Increasing Access to Justice in Upstate New York.

About Us

Who We Are

Closing the Gap is a partnership between the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York (LASNNY), Legal Assistance of Western New York (LawNY), Volunteer Legal Services Project (VLSP) and Pro Bono Net to help close the urban/rural service gap in northeastern and western upstate New York through innovative uses of technology and cross program collaborations.

Closing the Gap responds to the substantial gap between the need for pro bono representation and the available pro bono attorneys in LASNNY's and LawNY's rural counties. For LASNNY, attorneys from the immediate Albany/Capital District area will be recruited to serve rural clients in Clinton, Columbia, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Greene, Hamilton, Montgomery, Saratoga, Schoharie, St. Lawrence, Warren and Washington Counties. In western New York, VLSP will recruit and support pro bono attorneys in the Greater Rochester area (Monroe County) to serve LawNY's rural clients in Allegheny, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, Livingston, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, Wayne and Yates Counties.

The goal of Closing the Gap is to increase the quantity and scope of pro bono service delivery in housing and consumer cases in rural upstate New York. This goal will be achieved by linking volunteers concentrated in each program's urban core with rural clients through the innovative use of remote assistance technology and collaboration tools, including real time video sessions and/or phone calls, remote review of documents, and remote generation of pro se pleadings. While many rural clients receive advice from program staff, those who receive services from Closing the Gap volunteers will also benefit from remote brief service, including the production of a pro se response.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I volunteer to help clients through Closing the Gap?

If you are located in the Capital District, please contact Michele Sleight, msleight@lasnny.org, at the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, if you’re interested in volunteering. If you are in the greater Rochester area, please contact Connie Doherty, cdoherty@vlsprochester.org, at the Volunteer Legal Services Project.

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What types of cases can I volunteer for?

Closing the Gap volunteers assist clients with consumer debt and eviction cases. When you sign up with Closing the Gap, you can indicate which type of case you would like to volunteer for.

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I don’t know much about housing or debt collection. Will there be a training?

There will be training on April 15, 2016 in Albany and on April 19, 2016 in Rochester. These trainings will be recorded and available along with other training materials. They are free to any attorney who volunteers to represent Closing the Gap clients.

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Will I get CLE credit for my work?

Yes. Keep track of your hours and fill out the necessary forms to report the service you provided and the time it took. One CLE credit is given for every two hours of pro bono service rendered.

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Can I set my own schedule?

Yes! Legal Aid and VLSP would appreciate your volunteering to be on call for a given day, date, or week to handle emergency evictions that come in that week. You can schedule this far in advance, and you will be reminded by PAI staff of your dates of responsibility.

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Do I have to come to Legal Aid or VLSP to use Closing the Gap?

No, you can help a client through Closing the Gap from your home, your office or a computer at Legal Aid or VLSP.

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Do I need any special equipment or software to use Closing the Gap?

To use the video chat feature, you will need to have a webcam and a microphone on your computer. No other special equipment or software is required.

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How can I find out more about a housing law or consumer law question?

As a registered volunteer with Closing the Gap, you will have access to resource materials and guided interactive interviews developed by the Legal Aid Society. The interactive interview questions will guide the development of a comprehensive response to the eviction or consumer case. If you have questions about your client’s case, please contact Michele Sleight, msleight@lasnny.org, at the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York (Albany area volunteers), or Connie Doherty, cdoherty@vlsprochester.org, at the Volunteer Legal Services Project (Rochester area volunteers).

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After my volunteer service, how can I get comments or suggestions to you?

Every attorney is asked to fill out the Attorney Satisfaction Questionnaire after their Closing the Gap session.

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How am I helping to close the justice gap for rural clients?

By volunteering your time to help a client who has been served in an eviction case or a debt collection case, you are helping them develop a pro se pleading. Without your help, this client would not have received this brief and invaluable service.

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