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Building Legal Empowerment Technologies
Description/achievement of initiative

Our Legal Empowerment and Technology project accelerates action by partnering with justice communities to advance the practice of technology-enabled legal empowerment strategies. These practices strive to close the civil justice gap by lowering barriers to information, building capacity, and empowering community members to use the law. By using co-design to develop prototypes in justice communities across the US, these prototypes could be replicated or scaled further increasing access to justice. Equity-based co-design is an innovative method of building legally empowering technological tools that truly serve community needs. With the help of community-led technologies, we can find Justice for All.

Implementation methodologies

Pro Bono Net has developed a Tech for Legal Empowerment Cohort, comprised of three justice communities, and has begun working with this cohort to develop and test new digital tools that will strengthen community non-legal navigator and community lawyering models, all with the aim of creating a more inclusive and responsive justice ecosystems. In addition, Pro Bono Net intends to convene a broader Tech for Legal Empowerment Learning Network of allied legal empowerment leaders and stakeholders in the US to build a framework for how technology can enable the scaling community lawyering initiatives and meaningful roles for lay advocates. This Network will convene in person at upcoming engagements as well as online via webinars and roundtables.

Arrangements for Capacity-Building and Technology Transfer

The Legal Empowerment and Technology Initiative will build capacity with partners by supporting the development of three pilot projects. The Legal Empowerment and Technology Fellow will help train each partner in the use of equity-based co-design methodologies by providing resources, feedback, and artifacts. The pilot tools created by each cohort member will also strive to build capacity for the cohort member’s own legal aid organization and/or the community at large. Pro Bono Net will continue to advise each cohort member as their respective technologies are rolled out and improved over time. In addition, we will hold a daylong convening in the spring of 2020 at Georgetown University Law Center to bring together a diverse group of approximately 25 leaders and stakeholders, including members of this project’s cohort, to discuss the role of digital tools in expanding roles for lay advocates and innovative approaches to community-driven justice initiatives. Following this convening, we will produce and distribute to the field at large a final toolkit and national webinar with the results of this initiative and approaches to replicating or building on successful strategies deployed by the Tech for Legal Empowerment cohort.

Coordination mechanisms/governance structure

This initiative is coordinated by a Legal Empowerment and Technology Fellow, whose responsibility is to oversee convening, technical assistance, and co-design activities with a geographically distributed Tech for Legal Empowerment cohort. The Fellow also manages prototyping activities, including working with designers and developers to create and refine prototype tools. The Fellow will provide peer-to-peer networking and information-sharing support to the cohort via regular webinar convenings. The project's design is shaped by input from cohort members, our research partner at Georgetown University Law Center, the project funder and other key stakeholders in the legal empowerment arena. The evaluation of the program will encompass a variety of measures of success such as the number of people with legal needs reached through the pilot projects in three jurisdictions, and the extent to which this represents an increase over traditional outreach methods. The evaluation will also use a combination of qualitative and quantitative methodologies to assess project outcomes.


Pro Bono Net, Immigration Advocates Network
Progress reports
Goal 16
16.2 - End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children
16.3 - Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all
16.5 - Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms
16.6 - Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels
16.7 - Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels
16.8 - Broaden and strengthen the participation of developing countries in the institutions of global governance
16.10 - Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements
We will support cohort partners with the development of three digital tool prototypes that aim to legally empower each cohort member’s local justice communities.
We will engage cohort partners and allies in a series of in-person and online convenings to facilitate networking and learning exchanges around legal empowerment and technology efforts.
We will create a national webinar and toolkit based on what was learned during the development of the cohort’s pilot projects.
Other, please specify
We will provide financial support for the successful completion of the project, including travel funds, funds for engagements and events, funds for hiring a designer, and other programmatic activities.

Basic information
Time-frame: 1/2019 - 12/2020
Pro Bono Net, Immigration Advocates Network
Contact information
Katie Lam, Legal Empowerment and Technology Fellow, klam@probono.net
United Nations