I had the pleasure of representing FJTC at the Equal Justice Conference (EJC) in Chicago. EJC is an access to justice conference, focused on the delivery of legal services to low-income individuals in need of legal assistance. A record number of advocates attended EJC 2016, including legal aid staff, law firm pro bono coordinators, judges and court staff, and pro bono website administrators.
I was thrilled to see such a large Florida contingent at the conference. I had the chance to chat with with Jewel White, Melissa Moss, and Ericka Garcia of the Florida Bar Foundation and Florida-based pro bono partners Whitney Untiedt and Bill Van Northwick of Akerman LLP. I also learned more about student and young attorney pro bono needs from Erin Carr, Assistant Director for Career Development at UF Levin College of Law and Stephanie Cagnet Myron, co-chair of the Young Lawyers Division Pro Bono Committee for the Florida Bar. I attended a meeting of the Florida Pro Bono Coordinators Association (FPBCA) and connected with many of the coordinators from around the state, including Kathy Grunewald of Florida Legal Services, Anais Bimonte and Mary Dougherty from FRLS, and Marcia Green of Three Rivers Legal Services, Inc. Everyone agreed that centralizing pro bono resources and opportunities in Florida is a major undertaking, but expressed interest in collaborating with FJTC to enhance and expand access to justice in Florida.
EJC offered such an abundance of substantive sessions on pro bono programs and coordination, cutting edge legal technology, and collaboration with courts and stakeholders that I frankly had a difficult time choosing my schedule. I ultimately attended several sessions in each of these categories and walked away with practical tips on evaluating and re-tooling pro bono programs, designing an effective non-profit website and engaging its audience, partnering with local courts and educating judges on pro bono needs, as well as optimal use of online triage and interactive legal forms.
A session on 50 Tech Tips provided some fun exposure to tools that will certainly help increase the quality and efficiency of Florida legal services. A few of the handy resources I intend to share with my FJTC colleagues include: Learnthelaw.org (a tool for building online trainings), Storify.com (curates social media), FindTime (meeting organizer), ReadClearly (underlines and defines legal terms), GuideClearly (assists with interactive logic), Court Whisperer (mobile doc assembly tool), Legal Design Toolbox, and TheWorldisFun.org (social network for organizing volunteers). This a challenging but very exciting time to be revamping and updating websites for a new generation of advocates, clients and volunteers.
I left EJC inspired to apply my lessons learned to Florida’s three access-to-justice websites, FloridaLawHelp.org, FlAdvocate.org, and Floridaprobono.org, in a way that best caters to our self-represented litigants, legal aid advocates, pro bono attorneys, and low-income clients.
Please follow FJTC on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and search for #ejc16 to see all our posts on pre-conference and EJC 2016, as well as all of our most recent initiatives.