New York Times Reports on High School-Based Legal Triage

The Times has a nice story on how a high school teacher with a law degree runs a clinic at eight high schools, with what looks like brief service and triage.

The foundation is based at Mr. Kass’s own school, Infinity Math, Science and Technology High School, one of four high schools that are part of the Little Village Lawndale High School campus. The location makes sense, Mr. Kass said, because public schools were an ideal place to provide legal services to low-income families.

Mr. Kass described the foundation’s legal work as “triage,” and used his fingers to tick off the issues that have come to his attention: “My uncle got arrested, the landlord says we have to move, my mom’s boyfriend beat her up, domestic abuse, orders of protection, immigration, homelessness,” he said. “Sometimes I have to say there’s nothing I can do. Sadly, anything I do is better than what they had.”

An example:

Cadmiel Avendaño, a 2010 Little Village Lawndale graduate, agreed. Mr. Avendaño, who is now a chemical engineering student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said his parents had saved enough to buy a house in 2006 but did not realize their mortgage had a variable interest rate. When they fell behind on their payments and the bank threatened foreclosure in 2010, Mr. Kass referred them to an agency that helped with the paperwork for a loan modification.

One way of thinking about this is that perhaps some of the excess legal graduates (defined in terms of what the market will absorb, not what the need is) could get jobs in other kinds of institutions, and set up such assistance and referral systems in those institutions.  Such folks should get somewhat higher pay because of their credentials and services.  And, insurance companies should find ways to provide low malpractice rates for such people.

Note too that technology such as informational webpages and document assembly — not to mention online triage — could make such assistance and referral locations much more efficient and much more accurate.

It would be nice to see access to justice commissions promoting such partnerships.  Maybe someone should submit a TIG to create a front end for such school services, or maybe a court could go to SJI for school outreach for self-help centers.

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About richardzorza

I am deeply involved in access to justice and the patient voice movement.
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