The Meeting With Probono.net

by Anil Makhijani on May 22, 2008

I had the phone meeting with Probono.net today.  Very shortly into the meeting I realized is that it is extremely hard to present a website over the phone.  However, I tried my best.

The meeting was attended by Mark O’Brien, the director of Probono.net, and Liz Keith, a program manager.  In general the meeting went well.  Mark seemed especially excited about the idea.  These were some of the things that excited him:

  1. The possibility of opening a line of communication directly between lawyers and clients is a new concept.  Traditionally, legal clinics are responsible for the matching process.  Unfortunately, these legal clinics also represent a huge bottleneck in the matching process.  Given their resources, they can only process a certain number of cases every year.
  2. If there is a natural disaster, such as Katrina, where a large number of people need immediate legal council, a website such as Survv can help do the matching.
  3. A website such as Survv might be able to match lawyers in a big city like New York City with clients who live in rural areas in the State of New York.  Often the biggest need for pro bono legal advice is located in small rural locations.

Liz and Mark also voiced a number of concerns:

  1. How would the website go about vetting clients?  Often problems that clients think are legal aren’t really legal.  Furthermore, clients might be skeptical to give a website incriminating information about themselves.
  2. How would we vet lawyers?  What happens if some quack lawyer signs up and starts giving bad advice to clients?  What happens if a lawyer on the defense side starts giving advice to a client who is filing the charges?  We would have to make sure there are no conflicts of interest.

Despite their concerns, they seemed to think that Survv was a good idea.  However, they didn’t think Probono.net would be a good organization to partner with.  Probono.net’s tentacles expand to over 20 states and it would be hard for them to experiment with something new.  Mark suggested that I partner with a smaller more agile organization.  He promised he would put me in touch with people who might be interested.

All in all, I think I got everything I wanted from the meeting: feedback on my idea and an introduction to more people in the industry.  I hope that Probono.net is able to find a legal clinic or legal aid organization to partner with me.

Categories: survv.org

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