The Joseph Project connects human trafficking survivors with skilled attorneys who provide pro bono legal representation. The services we offer are designed to assess legal needs, initiate referrals, empower survivors, and educate the public.

1 Assess


“Human trafficking cases are often complex and multi-dimensional… [Trafficking survivors constitute] a very vulnerable population in desperate need of high-quality legal assistance.” [1]

If a human trafficking survivor is identified, and she or he has legal needs that arise from the circumstances of their exploitation, we stand available to assess how to appropriately address those needs. Survivors may contact us directly or be referred by a third party. Once contact is established, a thorough intake process is conducted. This process involves a comprehensive interview to assess the precise nature of the legal issues the survivor faces. Interview findings are documented, contact information is maintained, and appropriate follow up is encouraged. Please note that the scope of our mission is defined by statutory human trafficking definitions. While many forms of exploitation exist, our services are currently limited to those who have been commercially exploited for sex or labor services through force, fraud, or coercion. If the intake process does not yield information demonstrating the existence of a legal issue arising from this form of exploitation, the circumstances fall outside the scope of our mission.

[1] American Bar Association,  
2 Initiate


“Trafficking victims have a wide range of civil legal needs, depending on their personal circumstances and the trafficking situation they have endured. Some will need only limited legal services for a short period of time, while others will have multiple legal issues that may last for many years.” [2]

If eligibility is established based on intake findings, we initiate a referral process designed to connect the survivor with the most appropriate form of advocacy. Our Legal First Responders network is composed of volunteer attorneys who are licensed, active, and in good standing with their State Bar, allowing them to respond promptly when a referral is made.  Additionally, we make every effort to match survivors with attorneys who specialize in their specific areas of need. Once the connection between survivor and lawyer is made, we strive to maintain contact with all relevant parties, facilitating communication, providing status updates, and ensuring that matters are advancing in a timely fashion. Due to the inherently interactive nature of attorney-client relationships, survivors are best positioned to benefit from legal counsel when they are operating within a context of stability and sobriety.  Consequently, referrals are most appropriate when survivors maintain a consistent presence within a stable residence and demonstrate a sustained commitment to drug avoidance.  Please also note that legal issues often present complicated factual scenarios that require significant research and preparation time to address. Thus, the more advance notice we are given concerning a potential legal need, the better positioned we will be to initiate a timely referral.

[2] U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime,
3 Empower


“The U.S. legal system is highly complex and fractured… It is important to keep the victim informed of the status of any and all legal proceedings, and equally important for other providers working with the victim to understand the complexities of the legal process.” [3]

When survivors are connected to Legal First Responders, they gain access to officers of the court who are trained to advocate on their behalf. This advocacy empowers survivors to navigate complex court systems, legal procedures, and professional protocols that are often confusing to those who lack formal legal training.  The professional level of advocacy an attorney offers is often the difference between overcoming a legal obstacle and remaining inhibited by it.  While a desired result is never guaranteed, achieving a positive outcome is far more likely with the support of skilled legal counsel. Additionally, the intake process often reveals other areas of potential need. When this occurs, we strive to further empower survivors by helping them identify other available services to support their future success.

[3] U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime,
4 Educate


“Legal providers will likely need additional training and support to meet the unique needs of trafficking victims. Legal service providers can also be critical partners in outreach and education initiatives.” [4]

To ensure that survivors are connected to the legal assistance they require, both the legal community and the general public must be educated to better understand the crime of human trafficking and the legal challenges that commonly result. We accommodate human trafficking training requests whenever possible in order to provide this foundational level of instruction. If the public is educated concerning the issue of human trafficking, survivors can be more readily identified and referred to legal counsel. If you are interested in scheduling a human trafficking training presentation, you can request a speaker by sending us a message through the Contact page.

[4] U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime,