Great article in Slate on technology and access to justice.
The article describes many of the things our programs are doing — for example:
Like everyone else, lawyers for the poor are trying to do more with less, as government grants and private funding have dried up. Increasingly, that means turning to tech, using new tools to deliver information to clients, support volunteer lawyers, and improve their own systems. They’re using text messaging, automated call-backs, Web chats, and computer-assisted mapping.
A crush of new clients is pushing the growing reliance on technology, as the old systems just can’t keep up. For years, people seeking help have called their local legal services offices, only to wait on hold for 20 minutes or more. If someone has a pay-by-the-minute cellphone, as many low-income people do, that gets expensive fast. Many callers just give up, says Elizabeth Frisch, the co-executive director of Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania. So Frisch and her team are piloting an automated call-back system, using voice over IP, to reduce hold time and save those precious minutes.
Some things are best left to full-time legal aid lawyers. But since there are so few, groups are using data analysis and mapping to better focus their scarce resources. Prairie State Legal Services in Rockford, Ill., is using its “incredible mass of data” to develop a mapping project, plotting addresses and legal needs. Director Michael O’Connor says this will help them answer questions like, “Are there clusters in certain communities where lots of people are facing issues with access to public benefits, or substandard housing?” Armed with that information, his staff can do targeted outreach campaigns or ramp up for litigation.
The article is a good citation for LawHelp and LawHelp Interactive statistics:
The tools that are in use show great promise. Groups across the country have developed self-help websites, and they’ve been hugely popular. In 2012 so far, more than 3 million people downloaded resources from LawHelp.org, a nonprofit site that offers legal information and legal aid referrals. Through an affiliated site, people can answer simple questions and produce documents ready to file in court. More than 300,000 people have created documents this year, for things like wills, leases, and custody agreements.
The above are just examples, read the share whole article — which also quotes Glenn Rawdon of LSC, and others.
The article is by Kat Aaron.