Stay updated on Pro Bono Net's COVID-19 response. Below are some online tools and resources to help individuals impacted by the pandemic solve their legal problems as well as organizations and advocates connect with clients.
Remote Legal Support Guide: A Best Practices Manual for Nonprofit and Pro Bono Innovation
Pro Bono Net’s Remote Legal Support Guide: A Guide for Nonprofit and Pro Bono Innovation, explores ways to leverage technology and share strategies that improve access to justice for rural and underserved communities. The manual features successful Remote Legal Service (RLS) programs, including program logistics, processes, challenges, best practices, projects and models from across the nonprofit sector, and much more. As more organizations shift to remote services to maintain the health and safety of their staff and clients, the demand for tools for optimizing and structuring remote legal support programs continue to rise.
Pro Bono Net’s Remote Legal Support Platform allows legal services providers, pro bono initiatives, courts and community partners to rapidly build and manage a remote legal support program to increase access to legal assistance for communities in need, regardless of location. Our Legal Support platform model has been adopted by:
- Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York (LASNNY), Legal Assistance of Western New York (LawNY), and Volunteer Legal Services Project (VLSP) in upstate New York: Closing the Gap
- Legal Information for Families Today in New York City: Family Legal Connection
- Ohio State Legal Services Association (OSLA) in Ohio: Bridging the Divide
- Atlanta Legal Aid Society (ALAS) in Georgia: We Close the Gap
New York Efforts
LawHelpNY.org is New York's statewide legal information website providing access to Know Your Rights information, DIY court forms, as well as referral information for over 250 free legal service providers. You can visit LawHelpNY's Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources Page to help you with the legal issues you are facing during this pandemic.
LiveHelp is a real-time chat feature of LawHelpNY, through which visitors can obtain tailored assistance from a LiveHelp Operator in navigating resources to find the information they need related to the legal issues they’re facing. Chats on LiveHelp have increased by 50% following the state of emergency declared in mid-March. For information on LawHelpNY and LiveHelp during the COVID-19 pandemic, read here.
Domestic abuse has dramatically increased with shelter-in-place orders. Our Family Offense Petition Program, powered by LawHelp Interactive and hosted on probono.net/ny/family, allows advocates to e-file Order of Protection petitions on behalf of their clients throughout New York.
The Legal Information for Families Today’s (LIFT) Family Legal Connection program uses computers, phones, and their specially designed online platform to overcome barriers to reaching rural parts of New York State.
The Emergency Housing Part Action Tool, a product of JustFixNYC and powered by LawHelp Interactive, allows renters to sue their landlord for emergency repairs that are required by New York City renter protections. To learn more about this product, read here.
Many seniors are vulnerable to issues such as financial exploitation, abuse or eviction, which are now heightened due to the current health crisis. The Legal Risk Detector enables legal aid programs and community partners to collaborate to spot and address risks to a senior’s well-being throughout New York State. This app was created in collaboration with Center for Elder Law & Justice.
National & State Efforts
The national LawHelp.org site is the first source of information for individuals with a legal problem. Across the network, top pages viewed recently are related to unemployment issues, SNAP benefits. There are COVID-19 resource pages covering multiple issues in states such as Washington, New York, Louisiana, and Iowa. Many LawHelp sites saw a 30-50% increase in usage from March 28-April 4. There are also reports of increased usage of LiveHelp in states that offer it.
The National Disaster Legal Aid Advocacy Center helps address a nationwide need to network public interest legal advocates working on disaster legal aid and share advocacy resources and tools across regions. The Center has information on COVID-19 legal response needs, resources and service delivery strategies.
Citizenshipworks (CW), a project of Immigrant Advocates Network, provides free, online eligibility screenings, application assistance, legal review, fee waiver assistance and form filing instructions. Through the Citizenshipworks network of over 200 nonprofit and local partners, they have helped community-based organizations, libraries, government partners provide naturalization services across the country. During this pandemic, CW has connected “DIY” applicants to Remote Legal Partners, such as Immigrant Welcome Center (Indianapolis, IN), The Legal Clinic (Honolulu, HI), and NALEO Educational Fund (Houston, TX; Los Angeles, CA; New York, NY). CW has also referred “enrolled” applicants to Remote Legal Partners if their Legal Partner can no longer serve them.
immi, a project of Immigration Advocates Network, helps immigrants in the US understand their legal options. Our online screening tool, legal information, and referrals to nonprofit legal services organizations are always free to use.
Thousands of easy to use, guided interviews are being used to support families during the COVID-19 crisis. LawHelp Interactive hosts forms in areas of law where there is need, for example Domestic Violence, child support, custody and guardianship, housing, food stamps and other public benefits, as well as wills and powers of attorney. Partners are sharing forms directly online and also through partnerships with libraries and other groups.
The District of Columbia Courts’ Forms Help Online site makes it easier for you to fill out court forms for use at the DC Courts. These online, LawHelp Interactive-powered forms are easy-to-use and designed for people who do not have lawyers. A variety of case types are covered on Forms Help Online, including: Domestic Violence (for those seeking to file petitions for Civil Protection Orders), Family Court (for those who want to file for, or modify, custody), Court of Appeals (for those wanting to file an appeal and for those seeking waivers of courts fees and costs, due to their low income level), Civil, and Probate.From March to June 2020, the petition for Civil Protection Order was used almost 3,000 times. For more information on the use LawHelp Interactive-powered forms in District of Columbia Courts in context of the pandemic, read our blog.
Pro Bono Net's Executive Director, Mark O'Brien, published an update on how Pro Bono Net is responding to increased need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read Pro Bono Net’s response to the pandemic, here on our blog.
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised the stakes for a digital divide that has long disadvantaged low-income, Black and Latino, and rural households. As Americans lose access to public internet sources at schools, libraries and businesses, those who most need the internet to access school and get the unemployment and SNAP resources they need to meet basic needs are getting hit hardest. Read Josh Waldman’s three-part blog series on the digital divide, here: part one, part two, and part three.
The webinar: Strategies for Providing Remote Legal Services to Older Adults convened over 3,000 participants, to discuss how legal assistance providers and aging services advocates are evolving their service delivery models in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
You can help Pro Bono Net respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by visiting our donate page. We will be making ongiong updates to this page as we continue to respond to the Coronavirus.