Prior to beginning this discussion, read Chapter 3, Core Values and Ethics of Organizational Development and Case Study 1: Analyzing Opportunities for Organizational Development Work at Northern County Legal Services (located at the end of Chapter 3). Answer the following questions from the perspective of a human resources manager.
What is it like to work in the environment described in the case study? How do you respond to Julie as a leader? Compare Julie as a leader with some of the descriiptions of leadership styles provided in Chapter 2.
What organization, team, and individual problems can you identify? What opportunities for organizational development work do you see?
How do the opportunities you have identified illustrate the values and ethical beliefs of organizational development identified in this chapter?
Your initial response should be at least 250 words.
“Case Study 1: Analyzing Opportunities for Organization Development Work at Northern County Legal Services
Read the Northern County Legal Services case and consider the following questions:
What is it like to work in this environment? How do you respond to Julie as a leader? Compare Julie as a leader with some of the descriiptions of leadership styles provided in Chapter 2.What organizational, team, and individual problems can you identify? What opportunities for organization development work do you see?How do the opportunities you have identified illustrate the values and ethical beliefs of organization development identified in this chapter?
“Good morning. Northern County Legal Services,” Christina said. “How can I help you? Yes, I see. Okay, why don’t I schedule a time for you to stop by and talk with one of us about your situation and we can see how we can help? I’m free on the 12th at 3:30 p.m. Does that work for you? Excellent. And you know where our office is located? Yes, right across the street. Good. I’ll look forward to speaking with you then.”
It was already packed in the office of Northern County Legal Services (NCLS), a nonprofit organization located just outside the downtown district. In the small waiting room, nearly 20 clients waited for assistance while a team of staff members handled walk-in visitors and made appointments. With no air-conditioning, the room was starting to get hot on the sunny August afternoon as the chairs filled up.
“I’m sorry. Mr. Gaines? I think you’re next.” Christina looked at the growing crowd.
“Oh, no, no, no, no.” A tall woman rose from her chair and stepped forward, raising her voice. “I’ve been here since 10 a.m. and I was here first. I’m next. He needs to wait his turn.” She looked around the room for support, and some heads nodded as those waiting began to look at one another in frustration.
“Yes, I’m sorry that you’ve waited so long, but Mr. Gaines had made an appointment,” Christina said.
“Yeah, for 11:30,” Mr. Gaines scoffed.
“It will only be a few more minutes until someone is with you,” Christina offered.
“You need to get more organized,” the woman said as she rolled her eyes. She returned to her seat, fanning herself with a 2-year-old copy of an entertainment magazine.
Christina looked her watch: 12:20. Her parking meter was already expired. “Have a seat, sir, and I’ll be right with you.” She grabbed her purse and quickly headed to the front door. “And just where do you think you’re going, Miss?” a voice came from the waiting room. “She can’t take it anymore,” another voice offered, as laughter rose from the corner.
Christina ran the four blocks to where her car was parked. There was already a yellow envelope with a $25 parking ticket lodged under her windshield wiper.
Northern County Legal Service’s mission is to match clients who cannot afford legal counsel with a lawyer willing to offer pro bono services. NCLS specializes in housing and employment law but also matches clients with attorneys who assist with almost any legal need, including domestic violence and family law. The service is free to clients (though some pay for some services on a sliding scale based on their income). The remainder of the funding comes from grants, and the center is staffed almost entirely by a group of 15 volunteers and law school students. Students form the majority of the staff, and they receive internship credit, usually volunteering at the center during their third year of law school. Most students participate in the center only for one semester, and competition among students is tough to receive one of the volunteer slots.
The one full-time employee is a director, Julie, who has been at the center for about 2 years. Aside from running the office, managing volunteers and students, finding attorneys, and conducting training workshops for both students and volunteer attorneys, Julie’s main concern is funding, which is a constant issue.
The small office where NCLS is housed consists of a waiting room and four offices. Julie keeps one of the four offices as her own, and the other three are taken by students or volunteers who work for 10 to 20 hours per week, usually in 4- to 6-hour shifts. Each of the four offices has a computer, and there is one printer shared by the center. At any given time, there might be as many as eight volunteers who share the three offices, meeting with clients to perform the “intake” functions.
The intake process begins with a client who arrives on a walk-in or appointment basis, and the initial meeting usually lasts for about an hour. Depending on the client’s need, the intake paperwork consists of three to six pages of single-spaced questions that the staff members ask clients in order to be able to provide the most help. Intake forms also contain client demographic data, such as household income and household size, which is needed for the center to compile monthly, quarterly, and annual statistics that grant funders require in order to measure the center’s progress.
It was 7:30 a.m. as Julie walked into the office. The phone was already ringing, but she let it go to voice mail as she turned on her computer and quickly sorted through the phone messages that had piled up since she left yesterday afternoon. Nothing that couldn’t wait until later in the morning, she thought. In the waiting room, the staff began to gather for the monthly staff meeting. This is the time when Julie covers the statistics for the prior month with the staff, gives updates, and answers questions.
“Good morning.” Julie looked around the room. About two-thirds of the staff were seated in the uncomfortable assorted chairs, which had been donated or purchased at minimal cost over the past several years. “Today I want to cover a few things. First, the importance of getting the intake paperwork complete; second, scheduling; and third, timely filings.” She looked around the room at the bleary-eyed group, many of whom held coffee cups as they avoided eye contact.
“Fine? Good. Melinda? I noticed that many of you are making the same mistake as Melinda in failing to fully complete page 6 of the housing intake form. For example, here’s the copy of the one you completed last week. Where the form asks for service date, we really need that to complete the filing motion for the client. If we don’t have it, we have to call them to get it. I’ve noticed a few of these that have been blank in the past week or two. Does everyone understand that?” Heads nodded in agreement.
“Where do we put the intake form for housing after it’s done?” Eric asked.
“In the intake inbox on the filing cabinet in Julie’s office,” Monica offered.
“I thought that was only for urgent motions,” Eric said. “I’ve been putting the nonurgent ones in the inbox in the hallway.”
“That’s right,” Julie said. “Actually I’d prefer it if you handed the urgent ones directly to me and put the nonurgent ones in the hallway box. You can put the urgent ones in my box if I’m not here.”
“What’s urgent?” Monica asked.
“Urgent means if it’s been 4 or 5 days since the client received an eviction notice,” Julie said. “The fifth day is the most critical.”
“What do we do if you aren’t here but it’s been 5 days?” Monica asked.
“Then you can either call my cell phone and let me know that it’s waiting, or you can call an attorney from the list,” Julie said. “Or you can do it yourself but wait to file it until I can verify it after you’re done.”
“Do we do that for the domestic violence restraining order requests also?” Annette asked.
“No, those should be filed in the top drawer of the cabinet until another staff member can take the intake form and call a volunteer attorney to take the case,” Julie said.
“Why can’t I just call immediately to get the process started more quickly?” Annette said. “If I’ve done the intake, why can’t I just continue to the next step?”
Julie was beginning to get frustrated. “Look, everyone, we went over this in training. It’s important that this all be handled as we discussed it before.”
Julie continued as, out of earshot, Annette leaned over and whispered to Monica, “Yeah, training was what, like an hour? I still don’t understand why there are so many procedures.”
“I know,” Monica said, “and I feel so incompetent about housing law. My specialty has been family law. I’d rather learn about that part of the center, but I keep getting these eviction intakes. And the paperwork is incredible. I spent an hour with a client yesterday and only got about two pages’ worth of information. I ran over my next appointment trying to get the rest.”
“I had the same experience,” Annette said. “The clients have such detailed histories, and they need to share their whole story. I talked to a woman whose boyfriend shoved her against a wall and broke her wrist. She started to cry, and I was thinking that I can’t very well interrupt her and say, ‘Sorry, ma’am, but that’s Question 65. We’re still on Question 14, so can you tell me your combined annual income?’ And I had three of those same intakes yesterday. I went home completely drained last night.”
Monica nodded. “I’ve heard stories like that, too. The part I hate is when I have to pick up the paperwork out of the inbox and file the motion when I didn’t do the intake. The other day Julie started shouting at me because I missed a note on an intake that Christina did and I had to refile the motion. I almost missed the deadline but I stayed 2 hours later than usual and got it all done. It was gratifying but emotionally exhausting. It’s hard even to come in sometimes. I wonder, are we even making progress here?”
“Now what’s she talking about?” Annette looked up at Julie.
“So that’s why you need to make sure that Dave has your weekly schedule, so he can keep the appointment schedule accurate with hourly time blocks for intakes,” Julie concluded.
Julie returned to her office. There were two messages from the Dylan Foundation president wanting to know about last quarter’s statistics. He had threatened to pull funding for next year unless the center began to show more progress in winning cases where disabled clients were about to be evicted. She knew that the staff had done great work recently, but they had only begun to compile the statistics and she could not yet prove it with charts and graphs. He’d be fine after she met with him, she thought. She made a mental note to bring two recent success story case studies to her meeting with him.
Rafael appeared in the doorway. “Julie, what do we do when the service date on the subpoena doesn’t match the date on the submission form? Can you show me how we address that in the reply?”
“Yes. Well, actually, ask Kyle because I showed him the same thing last week,” Julie answered.
“Kyle’s not here until 3, and I have to have the motion done for the client to pick up at noon,” Rafael said.
“Okay. Just give me a few minutes and I’ll be right there,” Julie replied.
“Thanks,” Rafael said.
Jean was right behind him. “Julie, I have an urgent housing motion here that needs to be filed. Do you want this now?”
Julie took the intake form and looked through it. A woman with a $900 monthly income and an infant son and 2-year-old daughter received an eviction notice for being one day late on her $800 rent. A court filing would be due tomorrow.
“I have a meeting this afternoon and can’t do it today. Why don’t you put it in the hallway box and maybe someone can get to it today? Otherwise, I’ll get to it tomorrow,” Julie said.
Jean paused for a moment. “Okay, I’ll do that,” she said.”