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Kansas City attorneys and advocates win bond for 18-year-old in immigrant detention

After receiving repeated threats from a gang notorious in Honduras, Francisco* decided to make the long journey to the United States in search of refuge. The trip was not easy — some days he went without food and, at one point, he was robbed.

Once he arrived in the U.S., he was placed in a shelter for unaccompanied minors, but because he was 18-years-old, was eventually transferred to the Caldwell County Detention Center in Kingston, Missouri. An all-adult facility, Caldwell is over fifty miles northeast of Kansas City.

Right around the same time Francisco was transferred to Caldwell, the Deportation Defense Legal Network (DDLN) was officially launched by a group of legal advocates in Kansas City with the express purpose of providing legal representation to immigrants in bond hearings.

DDLN is a truly collaborative project consisting of community organizers, immigrant rights advocates, and local attorneys. It was formed in partnership with Innovation Law Lab, the Clinic at Sharma-Crawford, Advocates for Immigrant Rights and Reconciliation (AIRR), El Centro, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) MO-KAN Chapter. Participating firms include Stinson Leonard Street, Polsinelli, Lathrop and Gage, and more.

Working with AILA attorneys, DDLN trains non-immigration attorneys to take on bond representation before the immigration court. Using the LawLab platform, DDLN collects referrals of bond-eligible cases from local immigration attorneys, organizations, and churches to facilitate case placement and assist in case management during the length of the case. DDLN also engages pro bono attorneys, interpreters, and community members to support and assist families impacted by ICE arrests.

Francisco’s family could not afford private legal representation. Without legal representation, an immigrant’s chances of winning release from detention and having a favorable bond set are unlikely.

When DDLN learned of Francisco’s case, they placed his bond case with a pro bono attorney. With the help of volunteer interpreters and remote volunteer legal assistants, the attorney was able to successfully argue for Francisco’s release from Caldwell.

Francisco’s bond was set at $3,000, a relatively low amount that may not have been possible without legal advocacy. After the bond was set, Free Our Neighbors, a NATIONAL advocacy organization, mobilized to cover the cost of his bond and a local pastor offered him a temporary place to stay until he could travel to meet his family in the United States.

Since Francisco’s bond was granted in mid-July, DDLN volunteers have successfully won bond for five individuals — a sign that the coordinated legal advocacy made possible by DDLN is working. And not only is DDLN set on winning individual cases, but along the way, aggregating data about detention conditions, bond amounts, judge decisions. This data will contribute to an even larger narrative of what the immigration court system looks like locally and nationally and help us focus in on hostile jurisdictions.

After leaving Caldwell, Francisco shared with Ramón Valdez, Innovation Law Lab program manager, that he looks forward to continuing his schooling and finding a job in construction.

*Name has been changed to protect privacy

If you live in the Greater Kansas City region and would like to be part of the Deportation Defense Legal Network, please contact Ramón Valdez, Program Manager, at ramon@innovationlawlab.org.

Defend Everyone: Creating the Equity Corps of Oregon to Provide Universal Representation

Last month, the Innovation Law Lab, in partnership with other members of Oregon Ready, published and presented a report entitled “Defend Everyone: Creating the Equity Corps of Oregon to Provide Universal Representation.”

The report calls on government bodies in Oregon to provide legal defense funding for community members in removal defense proceedings. The concept that no individual should face possible deportation without a lawyer is often referred to as “universal representation.”

Furthermore, the report recommends adopting an innovative approach to truly achieving a state of universal representation. The model proposed draws on the power of technology and collaboration for scalability and effectiveness. A visual can be found on page 18.

Legal representation is the single most predictive factor in whether an immigrant will prevail against an unjust deportation. With an attorney, immigrants will fare better at every stage of the court process. However, as immigration law is considered a civil matter, defendants are not entitled to a government-provided lawyer.

The federal government has activated the machinery of mass detention and deportation–ICE arrests are up in virtually every part of the country, and Jeff Sessions’ has proposed changes that would pressure judges to seek deportation over options for relief. State and local government are in a unique position, in which they can support policy and programs that stop the deportation of immigrant communities of color.

Read the report

The report was authored by Stephen W. Manning, Executive Director of the Innovation Law Lab; Leland Baxter-Neal, Immigration Attorney at Metropolitan Public Defenders; Lindsay Jonasson, Student at Lewis & Clark Law School; Juliet Stumpf, Professor at Lewis & Clark Law School; and Victoria Bejarano Muirhead, Development Director at the Innovation Law Lab.

The Universal Representation Committee of Oregon Ready is comprised of individuals from Causa, Catholic Charities of Oregon’s Immigration Legal Services, Immigrant Defense Oregon of Metropolitan Public Defenders, Immigration Counseling Service, Innovation Law Lab, Transformative Immigration Law Class at Lewis & Clark Law School, and Sponsors Organized to Assist Refugees of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon.

Please direct any questions to Victoria Bejarano Muirhead at victoria@innovationlawlab.org.

A blatant disregard for the rule of law

Atlanta immigration Judge Earle B. Wilson has one of the highest asylum denial rates in the country. This month he is on a rotation at the New York Immigration Court, and legal advocates are speaking out.

Our Atlanta-based program manager, Ariel Prado, has observed hearings conducted by Judge Wilson and witnessed his disregard for asylum seekers. In light of Judge Wilson’s current rotation, the New York Immigration Coalition reached out to Ariel Prado, for more information on the judge.

Here is Ariel’s statement in its entirety:

“Judge Earle B. Wilson has terrorized Atlanta’s immigrant communities of color. His de facto policy of ‘no asylum’ has sent hundreds of bona fide refugees back to the places they have sacrificed everything to escape, where they will almost assuredly face further harm and death. His tenure at the Atlanta Immigration Court can be characterized by a blatant disregard for the rule of law. From 2012 to 2017, he issued the third highest number of asylum denials in the country—over 1,000—which represents a denial rate of 97.8%.

“Judge Wilson is known for setting unlawful evidentiary standards, making it nearly impossible for families who fled their home countries with little more than their children in their arms and clothes on their backs to navigate the immigration court system and receive a just outcome. When it comes to asylum cases for survivors of sexual violence, Judge Wilson is dismissive and cruel. He has repeatedly and erroneously argued that sexual violence cannot be considered persecution. He has considered aloud that the experience of rape must have been ‘admittedly awkward’ while a survivor of sexual violence sobbed silently in his courtroom. In his role as an immigration judge, he unflinchingly plays the role of institutional abuser, further traumatizing individuals who have already suffered so much.

“Judge Earle B. Wilson has used his position to belittle survivors of violence and issue decisions based on his personal biases rather than the law. There is no question that he is unfit to adjudicate asylum cases and should resign.”

Both quantitative data and anecdotal evidence suggest that Judge Wilson is not upholding his duty as an immigration judge.

Innovation Law Lab argues that Jeff Sessions’ anti-immigrant bias renders him unfit to re-evaluate asylum case

On Friday, April 27, 2018, the Innovation Law Lab filed an amicus brief with United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions, challenging his decision to reopen a settled asylum case on the grounds that his anti-immigrant and anti-asylum conduct disqualify him from exercising his authority to refer and review immigration cases.

“It appears the Attorney General of the United States is using his powerful position to advance a radical and unlawful rewrite of the law of asylum,” said Stephen Manning, Executive Director of the Innovation Law Lab. “His connections with white nationalist and alt-right organizations are troubling and problematic. Foundational principles of fairness require that he recuse himself—and his staff—from deciding on the Matter of A-B-.

The case at hand, known as the Matter of A-B- (initials are used to protect the asylee’s privacy), involves a domestic violence victim who fled to the United States after she was unable to obtain protection in her own country. Details on the case were initially kept secret by the Justice Department, but later made public by the attorneys who represented her. It was also later learned that Sessions selected this case for consideration in spite of objections from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Sessions’ decision to refer individual immigration cases to himself for review is an overstep of his authority and can adversely affect the outcome of future asylum cases. By overturning past decisions of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), Sessions can, in effect, rewrite asylum and immigration policy.

The Innovation Law Lab was represented by Nadia Dahab of Stoll Berne, a Portland-based law firm. The amicus brief prepared by Nadia and her team draws from research from the Southern Poverty Law Center, particularly, the Extremist Files and Hatewatch, to cogently analyze and map the Attorney General’s connections to white nationalist and anti-immigrant organizations.

The brief argues that insofar as the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires the Attorney General to fairly and impartially administer immigration laws and the Attorney General and his staff promote racist and white nationalist viewpoints, the Attorney General has prejudged the issues presented in the Matter of A-B- and, therefore, cannot be an impartial judge where immigration and asylum law is concerned.

The Innovation Law Lab joined several other legal and advocacy organizations in voicing concerns over Sessions’ decision to reevaluate the Matter of A-B-. Other organizations that also submitted amicus briefs include the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc (CLINIC), the Tahirih Justice Center, and the American Bar Association (ABA).

Read the Innovation Law Lab amicus brief

See Jeff Sessions’ connections to anti-immigrant advocates and organizations

Please direct all inquiries to Victoria Bejarano Muirhead at victoria@innovationlawlab.org.

Building the Resistance: Innovation Law Lab Impact Report

We are thrilled to share our latest report with you. “Building the Resistance: Innovation Law Lab Impact Report” is now available online.

The mass incarceration and deportation of immigrant communities of color has long been underway in the United States. With the election of President Donald Trump, what few safeguards existed for immigrants and refugees are now under attack. The need for scalable immigrant representation models and sites of resistance is greater than ever before.

Our impact report captures the collaborative work we have done over the past 18 months. Some of the highlights include:

  • Established four Centers of Excellence across the country, which provide pro bono representation for families formerly held in family detention centers
  • Launched BorderX, our model to scale representation of adult immigrants in detention
  • Trained 296 attorneys
  • Placed over 70 pro bono asylum cases affecting over 150 people
  • Been recognized by Financial Times as one of the most innovative legal organizations in North America

Read the report

Innovation Law Lab finalist for the Financial Times “Innovative Lawyers Awards” North America 2017

The pioneering immigration law work of the Innovation Law Lab has been recognized by The Financial Times, which has shortlisted us for its Innovative Lawyers Awards North America 2017.

Our founder and legal director, Stephen W. Manning, is one of ten finalists in the “Legal Innovator of the Year” category, which recognizes individuals who have come up with original ideas, have shown the courage to change the way legal work is done, and have had a powerful influence in their industry or wider society.

Manning’s work has been recognized in several Oregon-based publications during the last year, including Oregon Super Lawyers and Oregon Business.

“This recognition brings needed attention to the power of passion, process, and collaboration to defend the most vulnerable in our world against powerful interests that would undermine the law,” Manning stated in response to the news.

“I am hopeful this recognition will help us further scale our work,” added Interim Executive Director Sophia Tzeng.

Now in its eighth year of publication and covering the US, Canada, and Mexico, the FT North America Innovative Lawyers Report has become one of the top legal rankings in the region. Award winners will be announced at an awards ceremony on December 11, 2017 to be held at the New York Public Library.

Please direct all inquiries to Victoria Bejarano Muirhead, Development Director, at victoria@innovationlawlab.org or 971-801-6047.

How LawLab Software Supports the Work of Nonprofit Firms

WritingEvery day, nonprofit legal service providers represent individuals threatened by deportation, striving to secure justice-centered immigrant and refugee legal norms. Among the many challenges of practicing immigration law, most legal nonprofits lack the resources to formally represent every client they advise and depend on cost-saving tactics and applications that increase organizational efficiency. How can nonprofit organizations extend their legal power to more effectively address complex immigration cases?

Welcome, LawLab by Innovation Law Lab. Designed with nonprofit legal service providers in mind, LawLaw is a case management software that addresses the essential needs of nonprofit organizations, empowering attorneys to continue advocating for the rights of immigrants and refugees.

For those in search of powerful legal nonprofit case management tools, here is what LawLab can offer your practice:

  • Tools to organize and streamline case processes. Equipped with a collection of features designed to support positive case outcomes, LawLab standardizes your work procedures. Users are presented with a daily report of new and unfinished tasks from upcoming deadlines, scheduled events, unreturned contacts and other next actions. These tasks can be passed to other associates for completion, organized in an easy-to-view checklist. These cost-saving measures preserve your energy and give greater structure to your casework.
  • Data collection for better grant reporting. LawLab is a powerful tool for data collection and reporting, supporting grant reporting requirements. Rather than spend time chasing down records and piecing together pieces of data, LawLab sorts essential information for you. As it records billable projects and activities, measures the effectiveness of organization program and it staff and volunteers, LawLab aggregates data that speaks on the efficacy of your legal nonprofit.
  • Flexible features allow you to make instant modifications. As your organization grows and adapts, LawLab will grow and adapt to fit your needs. Whether you’ve added numbers to your team or need to pivot your research and data points, LawLab’s flexible system allows you to make instant changes to evolve your program. With LawLab, your organization can on-board volunteers and provide access to case information without affecting the integrity of your data. Whether your work happens in an office space, or from multiple destinations around the world, your files are accessible from different sites. LawLab offers your organization the flexible tools your casework requires.
  • Best-in-class software for a nonprofit budget. For legal nonprofits, the ability to provide pro bono legal advice depends on a variety of external and internal resources. Thankfully, LawLab is priced at a nonprofit-sized budget. For recognized and accredited nonprofit organizations, Innovation Law Lab offers a month to month subscription to LawLab, accessible to your entire organization, no matter how large your team becomes. That’s unlimited users, unlimited users and unlimited clients and access support and training features for one price.

Ready to start your free trial? Create your own account to learn more about Innovation Law Lab’s LawLab software and its available subscription plans. Discover the power of data-driven, client-centered case management software and how you can revolutionize your legal nonprofit organization with LawLab.

Why Compelling Storytelling is a Necessary Tool in Immigration Law

Books stackedThe phrase ‘legal storytelling’ seems contrary— the credibility of those in the legal community is more often thought to be measured through research, data and solid evidence than by engaging stories. Yet, for those practicing immigration law, the ability to breathe life into your brand message and elevate the human experiences of clients is a key in advocating for the rights of immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers.

Immigration law practitioners occupy a unique space in the arena of brand storytelling, as a well-told story can be much more than an interesting read, but a motivating call-to-action, promoting public engagement and shaping opinion.

By blending their legal expertise, the personal challenges of clients and a solid social media and blogging strategy, immigration attorneys and law firms can create and share their own impactful storytelling and work toward an immigrant-inclusive vision.

Branded content is stronger content

At its core, storytelling is means of expressing what your brand values and the topics that your practice is most connected to. Stories that are personal and meaningful will educates users while injecting a relatable, warm quality to your voice. In consistently delivering branded content through storytelling, your practice gains the flexibility to interact with your social following beyond the informational or promotional. And they respond to that.

Branded content is proven to be more successful in terms of favorability, memorability, and effectiveness in persuading users to trust your services. In contrast to traditional display ads, branded content is 59 percentage points more successful in aided recall and 7 percentage points higher in terms of brand favorability.

Sharing quality stories produces content that educates potential and current clients— it is content that sticks in their minds. Messages delivered in the form of stories can be up to two times more memorable than simple facts, providing your practice the opportunity to increase brand trust and distinguish your work from that of others.

Embracing the emotional builds authenticity

For readers, viewers or listeners, content must be accessible. Rather than share stories that read like well-ironed opening statements, content that emphasizes the humanity of the subject will translate well with its audience. The experiences of immigrants and refugees are invariably personal and well-told stories rely on the honest, authentic and emotional elements of those experiences.

Obviously, there is little emotional value in wide blocks of jargon-filled text. The inclusion of photographs, visual aids and even videos in stories help capture the spirit and voice their subjects, delivering content in more digestible and shareable mediums and allowing viewers to connect to their stories. Well-executed and captivating stories present seemingly complex, and sometimes dull, issues through relevant discussion and relatable formats.

In highlighting personal and vulnerable stories, you emphasize your investment in the well-being of your clients, which in part contributes to the credibility of your work. Expressing concern for the emotional needs of potential and current clients will impact their trust and future actions with your firm.

Stories and social media are a strong pairing

While it may not be appropriate for your firm to occupy every social site, there is likely a social media platform fitting for the goals of your practice. LinkedIn has long been a useful platform for professional networking. Lawyers used Twitter to assemble legal resources for those affected by President Trump’s travel ban. As 74 percent of respondents from a 2016 ABA survey report that their firms maintain a presence on social channels, there should be little question about the compatibility of law and social media.

Another effective medium for sharing stories and interviews is through a legal topic blog, as the content can be formatted to your own site, is not limited by character or word counts, and positively impacts your site’s search engine performance.

Given our digital environment, immigration law practitioners who aren’t leveraging social and blogging platforms are missing out on increased case visibility and failing to amplify the voices of their clients.

Tell stories with the intent to motivate change

For immigration law practitioners, sharing the experiences of clients goes beyond brand storytelling— these stories advocate for change, educate viewers and reinforce your expertise and reliability. Social media and blogging platforms can be used to speak about your work beyond FAQs and contact pages and express the core values of your immigration law practice.

5 Tech Tips For Small Immigration Firms & Solo Practitioners

Computer and desk

There’s no questioning technology’s impact on workplace productivity, but given the diversity of emerging tech and software products, it can be challenging to pin down exactly what tools will maximize the success of your firm and in what areas of your day-to-day work.

For solo and small immigration practices in need of an (electronic) extra pair of hands, law firm CRM systems offer tools for increased efficiency, data analytics, and schedule management, ensuring your work is focused on positive client outcomes, not administrative tasks. Below are five essential tech tips to serve as a jumping-off point for improving workplace efficiency and increasing client value: Key to maximizing productivity is prioritizing your casework and adopting an integrated workflow system. Forget sorting piles of sticky notes and searching for one-off emails about case assignments— with a cloud-based, case management software, tasks are collected in one place, accessible to solo lawyers or an entire firm, from a variety of devices. Case work items are clearly sorted and organized based on deadlines and priority, ensuring no tasks are ignored or incomplete. Within a small firm, an office-wide workflow establishes a greater sense of transparency, as associates and assistants can stay up to date on one another’s work.

1. Know what’s in your queue.

Key to maximizing productivity is prioritizing your casework and adopting an integrated workflow system. Forget sorting piles of sticky notes and searching for one-off emails about case assignments— with a cloud-based, case management software, tasks are collected in one place, accessible to solo lawyers or an entire firm, from a variety of devices. Case work items are clearly sorted and organized based on deadlines and priority, ensuring no tasks are ignored or incomplete. Within a small firm, an office-wide workflow establishes a greater sense of transparency, as associates and assistants can stay up to date on one another’s work.

2. Adopt a Smarter Calendar

While practicing immigration law can present an abundance of challenges, a balanced legal calendar should never be one of them. Calendar-related missteps can cause missed deadlines, filling errors, even court absences, all of which can result in malpractice actions against lawyers. Case management software can safeguard you and your firm against disastrous scheduling errors by synching upcoming deadlines, calls, and appointments with existing calendars, allowing you to access the information on the go, from a variety of devices.

3. Create a More Effective Billing Process

In solo practices and small firms, almost 40% of time worked is not billed, reflecting negatively on your bottom line and suggesting that tasks crucial for positive case outcomes are not receiving ample attention. Implementing practice management software can eliminate time spent on non-billable administrative tasks, and record billable activities with more accuracy and clarity. An accurate billing process will reflect the true value of your services and your level of preparedness, as your focus is shifted from non-billable activities to client-focused tasks that strengthen positive case outcomes.

4. Listen to Your Metrics

With case management software in place, your casework and task history will provide a variety of data points that can direct you toward making more effective choices in client relations and workplace practices. Sort and analyze data points about case outcomes, demographics, hours billed and more as points of comparison or as a means to establish a baseline.

5. Use Technology to Stay Client-Focused

A firm of any size will benefit by emphasizing client satisfaction and delivering an attentive service. A client-focused case management system will offer firms a host of methods to attend to specific client needs and reconnect throughout the legal process and after. Keep detailed notes of client information within profile fields, including details that will allow your or a partner to provide personalized communication. Use scheduling tools to set reminders to deliver follow-up calls or emails. Collect standardized documents and resources, allowing you to be responsive to requests and queries.

The size of your law firm should not determine the size of its impact. In the case of legal technology, small firms and solo practitioners are able to leverage practice management software appropriate for their needs, streamlining day-to-day operations and strengthening client relationships.

To learn more about how immigration case management software by Innovation Law Lab can increase the productivity and effectiveness of your firm, discover the LawLab subscription plan best for your legal practice.

Why Innovation Law Lab Software is a Necessity for Your Firm

Person working on laptop

From individuals seeking safety and asylum, to parents striving to secure better opportunities for their children, the outcomes of immigration cases impact the life chances of real individuals and families. Given the weight of their work, immigration lawyers operate within an environment of urgency— the ability to stay organized, efficient and diligent is crucial.

Small law firms spend up to 40% of their time chasing after lost files and juggling calendars,  as non-billable, administrative activities eat away at time that could be spent researching, strategizing, and advocating. How can immigration lawyers shift their time away from supervising logistical tasks and refocus their energy toward successful case outcomes?

LawLab by the Innovation Law Lab is a case management software that addresses these exact challenges. Using Active Case Management principles, LawLab is a data-driven, client-focused platform that promises to streamline operations, freeing up valuable time for you to focus on defending and protecting the rights of hopeful individuals and families.

What can LawLab offer your immigration practice?

  • Workflows assembled for your productivity. Simply put, how does LawLab work? The essential processes can be boiled down to three steps: collecting and categorizing client and process data, standardizing tasks in a case, and assembling everything into an efficient sequence of items to be completed. LawLab provides users a daily report of new or unfinished tasks from unreturned calls and emails, to upcoming deadlines and next actions. Tasks are easy to view, easy to dole out to other associates, and can be checked off upon completion. No longer will important items go unnoticed, as the platform organizes assignments by priority, ensuring you always know what needs to be addressed.
  • Safeguard your firm from data loss and breach. Our cloud-based case management software protects your documents within powerful servers, encrypting your data and transmitting it securely. By adopting a paperless approach, your documents are accessible anywhere there is an internet connection, allowing several users to work on the same records at the same time, and allowing individual users to access many records simultaneously.
  • A responsive, instantaneous search engine. Being unable to locate important files and emails impedes the success of your practice and clients. With LawLab’s intelligent search engine, you can search for documents using a telephone number, a case ID number, a client name, a partial name, a receipt number and more. Search results are populated almost instantly, and displayed in an easy-to-view layout, complete with hyperlinks to relevant records. Within a case file, users can search for keywords, events related to the case, attached documents among other items. Client records can easily be accessed in the office or on the go.
  • Data-rich features to support your practice. LawLab creates a platform for immigration lawyers to utilize analytics to better manage cases, compare aggregate data across clients and improve profits. Users can track a variety of data, from client demographics to case outcomes to attorney-specific statistics, and create data tables to identify trends and patterns. With the ability to evaluate where processing inefficiencies exist and single out winning management practices, users can eliminate costs, save valuable time and refocus strategies to improve case outcomes.
  • Reliable Helpdesk support and training. The Innovation Law Lab Helpdesk offers quick, responsive, one-on-one support to manage your LawLab software and subscription, and provide any training materials you need to master LawLab. Our training toolkit includes video demonstrations, written materials, and introductory webinars. Users can schedule personalized training for members of their firms, emphasizing LawLab best practices and how they can use the platform to meet management objectives.
  • A platform designed for lawyers, by lawyers. Having been developed by a team of immigration lawyers at Innovation Law Lab, LawLab software is designed with the specific needs of law practitioners and immigration case management in mind. Unlike many other law firm CRM software tools, the powerful data-driven features of LawLab are accessible to solo firms, small firms, and nonprofit organizations to revolutionize their practices and achieve better client outcomes.

LawLab by the Innovation Law Lab is the client-focused, data-driven case management software that solo practitioners, small firms, and nonprofit organizations need to increase positive client outcomes and maximize efficiency and effectiveness.

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