The 2016 Legal Services Corporation Technology grant solicitation,due Feb 29, suggests one of the ways that the Chefs 100% Resolution can move towards true implementation.
It creates as its first listed specific area of interest, “Achieving 100% Access,” which it describes as “use[ing] technology to further the goal of 100 percent access to effective assistance for essential civil legal needs, particularly through projects that advance related objectives developed by the Access to Justice Commission in the applicant’s state.”
The full text of that portion of the request for letters of intent, which appears below, relies heavily on the Chief’s Resolution and quotes from it, including specifically the urging that courts and ATJ Commissions, or other relevant bodies, should develop “strategic plan[s] with realistic and measurable outcomes.”
Achieving “100 Percent Access.” LSC’s 2013 Technology Summit Report proposed an integrated service-delivery system that would “move the United States toward providing some form of effective assistance to 100 percent of persons otherwise unable to afford an attorney for dealing with essential civil legal needs.” Recently, the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators adopted a resolution advocating a similar access goal:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators support the aspirational goal of 100 percent access to effective assistance for essential civil legal needs and urge their members to provide leadership in achieving that goal and to work with their Access to Justice Commission or other such entities to develop a strategic plan with realistic and measurable outcomes;
and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Conferences urge the National Center for State Courts and other national organizations to develop tools and provide assistance to states in achieving the goal of 100 percent access through a continuum of meaningful and appropriate services.
With this area of interest, LSC seeks proposals that use technology to further the goal of 100 percent access to effective assistance for essential civil legal needs, particularly through projects that advance related objectives developed by the Access to Justice Commission in the applicant’s state.
LSC’s Technology Summit Report provides examples of strategies for achieving 100 percent access, but proposals should not be limited to approaches discussed in the report. Applicants should work with their local commissions (where they exist) and/or other stakeholders to determine the best ways to use technology to move toward achieving this goal.
This has several obvious implications. In the short term, to the extent that states already have developed even interim access strategies, it would make sense for the legal aid community in a state to work with the other stakeholders to identify the ways that technology could most effectively move forward those strategies and to develop TIG proposls that are integrated with these approaches. It would similarly make sense to pay particular attention to ways that the technology could be deployed statewide with ease, either initially, or following a local pilot. (It would be hard to imagine a technology serving a state strategic plan if the technology was not designed to be deployed statewide.
In the longer term, it would make sense to make sure that the state access strategic plans include a strong technology component, particularly since LSC is so open to the use of its TIG funding for partnerships, and indeed to cover partners’ costs. (I remain surprised that this fact is still not yet appreciated by all decision-makers in the access community.)
As a general matter, it is worth pointing out that the focus in the Resolution on “realistic and measurable outcomes,” further highlights the value of technology in the plans. While not every technology project will measure ultimate outcomes, generally tech-driven projects do a far better job of data collection than non-tech projects, almost by definition. The data is a byproduct, rather than generated by a separate activity.
I would hope that other funders, including but not limited to IOLTAs, will similarly use their leveraging ability to make sure that more and more investments of all kinds are fully integrated with overall state strategic plans. That is the best way to ensure that the impact of all investments is maximized. Indeed, in the long term, I would anticipate that a question as to the relationship to a state’s access strategic plan will become routine in our world.
I feel confident that we will be seeing more and more such integration. Indeed, LSC can feel very proud of the role it has played in moving these 100% ideas forward.
P.S. The short Letters of Intent are due Feb 29, here.