PBIF Awards

The Pro Bono Innovation Fund (PBIF) provides grants to civil legal aid projects that support new, robust pro bono partnerships through collaboration, innovation, and replication of effective practices.

History of PBIF-Funded Projects

The Pro Bono Innovation Fund (PBIF) offers grants to collaboratively engage more lawyers and non-legal professionals in pro bono service and address gaps in legal services and persistent challenges in the pro bono delivery system. Since its creation in 2014, Pro Bono Innovation Fund has invested $28,000,000 to 94 projects in 33 states and the District of Columbia. The PBIF program offers three categories of grants: Project, Sustainability, and Transformation. Click through the tables below to see currently active projects and see the link at the bottom of the page for a complete history of all PBIF awards.

Project Grantees

  • Legal Aid Chicago ($302,515) – 2020
  • Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York, Inc. ($207,233) – 2020
  • Bay Area Legal Services, Inc. ($286,426) – 2020
  • Southeast Louisiana Legal Services Corporation ($170,616) – 2020
  • Legal Aid of Nebraska ($357, 475) – 2019
  • Neighborhood Legal Services Program of the District of Columbia ($285,596) – 2019
  • Community Legal Aid Services, Inc. ($369,422) – 2019
  • Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc. ($371,554) – 2019
  • Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas ($296,224) – 2019
  • Maryland Legal Aid ($268,280) – 2019
  • Legal Services NYC ($310,663) – 2019
  • Michigan Indian Legal Services ($181,084) – 2019
  • Legal Services of Eastern Missouri ($316,361) – 2019
  • Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County ($305,776) – 2018
  • Alaska Legal Services Corporation ($304,297) – 2018
  • Iowa Legal Aid ($341,339) – 2018
  • Bay Area Legal Aid ($346,602) – 2018
  • Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, Inc. ($184,927) – 2018

Legal Aid Chicago aims to address the institutional racism that obstructs pathways to success for at-risk youth. Completing high school and gaining employment or further education are two keys to staying out of the criminal justice system and moving out of poverty. LAC’s dual approach toward these goals is to increase pro bono legal representation of youth to prevent school expulsion and to expunge juvenile records. LAC will conduct outreach and know-your-rights presentations in virtual and in-person settings to ensure parents and students understand their legal rights and are encouraged to seek legal representation. The Disrupting the School-to-Prison Pipeline Project seeks to engage law firms, corporations, and solo practitioners by offering training and co-counseling on a range of extended representation cases.

The Legal Aid Society of Mid New York will preserve and stabilize income and assets for low-income clients by leveraging pro bono resources to obtain a discharge in bankruptcy or other legal help with consumer debt. The project aims to increase consumer-bankruptcy services in the Syracuse area through provider collaborations, implement and evaluate a pro se option for simple no asset bankruptcies, and develop a screening tool and referral process to identify possible candidates for groundbreaking work on student loan discharge in bankruptcy court.

Bay Area Legal Services, Inc. aims to increase the access to pro bono disaster relief legal aid in Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco Counties of the Tampa Bay region, for 200 low-income survivors of all types of disaster. The Tampa Bay Disaster Relief Pro Bono Initiative seeks to engage 65 pro bono volunteers in disaster relief legal assistance by employing disaster-related training and improved technologies to deliver high-quality client services in event of a disaster. More low-income disaster survivors will have greater access to high-quality pro bono legal aid services related to an eligible disaster event and/or its ongoing consequences.

Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (SLLS) aims to close a justice gap for low-income tenants in New Orleans impacted by the pandemic who experience security deposit theft. Their Pro Bono Fighting Security Deposit Theft Clinic will engage pro bono attorneys, a cooperate Legal Department, and Law students through limited scope and/or extended representation opportunities at all stages of a security deposit theft case from demand, negotiation, court representation and judgment collection.

Increase the number of clients in rural areas receiving legal assistance by enabling the Legal Aid of Nebraska to use Colorado Legal Services’ asset-mapping process to design and implement pro bono service-delivery models in three rural areas of the state.

Expand the Housing Cooperative Preservation Initiative (HCPI) by recruiting pro bono volunteers to provide services in their areas of Limited Equity Cooperatives (LECs) in the District of Columbia. LECs make up a significant portion of affordable housing in the District. Over 100 LECs in D.C. are providing more than 3,000 residents affordable housing. Many LECs were formed under D.C.’s first right of purchase law, which allows tenants to acquire buildings slated for sale.

Create a pro bono legal clinic located at the Trumbull County Bar Association offices. This project will be a partnership among the organization’s Volunteer Legal Services Program, the local bar, and the county’s eight courts. The pro bono project’s initial focus will be on issues relating to housing evictions, foreclosure, and consumer debt and credit matters.

Develop new pro bono opportunities to improve the education and employment outcomes of low-income students by resolving or mitigating civil legal problems that prevent them from getting a degree, using their degree or achieving the highest level of occupational credentialing and licensing. The project also aims to build and test a new place-based model of pro bono delivery for replication in other communities that have technical or community colleges as partners.

Expand the Driver’s License Restoration Project to include pro bono volunteers. Nearly two million Texans are unable to obtain a valid driver’s license because of nonpayment of fines, fees, or surcharges. In total, four out of five license suspensions in Texas are financially related, with only the remaining 20% directly resulting from unsafe driving. The loss of a license can perpetuate a downward cycle of escalating debt and job loss for low-income Texans. Most drivers requiring such services do not have the funds to hire an attorney. Expanding the Driver’s License Restoration Project to include pro bono attorneys will allow Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas to better meet the significant need for this type of legal assistance.

Support the Lawyers in Schools Project, which establishes weekly general legal advice and intake clinics in Baltimore City schools. More than one-half of students attending Baltimore City Public Schools are living in poverty. Low-income families often rely on schools for needed resources and information, such as medical services, food pantries, social workers, and mental health counselors. Schools are an ideal access point for families who already frequent the school building for student pick-up and drop-off and parent-teacher meetings.

Enhance pro bono representation for low-income tenants in New York City who struggle with housing conditions including mold, vermin, lack of heat, plumbing and appliances. The project will increase pro bono tenant representation though innovative “study groups” of lawyers from large law firms and corporate legal departments. These hybrid study groups will commit to providing full representation on pre-screened cases. Legal Services NYC will support volunteers through structured training and mentorship designed to build expertise and momentum for the project.

Increase access to high-quality legal assistance for Native population residing throughout the state. The goal is to recruit late career and retired attorneys to offer community legal education on critical topics, to provide direct representation to individuals, and to mentor Michigan Indian Legal Services’ junior staff attorneys to build the organization’s capacity to serve clients.

Expand the Neighborhood Vacancy Initiative program, initially launched in 2018, by engaging law firms and pro bono volunteers to help stabilize housing, return vacant property to productive use, and improve the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods. The project provides access to legal representation for urban neighborhoods and residents plagued by vacant and abandoned property.

Support its Antelope Valley Online Community Assistance Team. The project employs technology to connect private attorneys in Los Angeles to rural clients in the Antelope Valley. Pro bono volunteers will assist low-income clients on a variety of legal issues, but particularly focus on helping remove barriers to employment.

Support the creation of legal training modules for advocates in specific subject areas where there is the most need. ALS will recruit and train local rural community leaders, such as Indian Child Welfare Act workers, health aides, tribal employees, and law and paralegal students to expand the program’s outreach efforts.

Create an asset-mapping process to better understand the needs and resources of the community. This will allow Iowa Legal Aid to determine which pro bono projects will build on existing resources, increase the participation of pro bono volunteers, and provide more civil legal services to low-income clients in need.

Partner with pro bono attorneys to protect low-income consumers with its Fair Bargain project, which will focus on helping clients with consumer issues and training pro bono volunteers to assist in consumer rights clinics.

Serve the diverse needs of low-income clients through its Triage Project Partnership. The project will recruit volunteer private attorneys and organize them into substantive teams focused on 10 underserved areas of law. Central Virginia Legal Aid staff will arrange and administer volunteer training, schedule clinics for clients, refer cases to volunteers, and monitor the progress of cases.

Sustainability Grantees

  • Montana Legal Services Association ($223,181) – 2020/2018
  • Legal Services of the Hudson Valley ($211,244) – 2020/2018
  • Legal Services of Northern Virginia, Inc. ($232,440) – 2019/2017
  • Legal Services NYC ($162,787) – 2019/2017
  • Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association ($234,161) – 2019/2017
  • Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc. ($340,000) – 2018/2016
  • Legal Services Vermont ($186,960) – 2018/2016
  • Legal Aid of West Virginia, Inc. ($202,439) – 2018/2016

Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) will use grant money to sustain Second Act Justice Project (SAJP), their 2018 PBIF project grant, which is on track to develop a very successful emeritus project that fits within MLSA’s existing pro bono structure. In the first eighteen months of SAJP, the program has achieved great results and expanded the scope and breadth of legal issues that MLSA can assist with. MLSA continues to build both SAJP and the pro bono program overall by developing and implementing a recruitment strategy to support a greater number of cases being served with extended representation, creating a training curriculum to focus on more extended services, and building a strategic donor/volunteer cross-over plan.

Legal Services of the Hudson Valley (LSHV) utilizes a Sustainability Grant for continuation of its 2018 PBIF “Pro Bono Housing Project” Grant that primarily engages pro bono litigators in direct representation of clients in complex housing court cases and administrative hearings for the purpose of delaying or preventing evictions. The Project allows volunteer litigators to take complex, time consuming housing cases off the hands of LSHV staff attorneys, saving hundreds in legal services hours and significant dollars in agency resources and provides high quality and effective representation from some of the top firms in the state (if not the country) to low-income, vulnerable clients.

Sustain the Veterans Law Pro Bono Project, which provides holistic legal assistance to former service members on a variety of issues. Services offered include legal checkups conducted by law students, review of records by pro bono volunteers, civil legal aid assistance and individual pro bono case placements. Legal Services of Northern Virginia has built up a strong referral network and recruited corporation sand law firms to take on discharge-upgrade and veterans’ benefits cases.

Expand the grantee’s “Military Mondays” program—a monthly free legal clinic for low-income veterans. Initially supported by a 2017 Pro Bono Innovation Fund grant, the program is now on track to help 800 veterans and other low-income clients on critical legal issues.

Strengthen the Economic Fairness Project, which established a partnership between the grantee and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. The project created two clinics that allow pro bono volunteers to assist victims of wage theft and defendants in debt collection cases. In its first 18 months, the Economic Fairness Project has secured more than $640,000 in debt relief and $24,626 in lost wages for clients. It has provided legal assistance in 487 consumer debt cases and 44 wage theft cases. The clinics are now being replicated by courts in Massachusetts and legal aid organizations in other states.

Expand the work of its Eviction Defense Project. The project helps clients defend against evictions, minimizing the harmful impact of eviction filings on their long-term housing stability.

Expand its successful Pro Bono Eviction Clinic. Launched last year, the clinic has worked to help low-income clients avoid evictions by increasing the number of active pro bono attorneys available to help them. The program will use the grant to increase pro bono attorney recruitment and offer volunteer-led information and educational sessions to clients.

Expand its Lawyer in the School Project. The project assists students at Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary in the west side neighborhood of Charleston, home to many of Charleston’s low-income residents. Trained volunteer lawyers provide on-site legal assistance to families. Legal Aid of West Virginia will use the grant to enhance the program to improve data collection, engage more volunteers, and expand to Grandview Elementary, which serves students from the same neighborhood.

Transformation Grantees

  • Northeast New Jersey Legal Services Corporation ($423,074) – 2020
  • Georgia Legal Services Program ($358,305) – 2020
  • Acadian Legal Services Corporation ($221,552) – 2020
  • Michigan Advocacy Program ($358,600) – 2020
  • Legal Services Vermont ($375,970) – 2020
  • Prairie State Legal Services, Inc. ($331,148) – 2019
  • Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Inc. ($389,636) – 2019
  • Legal Aid of Arkansas ($241,312) – 2019
  • Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Inc. ($371,475) – 2018
  • Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. ($383,270) – 2018 Tab 9 Text/Description: Implement enhancements to its case management system and develop client-centered intake and referral processes with Dade County Bar Association Legal Aid’s Put Something Back
  • Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc. (LawNY) ($264,904) – 2018
  • Community Legal Aid SoCal ($361,083) – 2018
  • Lakeshore Legal Aid ($364,740) – 2018

The Pro Bono Partnerships Project aims to strengthen and fully integrate pro bono into NNJLS’s intake and advocacy. The transformation effort will also strengthen the organization's pro bono marketing and data collection.

GLSP’s transformation goal is to ensure impactful involvement of lawyer volunteers as part of GLSP’s delivery of legal services to help close the justice gap for Georgians in poverty through improved Pro Bono Program partnerships, communications, and case-management technologies.

Acadiana Legal Service Corporation aims to deliver effective and efficient high-quality legal services to the greatest number of clients through partnerships with pro bono volunteers by providing resources and motivation needed to provide maximum impact to clients.

MAP will engage in pro bono strategic planning to transform their program into a modern, high-impact model that will leverage new technologies and integrate pro bono efforts throughout in the organization.

LSV is partnering with statewide partners to build a coordinated, centralized and sustainable infrastructure for pro bono in Vermont. LSV will focus on effective practices for recruitment, flexible volunteer venues, and effective data collection, to expand access to justice in Vermont.

Incorporate new technologies to expand the grantee’s outreach to law firms and attorneys in Chicago. The project will collect and review data from other pro bono programs and conduct internal assessments to develop recommendations for integrating pro bono into its overall legal services delivery. Prairie State Legal Services’ goal is to increase accepted pro bono referrals over the next two years by 15% and 20%. Staff will develop and set organizational goals for pro bono services in every office, project, or region. Prairie State Legal Services will also hire a new Director of Pro Bono and reshape its pro bono staffing and capacity.

Expand the grantee’s pro bono program by producing a three-year road map to integrate and restructure its pro bono efforts. The project includes: (1) launching a pilot project for new associates at large law firms to provide direct representation to low-income tenants; (2) creating training opportunities and resources; and (3) developing print and online marketing materials to enhance the organization’s pro bono support and recruitment efforts.

Develop a pro bono program that is technology-enabled, uses data and evaluation to make program decisions, and provides comprehensive support for volunteers. The project’s goal is to offer a variety of pro bono opportunities to attorneys and to collaborate closely with community partners and corporate legal departments. To achieve this, Legal Aid of Arkansas will conduct an analysis of organizational policies and processes for pro bono and employ community asset-mapping to evaluate unmet legal needs and untapped resources. The organization will update its pro bono volunteer database and work with statewide partners to streamline pro bono processes.

Develop online tools that match and track client needs with volunteer availability and interests in real time. It will also create an online library for pro bono volunteers and a pro bono project management toolkit with information for volunteers and staff to propagate best practices and coordinate pro bono project management.

Implement enhancements to its case management system and develop client-centered intake and referral processes with Dade County Bar Association Legal Aid’s Put Something Back Pro Bono Project. It will also develop a pilot pro bono eviction defense project in a Miami-Dade County courtroom.

Create a new pro bono team that will be led by a director, regional pro bono coordinators, and staff in every office throughout the program’s service area. The program’s first goal will be to integrate current volunteer attorneys into LawNY’s newest practice areas—the consumer unit and community economic development project.

Develop written guidelines to ensure the use of pro bono best practices of Orange County throughout the organization and create a system to evaluate the efficacy of their pro bono work. The goal is to focus first on “legal deserts”—the areas where there are significant poverty rates and few available legal resources.

Develop a case management system to expand offsite volunteer-led clinics, reduce case assignment times, increase pro bono case placements, and reduce staff time on administrative tasks. The goal is to increase efficiency in key pro bono processes by as much as 50%, allowing the program to use more volunteers more effectively in removing the legal barriers to employment, a key strategic priority for Lakeshore Legal Aid.

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