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!


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.

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!

December’s contest: a guessing game

What makes a legal services desert?

Can you guess the number of poor people per attorney in Merced County?

At OneJustice, we’ve been noodling around on the idea of a legal services desert.

San Bernardino Desert

San Bernardino is both a geographic and legal services desert.

Drawing on the concept of “food deserts” in the anti-hunger movement, we’ve been working to develop a set of factors that can identify (and describe) legal services deserts — communities that face particularly difficult barriers to accessing legal services and justice.

What might those factors be?  Well, we’d love your ideas!  And we think that it the rubric should probably include criteria like:

  • total number of people in poverty
  • density of poverty (the percentage of the community living in poverty)
  • total number of attorneys practicing in the community
  • ratio of poor people to local attorneys (i.e., are there local pro bono resources)
  • distance to the closest local legal services nonprofit (if there is one)
  • distance to the closest courthouse
  • geographic barriers to legal services and courthouses
  • access to public transportation to the nonprofits and courthouses
  • language barriers to services
  • other local communities needs
  • And what else?  We would love your thoughts and input!

As part of our noodling around, we’ve been comparing the NUMBER OF POOR PEOPLE in all 58 counties to the NUMBER OF ATTORNEYS practicing in the county.  This gives us a ratio of the number of poor people per each attorney.  We’re using this ratio as a rough gauge for how possible it is for the local legal community to meet the need for pro bono legal services for the local low-income residents.

And the results are pretty interesting!

You can win this nifty water bottle!  Post today!

You can win this nifty water bottle! Post today!

San Francisco has the lowest ratio of poor people to attorneys – with 6 poor people for every 1 attorney.  The next lowest is Marin with 9 poor people per attorney.  Los Angeles County has 31 poor people per attorney, while San Bernardino (shown in the photo above), has 141 – making it not only a geographic desert but also a legal services desert.  Tulare County has 259 poor people per attorney, while Imperial has 290 – meaning that the need for legal assistance in low-income communities cannot possibly be met by the local attorney population.

So here is the guessing game for our December justice contest.

Merced County has the HIGHEST ratio of poor people per attorney.  What do you think that number is?   Tell us how many poor people you think there are per attorney in Merced County.

Enter your guess as a comment to this blog or our facebook or LinkedIn pages – or tweet it to us at @OneJusticeOrg – by Sunday December 15th.  The person whose guess is the closest to the correct number wins this awesome OneJustice water bottle.

Happy guessing – thanks for playing!

Double your impact – today!

GivingTuesday - give today!You can make DOUBLE the difference today!

Give online today – and your gift will be doubled!

Today is #GivingTuesday – the national opening day of the giving season.  Let’s kick it off with a bang!

A generous matching challenge from the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation will match all gifts – dollar for dollar – up to $7,500.  Please give online now – this matching challenge ends at midnight tonight!

Your kind gift today will mean $15,000 in support for free legal services for those in need. Veterans.  Seniors.  Children and youth.  Low-wage workers.  Families.  And those living in rural and isolated parts of the state.

Thank you so much for your support!

Donate Online NowQuestions or don’t want to give online?  Just call Natasha Ong at 415-834-0100 x 317.  Thank you!

Set a trend – give for justice!

Let’s return to the true spirit of the holidays

And #Give4Justice on #GivingTuesday!

Let's #give4justice on #GivingTuesday

Let’s #give4justice on #GivingTuesday

We had Black Friday.  Today is Cyber Monday.  Two days that are all about shopping.  And deals.  And commercialism.

What happened to the holiday season being about giving thanks for what we have – and caring for those who don’t have enough – instead of focusing on getting more stuff for ourselves?

At OneJustice, we think it’s time to return to the true spirit of the holidays – by giving thanks AND giving back to our communities.

That is why last year we were among the inaugural partners in #GivingTuesday – a national campaign to focus more on giving than getting.  Spend more time volunteering than shopping.  Return to caring for those who are in need rather than tracking down the best deal.

And we’re super proud to be doing it again this year!

Started by the United Nations Foundation and the 92d Street Y, #GivingTuesday builds on the American tradition of giving back but uses technology to give this idea greater impact. #GivingTuesday is intended to encourage Americans to reflect and give back. It’s a collective moment for individual and community action.  This year, more than 7,000 partners across the country are taking part – including large corporations and small businesses, faith-based organizations, nonprofits, and local government.

And we are rallying the legal services and access to justice community to make sure that justice is a big part of #GivingTuesday. We can all celebrate by giving the gift of justice to Californians in need!  So join us tomorrow – on #GivingTuesday – in giving for justice!

How do you do that, you ask?  It’s sooooooo easy!

  • Giving Justice on GivingTuesdayJoin OneJustice and the California Campaign for Justice in our jointly hosted #Give4Justice twitter party from 12pm to 1pm.  Just track our feed at @OneJusticeOrg and search using hashtag #Give4Justice.  We’ll be posing questions about the power of pro bono and supporting legal services throughout the hour – and tracking and retweeting your replies!
  • Or donate to your local legal aid organization – or the statewide Campaign for Justice.  Or volunteer with your local pro bono program.  Thank you for YOUR actions, which will make all the difference for those facing pressing legal problems and suffering needlessly from solvable legal problems.

Thank you for giving thanks AND giving back!

Why we love our board of directors – and you will, too

BoardSource NewsletterA love letter to the OneJustice Board

We’re so excited – and we just can’t hide it!

We’re so excited to share some wonderful news with you — OneJustice was named the grand-prize winner of the 2013 Prudential Awards for Exceptional Nonprofit Boards at the recent BoardSource Leadership Forum (BLF), which took place earlier this month in Los Angeles! And, the award comes with $15,000!

Recognizing and promoting excellence in board service is at the heart of BoardSource’s mission. That’s why BoardSource created the Prudential Leadership Awards for Exceptional Nonprofit Boards, now in their third year. BoardSource announces these awards, in partnership with Prudential, at the annual BoardSource Leadership Forum. The awards are intended to inspire and support new approaches to strengthening and building organizational impact through board leadership.

In conjunction with the theme of BLF, the 2013 award winners exemplify exceptional governance and demonstrate the concept of “Bold Leadership: Taking Risks, Thinking Big” for their organizations in at least one of three areas: structure, fundraising, and governance.

OneJustice is featured in an article in BoardSource’s newsletter “Spark” released today.  (Click here to download the PDF of the article).

And, here’s what the folks at BoardSource had to say about OneJustice in a brochure they distributed at the conference:

The OneJustice Board of Directors

The OneJustice Board of Directors

What do you do when a consultant hired to help your board and new executive director prepare for a strategic planning process tells you that your stakeholders are not aware of your mission and do not consider your organization’s programs relevant to the communities it serves? Do you step back and rethink your plans to plan? The board of OneJustice (then the Public Interest Clearinghouse) took another tack. It decided to move ahead, to fully launch a strategic planning process, seek further stakeholder input, clarify its mission, set its vision, and carefully evaluate every project against a double bottom-line: mission impact and contribution to the organization’s financial health.

Projects that had outlived their relevance were eliminated. In their place rose two core program areas: increasing volunteerism in the legal community and increasing the business skills of nonprofit legal services. Both are directly tied to the organization’s mission of increasing the legal assistance available to poor and other underserved Californians. The board also turned to an issue that had long been under discussion: the confusion caused by its name, Public Interest Clearinghouse. With a communications consulting team supporting its efforts, the board managed a consensus-driven rebranding process that resulted in a new name — OneJustice — representing the organization’s commitment to creating one justice system that works equally for all.

The OneJustice Board doing training by videoconference

The OneJustice Board participating in fundraising training by videoconference.

But the board was not done. Immediately after completing the organizational strategic plan, the board turned its critical eye inward. After completing an in-depth performance assessment and identifying its strengths and weaknesses, it trained in the Governance as Leadership model, created a governance committee, and institutionalized processes related to multi-year recruitment plans, performance evaluation of each board member prior to term renewal, and continuous learning.

As a result of the board’s work over the past six years, OneJustice is now flourishing. The budget has doubled, the revenue model is stable, the organization is responding to stakeholder requests for geographic presence in Southern California, and the board is engaged and focused on mission, excellence, and continued strategic growth. Just over a year ago, the board solicited feedback from the same set of stakeholders as in 2007. The response this time? “One Justice is the glue that holds the California legal services community together.” The 180-degree transformation in the organization’s relevance is due to the board’s leadership.

BoardSource Award 2013

OneJustice Board Chair Max Ochoa with OneJustice staff receiving the award from BoardSource and Prudential at the BoardSource Leadership Forum on November 8th in Los Angeles.             (Photograph by Sarah Fiske)