Louis M. Brown Award

Brown Select

The ABA Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services may, in its sole discretion, cancel, rescind, suspend, withhold, or otherwise limit or restrict this Award.

The nominees provided the materials used to create the descriptions on this page. They do not represent the opinions of the ABA or its Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services.

2020 Award Winner

Equal Justice Works Disaster Recovery Legal Corps

Since 2017, the Equal Justice Works Disaster Recovery Legal Corps (DRLC) has mobilized 23 Fellows to deliver critical legal assistance to disaster-affected communities in both Texas and Florida. Fellows are hosted at legal services organizations for a two-year term, where they provide legal assistance on issues related to housing, public benefits, employment, disability rights, immigration, and other disaster-related legal issues. Fellows expand the capacity of legal services organizations to ensure all survivors have access to services they need to stabilize and rebuild their lives. Fellows receive substantive and skills-based training before the start of the program, which equip them with tools needed to assist with disaster recovery, and ongoing training and cross-collaboration opportunities throughout their two years of service to provide a robust and in-depth knowledge of disaster law and serving low-income clients.

How Does it Work?

1. Each year, programs and projects submit nominations for the Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access

2. The Delivery Committee decides the winner of the Brown Award, but votes from the public (YOU!) determine which nominee will receive the BROWN SELECT recognition.

 

Brown Award Nominees

1.  Boundless

Boundless seeks to empower families to navigate the immigration system more confidently, rapidly, and affordably. As part of that mission Boundless created a free Public Charge Risk Estimator to allow immigrants and their families to understand how the new public charge rule is likely to impact them, without having to pay for an attorney. It's designed to be straightforward and easy-to-use: respondents answer a handful of simple questions, and within minutes, the tool tells them whether they're at high risk, moderate risk, or low risk of being denied a green card under the rule. The tool also flags vulnerable areas in the results, guiding applicants on how they can reduce their risk of denial and improve their chances of getting approved. They can then use their results to make an informed decision about what additional actions to take, including whether to hire an attorney.

2. Bridge to Justice

Bridge to Justice is a 501(c)(3) Colorado nonprofit organization that provides civil legal services to low- and moderate-income Coloradans who do not qualify for free legal aid. We deliver customized legal advice and services at significantly reduced rates and provide significantly discounted legal services to low- and moderate-income Colorado residents in post-decree domestic relations matters. Representative cases include modification and enforcement of parenting time, decision making, child support and maintenance (alimony). Individuals qualify for the program based on household income and assets. Our income guidelines are based on the HUD income limit, which is 80% of the Area Median Income for Boulder County. In 2019, our income cutoff for an individual is $54,300 and $71,900 for a family of four. The value of a client’s assets, excluding primary residence and vehicle, cannot exceed the applicable income limit. Our rates range between $115/hour to $145/hour. We provide a range of customized legal services, including unbundled/limited scope representation to full-scope representation.

3. Clay County (FL) Clerk of Court's Low Bono Program

Since its inception in 2016 as part of a self-help oriented pilot program endorsed by the clerks of court in Florida, the Clay County (FL) Low Bono Program has worked to lower the barriers which historically prevent people with moderate financial means from accessing legal services. The program is available to Clay County, Florida residents who are going through a family law matter, with a focus on pro se clients. Individuals wishing to participate, contact the Clerk’s Office to schedule an appointment with a local, licensed Florida attorney at a rate of $1.00 per minute. The minimum appointment time is 30 minutes and individuals are responsible for bringing full payment to their scheduled appointment time (cash only) along with all relevant documents. Appointments are held at the Clay County Courthouse. Low Bono attorneys conduct the appointments on the first floor in the new section of the courthouse that includes a Low Bono Program waiting room and private office where citizens and Low Bono program attorneys meet.

4. Community Legal Services of Prince George's County, Inc. (CLS)

CLS's Failure to Pay Rent Tenant Representation Program, which is generously funded by the Maryland Legal Services Corporation, provides same-day limited scope representation to tenants in Failure to Pay Rent cases in Prince George’s County District Court, located in Hyattsville, Maryland. Same-day representation is provided to income-eligible tenants every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. In addition to providing same-day representation in Failure to Pay Rent cases, CLS also assists with Rent Escrow, Tenant Holding Over, Breach of Lease, and Wrongful Detainer cases.

CLS has partnered with the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland (PBRC) to train and recruit attorneys who wish to volunteer through this program. Volunteer attorneys receive a stipend in exchange for their representation, as well as malpractice insurance coverage, mentoring, and case support. Additionally, CLS assists out-of-state attorneys with becoming specially authorized to practice law in Maryland. Although this program provides representation to tenants, resources are also available for landlords.

5.  DC Refers

In 2017, DC Refers launched an online directory of pre-screened lawyers willing to accept modest-means clients (incomes within 200-400% of the federal poverty guidelines) who agree to pay hourly fees of $75-$150. DC Refers began as a fiscally-sponsored pilot project, but in 2019 achieved independent non-profit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. DC Refers receives a modest one-time fee of $50 from lawyers who apply to be listed in the directory. The lawyers are then vetted by our panel and professional and client references checked before being added to the directory. All attorneys in the directory have two or more years of experience practicing in their designated practice areas. Prospective clients use the DC Refers website, answering a number of questions in the process, to be connected to a lawyer in their area of need. Clients may choose to contact the lawyers themselves or have the lawyers reach out to them.

6. DoNotPay

The DoNotPay app is the home of the world's first robot lawyer. DoNotPay aims to in democratize the consumer rights landscape to make the law more affordable & accessible for moderate income people, improving the delivery of legal services and information by leveraging chatbots & cutting-edge AI technology to provide automated services for common legal needs. With DoNotPay you can fight corporations, beat bureaucracy and sue anyone at the press of a button. The automated services provided by the DoNotPay app have been replicated and launched in other settings around the world, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada. A few examples of the automated services that have won our users legal disputes include, the ability to sue large corporations (i.e., Equifax for up to $25,000) for data leaks, appealing unjust parking tickets, free legal aid to help the homeless and evicted fight for housing, free legal aid to refugees seeking asylum in the US and Canada, and much more.

7. Equal Justice Works Disaster Recovery Legal Corps

Since 2017, the Equal Justice Works Disaster Recovery Legal Corps (DRLC) has mobilized 23 Fellows to deliver critical legal assistance to disaster-affected communities in both Texas and Florida. Fellows are hosted at legal services organizations for a two-year term, where they provide legal assistance on issues related to housing, public benefits, employment, disability rights, immigration, and other disaster-related legal issues. Fellows expand the capacity of legal services organizations to ensure all survivors have access to services they need to stabilize and rebuild their lives. Fellows receive substantive and skills-based training before the start of the program, which equip them with tools needed to assist with disaster recovery, and ongoing training and cross-collaboration opportunities throughout their two years of service to provide a robust and in-depth knowledge of disaster law and serving low-income clients.

Throughout this cohort, Fellows have: (1) provided direct legal services and representation to disaster survivors in Texas and Florida, (2) developed resources, (3) initiated cross-collaboration and referrals across organizations to provide for more complete recovery, (4) engaged with the local long-term recovery groups (LTRGs), partner organizations, and stakeholders to participate fully in the disaster recovery process, (5) convened with impacted communities and advocacy organizations to implement strategies to promote equal access to justice, and provide for a quicker, easier, and more just recovery among low-income disaster impacted communities. This initial DRLC will be replicated to a corps that will strategically place new two-year fellows on a rolling basis at recently or often-impacted communities across the country.

8. Justice For Me

Justice For Me seeks to close the justice gap by removing the financial obstacles that prevent clients and attorneys from connecting. Through technology and a network of lawyers and financial partners that work with clients who cannot afford traditional legal representation, clients are pre-qualified to receive financing to meet their legal needs. Once approved, the client selects an attorney to work with and receives an up-front estimate of the total cost of the engagement. Our model provides benefits for both the client and the attorney. Our customers pay no upfront cash or retainer but instead, have affordable monthly payments. Our attorneys can accept and retain more clients and avoid collection hassles. They get fast payment and still own the client relationship. Financing can be paid off at any time, and, if paid on time and within one year, any interest will be refunded.

9. Louisiana State Bar Association Modest Means Online Legal Directory

In 2018, the Louisiana Access to Justice Commission launched the statewide Modest Means Directory, which connects attorneys who offer affordable legal services with people who fall at or below 400% of the annual FPL. The attorneys listed offer legal services that range from $75 - $150 per hour (or the flat fee equivalent). Each attorney profile lists the parishes and practice areas served, in addition to the type of affordable legal services offered, which include sliding scale, flat fees, reduced cost hourly, or limited scope representation. To view the Directory, a person must enter their household size and monthly income, read and agree to the terms of use, and submit the online application. If determined eligible, the person can view attorneys sorted by parish or practice area. The person viewing the Directory then contacts the attorney. An attorney interested in joining the Directory simply completes a one-hour online CLE on ethical obligations for representing a client with limited means, an online survey, and an online application. The program administrator reviews the application and, if determined eligible, the attorney is added to the Directory. The online format of the Directory was created in-house and is located on the state bar website.

10. SoloSuit.com

According to Solosuit, "10 million Americans get sued for a debt every year… [and] 9 million of them automatically lose their case because they don’t have the resources to respond." However, Solosuit seeks to change that dynamic by allowing individuals to use its web-app to generate a response to their lawsuit in minutes, thereby avoiding default judgements and giving consumers a fighting chance. Upon launching the tool, SoloSuit asks what you would like to do. If you don’t know, and you’ve been served with a document, you can even send a picture and Solosuit will tell you what most people do next. After a few simple questions about your case, and based on your answers to those questions, Solosuit prepares a response and instructs you on how to file. Responding to a lawsuit is the first step in defending yourself. SoloSuit seeks to help you take that step and guide you to additional resources when you're done.

By using Solosuit, anyone that is sued for a debt, in any state in the nation, can use its self-help tool to create their Answer document and respond to the lawsuit. This service is free to the consumer, and is paid for entirely by Solosuit's own revenue, thought there may be changes for other related services.

Award Resources