Three Lone Star Legal Aid staffers attended the Legal Server conference hosted by Servicios Legales de Puerto Rico this week in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This trip was important for two reasons: increasing access to justice using technology through our soon-to-launch new case management system and digging deeper into disaster legal aid and recovery by comparing our Hurricane Harvey experience with Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Irma recovery.

(Pictured: L-R: Nick Altizer, Mary Jo Molandes, Xander of Legal Server, and Sonia Lopez)

Lone Star Legal Aid will be deploying its new Legal Server case management software later this year. With this move, a long-term goal is achieved: online intake. Nick Altizer, Sonia Lopez, and Mary Jo Molandes attended the conference and were able to learn about all the exciting ways we will be able to further bridge the justice gap using tech.

“The Legal Server training was fantastic – in person training allowed me to not just observe, but learn by doing. I hate to leave this beautiful Island and the wonderful friends I’ve made, but I’m excited to return home and put into practice the new knowledge this training provided,” said Mary Jo Molandes, LSLA’s Technology Training Coordinator.

This trip presented a unique opportunity for Lone Star Legal Aid staff to meet staff at Servicios Legales de Puerto Rico. They discussed personal disaster recovery experiences and shared Disaster Legal Aid stories that highlight the resiliency of the populations they serve. They learned that despite the miles, the similarities of the recovery needs of both law firms and the families they represent gives them a common bond.  LSLA staff were inspired by the tremendous obstacles being overcome by Servicios Legales de Puerto Rico’s Executive Director, Leda. Hadassa Santini Colberg, and her team.

(Pictured: L-R: Sonia Lopez, Mary Jo Molandes, Hadassa Colberg, Juan Belmont, and Nick Altizer.

Juan Belmont, Servicios Legales de Puerto Rico’s Director de Sistemas de Información y Redes, provided Nick, Sonia and Mary Jo with a memorable tour of the Island. Nick Altizer, LSLA’s Director of IT, got a look at the new IT infrastructure at Juan’s office and enjoyed discussing the highs and lows of completely rebuilding lost infrastructure. He shared LSLA’s own plans to rebuild its headquarters, destroyed by an explosion and ensuing fire in the flooding aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston. Nick was impressed with the recovery efforts Servicios Legales de Puerto Rico has made this far. Both he and Juan know first hand the perseverance, imagination and focus it takes to assess the loss, establish temporary operations, and plan for a future that is brighter and improved over the reality that existed the day before the storm.

“We arrived as strangers, with having been through a major disaster in common and left as lifelong friends with a deep admiration for the resilience of the people of Puerto Rico,” said Sonia Lopez, Directing Attorney.