VOLUME 1 ISSUE 1March 2003
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by Michael Hertz and Mark O'Brien

Welcome to the first issue of PRO BONO NET NEWS, our online newsletter. We will be publishing quarterly so that we can keep our expanding group of friends and supporters up-to-date on our progress and how we are meeting challenges as we grow. I think the articles in this issue demonstrate just how diverse and exciting our work is -- ranging from usability testing in Minnesota and circuit riding in Virginia, to rolling out a new and improved platform for supporting lawyers and advocates, to pro bono efforts relating to September 11th and assisting refugees.  

Pro Bono Net and its many partner organizations are at a tipping point. In just a few years, we have worked together and created the framework of a national online legal information platform. Public interest, legal services and pro bono organizations in nearly 30 states are now building resources on a common online system capable of providing support to a population that includes over 70% of the lawyers and poor people in the country. Our most recent undertaking – LawHelp – now allows these programs to deliver legal information directly to the public. It can be used at low cost by hundreds of nonprofit legal programs.

This powerful system allows legal aid programs to provide more, better and even different types of legal services to poor and moderate income people who need help, without adding huge technology costs to their budgets. At the same time, it is creating new networks of advocates working to increase access to justice for the poor, and generating important data about the state of the legal services delivery system

But as important as what we are doing is how we are trying to do it. While in part we develop innovative software, Pro Bono Net is a nonprofit organization. Our staff has years of experience working on public interest legal issues both with and within legal aid organizations. We also build technology (and the rest of our programs) by working closely with many different organizations from many different sectors of the legal profession: pro bono organizations, big law firms and small law offices, legal service organizations, law schools, bar associations and courts. Together, we are trying to develop new tools and use them in new ways to increase access to justice.

This newsletter is our way of sharing with you our ideas and the ongoing dialogue about Pro Bono Net’s services. We look forward to your feedback (click on the "Feedback" link), and hope that you will share PRO BONO NET NEWS (click on the "Tell a Friend" link) with others who share our concerns about meeting the legal needs of the poor in the 21st century.

Michael Hertz
Co-Founder and President

Mark O’Brien
Co-Founder and Vice President

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