The Oklahoma Access to Justice Foundation, in partnership with the justice tech company Paladin, is today launching a statewide online Pro Bono Opportunity Portal that will connect Oklahomans needing legal help to lawyers and law students through local legal services organizations.
In the months since the coronavirus pandemic started, Paladin has played a leading role in helping to launch multiple pro bono portals, including the nationwide Disaster Relief Pro Bono Portal that was launched April 30 by the American Bar Association in partnership with Paladin (with funding from Clio and LegalZoom), and the Unemployment Insurance Relief portal launched by the New York State Bar Association, in partnership with Paladin and Clio.
The Oklahoma portal is Paladin’s first partnership with a state access-to-justice organization. The Oklahoma Access to Justice Foundation is a nonprofit organization that supports, develops and funds projects related to improving access to justice.
The portal will serve as a central repository of pro bono opportunities, updated in real-time. Participation is free to all Oklahoma attorneys and law students.
Through the portal, lawyers and law students can search for, learn about, and volunteer for matters suitable to their interests and skills, and then connect directly with the legal services organization (LSO) that posted the opportunity.
LSOs can use the platform to post opportunities and to manage and track pro bono interest and engagement in real time. Through the portal, LSOs can also post opportunities to the ABA’s nationwide portal.
The new Oklahoma portal was supported with funding from the Oklahoma Bar Foundation and the George Kaiser Family Foundation.
Like elsewhere in the U.S., legal services organizations in Oklahoma turn away nearly 50% of those who need legal help due to lack of funding. That makes pro bono efforts by private attorneys critical to meeting the state’s legal needs.
“Oklahoma has a vibrant network of legal services organizations providing critical assistance to those who need it,” said Katie Dilks, executive director of the Oklahoma Access to Justice Foundation. “We are excited to help more Oklahoma lawyers and law students to support this work and extend the impact of these organizations through meaningful volunteer work.”
The portal will also help meet the need for pro bono attorneys in tribal courts within Oklahoma. Stephanie Hudson, executive director of Oklahoma Indian Legal Services, said there is a particular need for volunteers in tribal court and Indian Child Welfare Act cases.
“In the 2016 Justice Index, Oklahoma was ranked 41st, and its poverty rates are consistently 2-3 points higher than the national average, which demonstrates the magnitude of legal needs across the state,” said Paladin cofounder Kristen Sonday. “This portal will host opportunities from 14 major legal services organizations across the state, and be available to all attorneys for free to use.”