The 2014 PBI Annual Conference featured three dynamic “Marketplace of Ideas” sessions, during which participants shared information on cutting-edge pro bono projects and attendees learned about new opportunities, offerings, infrastructure, and other creative and replicable pro bono developments.
The PBEye reported last week on some of the global projects featured during these sessions. Here are two more of the innovative projects that were highlighted:
Crime Victim Rights Advocacy
Heidi Naasko from Dykema Gossett*† described her experience advocating for the rights of crime victims and shined a spotlight on an area ripe for pro bono development. Under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, victims in federal criminal cases have various rights, such as the right to protection from the accused, the right to attend proceedings, and the right to restitution. While representing a group of Central American children involved in human trafficking, Naasko fought to ensure that her clients could be present at the sentencing of their trafficker and that they received restitution. Pro bono attorneys are vital in these cases because other players in the justice system may not properly defend the rights of a victim, or even be aware of them. Additionally, crime victims need attorneys who can take into consideration the depth of their losses and protect their interests with appropriate sensitivity.
In addition to being personally rewarding, representing victims offers tremendous professional development opportunities for litigators. Potential cases can be found through the courts or the National Crime Victim Law Institute.
Name Change Project
Michael Silverman discussed the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund’s (TLDEF) innovative Name Change Project, which helps transgender people overcome the legal obstacles to securing a name change. For many transgender people, obtaining a legal name change is an important step toward making their legal identities match lived experience, but interaction with the court system and judges is a foreign and intimidating experience for many people. A lack of appropriate identity documents can deter people from applying for jobs, school, and public benefits, and can lead to discrimination. By providing eligible individuals with pro bono legal representation, the Project ensures that clients can successfully complete the process and move forward with their lives.
While the initiative was small in scale at first, more than 30 law firms and legal departments are now involved. The work is an attractive pro bono opportunity for many lawyers, both litigators and non-litigators, since it is a time-limited commitment. The Project is currently expanding beyond New York to Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Check out the full recap of the 2014 Marketplace of Ideas sessions in the May 2014 edition of The Pro Bono Wire! We look forward to learning more and sharing other replicable ideas and projects at the 2015 PBI Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., on March 4-6.
* denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®
† denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project