Legal Information for Families Today

Justice for all. One family at a time.

aka LEGAL INFORMATION FOR FAMILIES TODAY (LIFT)   |   Brooklyn, NY   |  www.LIFTonline.org

Mission

LIFT's mission is to enhance access to justice for children and families by providing legal information, community education, and compassionate guidance, while promoting system-wide reform of the courts and public agencies.

Ruling year info

1997

Chief Executive Officer

Ms. Cathy A. Cramer

Main address

32 Court Street Suite 1208

Brooklyn, NY 11201 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

13-3910567

NTEE code info

Family Services (P40)

Legal Services (I80)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Among the many challenges confronting New York City's low-income families are Family Courts that are confusing, overburdened, and under-resourced. Each day, people line up at Courthouse metal detectors and crowd their sitting areas, often for hours, waiting for the Court to hear cases that strike the heart of family stability. With fewer than 70 judges adjudicating around 250,000 filings annually in New York City, the amount of time available for each matter is often quite short--an average of 5 -7 minutes. Yet, despite the importance of the matters being resolved in the Courthouse, most parents cannot afford to hire a lawyer or are eligible for free, Court-appointed representation because of the nature of their cases. By the Court's own count, more than 80% of litigants in New York City are unrepresented. Outside of LIFT, there is no place specifically for legal advice, information or support to address the issues associated with their Family Court matters.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Family Court-based Programs

Education & Information (EI) Sites: Located inside New York City's Family Courthouses, the EI Sites provide on-the-spot, actionable legal information about family law, as well as assistance navigating the courthouse, starting court cases, and accessing court resources. Our staff members and volunteers possess the expertise needed to help litigants to move forward, and we work with hundreds of people each day at the Sites. Often a litigant's introduction to LIFT, EI Sites:
1) serve as a gateway to our other holistic services, including the Family Law Information Helplines and Court Consultations;
2) are located in public area, such as waiting room; and
3) are notable for their accessibility and ease of use.
The Sites operate as if performing triage--instant, helpful and anonymous--in order to set the participant on path toward deeper services or to empower the participant with the legal information necessary to navigate the system.

Court Consultations: In private offices inside New York City's Family Courts, Court Consultations provide in-depth advice and guidance to litigant proceeding without counsel in child support, custody and visitations cases. LIFT chose to focus on these three cases types for consultations because there is no right to Court-appointed lawyer in the vast majority of child support cases, grandparents do not have a right to court-appointed counsel in custody or visitation cases, and for the working poor who cannot retain counsel, our consultations are essential. We also provide Court Consultations for litigants with Orders of Protection and guardianship needs. These have no other place to turn to receive the critical tools and support they need to represent themselves--from assistance completing a petition, to moot court opportunities where they can practice what they want to say to the judge.

Population(s) Served
Adults

LIFT’s Family Law Helplines help individuals understand their legal rights, options, and the Family Court process. They also provide referrals. The Helplines are available via: Telephone, Email, and Live Chat.

These crucial and unique resources enable people everywhere – including service members deployed overseas, home-bound individuals, and incarcerated parents (who may call us collect) – to benefit from LIFT’s support, guidance, and expertise. Bilingual (Spanish/English) Helpline Associates provide legal information and referrals to social and legal services. During the past year, LIFT served more than 14,000 individuals on the Helplines.

Population(s) Served
Adults

LIFT's 38 original, multilingual Legal Resource Guides (LRGs) are unique publications, available at all programs and on our website. They cover a wide range of family law issues, including procedural topics, such as how to begin a case and detailed information on litigant's rights and possible remedies in the array of case types. The LRGs are written at a fifth grade level (the national literacy standard)in ana easy-to-understand Q&A format . LIFT creates new Guides each year, most recently for Veterans and Military parents in Family Court. The LRGs are available in eight languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Korean, French, Haitian/Creole, and Hebrew. Over the past year, we distributed more than 80,000 copies of the LRGs at our Court-based programs, while over 50,000 visitors to our website accessed the online version of the LRGs, which may be downloaded.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Parents

LIFT is preparing to publically launch Family Legal Connection in early 2020. We have been developing this innovative online platform for two years. The project’s primary goal is to increase the number of families that benefit from the family law expertise of volunteer attorneys. To achieve this, FLC uses video conferencing and document-sharing technology to make our services accessible to unrepresented litigants regardless of their location or ability to reach the Family Courthouse. This reduces the need for long-distance trips to the Courthouse, eliminates barriers for physically challenged or homebound clients, and mitigates expensive burdens such as taking time away from work and securing childcare services. In addition, FLC expands LIFT’s service capacity by forging partnerships with firms and teams of attorneys that will provide pro bono services, as well as nonprofit service providers that refer their clients to FLC. It also enables pro bono attorneys to provide legal services from their own offices while reaching clients in virtually any location with internet access.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Parents

One of LIFT’s goals is to reach people before their situation reaches a crisis point that brings them to Family Court. To that end, LIFT is partnering with several community based programs to offer Know-Your-Rights workshops and legal clinics on site with program participants. LIFT’s outreach focuses on four priority populations– criminal justice involved/formerly incarcerated people; veterans; domestic violence survivors and offenders; and immigrants. Often their Family Court issues become secondary to their other issues and LIFT thus becomes a safety net to ensure that they address these critical family issues. Some of our new partners in the community include The Fortune Society, Children’s Aid, Legal Hand, Family Justice Centers, Samaritan Daytop Village, Queensboro Correctional Facility, and John Jay College.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Parents

Where we work

Awards

Semifinalist for New York Times Company Nonprofit Excellence Award 2009

New York Times Company

Samuel J. Duboff Memorial Award 2008

Fund for Modern Courts

Exemplary Court Program 2005

Association of Family and Conciliation Courts

Thom A. Fluellen Award 2009

NYU Community Fund

Kathryn A. McDonald Award for Excellence in Service to Family Court 2011

New York City Bar Association

Outstanding Contributions to Pro Bono and Access to Justice 2020

NYS Unified Court System Office for Justice Initiatives, NY County Lawyers Assoc., NYS Bar Assoc.

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of clients assisted with legal needs

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Family relationships

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of participants attending course/session/workshop

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Family relationships

Related Program

Community Legal Education & Outreach

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of referrals to resources offered

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Family relationships

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of crisis hotline calls answered

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Family relationships

Related Program

Helplines

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of groups/individuals benefiting from tools/resources/education materials provided

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Family relationships

Related Program

Community Legal Education & Outreach

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

47 Community Partners

Number of websites and organizations (outside of our organization) that share our resources and information

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Family relationships

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT) aims to enhance access to justice for New York families and children. LIFT provides parents, grandparents and other caregivers with legal information and advice, community education, and compassionate guidance. LIFT works to empower families going through the Family Court through our Education & Information Sites, Court Consultations, Helpline and Legal Resource Guides. LIFT also works to promote system wide reform of courts and public agencies.

Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT) is New York City's only nonprofit organization that empowers self-represented litigants to successfully self-advocate in Family Court. The people we serve are low-income; we estimate that their incomes are usually at or below 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. They include litigants who are not eligible for free legal services (e.g. the working poor who earn "too much" to qualify) and those who are not entitled to free, Court -appointed legal representation (e.g. parents embroiled in child support cases).

More than 80% of all Family Court litigants in New York proceed without counsel. Outside of LIFT, these litigants literally have no place to turn to receive the critical tools and support they need to represent themselves. All LIFT's work is driven by our mission: to enhance access to justice for children and families by providing legal information, community education, and compassionate guidance, while promoting system-wide reform of the courts and public agencies.

In the Family Courts, long delays and ongoing lack of sufficient resources have been among the numerous barriers to justice for pro se litigants. Given the strains on the system, LIFT's services are urgently needed to improve the administration of justice. LIFT's response to the challenges presented by the Family Court system combines several complementary strategies, all of which empower self-represented litigants to advocate for themselves in court. Our programs range from short-term interventions to in-depth, ongoing legal advice services. Family Court litigants in New York City have access to LIFT's Family Court-based programs:

- Education & Information Sites, which provide litigants with quick answers to urgent legal questions; and
- Court Consultations, which provide intensive support--as of 2017, including legal advice--to prose litigants proceeding in child support, custody and visitation cases.

LIFT also provides legal information services that are beneficial to the litigants both statewide and in NYC.
Services include:

- Family Law Information Helplines--available via toll-free telephone , email and live-chat--that provide access to LIFT from anywhere;
- Legal Resource Guides--original, multilingual publications that cover a wide range of family law issues, available in Family Courts, from partners, and on LIFT's website; and
- Legal Education--community-based workshops on Family Court and family law topics. LIFT's outreach focuses on four priority populations- criminal justice involved/formerly incarcerated people; veterans; domestic violence survivors and offenders; and immigrants.

LIFT is able to accomplish its goals through the work of its strong staff. LIFT successfully recruits and maintains a skilled and diverse staff of 18 that is representative of the communities we serve. Many speak at least one language in addition to English. All program personnel engage in a rigorous, comprehensive training designed and led by LIFT's Chief Programs Officer and Legal Director. In addition, the staff is augmented each year by an ethnically diverse pool of at least 30 interns and volunteers.

All employees, interns and volunteers, including attorneys, undergo extensive and ongoing training at LIFT to ensure that we are providing the best information and advice to our litigants. This includes a substantive family law training curriculum, with emphasis on the topics most addressed through our programs (paternity, child support, custody, visitation, and orders of protection, and a large component on the difference between legal information and legal advice. Training at the start of employment with LIFT also includes courtroom observations and shadowing experience employees. Since 2017, when LIFT added legal advice to our service portfolio, we train staff attorneys on the ethical issues/rules of professional conduct governing an attorney-client relationship and the practical applications of those issues. Wee cover : competence, scope of representation, privilege and confidentiality, and conflicts of interest. We train attorneys on how to use our engagement letter and how to explain the document and limited scope representation to clients in a way that is clear to them. All program staff are required to attend in-person, LIFT-organized, trainings eight times per year. Cultural competence elements are included in nearly all LIFT trainings.

In terms of substantive law, the change to the provision of legal advice has increased our (already vigilant) focus on updating staff on developments in the law, and how those developments play out in court. LIFT routinely brings in outside trainers through partner organizations to train on areas of law that intersect with Family Court. recent trainings have included such topics as : elder abuse; New York City housing law; domestic violence, self-care for lawyers; best practices for working with pro-bono lawyers; and judicial perspectives on family Court. Upcoming trainings will cover : implicit bias; impact of trauma: drafting court forms; restorative justice cultural competency; and matrimonial law, among other topics. All attorneys are expected to meet New York State's Continuing Legal Education requirements.

Each year LIFT serves over 30,000 parents and grandparents every year, in all five boroughs of New York City and throughout New York State.

In the year ahead, LIFT will continue to follow through on our ambitious plan to deepen our impact and meet needs that remain unmet. Our goals for 2020 entail achieving important new programmatic and organizational milestones for initiatives that are now largely underway.

1) Introducing our new name and brand for LIFT to convey the broadened scope of our critical and deepening services for Family Court litigants;
2) Publicly launching Family Legal Connection (FLC), our new, interactive, online platform for the provision of legal advice;
3) Scaling up FLC by partnering with the private sector to engage volunteer attorneys in providing pro bono legal advice to unrepresented Family Court litigants, while also partnering with local service providers to connect their clients with the attorneys;
4) Publishing new Legal Resource Guides (LRGs), and implementing plans to develop specific new LRGs for underserved constituencies; and
5) Expanding the accessibility of LIFT’s services in communities across New York City through legal clinics and educational programs, including Spanish-language workshops.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization collecting feedback from the people you serve?

    Electronic surveys (by email, tablet, etc.), Paper surveys, Case management notes, Community meetings/Town halls, Suggestion box/email,

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve,

  • What significant change resulted from feedback?

    Before we added legal advice to our portfolio in 2017, LIFT was providing legal information, which entails explaining to a participant what their options are, but not advising them on what they should do. (LIFT continues to provide legal information through our Helplines and EI Sites.) Based on frequent requests from the self-represented litigants LIFT serves, we determined that our in-depth Consultations should include legal advice, in which the lawyer recommends that the client select a specific course of action that will best help them achieve their legal goals.

  • With whom is the organization sharing feedback?

    Our staff, Our board, Our funders, Our community partners,

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback, The people we serve tell us they find data collection burdensome, It is difficult to identify actionable feedback,

Financials

Legal Information for Families Today
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Legal Information for Families Today

Board of directors
as of 12/29/2020
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Mr. William Silverman

Proskauer Rose LLP

Term: 2011 -

Leslie Abbey

Covenant House New York

William Silverman

Proskauer Rose LLP

Roy Haynes

Citi Global Markets Inc.

Philip Cohen

Greenberg Traurig, LLP

Gabriella Nawi

Travelers

Sheri Sandler

Reba Judith Sandler Foundation

Robert Schiffer

SL Green Realty Corp.

Anupam Ladha

Ellie Becker

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Corey Chambliss

Rebecca Simmons

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

Abigail Davis

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP

Wendy Dessy

Proskauer Rose LLP

Nancy Hart

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP

Valerie Farkas

Bloomberg

Susan Warren

Community Volunteer

Benjamin Wu

TPG Sixth Street Partners

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 12/23/2020,

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight

Race & ethnicity

No data

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data