develop our community.

At Covington, I’ve been excited to work with OneJustice on the Bay Area Rural Justice Collaborative (RJC) and to support its mission to expand access to legal services in rural communities throughout the Bay Area. I had the opportunity to volunteer at an early RJC housing clinic in Napa, along with one of our Summer Associates, Paul Meyer. There, we met with clients to discuss their housing issues and provided referrals, drafted letters to landlords, and gave clients information about their rights. As always, the OneJustice staff provided the needed support and training, in advance of and during the clinic, to further our ability to serve the clients. It was a rewarding experience and we look forward to supporting upcoming Rural Justice clinics.

Which project with OneJustice is most exciting to you right now?

Again, I would note the work that the RJC is doing, which is particularly exciting because it’s the first IMPACT (Involving More Pro bono Attorneys in our Communities Together) Project to launch in the country. The IMPACT Project is a direct response to a meeting held in Washington, DC in 2012 among Vice-President Joe Biden, Board members of the Association of Pro Bono Counsel (APBCo), and senior management of the board members’ firms, and is intended to provide increased access to free legal services for those in need. I hope that the Rural Justice Collaborative can become a model for delivery of legal services in rural areas that can be replicated nationally.

I’m also excited for the upcoming OneJustice California Pro Bono Conference this fall. It’s always a great opportunity to connect with pro bono stakeholders throughout California.  (Staff note: Click here for more information and online registration for the October 9th Pro Bono Conference.)

Thank you, Andrea, for your outstanding commitment to pro bono and legal services, and for your terrific work at Covington & Burling LLP.  We are so fortunate to have you in the OneJustice network!

 

Your icons of justice

What individual most represents justice?

You had some amazing answers to this question!

Thank you all for posting your ideas of the one person who most embodies the concept and/or work of justice.  The suggestions were wide ranging and truly inspiring!  We’ve posted nine of the submissions below – can you identify them just from their photos?  (Answers at the bottom of the blog).

And the winner of the awesome Justice Bus water bottle is . . . (drum roll please . . .)  Tim Smith for his suggestion of Martin Luther King, Jr.  With the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement underway, we couldn’t agree more!  Tim is a change agent and justice seeker in his own right as the Director of Programs and Engagement at the Full Circle Fund.  (Haven’t heard of the Full Circle Fund? Click here to check out their thoughtful and strategic approach to driving lasting social change.)

The October justice contest will be announced here and in our “Justice Matters” newsletter next week – keep up the posting, we love it!

From left to right:

Row 1: Martin Luther King Jr., Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt

Row 2: James Gilliam, Fred Korematsu, Ella Baker

Row 3: Dorothy Day, Alice Walker, Dolores Huerta

What drew a casual cook and world traveler to justice work?

Meet our new Fellows – Kelsey and Renée

And find out why they are passionate about bringing legal help to domestic violence survivors and veterans.

Hello all you members of the OneJustice network!  We’re thrilled to introduce you all to two brand-new members of the OneJustice family: Kelsey Williams and Renée Schomp.  We know that you all will enjoy working with them as much as we already do!

Kelsey Williams is a recent graduate of Loyola Law School and is joining our Los Angeles team as a Loyola Law School Post-Graduate Public Interest Law Fellow.  Kelsey is launching a brand-new project in Los Angeles to support a network of legal services nonprofits and law firms that are working together to bring free legal clinics on housing, immigration, and public benefits to survivors of domestic violence.  You’ll definitely be hearing more about Kelsey’s project as she gets up and running!

Renée Schomp is a recent graduate of University of Michigan Law School and will be based on the San Francisco office to run Justice Bus trips in Northern California.  Renée is an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow and part of Equal Justice Work’s national Veterans Legal Corps.  All you NorCal Justice Bus riders will enjoy working with Renée as she continues the existing schedule of trips while also building new trips to reach low-income veterans living in rural and isolated communities.

We sat down with Kelsey and Renée on their second day on the job, and subjected them to the interview questions below so that you all can get to know them just a little better.  Want more details about their projects and work?  What questions do you have for them – just let us know, and we’ll get them blogging soon!

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Kelsey Williams is launching a new project to connect domestic violence survivors with legal assistance and pro bono attorneys

Kelsey Williams is cooking up a new project in LA to connect domestic violence survivors with legal assistance and pro bono attorneys

Kelsey, what drew you to the work of OneJustice?

Growing up in Red Bluff, CA (a small town famous for its annual rodeo and bull sale), I was drawn to OneJustice’s commitment to providing legal services to rural parts of California and to underserved communities more generally. Now, as a seven-year resident of Los Angeles (I’m told that means I can call myself a native now!), I am excited to reach out to underserved communities in LA and help improve the community I’m so happy to call home.

  • What will you be responsible for at OneJustice – and what do you hope to achieve?
I’m heading up a new project that will connect survivors of domestic violence in Los Angeles with free legal assistance. By working with pro bono attorneys from L.A. law firms, we are seeking to increase access to justice for these survivors and helping them move forward.
  • What did you do before coming to OneJustice that led to this Fellowship and new project? 
As an undergrad at UCLA, I got involved in social justice work through my minor in LGBT Studies. This experience motivated me to go to law school where I worked with several public interest organizations and found my passion — advocating for those whose voice is not yet being heard.
  • And tell us something about you that’s not justice related!
I love to cook and throw good old fashioned dinner parties, but my skills are certainly a work in progress — I’ve been known to coat my kitchen ceiling in soup when I get too ambitious!
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Renee Schomp will be running Justice Bus trips in NorCal, including reaching rural veterans

Renee Schomp’s love of travel will be put to good use in running Justice Bus trips in NorCal, including reaching rural veterans

Renée, what drew you to the work of OneJustice?  

As the daughter of a disabled Vietnam veteran, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with OneJustice to provide legal services to veterans and other underserved populations throughout rural Northern California.  I was particularly drawn to OneJustice’s entrepreneurial and strategic approach to strengthening the legal services community through innovative programs such as the Justice Bus Project.  The Justice Bus Project connects pro bono partners with rural nonprofit legal services providers in order to increase resources available to low-income communities throughout far-reaching parts of California.  It’s just one example of the unique and exciting work that OneJustice does!

  • What will you be responsible for at OneJustice – and what do you hope to achieve?

I will be further developing the Justice Bus Project in Northern California with an emphasis on serving the all-too-often forgotten veterans who live here and who lack much-needed legal services assistance.  I’ll continue to build OneJustice’s partnerships with a wide range of pro bono, law school, and nonprofit stakeholders in order to facilitate the Justice Bus Project’s work removing barriers to justice for rural low-income communities.  I also plan to further expand the number of 1 and 2-day legal clinics the Justice Bus Project facilitates throughout rural Northern California through the hard work and dedication of our partners.  In so doing, we hope to reach the many veterans, both young and old, who are in need of legal support in our state.

  • What did you do before coming to OneJustice that led up to this Fellowship?

Before law school, I worked at the law firm of Skadden Arps and then at Human Rights First, both in New York. As a law student, I externed at the Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center in San Francisco and at the ACLU of Michigan, and I spent my summers at the East Bay Community Law Center in Berkeley and at Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración in Mexico City.

  • And what should we know about you that is not focused on justice?

I live for my next traveling adventure: I’ve traveled everywhere from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for work to Petra, Jordan, just for fun, and many places in between—but I still have a LOT of places to check off my list!

Who most represents the work of justice to you?

Yay, the monthly justice contests are back!

Post your answer here or any of our social media sites and win a nifty OneJustice water bottle.

You can win this nifty water bottle!  Post today!

You can win this nifty water bottle! Post today!

Ah, it’s fall!  All the law students are heading back to classes, the long days summers are over, and the leaves are turning (well, not really in most of California, but that’s ok, we can pretend). As we head into the fall season with all kinds of holidays and traditions (can you believe Turkey Day is just 3 months away?), we’re bringing back a special OneJustice tradition of our own – the monthly justice contest!

This month’s theme:  Please tell us the one person who most represents the work of – or the concept of – justice to YOU?

Please post: the person’s NAME and a SHORT EXPLANATION of why they represent “justice” to you.

Contest ends: Friday, September 6th.

Why should you enter: Well, we hope because it’s fun!  Maybe because you are procrastinating (which we’re happy to help you do)!  Alright, if that is not enough, we’ll sweeten the deal.  The winner (selected by OneJustice staff) will receive this nifty OneJustice water bottle.  Ok, now you can’t resist, right?

Where to post:  Well, right here on the blog is perfect – write it right up in a comment below.  You can also post your submission on our facebook, LinkedInTwitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Get ready, set, POST!  Thank you!

You did it! You raised over $195,000 to bring life-changing legal help to those in need.

Thank you – from the bottom of our hearts.

The OneJustice network demonstrated its incredible power to come together and effect change this week.

On Thursday night, over 45 corporate sponsors and over 300 OneJustice supporters came together for the annual “Opening Doors to Justice” event.  In addition to honoring Bruce Ives of HP, Jeffrey Brand of USF School of Law, and Yvonne Mariajimenez of Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, the network also raised over $195,000 to support OneJustice’s programs that remove barriers to justice throughout the state.

This included an on-the-spot challenge to raise $40,000 to fund seven brand-new Justice Bus trips next year – which the OneJustice network blew out of the water, raising almost $43,000 by the end of the evening.

Breath-taking, right?

And so meaningful – not just for OneJustice, but most of all for the over 150 low-income Californians living in rural and isolated communities who will now receive legal assistance as a result of the network’s generosity.  These veterans, seniors, children with disabilities and immigrant youth are the true beneficiaries of the power of this incredible network.

Donate to the Justice Bus Fund today!Aren’t you inspired?  We are!  And it’s still possible to be a part of this movement to get more Justice Bus trips on the road – you can still contribute to the Justice Bus Fund online.  Let’s keep this momentum going!

We also showed our new Justice Bus Video for the first time – you can watch it here, too, or on our website here.

And enjoy the photo slideshow of the evening below.  Thank you to everyone who was there for making it an evening that will – for hundreds of thousands of Californians in need – make all the difference.

Jeff Brand has a long-life commitment to justice and service.

He traces his earliest memories of injustice to when he was still in grammar school.Professor Jeffrey Brand headshot

And he has dedicated his life to justice, service, and ensuring future generations are able to do the same.

Professor Jeffrey Brand recently stepped down after 14 years of serving as Dean of the University of San Francisco School of Law.  During his tenure as dean, he not only guided the law school through a period of transformative change, he also supported collaborative efforts between the law school and OneJustice, including the Law Student Pro Bono Project.  USF law students also participated in the inaugural Justice Bus Trip to the Central Valley in March 2007 and they continue to volunteer for multiple Justice Bus trips every year.

We are very excited to be celebrating Professor Brand and his life-long commitment to justice and service at our July 25th “Opening Doors to Justice” event.  We hope very much that you will join us!  You can purchase tickets, preview auction items, and donate to support the Justice Bus at the event website.

In the meantime, we caught up with Professor Brand in preparation for the event and posed a couple of questions.  Enjoy his answers below!

Why have you committed so much of your professional career to working on access to justice? 

I’ve thought about this question a lot over the decades.   I trace my earliest memories of injustice to the 1950s when I was still in grammar school.   Even then, I had a sense that McCarthyism was a nasty, destructive force in America ruining the lives of innocent people.   I recall watching the Army-McCarthy hearings with my parents in our home in Studio City and I recall the great lawyer Joseph’s Welch’s historic, plaintive, rhetorical question to the demagogic junior senator from Wisconsin:   “Senator McCarthy, have you no decency, have you no decency?”   The YouTubRosenbergs are executed (newspaper article)e clip is worth a look:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Po5GlFba5Yg

I recall the headlines when Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed.

And I recall the heroic acts of Rosa Parks and the great sit in at the Woolworth’s soda fountain in Greensboro, North Carolina when young blacks and their supporters were refused service and taunted and assaulted by whites.

Civil Rights Sit In

These images led me to read a book when I was in high school called The Student. written by David Horowitz (who much to my amazement later abandoned his leftist roots), describing political activity at UC Berkeley and the great San Francisco demonstrations at San Francisco City Hall against the House Un-American Activities Committee where student protestors were dragged down the steps.

Battle of City HallBay Area Civil Rights Protests

Those images led me to apply to college only at UC Berkeley.  It was there that the intensity of my political involvement increased dramatically and my desire to engage in civil rights work became paramount.   From 1962-1969, as an undergraduate and as a law student at Cal, we marched, sat in, and worked to overcome injustices that seemed so apparent – restrictions on speech that spawned the Free Speech Movement in 1964 (Mario Savio’s words still move one to this day),  racial discrimination as far away as Montgomery, Alabama and as close as restaurants, auto dealers and hotels in the Bay Area that refused to hire African-Americans, and, of course, the expanding war in Vietnam among them – a path that led me to do civil rights work in Jackson, Mississippi the summer after my first year at Boalt.

Montgomery Church BombingBy the time I finished law school, the only work that interested me was work that fed my passion to do good. As I look back, I like to think that my work in legal services, the public defender’s office, with the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB), as a labor lawyer, and as a law professor and dean, somehow, somewhere along the line made a small difference.

How my career ended up where it did, however, doesn’t really explain why I find public interest work so personally compelling.   The reality is that working to enhance access to justice feeds my own personal passions, exciting me daily about my work and motivating me to carry on for all these years.

What is one particularly rewarding experience you have had in your work on access to justice?  

I can’t pinpoint any one event.   I’ve been blessed to experience so many moments that I hope made a small contribution to increase access to justice, the linchpin of a truly humane and just society – whether it be registering voters in Jackson, Mississippi in the 60s, representing clients in the public defender’s office, resolving disputes between farmworkers and growers as an Administrative Law Judge with the ALRB, representing women and minorities in Title VII class action litigation, or creating opportunities for students to pursue justice from Phnom Penh where they work on war crimes issues to Louisiana where they work against the death penalty to San Francisco where they work on myriad projects, some of them spawned by OneJustice.   All of these experiences, in different times and different contexts, have been rewarding in different ways but with a common thread – a sense of fighting the good fight to help promote justice.   Engaging in this work over many decades emerges as the most rewarding feeling of all.

What is your favorite part of being a part of the OneJustice network

My favorite part of being a part of OneJustice is what it does for my law students, the future generations of skilled, ethical professionals who will take up the charge in the struggle for justice.   I hope that at the University of San Francisco our students are imbued with a belief that hard work and perseverance can make a difference.   I know that my students are excited by the same things that excite me – a sense of involvement in a struggle for the common good.   So for me, at this point, my work is as much about future generations as it is about anything.

It’s this concern for future generations that makes OneJustice so critically important.   It was a very different time in the 1960s when I graduated from law school.   The economy was still expanding and with it the public sector.   Law school debt was minimal or non-existent.  Jobs were plentiful and the ability to try to do good and to make a living that could sustain one’s self and one’s loved ones not a fantasy.    Legal services?   The Public Defender’s office?   Work with farm workers?   It all seemed to be no problem for those of us with those hopes and dreams.   Of course, that’s not the case today as rising tuition, crushing debt, a collapsed job market, and a decimated public sector mar the legal professional landscape.

In this context, the importance of OneJustice cannot be overstated.   OneJustice provides opportunities for students by helping to shape public interest curricula at law schools, providing internships to quench what I know is the insatiable thirst of today’s law students to pursue justice, and exposing students to the injustice that persists today just as it did 60 years ago when I was a young boy.  I always tell students to beware the assassins of the spirit.   OneJustice does that in ways that few other organizations do, constantly reminding students of why they came to law school in the first place and creating opportunities in and out of the classroom to realize their dreams.   Nothing could be more important.   OneJustice reminds us that there will never be too many lawyers in the world who are committed to the pursuit of justice.   Just ask a homeless person or an inmate on death row or a family involved in a horrible separation or custody issue.   OneJustice promotes the access to justice that society so desperately needs and fuels the hopes and dreams of today’s law students.

Get to know Professor Brand even better in this short video, made when he was dean.

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Thank you, Professor Brand, for your unwavering commitment to promoting justice! We look forward to honoring you and your many accomplishments on JuGet your tickets to Opening Doors to Justice 2013!ly 25th!

Opening Doors to Justice Awards Reception & Auction
July 25, 2013 | 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Julia Morgan Ballroom (downtown San Francisco)
Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.

 

Yvonne Mariajimenez: pursuing justice and developing leaders

Yvonne Mariajimenez  headshotYvonne’s experience growing up in poverty taught her to be an advocate.

Now a statewide and national leader, she empowers others, as well.

Please join the rest of the OneJustice network to celebrate Yvonne and her many accomplishments on:

Thursday July 25th
6:oo pm to 9:00 pm
Julia Morgan Ballroom (downtown San Francisco)

Tickets are now available at the Opening Doors to Justice website, where you can also preview the awesome silent auction items and make a donation to the Justice Bus.  We caught up with Yvonne recently and asked her some pre-event questions!

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Yvonne, why have you committed so much of your professional career to working on access to justice?

My work is my vocation, and very personal to me.  I was born into and raised in poverty.   My sister, brother and I were raised by our mother, a single parent, who was afflicted with mental illness.  I learned very early in life to advocate for justice for my mother.  I broke out of the cycle of poverty because of my teachers and mentors; during my high school years, they told me I would go to college after having grown up thinking I could not because I was poor.

I have been blessed with education and opportunity and it is very important that I, too, work to ensure others have doors opened for them as they were opened for me.  Not a day goes by that I do not feel satisfaction and the comfort of knowing I have helped someone in need, that I have mentored and encouraged others as I was mentored and encourage, and that I am developing leaders who will work as I have done to make this world a better place.

 What is one particularly rewarding experience you have had in your work on access to justice?

There are many, but in the recent past, it has to be the work on which I collaborated with colleagues and community on stemming the tide of foreclosures and helping families with homeownership capacity keep their homes.

A short story:  One evening at a community meeting of about 200 people with whom we had been working on workforce development, a woman raised her hand and asked if we could talk about foreclosures;  I asked who in the room was affected so and just about everyone rose their hands.  We immediately went into training mode, taught families to read and understand their loan documents, and they realized they had been victims of predatory lending.  They organized and through a community strategy brought the banks into our community to negotiate face to face mortgage modifications to help families keep their homes.

Fast forward 7 months:  another community meeting run entirely by homeowners who had been working with us and had saved their homes.  One of the women leaders addressed the audience of 100 families and said, “Seven months ago I was sitting were you are now, ashamed, desperate and ill with stress because I was losing my home.  Through legal aid, I learned about the loans we had been given and why I was losing my home. I was trained on financial literacy and how to negotiate with the banks; I became a leader.  My home has been saved and I will work with you until your homes are saved.  Because of the training and help we receive from legal aid, our community will never be taken advantage of like this again!”  I sat back and thought to myself—this is why I do what I do!  Pursing justice and developing leaders who will continue to do so long after I am gone.

What is your favorite part of being a part of the OneJustice network?

My favorite part of being a membYvonne Mariajimenez Executive Fellows 2012er of the OneJustice network is the quality of leaders and mentors I have gotten to meet and know and call my friends.  Our non-profit law firms have brought about legal challenges and policy work that has ensured justice for the most vulnerable members of our society.  To gather and convene these organizations under the OneJustice network helps institutionalize the best practices and continue to train good lawyers that ensures the pursuit of justice.

The OneJustice Fellowship Program is probably the best CEO/leadership training I have ever had!  The caliber and quality of the faculty equals that of the most prestigious management training programs in this country.  The program’s quality and success is measured by the promotions of and executive director positions taken by many of its graduates.  The program has developed many effective leaders who will no doubt develop others.

Historically, Legal Services was often threatened with defunding.  Today, I believe legal services is here to stay, the real question is, how good and effective are we going to be?  The OneJustice program equipped me to lead a premier but ever changing non-profit law firm whose advocates change lives and transform communities because of their outstanding legal work.  It has done the same for so many other legal services leaders who will no doubt continue to significantly improve the economic status of poor and low income families throughout California.

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Thank you, Yvonne, for your fierce dedication to excellence and your outstanding contributions to ensuring justice for those in need.  We are honored to collaborate with you, and we are thrilled to be recognizing your achievements later this month!