In a recent Year of Big Ideas in Social Change piece, the Times highlights almost the full area of what we all do:
Another example [of using tech to democratize] is civil legal aid. Even though people involved in civil cases can lose their apartments, their children and their jobs, the law does not guarantee them the services of a lawyer. In fact, it’s very difficult for low-income Americans to get one.
Many states are now considering laws that would make counsel a right in civil cases. Until that happens, we need other ways to get legal help to self-represented people.
Technology is coming to the rescue.
New online legal forms from groups like LawHelp Interactive allow people to fill out forms without having to understand the law. The software interviews them with plain-English questions, and then completes the forms in the language required by the court.
I think that final paragraph is probably the best description of the concept I have seen (although ideally I would like people to understand at least some of the law.)
Its lovely that this is now thought to be a “Big Idea.” For so long we have been told that the media are not interested in forms, so do not waste you time. The lesson is clear, link the innovation to a broad concept and vision.
I would suggest that every state with a Law Help Interactive project can use this to trumpet their state’s leadership in the “big idea” department.
It is also worth noting that this is one of the few times the media has used the “legal aid” moniker in such a way that its broad scope is very clear.