Welcome to our new donor newsletter! We’ve launched this quarterly update to keep you informed on our work during these dynamic times. It’s also our way of saying thank you for your partnership in helping thousands of unrepresented litigants seek justice each year in New York State Family Court.
With your support, we met the record-high demand in 2021 for our helpline and legal consultations. We implemented new, accessible technological solutions to further our impact. We helped families reach resolution and create stability for their children. We showed up for parents and caregivers with nowhere else to turn. Thank you for making our essential work possible.
See how your generosity is changing lives. Check out the highlights below on LIFT’s Digital Justice Initiative, community engagement and advocacy work, and the new Pro Bono Partners we welcomed this year.
LIFT is an innovator in using technology to increase access to justice. We’re narrowing the digital divide through free, accessible online tools that equip unrepresented litigants to advocate for themselves in Family Court.
LIFT opened a Tech Hub, housed in our downtown Brooklyn headquarters, to provide a comfortable, confidential space where litigants without access to reliable technology can utilize computers, printers and internet to complete court forms and attend virtual court hearings. We are currently collecting data on this pilot project, recognizing its potential for replication by other organizations across New York State.
We also launched our Digital Justice Initiative, which works to address gaps in the Family Court’s online resources by providing user-friendly tools to help unrepresented litigants understand what forms they need, gain knowledge of court procedure, and effectively advocate for themselves in Court. All they need is a mobile device.
Our work this year will focus on:
- Family Law Navigator App: This tool uses a series of filtering questions to give users a brief, curated summary of their family law situation along with options for remediation — which can be downloaded directly or emailed.
- Guided Online Court Forms: Completing and uploading court forms requires a high degree of technological and legal literacy. It also requires expensive software and computers. LIFT’s guided web platform reduces confusion about which forms need to be filled out and what information is required. Upon completion, users are provided with a completed form in the appropriate format to upload on the Court’s electronic portal.
- “How To” Videos in English and Spanish: LIFT is producing a series of short videos explaining family law topics in easy-to-understand language. The videos will be embedded in our Family Law Navigator app and housed on LIFT’s website for maximum accessibility.
In the Community
Community education and advocacy contribute strongly to our efforts to promote Family Court reform and improve the experience of pro se litigants. Though our lives remained mostly virtual in 2021, LIFT was still out in the community — testifying about court reform, teaching family law courses, and sharing our perspective on remote service delivery.
Some of the highlights from this past year include:
Practicing Law Institute Panel on Remote Service Delivery 2021: Representing the Pro Bono Client
LIFT’s Director of Pro Bono Programs, Sami Ingram, was invited to speak on this national panel because of LIFT’s innovative and tech-savvy approach to serving clients through our flagship Pro Bono Family Legal Connection. Conceived in 2018, LIFT recognized the need for virtual services well before they became a lifeline during the pandemic. Our convenient, interactive, online platform allows clients to receive legal advice from pro bono attorneys on any internet enabled mobile device from wherever they are.
LIFT Family Law Clinic at New York Law School
Students at New York Law School participated in a semester-long Family Law Clinic taught by LIFT’s Director of Legal Technology, Ryan Gallagher, and LIFT’s Legal Director, Nathalie Gonzalez.
Under their supervision, students worked directly with pro se litigants, providing legal information and advice, in addition to document drafting and trial preparation for issues of custody and visitation, child support, and domestic violence. The students experienced a direct, hands-on encounter with Family Law, the court system, and lawyering skills through weekly seminars and by shadowing LIFT staff.
The New York State Bar Association’s President’s Committee on Access to Justice and Committee on Legal Aid
LIFT’s CEO, Cathy Cramer, testified on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on access to justice in Family Court. Cathy spoke about litigants’ need for increased and equitable access to technology and how staffing shortages delay cases and negatively impact families. She also spoke about the need for more transparent, timely, and accessible communications between the courts and the public.
Pro Bono Partners
LIFT’s Pro Bono program is growing! In 2021, we welcomed 6 new Pro Bono Partners: Alston & Bird, Davis Polk, Fried Frank, Milbank, Skadden, and Travelers. Our ever-expanding network of law firms, corporations, and volunteers give back by partnering with LIFT via pro bono work so LIFT can serve more people across New York State.
Our program has offered a legal lifeline for Family Court litigants who are homebound or disabled, live in rural areas and are underserved by affordable public transportation, or have childcare or other caretaking commitments. This year, LIFT’s volunteer attorneys provided 322 families with legal consultations.
Thank you! We are grateful for our dedicated community of Pro Bono partners and supporters. Every day, more people are accessing justice in Family Court because of inspiring people like you.