Sweet, the same

In a rambling sort of way I sort through cabinets in which manila file folders rest until, crisp bottom fold lost and rounded, they open like wilted and faded petals over-revealing their aged content.  After 16 years in this pro bono business, I have filed away many word collections and cultivated thoughts and half-brained ideas.  The cabinets open and disgorge the stories.  I am simply the curator now, after my power to narrate has been diminished by the would-haves and should-haves.

One musters the courage to linger over a file folder that offers up razor blades for the self-mutilator.   Slipping through the paper-clipped pages I see where I could have helped but did not. How was my vision then?   I think of John Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale, “was it a vision or a waking dream? Fled is that music–do I wake or sleep?”  How do I see and not see?

The poetry of pro bono falls within many camps: romantic, mystic, modern, classic.  But all poetry is code, expression under oppression. In the forming of the work lies the frustration of too little, too few, too much, too important.

The discernment of success and failure is at best a short-lived contentedness.  All things wrapped in evolution offer up hope.

My aged paper files lie wilted, no fragrance except that of uneasiness.  Sweet, the same.

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Very Important Communications Research Released

Originally posted on Richard Zorza's Access to Justice Blog:

This is one of the most important posts I have ever written.  I am honored to be authorized to post the communications research conducted by Lake Research Partners and the Torrance Group on civil legal aid and access to justice for the new Communications Hub funded by the Public Welfare Foundation and the Kresge Foundation. (Disclosures: The Self-Represented Network is on the Advisory Board of the Project and the Public Welfare Foundation is a funder of Network activities.)

I want to do three things.  First highlight what is for me the key finding; second to quote the whole Executive Summary, which everyone should internalize, and; third, make a few comments highlighting things that caught my eye, and may reflect particularly the things that I most care about.


While there is much of importance in the results, the key finding that I hope will revolutionize our attitude so that we…

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Why State-Based Advocacy Orgazations are Important — Two Lessons from Massachuetts

Originally posted on Richard Zorza's Access to Justice Blog:

Those of us who try to focus attention on the “access” side of access to justice are often criticized for not planning enough for impact advocacy side.  Two recent developments highlight the importance and potential results of having institutions that focus on legal change and also raise the question why we can not have such institutions in every state.

The Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI), where I worked during law school and briefly afterwards, is with very good reason regarded as one of the best so-called “state back-up centers” funded, till the Gingrich era, by LSC.

A few weeks ago Ernest (Tony) Winsor, the Deputy Director at MLRI for 30 years, died.  An article (not an obituary) in the Boston Globe highlights his career and contributions.  Tony was one of my supervisors as a law student, and I learned so much from him.  As the Globe put it:

One of…

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Can the Self-Represented Collect For Time When Required by Opposing Attorney — Canada Moves

Originally posted on Richard Zorza's Access to Justice Blog:

Julie Macfarlane has a fascinating blog on the emerging jurisprudence in Canada dealing with the award of costs when time is required by an opposing attorney’s wrongful activities.  As I understand it, this is analogous to the US Rule 11 sanctions.  As described in the blog, the steps to the most recent decision, Bergen v. Sharpe, which ended up with a $200 an hour charge against the wrongful side, were as follows:

1. In family proceedings in Ontario, costs generally follow the award (Rule 24 Family Law Rules). Ergo, successful SRLs may receive costs. In addition, the courts increasingly use costs to penalize parties who delay, prolong proceedings, make unreasonable claims and refuse to consider settlement (more below).

2. Bad behaviour that would lead to an award of costs in favour of a represented party will similarly lead to an award of costs to a SRL (among others, Fong v…

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Providing pro bono legal assistance to homeless veterans

Today, I’m at the Pro Bono Institute Conference in DC, then heading home. Yesterday’s session on tech went quite well.

In the veterans law pro bono session yesterday, the consensus among the law firms and corporate counsel programs was that no one had a handle on pro bono legal assistance for the homeless vet– that we needed some national gathering on the subject. This morning, by grand coincidence, I struck up a conversation with a doctor at breakfast who happens to be here in DC for the national Health Care for the Homeless conference.

I have a new inspiration– for somebody– not me (too much to do now): forming local medical-legal partnerships with affiliates of the National Health Care for the Homeless Program. NHCHC has a network of programs who have expertise in reaching out to the homeless, including homeless veterans.  We should also reach out to the Health Care for the Homeless Conference organizers to see about conference cross-pollenization on legal issues affecting homeless veterans.  We need to learn about how they deliver their services and apply the lessons our work to provide critical legal assistance.

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Self-Represented Litigation Network Plans Equal Justice Conference Pre-Conference

Originally posted on Richard Zorza's Access to Justice Blog:

Once again this coming year, the Self-Represented Litigation Network will be hosting a pre-conference in association with the NLADA/ABA Equal Justice Conference.  The pre-conference will be May 8, 2013, and the main conference will be May 9-11.  As usual, there will be an Access to Justice Commissions gathering on Saturday the 11th.

Here is the overall “save the date.”

Save the Date_EJC2013

More information here.

I very much welcome suggestions and ideas for what we should be focusing the pre-c0nfernce on.  Here is last year’s pre-conference agenda .

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Mandatory Pro Bono for Admission: the Domino Effect?

Originally posted on ABA Center for Pro Bono Exchange:

The New Jersey Law Journal reported late last week that New Jersey is considering implementing a mandatory pro bono requirement for admission to the New Jersey Bar. Chief Justice Rabner and the New Jersey Supreme Court have requested an evaluation of New York’s recently released rule requiring all admission seekers to complete at least 50 hours of pro bono service before they can be admitted to the bar.

New Jersey has convened a 16 member group to conduct the evaluation headed by Judge Glenn Grant, Acting Administrative Director of the Courts. The group also contains members of the law school community, legal services, the Courts, the New Jersey State Bar Association, the New Jersey Board of Bar Examiners and other organizations.

With this new development does it seem probable that more and more states will begin to consider similar mandatory pro bono requirements for admission to the bar? Both before…

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I’m a fan of Twitter

I’m a fan of Twitter.  That’s a lot like saying, “I like socks.”  But socks keep your feet warm and reduce irritation.  Socks also say something about you.  And socks are here to stay.

I created a brief presentation about Twitter for people with whom I work.  Twitter is great for promoting pro bono.

If only Twitter could help me follow my socks on laundry day.  Life would be sweeter.

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Mercer Law School, Macon Bar and Jones Cork host benefit concert for Georgia Legal Services Program

On Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012 the Mercer University School of Law and the Macon Bar Association will stage a concert at the Cox Capitol Theater in Macon to benefit the Macon Regional Office of the Georgia Legal Services Program.  The bands SUE ‘N’ THE BASTARDS and THE DEACONS OF DISASTER will take the stage Doors open at 6 p.m..  The show begins at 7 p.m..  Admission is: $50.00/Attorney $25.00/Supporter $10.00/Student (with ID Available at the Door) .  Attorney and Individual Tickets are available.  To purchase tickets click here.

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Mobile tech grants in the legal aid community

I’m pleased that Richard Zorza‘s recent blog article included a couple of technology projects with which I will be involved over the next two years.

In an article he posted today entitled, “LSC TIG Grants Announced — The Year of Mobile and Beyond,” Richard summed up a number of mobile technology projects and exhorted us all to think beyond converting existing content.  Read Richard’s full article here.

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During National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Use Georgia Online Resources to Help Stop the Cycle of Violence

Site Offer Referrals, Information, Self-help Tools for Survivors and Resources for Advocates

Atlanta, GA – October 1, 2012    One in four women and one in thirteen men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. As National Domestic Violence Awareness Month begins this October, Georgians who need to know about resources for domestic violence survivors can turn to  GeorgiaLegalAid.org, part of the national LawHelp.org network of nonprofit legal information portals that empower individuals to help themselves.  Lawyers can beef up their pro bono service using resources from GeorgiaAdvocates.org.

Visitors to GeorgiaLegalAid.org will find easy-to-understand information about what constitutes domestic violence; orders of protection; issues related to housing rights, public benefits and children; and the needs of special populations such as immigrants.  GeorgiaLegalAid.org also provides referrals to local legal aid organizations that can help.  Many of these self-help and information resources are available in Spanish.

GeorgiaLegalAid.org was recently relaunched with a new design, making it even easier to navigate.

GeorgiaLegalAid.org allows survivorss and advocates to quickly and easily find and fill out needed documents, for example, a court form to obtain an order of protection.

GeorgiaLegalAid.org  is Georgia’s online source of free legal aid referrals, know-your-rights information and a variety of self-help tools.  The site is maintained by the Atlanta Legal Aid Society and the Georgia Legal Services Program, in conjunction with Pro Bono Net, a nonprofit leader in increasing access to justice for the disadvantaged.  GeorgiaLegalAid.org, formerly known as LegalAid-GA.org was launched in 2001 and now serves more than a million views a year.  LawHelp.org was developed with support from the Legal Services Corporation.

“Victims of domestic violence may not know where to turn for critically needed legal assistance and, in many cases, cannot afford to hire an attorney,” said Liz Keith, LawHelp Program Manager at Pro Bono Net.  “LawHelp can easily be accessed from anywhere, for example at a computer at a public library, to find referrals for free legal services, information about legal rights and, often, free online forms and other tools for self-help.”

About Atlanta Legal Aid Society
The Atlanta Legal Aid Society has represented Atlanta’s poor in civil legal cases since 1924. Our work helps our clients deal with some of life’s most basic needs — a safe home, enough food to eat, a decent education, protection against fraud, and personal safety.  Our clients come from Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett Counties in Georgia.

About Georgia Legal Services Program, Inc.®
The mission of the Georgia Legal Services Program is to provide access to justice and opportunities out of poverty for Georgians with low-incomes. Our lawyers and paralegals provide the help that reflects your community’s values of fairness, equality, and responsibility to assist others in need.
About Pro Bono Net
Pro Bono Net is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing access to justice through innovative uses of technology and increased volunteer lawyer participation.  Pro Bono Net uses innovative web-based platforms—www.probono.net, http://www.lawhelp.org and http://www.lawhelpinteractive.org —to recruit and support volunteer lawyers and provide direct information and tools for self representation to low-income communities.   Pro Bono Net has also developed Pro Bono Manager, pro bono practice management software that helps AmLaw 200 law firms increase pro bono participation, manage pro bono caseloads more efficiently and raise internal and external awareness of pro bono efforts.  For more information, please visit http://www.probono.net.

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A funder talks to other funders about civil legal services- watch the video

The Public Welfare Foundation has been making important grants in the area of access to civil justice.  Mary McClymont, PWF President, has also been making a major effort to talk to her foundation colleagues about the importance of supporting civil legal aid. She was interviewed recently by Tamara Lucas Copeland, president of Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers, about the needs of low-income people and what private funders can do to help. This video, aimed at the funder community, is available on the PWF’s website, www.publicwelfare.org . It’s also found on YouTube here. McClymont urges funders to consider supporting legal aid as part of their grantmaking strategy in substantive areas.  She points out that such funding is “a great strategy” to enhance, leverage, and sustain investments other areas, such as housing or education.

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