Keys to Justice – Changes and a New Path Ahead

Close-up picture of a map being held

Tourist Holding Map in their hands

A Great Start

We've officially passed our first 6 months as an organization. Start-up companies and non-profits come and go quickly and the majority of them fail in their first year. But we've been blessed with great support and great clients that have let us accomplish so much already. As of the end of the second quarter we've talked to over 85 people who needed help with legal problems and couldn't find an attorney anywhere else. We've opened 43 of those cases in our first six months and we've been able to close out nearly a dozen. People have retained custody of their children, have been kept out of jail, and have found help where they thought they were all alone.

As a young but growing organization, we're experiencing a lot of growing pains, and we're all still experimenting with the best way to keep helping people. Our interns and attorney often volunteer an enormous amount of hours. Our staff attorney has taken a huge cut in pay to come help people with us. And we've discovered that our current structure is sustainable but will never provide us with what we need to grow, find our own office space, and continue to help even more people.

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End of Year Updates

Hey everyone, I know it's been a little while since you've heard from us directly on the blog. First, thank you for following us on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. We re-post a lot Reading the Mapof great content there from sources that we follow all around the internet relevant to our mission. Secondly, I thought I'd take this opportunity to ansswer some frequently asked questions and update everyone on the state of the non-profit!

How is the company shaping up?

Pretty good so far! We've managed to file our articles of incorporation, so we're officially a non-profit corporation. We also recently added a board member, an attorney local to the Bloomington area with 10+ years of experience both in the areas of law we cover, and in supervising interns and students. She's going to bring a wealth of expertise to the company and help with guidance and ethics issues moving forward. Look forward to a new post from her soon to officially introduce herself. We're still trying to raise enough money to file our 1023EZ application which will give us official status with the IRS and make your donations tax-deductible, as well as give us access to a lot of non-profit specific resources.

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The Road Ahead

First off, I have to apologize for not getting blog posts out on time last Thursday or yesterday (Monday). There has been so much to do and so many different things we're working on, it's hard to keep up on the blog all by myself. To make it up to you, I wanted to use this time to provide you a little sneak peek for the road ahead, and the things that we're trying to accomplish by the end of the year.

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Chart highlighting how access to justice problems result in official misconduct

Access to Justice Should Matter to You

Today, people are rioting across the country because cellphones and cameras have made it possible to share police abuse and brutality instantly. Today, the dishonesty of prosecutors and other government officials is a factor in nearly half of all cases where the accused turns out to be innocent.1 Today, Americans are getting priced out of access to justice by high fees. As the costs of good lawyers have gone up and the pace of life has gone faster and faster, more and more Americans find themselves shut out of the justice system and unsure of how to get ahead. Struggling workers, indigent clients, and young people trying to move up from humble beginnings to the middle class are under-served by the legal market.

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Scales of Justice representing legal help

Offering Legal Help Where It’s Needed

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why." - Mark Twain

 

What Justice Unlocked Means to Me:

 

For some, finding a reason for your existence is so overwhelmingly incredible, that you have no choice but to run with it. I learned early on that I am on this earth to help my fellow men and women. Exactly how I am to do that was another question altogether. One thing I became aware of is my ability to think inside and outside of the box. This frame of thinking (which yes, leads me to over-complicate things at times) has provided me the opportunity to help many people. I love helping and I love  people, and the need for an organization like Justice Unlocked will provide the resources to reach many more with legal help.

Early in our lives, my sister and I were exposed to parts of the legal system that no one really wants to encounter.  We had an adventurous and short-lived childhood. After all of those events, we had to grow up rather quickly. Our mother went back to school, graduated with her bachelor's, and later, pursued a law degree (which was left unfinished). The good thing about her attempting law school, is that we were able to attend her classes (read: had to, couldn't afford babysitters) I developed a great love for law and justice. This fire for equality burns inside of me this very day.

Scales of Justice representing legal help

Having help can mean the difference between a fair fight, and a loss.

There have been so many instances in life where I have thought “if I only had the resources…” I know I’m not alone in thinking this, and I’ve met several people in my life who have actually said the same to me. What Justice Unlocked means to me is the unlocking of access to legal help for those who feel helpless in desperate situations. I’ve had my share of desperate situations. I’ve had my share of negative thoughts, feelings of despair and hopelessness. However, just as the good times pass, so shall the bad times. One of my favorite lines from a song is “I get by with a little help from my friends” by The Beatles. And it’s so true. All bad-to-good stories involve friends, or strangers-turned-friends, whom helped me cope, provided resources or connections, or even just a listening ear.

 

Legal Help can make a difference

 

They say networking is a very important skill that everyone can learn, and sometimes it can be as simple as asking for help, whether that means legal help, or anything else. You never know the connections you may have – the untapped resources – unless you ask. When it comes down to it – if you never ask, the answer is always no. I can admit, fear has stopped me from asking for help several times. I have learned that fear is a liar, and asking for help only yields positive results. My desire for this organization is to use my skills in conflict resolution, creativity, and research to provide opportunities for others to get the legal help they need and find justice.

I envision Justice Unlocked providing networking opportunities for individuals to grow and succeed beyond their current situation, as well as unlocking a flawed system to provide more equality and protection to those who choose and are able (with our legal help) to use it. I look forward to helping so many people access the legal services we will unlock, and the partnership of the organization with the community, no matter what someone's wealth or social status is.