Claudia Johnson On Ideas for the 2012 TIG Round

The Legal Services Corporation has made available their Letter of Intent Request for this cycle of TIG grants. The letters are due 3/12/2012. More information can be found here.

The areas of interest are 4 this year:

a) using mobile devices,

b) leveraging technology to promote pro bono and law student involvement

c)technology tools with applicability to Federal law and

d) using data to analyze service delivery and develop advocacy strategies.

This information can be found here

Some areas from past years are not listed, however that does not mean that LSC is not interested in them — for example innovations to improve access to legal services and justice for Limited English Proficient populations.

Here is a list of potential ideas for this cycle:

  1. Outeach via SMS Text: creating text campaigns to promote specific online tools and to send materials in statewide websites based on strategic advocacy campaigns. Say your legal aid is looking for a certain type of case. You could create an SMS campaing with a catchy name, and ask people who are interested in learning more about that to text you. Once they text you could send them a link to a problem reporting form, information of your statewide website, or information about the government agencies that enforce the issue. You can use a facebook page for the campaign. You would probably want to keep any information from potential clients off the handheld devices, but you can send information to a large number of people this way and ask them come to your webpage to go further. You could do this without the strategic piece also, and use this to push information about difficult issues to identify to create awareness. So for October, you could have a stalking campaign, a sexual assault campaign—and send information on what is stalking, sexual assault, and resources. For teens and hard to reach populations texting may be a safe way to start learning about an issue.  Some SMS text providers: are Mobile Commons and Frontline SMS. I don’t endorse these vendors—these are vendors who have shown an interest in meeting the needs of legal non profits.
  2. Using texting to track the filing or outcome of forms: ask those who assemble forms online to text when they file an online forms, or when they get the outcome of a case—track using GPS cell phone features, without asking for confidential information. You would be able to tell at what court house the filings are taking place, because you could link the campaign that lists of court houses or welfare offices by zipcode.  (One word of caution to texting: all legal aid groups exploring cell phones and apps—need to do research on the security of communications on handheld devices. For attorney/client communications, and communications with prospective clients the programs will probably want to use secure channels. Some states are starting to draft ethics opinions on technology based services, including text messaging. You will want to explore the ethical aspects of collecting any personal identifiable information etc. Here is a blog from Stephanie Kimbro with an example from NC).
  3. Create national websites focused on national advocacy communities—instead of creating regional/state based websites that present civil poverty law area, create national websites that focus on what problem and pull the content from the state wide websites on that issue , to empower information seekers and support pro bono advocates and legal aid lawyers working together on national advocacy that is issue based. These type of website would be hybrid in the sense that they would display information/tools to the public at large and allow a password protected library for lawyers to register to get access to a library of resources, including briefs, pleadings, outlines, and access to mentors, training, etc. In this type of website, you would add/create specific tools that deal with different aspects of the issue.  Examples include the LSC funded Veteran’s Website, or the national disaster legal aid website, There are many others. Topics where there may be gaps in the legal services community could include, sexual assault, expungement, stalking, fair housing.
  4. Create a legal aid public library widget—create a website that library users can download from public library public computers. The widget can include online tools—like forms, surveys, videos, interactive schedules of group trainings and large group clinics and outreach sessions.  A place to visit to learn more about what public libraries are doing with technology, visit WebJunction, a training place capacity building site for public libraries. They have many excellent materials and resources here, some very relevant to legal aid and access to justice partners
  5. Explore the use of handheld 8X11 devices to support pro bono lawyers and their training. Pre load tablets w/content specific to pro bono lawyers and let the lawyers use those in court while doing a pro bono case. We had blogged about ideas for hand held pad before, here:
  6. Create/adopt a virtual practice extensions to LawHelp Interactive and advocate webpages—to enable legal aid lawyers to  start experimenting with “virtual practice tools” for their regular cases. Stephanie Kimbro did a keynote at the TIG conference.
  7. Create websites for those without lawyers engaged in litigation in Family Law, housing, consumer, and small claims. These websites would be very specific to litigation in local, limited jurisdiction type courts—and would include materials from the statewide websites. Information not related to litigation would not be included in this website. The website prototype would include webcasts and materials on the basic of litigation, including dealing with interrogatories, how to prepare for a hearing, presenting evidence in hearings, different types of stipulations and judgements, settlement agreements and options, collecting on judgements, enforcing a judgement. Online forms would be created as appropriate. These websites should be considered in collaboration with local courts. The NY Courts have created a very good site that they call court help. Their report on their Access to Justice Initiatives, with focus on technology starts at page 21 here:  Legal Aid groups collaborating with non profits should consider reading this report to look at all the possible ways key strategic tools can be created to enhance access to justice, including online forms, which in NY they call DIY forms, powered by LawHelp Interactive. For more information about LawHelp Interactive go to
  8. Replicating the TED translation project, but in the legal aid/court community.
  9. Doing a survey of security risks for the mobile applications that are now being done in the legal aid field, by cell phone type, and common social media websites—use the result to train and educate legal aid groups doing mobile applications and ultimately end users.
  10. Integrate online forms to court efiling systems specifically designed for SRL efilers. A new project is starting in Minnesota and LawHelp Interactive under the leadership of Central Minnesota Legal Services. The project will create an efiling system for those without lawyers using LawHelp interactive forms.
  11. Explore the use of other communication tools for trainings and for support of remote advocates or attorneys. Of particular interest is Avaya’s Web Alive environmnent. This is basically bringing gaming into the every day work place. This tool could be piloted to supervise remote attorneys, remote pro bono lawyers, or with assisted pro se users, or for remote training—to allow for interaction that is more personal and real time than using a two dimensional webinar tool. It could also be piloted in high touch court self help centers where Justice Corps or other volunteers help the SRL learn how to interact with their remote attorney in this 3 D world. In the 3D environment, lawyers, self help center staff, and legal aid lawyers could meet to review pleadings, have case conferences, trainings, use online forms, etc. Avaya offers non-profit rates and government rates.

About richardzorza

I am deeply involved in access to justice and the patient voice movement.
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2 Responses to Claudia Johnson On Ideas for the 2012 TIG Round

  1. Claudia Johnson says:

    I can visualize this great idea. The tip of the day approach is a good concept–with focus on making American Legal Systems 101 type info for immigrant communities easy to read in multiple languages is a very good idea. There is already a set of very good glossaries in multiple langauges by the Sacramento Courts. That could be put into plain language–so there is already a base. Maybe a legal aid can pair up w/a law school–to see if law students could help create this type of tool. Then, it could be streamed to all statewide websites that want multilingual content, and also to court partners that have SRL strategies that include LEP materials. Hopefully someone will be interested, if not for TIG, for another type of funding.

  2. Cristina Llop says:

    great ideas! one thing that occurred to me is some type of a “tip of the day” app that sends a text message a day to subscribers with a “tip of the day” with maybe a referral number to legal aid or other relevant agency… for e.g. a “tip” about domestic violence with the number for the national domestic violence hotline… kind of like “word of the day” apps, with a short concept to educate/inform people. you could also develop one with an LEP component that could also be used to educate non-US born people about some legal concepts in the US. there could be one in spanish, one in Chinese, etc with cross-cultural info for navigating the system here.

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