July 9, 2015
Smokeball is thrilled to announce we will be partnering with the Community Activism Law Alliance. The Community Activism Law Alliance (“CALA”), is a Chicago-based nonprofit exploring a new approach that is working to solve the serious problem of accessible legal aid in disadvantaged communities.
Funding for legal aid to disadvantaged populations has dropped by 60% in the last decade, even as the number of people living in poverty has increased. Recent studies estimate that 80% of the legal needs of low-income people go unmet as a result of insufficient funding. To offset this funding reduction, many legal aid organizations across the country have shuttered their neighborhood offices and consolidated in professional, affluent downtown areas. Consequently, those with the greatest need, living overwhelmingly elsewhere, become the ones least able to access justice.
For clients and communities, the need is both overwhelming and desperate, and yet they cannot access the legal aid they deserve. Given this increasingly complex web of challenges: massive cuts in funding for legal services, the reactionary centralization of organizations, and its adverse impact on access to justice; it is clear that legal aid organizations cannot continue to operate in the same way.
CALA brings to Chicago “community activism lawyering,” a model of legal practice that brings lawyers and activists together in a collaborative pursuit to maximize their respective resources. By creating partnerships between lawyers and grassroots community organizations, CALA will utilize both legal and activism resources to produce greater and more impactful services for these communities. CALA coordinates additional activism support through pro-bono, co-counsel, and other allied resources.
To resolve accessibility problems, CALA has established physical locations on the west and south sides. The clinics are set up to operate collaboratively with partner community organizations with the goal of bringing the community together. At each clinic, CALA can provide a wide range of free legal services to individual members of the community. At each clinic, CALA attorney’s primary focus is to reach clients not served, or underserved, by existing legal organizations (this is currently undocumented immigrants, day laborers, and victims of human trafficking.) Most of all for CALA it’s about bringing people together to establish social movements for greater change than what lawyers and activists can achieve alone.
Smokeball and CALA: Together Serving More Members
As part of our new partnership, Smokeball will provide free software licenses and specialized training to all CALA staff. With the use of Smokeball software, our hope is that Smokeball will be able to help CALA attorneys in assisting more members of the disadvantaged community and stay organized throughout the process.
Lam Nguyen Ho is the founder and Executive Director of the Community Activism Law Alliance (“CALA”). He has built his career around community lawyering and providing civil legal services to disadvantaged communities. In a recent conversation with Lam he mentioned:
“All our staff, interns, and volunteers are incredibly excited to start using Smokeball. Since CALA’s community activism model means we have no “office space” and all our work is done in the communities we serve, we need technology that will let us quickly and efficiently access our files wherever we happen to be, especially documents and e-mails. We’re really looking forward to taking advantage of all the different functions that Smokeball has to fully integrate everything we need for each client file into one conveniently accessible location. We fully expect Smokeball will save us many hours every week with its e-mail and document integration functions, and we’ll probably save even more hours having Smokeball automatically creating and completing court forms that we currently fill out manually.”
Smokeball for Legal Clinics & Pro Bono Attorneys program
With this new partnership in place, we are proud to announce the start of our Smokeball for Legal Clinics & Pro Bono Attorneys program. We know that legal aid offices and pro-bono attorneys are some of the hardest working attorneys out there, and we want to support you. Smokeball will provide free software licenses and specialized training to your legal aid office, of up to 10 staff. If you are a Pro-Bono Attorney volunteering part time, you can take advantage of the program too. With Smokeball, legal aid and Pro-Bono attorneys can:
- Build a re-useable library of documents, court forms, or letters to reduce document preparation times
- Share work between part and full-time team members easily, by using the same digital file
- Track email correspondence between staff and clients without manually filing emails
- Create shared calendars to manage appointments and see availability for walk-ins
- Generate reports to view case status, staff workload, and upcoming deadlines across the entire organization
If you are interested in learning more about the Smokeball for Legal Clinics program, please contact Chelsey Lambert at Chelsey.Lambert@Smokeball.com. We’ll be chronicling CALA’s success with Smokeball on our Law In Order Blog, so please check back for regular updates!
To learn more about CALA, please visit their website at: http://www.calachicago.org/#about. Keep checking back to learn about new updates on the partnership with CALA and Smokeball!