The access to justice space has exploded with new technology in recent years, and there is enormous potential to engage tech solutions for the benefit of marginalized people and underrepresented communities. In my work, I talk with legal services organizations (LSOs) every day, and often, people are happily surprised to learn that Paladin is free for LSOs.
I asked Paladin’s Co-Founder and CEO, Kristen Sonday, to share more about her philosophy and the impetus behind our no-cost tools for LSOs, and spoke with two other organizations offering impactful products for free to LSOs and pro bono volunteers. Johnathan Hill, Program Manager for Social Impact and Community Engagement Lead at Relativity, shared the incredible Justice for Change Program that brings together law firms and LSOs to power high-impact pro bono work; and Leonard McKenzie, Senior Manager of Scholarship & Pro Bono Membership at the Practicing Law Institute, told me about PLI’s free membership for LSOs, and how organizations can use it to provide critical professional development for their legal staff as well as pro bono attorneys.
Read on to learn more about free pro bono tools for LSOs, and how organizations are leveraging these solutions to build capacity and bring legal representation to clients in need.
Paladin is the go-to platform for connecting the pro bono community and empowering legal teams to do more pro bono, more efficiently. Paladin launched in 2017 with internal pro bono opportunity databases for law firms and corporate in-house teams. Working in close collaboration with legal services organizations (LSOs), the company then developed a suite of tools that gave LSOs the ability to directly input, refer, and place pro bono cases through the Paladin platform. In alignment with Paladin’s mission of increasing access to justice, the LSO tools have been provided free of cost since day one. And since the release of the first version of our LSO tools, Paladin has continued to build on and advance its no-cost tech for LSOs.
Kristen Sonday, Paladin’s CEO, says, “It was clear to us from the beginning that legal services organizations should have free tools to manage their pro bono programs. LSOs are underfunded and under-resourced enough, and they deserve cutting-edge tools just like law firms have. To be in a position where we can provide that for free is really exciting, and I’m enthusiastic about building on that.”
In addition to pro bono matter referrals, the expansion of Paladin’s free tools has also enabled hundreds of LSOs to reach new law firms and lawyers for collaboration and relationship-building, bringing an additional layer of value to LSOs’ pro bono programs. Every day, Paladin’s free tools are facilitating pro bono assistance for refugees, veterans, formerly incarcerated people, domestic violence survivors, and vulnerable youth. Helping low-income people get access to free legal assistance is what drives Paladin’s innovation.
A story we love: An associate attorney at Dentons was browsing her Paladin database and connected with a housing conditions matter referred by Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation. Through her representation and work with AVLF, the associate was able to win several thousand dollars for the client, who had experienced serious issues in her apartment, including mold.
We’re proud to be a part of the pro bono ecosystem and to be providing a no-cost tech solution to the legal serviced community. We take our access to justice mission seriously: we’re committed to building and expanding our suite of tools for LSOs, and to keeping it all cost-free.
To get started, request a demo and we’ll reach out to connect.
Relativity is a global legal technology company that makes software to help users organize data, discover the truth and act on it. Its SaaS product, RelativityOne, manages large volumes of data and quickly identifies key issues during litigation and internal investigations. RelativityOne leverages proprietary AI and is often used by Fortune 500 companies and the majority of the AmLaw 200.
Relativity launched Justice for Change in 2021 to empower those seeking to positively impact racial and social justice in our communities. The Justice for Change program provides qualifying organizations with 500GB worth of RelativityOne use among 10 users over 24 months. The program emerged in the wake of the racial unrest that underscored the reality of enduring racial injustice and oppression. Johnathan Hill, Relativity’s Program Manager for Social Impact and Community Engagement Lead, was instrumental in consulting with leadership and advocating for a program that leveraged Relativity’s unique capabilities to help make a difference. Recognizing that cost is a primary barrier in accessing much-needed technology for organizations doing crucial work around justice, Relativity identified a key opportunity area—enter, the Justice for Change program. “We wanted to eliminate cost as a barrier to access to justice work.”
“Providing access to this technology is a game changer in empowering those fighting for justice around the world,” says Phil Saunders, CEO of Relativity. “We are grateful for our participating law firms and partners that work directly with non-profit organizations and guide them throughout this process. We look forward to their ongoing efforts to improve access to justice as we work together to continue growing the program globally.”
Existing RelativityOne customers, such as law firms, can apply for free usage through the Justice for Change program, and use that to support partnered Legal Service Organizations (LSOs) on major pro bono projects. This means that LSOs can benefit from the program, even if they lack the capacity to onboard their staff to RelativityOne and use it directly. The partner law firm can work with the LSO to provide logistical and technical support via Relativity, with the firm’s costs waived for that pro bono project.
“By waiving costs, the pro bono attorneys can focus on the impact of the case,” says Johnathan. “We know that there needs to be an even playing field in justice, and tech is going to play a huge role in making that happen. This is how we invest in our community.”
When Relativity initially launched Justice for Change, it assumed most of the usage would focus on police misconduct cases. However, Relativity has seen a wide variety of matters, including tenants’ rights, Medicaid and Medicare challenges, prison overstays, child justice, and more. Since launching the program in 2021, globally there are now 75 matters (cases and projects), 3.2 million documents in Justice for Change workspaces under review, 31 customers involved in either hosting, co-counsel or providing review support on pro bono cases and 25 nonprofits and legal aid organizations leveraging Relativity software in their cases.
Thanks to the Justice for Change program, the use of RelativityOne by organizations working hard to achieve just outcomes continues to grow—and on a global scale. Since its inception in 2020, the program has expanded beyond the U.S. to both Australia and Europe—and Relativity is eager to continue spreading the word about Justice for Change to make an even bigger impact. “We are excited about the future,” says Johnathan. “Think about it this way: if 92% of civil cases have not been seen by a lawyer, imagine what’s possible.”
To share a success story: The Georgia Innocence Project put over 20 years of cases into RelativityOne to discover trends and assess how to optimize for impact. They found that one county in the state was responsible for over 30% of the wrongful convictions in that time period. With this data, the Georgia Innocence Project was able to secure a grant for their Conviction Integrity Unit to focus on cases in the identified county that had a high likelihood of being wrongful.
PRACTISING LAW INSTITUTE
Practising Law Institute is a nonprofit learning organization that provides the legal profession with continuous learning and professional development opportunities, including training for attorneys who provide pro bono legal services.
Pro bono is at the heart of PLI’s mission, and through its Scholarship and Pro Bono Membership programs the organization is able to grant access to thousands of hours of CLE to attorneys working in legal services or handling a case pro bono, at no cost.
PLI’s free “Pro Bono Membership” is available to 501(c)(3) organizations that have at least one attorney on staff and provide direct pro bono legal representation as their primary purpose. The membership provides unlimited access to a wide selection of live programming, as well as simultaneous and on-demand webcasts, One-Hour Briefings, and MP3s and MP4s.
The membership roster ranges from large statewide legal aid and legal services organizations with hundreds of attorneys on staff, to organizations with just one lawyer on staff. When the Pro Bono Membership program was first launched, the organization was required to have 10 lawyers on staff. That number was incrementally lowered, and now stands at one. Leonard McKenzie, Senior Manager of Scholarship & Pro Bono Membership, says this was adjusted to better serve the needs of legal services organizations, and the membership reflects that value. As examples, PLI supports an immigration organization with a single attorney on staff who supervises a team of legal professionals who conduct case intakes and a veterans’ organization that primarily focuses on intake and referral of pro bono cases to volunteer attorneys. All in all, over 700 legal services organizations across the country are Pro Bono Members, and Leonard says he’d like to see more organizations taking advantage of this benefit.
PLI provides resources that legal aid attorneys do not have access to in-house, says Leonard. CLEs taught by an expert faculty are available across all areas of law, and members can participate in any programming that interests them, whether it’s within their area of practice or not. PLI’s programming uses immersive, interactive technology to provide professional development for attorneys in foundational areas like time management, strategic listening, and implicit bias, as well as pro-bono focused topics such as managing vicarious trauma, defending immigration removal, consumer protection, civil rights, and children’s law.
Membership also includes a CLE credit tracker that logs each user’s participation in PLI courses and allows users to input credits from other providers. The tracker displays the user’s progress toward the required credits for their jurisdiction, including requirements in different areas, such as Professional Responsibility, Mental Health, or DEI. These trackers are kept up to date across all MCLE states, a tool which became particularly important during the pandemic, when lawyers needed to keep up with quickly changing CLE requirements.
It’s easy to get started – organizations simply fill out a one-page membership application to verify that they are a 501(c)(3) organization with at least one lawyer on staff. Then, the application is reviewed, and the prospective members have a phone call with a member of PLIs’ Pro Bono Team to discuss membership benefits and requirements. Once the organization is approved for membership, they must appoint an internal administrator to manage the user roster for the organization.
Once the organization is signed up for the Pro Bono Membership, the entire catalog of courses is available for staff attorneys to self-serve. Staff can sign up and take any courses they like, from in-person or live webcast CLE to on-demand recordings of past courses. Programs are also broken up into segments so busy attorneys can view whatever pieces are most relevant, or view in short bursts over time. A free mobile app also offers access to programs on-the-go and even offline, with customization settings that highlight content of interest to individual users.
PLI’s Scholarship Program offers full scholarships, registration fee waivers, and discounts to attend PLI programs. These are available to attorneys, paralegals, law librarians, and staff working for nonprofit/legal services organizations; pro bono attorneys/volunteers (providing no-fee legal assistance to clients individually or through a nonprofit organization); government attorneys; judges and judicial law clerks; law professors and law students; retired attorneys; independent/freelance paralegals; unemployed attorneys; and others with financial hardships.
PLI’s Interactive Learning Center offers on-demand resources for pro bono attorneys, such as training on best practices and ethics, interviewing clients, representing domestic violence survivors, and more. Legal services organizations, through their Pro Bono Membership, use these trainings when onboarding new staff attorneys as well as new pro bono attorneys. In addition, PLI has a dedicated pro bono team focused on creating new pro bono-specific programming and runs a train-the- trainer program for legal services organizations, to help LSOs provide better training for their volunteer attorneys.
Thank you to Johnathan Hill and Leonard McKenzie, and the Relativity and PLI teams for sharing their time and expertise with us! The access to justice technology space is growing rapidly, with immense potential to bring legal help to vulnerable people and underserved communities across the world. We’re glad to highlight just a few of the impactful resources that are available for free to legal services organizations.