This week we celebrate pro bono lawyers, and are thrilled to welcome Pam Weisz as a guest blogger!
October 24 to 30 marks the second annual National Pro Bono Celebration in the United States. Sponsored by the American Bar Association, this week is meant to showcase the great difference that pro bono lawyers make, and to highlight the growing need for high-quality, free legal aid for those facing foreclosure, eviction, consumer debt, domestic violence, child custody disputes and other grave civil legal problems.
As they face rising demand from those affected by the economic crisis, overstretched legal aid and pro bono organizations are increasingly turning to technology - especially online tools - to enable collaboration, increase efficiency and to make the legal system more accessible to those in need.
Pro Bono Net, a national nonprofit that receives support from MyFax, provides a technology infrastructure that empowers the public interest law community to improve service delivery, increase private attorney involvement and enhance collaboration among service providers. Its flagship website, http://www.probono.net/, helps thousands of attorneys nationwide connect with legal aid organizations in their communities, find opportunities for meaningful pro bono work, and access the training and support they need. Its http://www.lawhelp.org/ website helps people find free legal aid programs in their communities, answers to questions about legal rights, court information, self-help tools, links to social service agencies, and more.
Another program, LawHelp Interactive, provides a national infrastructure for online legal document assembly, enabling tens of thousands of low-income people each year to complete needed legal forms. LawHelp Interactive increases efficiency for legal aid and pro bono programs, allowing more people to be helped in less time.
Technology alone is clearly not enough to solve the increasingly disparity between the availability of high-quality, free legal help and the number of people struggling with life-altering legal problems. But it is a key element in efforts to help close the justice gap.
To learn more about how Pro Bono Net is using technology in the service of increasing access to justice, visit http://www.probono.net/. Lawyers wishing to get involved in pro bono can visit www.probono.net/volunteer to find pro bono opportunities in their community.
Pam Weisz is the Director of Communication & Corporate Sponsorship at Pro Bono Net. She works on marketing and communications initiatives and runs the corporate sponsorship program, which connects companies with Pro Bono Net's membership of thousands of attorneys. A valuable member of the Pro Bono Net team since 2007, Pam previously worked in business development and strategic planning roles at media companies including the Associated Press and Showtime Networks. Before going to graduate school, she spent several years working as a journalist. Pam has an MBA from Columbia University and a BA from Stanford University. She lives in New York City.