This is Part Two of our NewsMaker Interview with Wayne Moore, author of Delivering Legal Services to Low-Income People. Part One, here, included discussion of what Wayne has learned about how a system should be built, what components it should include, how to maximize impact, and what metrics can be used by programs for self-assessment and improvement. In Part Two Wayne discusses the roles of access the justice commissions, pro bono, technology, and LSC, and gives his vision of what he sees happening in the next ten years
Richard Zorza: What about the role of Access to Justice Commissions? How should they coordinate the service delivery system, and how should they use metrics to do it?
Wayne Moore: Their most important role is to establish statewide, centralized intake centers. This won’t happen without their leadership and clout as programs will strongly resist this. The currently fragmented system of intake is very confusing to clients and the agencies that refer them. Current intake systems waste a lot of money as every non-productive referral costs about $16 dollars, which is better spent on services. Also, the centralized intake center will generate all the data needed for the metrics, including case outcomes obtained by calling back clients six months after they are referred. The metrics can be used to spot potential problems that require further evaluation. If problems are spotted, the Commissions can ask for additional data (described in my book) that most programs currently collect but do not report. If these data also indicate that problems exist, onsite evaluations should be used. Commissions would have to ensure that corrective action was being taken by continuing to track the metrics and using other forms of feedback.
Richard Zorza: What is your view of how pro bono is organized? Are we taking full advantage of its potential, and what should we be doing differently?
Wayne Moore: In researching my book, I made two important discoveries:
1) On average, programs only refer cases to 30 percent of their volunteers;
2) Most of the cases referred only require advice or brief services
The low utilization of volunteers is caused in part by the failure of programs to have a case mix that matches the expertise of volunteers. Instead of spending most of their time training volunteers and developing and referring cases, pro bono staff should use an Internet-based scheduling system that allows volunteers to commit in advance (and change as needed) the types of cases they will accept and the months during which they will accept them. This commitment process should be a condition of participation. Staff can then refer cases without additional volunteer approval and devote their time to finding the right case mix through partnerships with libraries, social service agencies, and the courts.
Most of the cases referred to volunteers actually require only advice or brief services. The cost of placing an advice/brief services case is the same as placing an extended services case, since the legal work is free. It actually costs less to use paid staff to handle advice/brief services cases than to recruit volunteers and develop and refer these cases to them. Therefore, LSC and other funders should set standards to require the referral of more extended services cases, as these are the greatest unmet need of clients.
Richard Zorza : What about technology? How are we doing? What do you see as the next wave of technology?
Wayne Moore: The priority should be the use of document generators that produce all the documents and pleadings that advocates require. These generators already exist and can be accessed by programs. Fill-in and cut-and-paste forms can require three to five times more time to complete than the use of these progrms. These generators are key to the higher productivity levels achieved by prepaid legal services programs.
Richard Zorza: What role does LSC need to play in all this?
Wayne Moore: The LSC Board could make several decisions that would improve and expand services:
1) LSC policies and practices do not encourage grantees to be productive. The Corporation could take a number of steps to greatly improve grantee productivity:
- Develop national performance benchmarks to help grantees assess their own productivity.
- Require grantees to report additional data they already collect to allow LSC to better measure their productivity.
- Encourage grantees to adopt more productive delivery systems, such as legal hotlines, court-based self–help centers, and brief services units/pro se workshops.
- Better assess grantee productivity as part of the regular evaluation process.
- Create a “culture of productivity” by emphasizing productivity in policies, practices, and evaluations.
- Urge grantees to routinely deliver unbundled legal services by offering training, resources, and other support.
2) LSC should improve intake by:
- Requiring grantees in states with multiple LSC grantees to use a single, statewide telephone intake center as their primary source of intake.
- Mandating that grantees with multiple offices establish a centralized telephone intake center as the primary source of intake for all their offices and units.
- Requiring these centralized telephone intake systems to coordinate with all other providers of legal services to low-income people, such as court-based self-help centers, law school clinics, law libraries, and pro bono programs.
- Making the key objective of intake the referral of clients to the least expensive, delivery system capable of addressing their needs.
- Discouraging case acceptance meetings, which we know take a lot of time without improving outcomes.
3) LSC should focus on how its grantees use their existing volunteer lawyers by:
- Requiring grantees to set and meet goals for the percentage of recruited volunteer lawyers who receive case referrals each year.
- Requiring grantees to set and meet goals for the percentage of cases referred to pro bono lawyers that require extended services.
4) LSC should improve quality by:
- As part of its evaluation process, ensuring that each delivery system used by a grantee has an appropriate quality-control mechanism.
- Encouraging grantees to establish a quality-control committee responsible for establishing and managing best practice techniques and standards (and goals for the number of cases closed).
- Mandating that grantees report standardized case outcomes and standardized client satisfaction surveys in aggregate form.
- Requiring grantees to prepare and manage annual work plans.
Richard Zorza: What about IOLTA programs?
Wayne Moore: The recommendations I suggest for access to justice commissions and LSC would apply to them as well.
Richard Zorza: What do you see happening in the next ten years?
Wayne Moore: There will be a lot of changes.
In the future, clients will use one-stop shopping to access legal services, by making a phone call, using the Internet, or walking into a court or law library. A centralized intake center will handle all phone calls and online inquiries and serve as the primary source of clients for all legal services providers in a state, including legal aid programs, court-based self-help centers, law school clinics, and pro bono programs. Each provider will, in turn, establish a centralized intake center to receive referrals from the statewide center and direct them to the proper unit or branch office within the program. Providers will supplement these cases by using active intake to obtain the remaining cases they need to meet program priorities and objectives.
Clients will receive a broader continuum of services in a more productive manner as follows:
- Court-delivered self-help services for uncontested court cases and contested cases where there is little judicial discretion (e.g., Chapter 7 bankruptcy, child support, temporary protective orders).
- Hotline advice to help clients who have disputes with third parties and those who can represent themselves in court based on advice and the use of a kiosk or website to prepare the necessary pleadings.
- Document preparation from a brief services unit for most legal documents, such as wills, powers of attorney and advance directives, as well as court pleadings in some cases.
- Extended brief services from a brief services unit when the client needs help drafting the necessary pleadings and step-by-step advice throughout the court process (as court-based self-help centers don’t usually provide advice). Providing extended brief services would not involve having the advocate talk to third parties, sign anything, or appear in court. For example, in a child support case, many clients need help preparing the pleadings, subpoenaing the necessary evidence, and performing the child support calculations. But they can often file the pleadings, arrange for the service of process, and represent themselves at the hearing. This approach is only suitable for fairly routine cases where clients are capable of self-help and the other side is not represented by an attorney.
- Unbundled legal services for clients who need the representation of an attorney or paralegal at a court or agency hearing, but are capable of handling other aspects of their cases. For example, in the child support matter discussed above, clients might be able to prepare the pleadings using a kiosk or the Internet, for review by an advocate. Clients could file the pleadings, arrange for service of process, and file other documents in the case. With coaching, they could even attend some preliminary hearings by themselves, such as scheduling hearings and hearings to compel discovery. The advocate provides legal advice and document preparation throughout the process and enters an appearance in the case only when the client first needs representation in court.
- Full representation by staff advocates or pro bono attorneys
Software like A2J will guide clients through the steps they must take to represent themselves in court. Soon such software will be available in every state for all common uncontested cases, including guardianships, conservatorships, adoptions, bankruptcies, and divorces. Eventually this will be expanded to such contested cases as protective orders, landlord/tenant disputes, and even contested divorces. This software will tell clients when to consult a lawyer and link them to document generators, videos, checklists, and scripts, as needed.
Document generators available on websites will help clients prepare most legal documents including wills, powers of attorney, discovery documents, motions, and court orders for review by a legal advocate. Videos of routine landlord/tenant and small claims hearings will be available to help pro se litigants handle these hearings on their own. Eventually, videos of all common court hearings will be available, including scheduling hearings, hearings on motions, and trials. Scripts and checklists will accompany videos to help clients prepare the evidence needed for these hearings. Similar videos and materials will be available for government agency hearings concerning eligibility for unemployment, food stamps, Medicaid, Medicare, SSI, etc.
Providers’ boards of directors will set the percentage of program resources that should be devoted to impact advocacy, community education, materials development, and outreach. Programs will prepare annual work plans to manage this work, including goals, objectives, allocations of staff time, timelines, and action steps, to ensure coordination among all staff. The objectives will be measureable and programs will collect and review outcomes data.
Programs will utilize a broader range of impact advocacy strategies to avoid a violation of any restrictions imposed by funders. Better methods of measuring impact will be developed to help compare the impact of grantees.
Pro bono programs will begin to focus on finding cases that match the expertise of all the volunteer attorneys who are available. This should double or triple the number of cases closed by existing programs. Pro bono attorneys will increasingly be used for cases that require extended representation or unbundled services. Lawyers who want to handle only advice and brief services cases will be used in high-volume delivery systems where they can handle more cases per session, such as court-based self-help centers, pro se clinics, and hotlines.
Online groups of clients are likely to form. They could involve people dealing with divorce, child custody and support issues, or tenants living in substandard housing. While these websites will require monitoring to make sure non-lawyer participants don’t provide legal advice to each other, they will offer links to appropriate legal information and document generators. The groups will also share other information that will help participants achieve holistic solutions to their legal problems.
Low-income communities will use these social networks to empower their members by sharing information on the availability of public benefits, local jobs, housing, etc. The networks will help members organize to correct systemic problems, and individuals will maintain blogs that inform the media and others about injustices affecting a community. Organizations that serve these online communities will be able to post useful information and links and guide participants in their efforts to resolve systemic problems.
Richard Zorza: Thanks so much, Wayne. I hope everyone will want to explore your ideas in more detail in your book, available at https://www.createspace.com/3466223,