Michigan has launched its self-help site, michiganlegalhelp.org.
It is notable for its question-oriented menuing. The top level menu is the traditional Family, Housing, etc, list, although it includes more cross cutting topics like Find a Lawyer, and Community Services. But once you click on those, you are offered lists of questions like “I need a divorce and I do not have minor children.” Many of these, after you select a county (as in this example) then take you to a toolkit that includes common questions, articles, forms, find a lawyer, court information etc. This approach is much closer to the needed problem solving structure than many sites.
The site is also notable for the integration of online and “brick and mortar” services. As the press release explains:
The website was created to make legal information easier to understand and to show people how to navigate the court system properly and efficiently. The website can also help users look for a lawyer or legal self-help center in their area if they need more assistance. New Michigan Legal Help self-help centers affiliated with the website are open in Oscoda and Allegan Counties and will be opening later in Oakland and Wayne Counties. Information about and links to these and other Michigan self-help centers are on the website.
This in its turn has been made possible by a broad planning group that has included a wide variety of stakeholders, through the Solutions on Self-Help Task Force, established in April, 2010 by then Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly. The site is funded by the Michigan State Bar Foundation and LSC. The unusually strong leadership of the Bar Foundation in getting this project going must be credited, together with the cooperation of courts and legal aid. (Disclosure: I have worked with the Foundation in various ways, particularly very early in the process.)
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