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Highlights from Empire Justice Summer Survey

August 19, 2010

Author: Berta Rivera

This summer Empire Justice surveyed advocates familiar with its work to provide feedback on the services it provides.  A full report on the survey findings will be available on Empire Justice Website. Here are some highlights.

Who answered the survey?

One hundred and seventy-three (173) individuals completed the survey, over seventy percent of those work in legal services or volunteer lawyer organizations.  Every region and corner of the state responded.  Readers who think of Empire Justice as working primarily with “upstate” offices may be surprised to learn that thirty percent of the respondents are from New York City.  Just under seventy percent of the respondents are attorneys and paralegals; executive directors and administrators comprise approximately twenty-five percent of those responding.

Overall, the respondents are an extremely knowledgeable group.  Forty-three percent have more than ten years experience working in their current position; only thirteen percent have less than one year. Substantively, advocates work in a broad range of areas lead by housing (42%), public benefits (40%), Disability benefits (39%), family (29%) and consumer (23%).

Thirty-four respondents work in small offices (1-5 staff); sixty-two work in offices with between 5 and 15 staff; forty-seven in offices with between 15 and 35 and twenty-one in offices with 35 or more staff.  By contrast, seventy-eight respondents worked in organizations of 50 or more--perhaps reflecting the move toward larger regional organizations spearheaded by the Legal Services Corporation.  Thirty-one respondents worked for organizations that have 15 or fewer staff; forty-eight worked for organizations with a staff of between 15 and 50.

Interactions with Empire Justice

The graph below depicts how frequently respondents utilized Empire Justice resources during the past two years.  In answering a separate question, eleven percent of respondents indicated they utilize resources (for example contacting staff, reading publications, attending training programs or task force meetings, etc.) on a daily basis.  One-third of respondents use Empire Justices on a weekly basis.

When advocates contact Empire Justice the assistance they seek primarily falls into the following categories:

  • Assistance with developing systemic approaches to issues  47%
  • Assistance with substantive aspects of client’s case 38%
  • Referral of a case 24%
  • Assistance with legislative advocacy 24%
  • Assistance with skills or practice aspects of client’s case 22%
  • Assistance with administrative advocacy 18%
  • Request for training or training materials 17%

What Services do Respondents Use?

The Empire Justice services that respondents take advantage of most often include:

  • Empire Justice Website Materials or On-Line Resource Center 54%
  • Participated In a Listserv 50%
  • Technical Assistance via Listserv 37%
  • Legal Services Journal 35%
  • Task Force Meetings(s)  35%
  • In-Person Training Program 35%
  • Disability Law News  34%
  • Technical Assistance via Email 33%
  • Fair Hearing Bank 31%
  • Technical Assistance via Phone 30%
  • Training Program Conducted via Webinar 28%
  • Disability Advocacy Resources  25%
  • Public Benefits Case Law Database  22%
  • Training Through On-Line Resource Center  21%
  • New York Health Access Web Site  19%
  • Domestic Violence Case Law Update and Resources  13%
  • Policy Meetings  10%

Eighty-four percent of respondents report that they receive the help or information that they seek from Empire Justice all of the time or most of the time, and that the information or assistance was very helpful or somewhat helpful ninety-one percent of the time.  Only two percent indicated that they did not receive the help or information that they needed.

What are the most important roles that
Empire Justice plays?

For respondents, the most important Empire Justice roles are:

Training, Support and Technical Assistance (including substantive technical assistance, substantive law updates, training on legal skills and substantive areas, coordinating services and providing leadership to substantive task forces, providing useful information for advocates via the Empire Justice website, Language Access Resource Center, Domestic Violence Advocacy Resources, etc.) These roles are viewed as twice as important for advocates than those that follow.

Policy and Legislative Advocacy (including providing leadership and collaboration in legislative and administrative policy advocacy, providing leadership and collaboration in advocacy on state funding for legal services, providing leadership and collaboration on issues that impact clients statewide and authoring and publishing reports on important policy issues that impact New Yorkers.

Legal Work/Litigation (including providing litigation backup and support, co-counseling cases with other legal services providers, identifying important substantive legal issues that impact the poor and litigating important issues of statewide consequence.

When considering the perspective of what Empire Justice roles were most important for the client community served by respondents, training, support and technical assistance and policy and legislative advocacy were viewed as equally important and legal work/litigation only somewhat less important.

Three Adjectives to Describe Empire Justice

The final survey question asked, “What three adjectives do you think best describe Empire Justice as an organization?” The top ten words respondents used (in order) are:

Helpful, knowledgeable, informative, dedicated, professional, effective, committed, comprehensive, hardworking, and supportive.

Thanks to everyone who completed the survey.


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