LSC has just announced its first pro bono innovation awards, funded by a special line in the LSC appropriation. These grants follow the TIG model, they are discretionary and competitive, and intended to be innovative.
This years grants cover the following:
- Integration of pro bono into follow-up and brief services (Atlanta Legal Aid.)
- Cooperate with bar to develop rural versions of metro clinics (Colorado Legal Services
- Training institute to provide on-demand training relevant to low income practice (Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and others)
- Create a new pro bono practice group across organizations and coordinate pro bono opportunities, including with atty emeritus program (Legal Assistance of Western New York)
- Pro bono staffed veterans hotline (Maryland Legal Aid)
- Statewide technology platform targeting barriers to legal service delivery for solo practitioners, small firms, government attorneys, law students, and paralegals (Montana Legal Services Association)
- Set of resources for services beyond brief services (Northwest Justice Project)
- Pro bono, law- student-driven Medical-Legal Community Partnership with exiting programs (Philadelphia Legal Assistance)
- Recruit pro bono attys with Illinois LegalAidOnline to provide family services in suburban areas (Prairie State Legal Services)
- Partnering with the Self-Help Center of the State Courts, local State Bar Pro Bono committees, a Legal Center, and volunteer law students and attorneys to provide a continuum of service for clients representing themselves in family law matters in rural areas (Utah Legal Services)
- Test and prototype “pop-up” clinics, a customized virtual law firm platform, and cost-effective videoconferencing so bankruptcy experts can train and mentor pro bono attorneys. (Volunteer Lawyers Project of Boston Bar)
There is indeed a lot of potential here. There is heavy use of technology — underlining how much the future of access is to be tied in with technology innovation. There is at least some court cooperation, and themes of making better use of experts and resources.
Some tests for this high potential initiative are how quickly these innovations can be tested and spread throughout the pro bono world, how much they actually improve quality and volume, and whether they bring in new partners and lawyers.
Hopefully next year there will be a similar program, and even more ideas. I am pasting in a list I previously offered on this blog:
- Replicating successful pro bono innovations such as self-help center based pro bono clinics, attorney of the day programs, and programs that focus pro bono resources on cases that are almost ready for resolution.
- Development of replication kits and technical support for such proven innovations. It might be that LSC would be particularly interested in grants that would provide results quickly, helping to make the case for additional ongoing innovation funding.
- Systems to promote corporate or other partner pro bono such as that highlighted recently at the White House.
- Better data collection on the extent and impact of pro bono.
- Systems to compare the effectiveness of different systems of pro bono administration, and identification of related best practices.
- Programs to gather data on, and analyze the impact of, changes in bar rules that encourage pro bono.
- Tools to measure attorney satisfaction with pro bono, and identify ways to improve matching clients with attorneys.
- Experiments in use of attorneys and others in online chat and phone systems that provide information and advice.
Congrats to LSC for pursuing this initiative.