Collaborating for Justice

shriverLast month, PBI hosted its eighth annual Leadership Convocation in New York. Prior to our Annual Dinner, law firm and in-house leaders convened to explore innovative ways to maximize the impact of pro bono in their communities. Expert panelists discussed how organizations and stakeholders are collaborating through large-scale, multi-institutional pro bono efforts to address critical problems and vast unmet legal needs.

We were excited to see a recent feature in The New York Times about one of the collaborative initiatives highlighted during the program: the Shriver Project, which consists of seven pilot projects that provide legal representation to a select number of low-income Californians in civil matters involving basic human needs such as housing, custody, conservatorship, and guardianship. Convocation program moderator, the Honorable Laurie Zelon of the California Court of Appeal, shared the Shriver Project’s origin story and the value of enhanced coordination between courts, other government actors, community players (legal and non-legal), and pro bono attorneys, with critical emphasis placed on evaluation and metrics. One of these collaborative pilot projects, the Shriver Housing Project-LA, runs the Eviction Assistance Center, a legal aid office, located onsite at the housing court, that provides full or partial assistance to one-third of the 15,000 tenants who face evictions each year in that courthouse. One form of assistance, helping tenants submit timely responses to an eviction notice within the required five-day period, has had a significant impact, with the percentage of cases resulting in automatic evictions declining from 50 percent to 35 percent since the Project was launched in 2011.

The Shriver Project is one meaningful example of how large-scale, collaborative initiatives can “move the needle” on a persistent aspect of poverty or an area of law in which underrepresentation is particularly acute, and ensure that pro bono efforts are having the most significant impact possible. Learn more about collaborative pro bono, including PBI’s Collaborative Justice Project™, at the 2015 PBI Annual Conference on March 4-6, at the Capital Hilton, in Washington, D.C. We hope to see you there!

We are grateful to Goodwin Procter*† for generously hosting the Convocation and networking reception.

* denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®
† denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project