Law firm’s tech venture aims to help Ukrainian immigrants

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  • Wilson Sonsini unit launches free tool to help 75,000 Ukrainians
  • The aim is to bridge the gap in access to justice
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March 31 – There is a persistent contradiction at the heart of civil legal services: many people who need lawyers the most – those facing debt lawsuits, deportations or foreclosures, or seeking asylum – can afford it the least.

Pro bono is an obvious way to help, but the demand for free legal services invariably outweighs the supply of real-life lawyers willing to help.

Automated legal services provider SixFifty, a subsidiary of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, stepped in to help fill the void. On Thursday, the company unveiled its latest pro bono offering, a free, automated tool to help around 75,000 Ukrainians currently in the United States on visas apply to stay here legally due to the conflict with Russia.

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“Going home is not an option for Ukrainians right now,” said SixFifty CEO Kimball Dean Parker, who told me that “without a doubt, this is our most complicated pro bono effort ever. “.

The company’s previous pro bono offerings include tools that have helped more than 20,000 people avoid eviction or foreclosure during the pandemic, he said.

To be clear, SixFifty (named after Wilson Sonsini’s Palo Alto address, 650 Page Mill Road) is not a nonprofit organization. The company uses its document automation technology to create custom contracts, policies, notices, demand letters and more for more than 1,000 companies, including Nissan Motor Co, Ing Group and Zippo Manufacturing Co.

But it also mirrors traditional law firms in providing pro bono assistance alongside its for-profit ventures.

SixFifty’s new asylum tool is currently available in English and Ukrainian. Parker said they hope to add Spanish and other language translations later.

Its online form is reminiscent of Turbo Tax, where a complex process is broken down into a series of user-friendly questions regarding either asylum or temporary protected status. (Asylum can provide a pathway to permanent citizenship, while Temporary Protected Status, which stems from a special designation by the Secretary of Homeland Security, provides a short-term shield against removal, as well as a Work Authorization.)

Based on the person’s responses, SixFifty’s system completes the application documents and then emails a copy of the completed form to the user, along with instructions on how to proceed.

The asylum and temporary protected status forms “are some of the most complicated I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Parker, who began his legal career at the Silicon Valley office of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. and joined SixFifty at the end of 2018.

Members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association advised SixFifty to make sure he understood the intricacies of the law, he added.

While the asylum tool is designed to be accessible to everyone, SixFifty recommends that people use it in conjunction with an attorney.

Bonus: Those who hire lawyers can expect a faster and easier process.

“We are currently inundated with requests from various Ukrainian communities seeking legal assistance,” said Jeffrey O’Brien, founding partner of Berkeley, Calif.-based O’Brien Immigration, in a press release. “Using SixFifty’s tools will allow us to help Ukrainians apply more efficiently.”

SixFifty is hosting a webinar on April 6, 2022 at 1 p.m. ET on how lawyers can use the tool to help Ukrainians. Anyone wishing to attend can register via this link.

Luke Liss, pro bono partner of Wilson Sonsini, added that lawyers at his firm are eager to offer their assistance.

“We hope to help many more people stay in the United States in the coming months than would otherwise be possible,” he said.

Parker speaks of the potential of technology to increase access to justice with an almost evangelical zeal.

“There’s the potential to do so much good” by creating software that can “help people facing some of the worst situations in their lives, whether it’s losing their home or invading their country,” did he declare.

Law firms, despite all their good intentions, have traditionally limited themselves to offering pro bono representation on a case-by-case basis, he said. “We knew technology could extend services.”

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