Helping The Lawyers Who Help The Community
Providing pro bono services to low-cost lawyers
When Derek Binkley’s wife, Jennifer, started working for Community Justice, Inc., in Madison, Wisconsin, he little suspected that he too would soon be working for the organization, but on a volunteer basis. The non-profit law firm, where Jennifer Binkley is Development Director and Managing Attorney, provides affordable legal services to low-income families and individuals in South Central Wisconsin, and has grown quite a bit since Jennifer (pictured above with Derek) joined.
“When my wife started there, I think about 12 years ago, they had a couple of other volunteers, but they were much smaller and their needs weren’t as big,” Binkley said. “Back then, filing stuff, you got a volunteer to take the paperwork to the courthouse. Now, the need for technology is so much bigger, and the costs just keep going up and up. So I’ve been able over time to step up and do a lot more.”
Now, Binkley, a senior software engineer for TurnTo Networks, Inc. (the company behind the Good Turns blog), does “pretty much everything technology-related” for the non-profit. “I really keep their office up and running,” he told Good Turns recently. And his assistance goes beyond just helping set up computers and troubleshooting wonky WiFi connections. “I’ve got about four or five things I’m working on for them right now,” he says. “One is, I’m working with the phone company to get some older networking equipment switched out so it can get transitioned over to newer stuff that’s less prone to breaking.”
“There are not a lot of people who can do this and would be willing to do this in this area”
“I help them purchase all the equipment, I keep it up and running. I help solicit donations. Sometimes people donate stuff but it’s only 75 percent working,” Binkley says. “So I help recycle that equipment and get it so they can actually use it. A little over five years ago they moved offices, and I was able to get a donation of networking Ethernet cable from my office. We had thousands of feet of it we had pulled out of the wall of this old place that didn’t need it any more. I got some volunteers and we wired their whole office. So they got the networking of the office done for free.”
After a decade of volunteering for Community Justice, Binkley says it is still “one of those areas where I can see the impact on people so heavily. There’s not a lot of other people stepping up to help out. That’s something that gets me really interested in coming back and keeping doing it. It’s dealing with really complex, messy issues: domestic violence, evictions, they have programs for people with mental health issues, homelessness. There’s a huge need for this.”
“It’s just really rewarding, because whenever I visit their office, everyone there is just so appreciative,” Binkley reports. “Everybody there has been an attorney or has volunteered from law school or something, so they’re not very tech savvy. When technology doesn’t work it’s extremely frustrating, especially if you’re trying to get your job done. The attorneys are on the phone a lot, they use their computers a lot, and now, in our country, everything is e-filed. There are not a lot of people who can do this and would be willing to do this in this area. So it just feels good when I can help them out and see that appreciation, that’s really great. So even though I don’t work with the clients directly, I still get to see that. It’s nice to have this behind-the-scenes role.”
And it’s nice for us that Binkley chose to step out from behind the scenes to let us know about his work. In fact, Good Turns first learned about his work because he reached out to tell us the story. Got a story of your own good turn, or one you received? Reach out and tell us about it. Perhaps you’ll see it on the blog one day soon.
Posted May 11, 2018