LSC's Tech Download Newsletter | May 2016
tech download bannerHighlighting Innovation in Legal Aid Technology

LSC's Tech Download is Launched

This is the first issue of LSC's Tech Download, a regular feature that highlights the latest in technology from LSC and the legal services community. 

LSC Partnering with Microsoft and Pro Bono Net to Create Statewide Access Portals

Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is partnering with Microsoft Corporation and Pro Bono Net to develop online, statewide access to justice portals to direct individuals to the most appropriate civil legal assistance. Access portals for up to two statewide pilots will be developed to demonstrate how this approach can be replicated as widely and as economically as possible.microsoft logo 
 
Microsoft has committed at least
$1 million in funding, technical support, and project management services. Pro Bono Net will help convene local partners and provide service design expertise. LSC, in consultation with national stakeholders, is developing a Request for Proposals so that interested jurisdictions may compete for the opportunity to develop the pilot portals.

"The current system of accessing legal services is confusing, opaque, and inefficient for many people," said LSC President James J. Sandman. "The goal of the portals is to simplify the process by providing a single, statewide point of access to effective help for people needing civil legal assistance. Each user will be guided to available resources based on the nature of the matter and the user’s personal circumstances." 

"Technology can help empower the powerless—people who may feel lost without a lawyer in the legal system," said Dave Heiner, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Microsoft. "Microsoft is thrilled to partner with the Legal Services Corporation, Pro Bono Net, and the broader pro bono community to help close the yawning access to justice gap."
 
"Many state justice communities are looking to develop collaborative approaches to meet the growing needs of low income and vulnerable individuals," said Mark O’Brien, founder and Executive Director of Pro Bono Net. "We hope this initiative will strengthen those efforts and help spark creative, user-centered solutions."

As the initiative moves forward, LSC will work to attract other institutional funders and identify local resources to help ensure that the pilots are a success. Ultimately, the goal is to develop access to justice portals in every state to reach anyone with a significant civil legal problem.

Spotlight on Success: TIG Project Profile

LearnTheLaw.org Innovations Serve Users Nationwide


LearnTheLaw.org is a new national portal for legal aid organizations to easily create and share educational content. It is a project of Statewide Legal Services of Connecticut (SLS), which received two LSC Technology Initiative Grants (TIGs) to develop online classroom modules.

SLS first built a "classroom" module to provide training on legal topics to self-represented litigants, pro bono attorneys, and law students in Connecticut. Classrooms allow participants to engage with learning resources in an online setting. The project proved so successful that SLS decided to expand it to a national resource with the help of a second TIG. Partnering with the Center for Computer Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI), SLS developed the online classroom module into the LearnTheLaw.org website.

Using the module, legal aid programs from any state can build online classes to train volunteers on a specific legal issue, guide self-represented parties through lengthy and often confusing legal processes, produce on-demand trainings for pro bono lawyers, and meet any other training needs they identify. Courts and law schools are also able to design classes on topics related to their work. 

Legal aid organizations and others interested in creating content benefit from having a user-friendly template that is easily adapted to their specific needs. Classrooms can include videos, fillable forms, PowerPoint presentations, interactive checklists, and more. These classes can be easily linked to an organization’s website. One of the key features of the national site is that individual legal aid providers do not need to have the expertise or resources to build and maintain the site; it is centrally maintained and free to use.

According to SLS’s IT Administrator Kathy Daniels, who helped spearhead the project, “For organizations contemplating creating new content, the website is a great resource because it’s a central location including easily accessible examples from other states that can be copied and updated for a different jurisdiction.”

LearnTheLaw.org is a free resource for LSC-funded programs and other legal aid providers. The underlying tools themselves are also available on GitHub for legal aid programs that wish to use and improve them.

By serving as a national repository for content, LearnTheLaw.org will help improve the quantity of multimedia resources available to the legal aid community and expand access to justice.
LearnTheLaw

Iron Tech Lawyer Competition

LSC President James Sandman joined Dean Garfield, President and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), and Professor Paul Ohm of Georgetown University Law Center on the judging panel at last week’s 2016 Iron Tech Lawyer Competition. Student teams presented apps they had designed to increase access to justice. The teams collaborated with legal services providers and public interest law organizations. Their apps were developed through Georgetown Law School’s Technology Innovation and Law Practice practicum.

This year’s winning team created iHeal: Immigration Healthcare Eligibility Application Liaison. The app helps users understand available benefits under the Affordable Care Act and directs them to local help centers.

More information on the other prize-winning apps and video from the competition is available on Georgetown Law's Legal Technologies website. 
Click to Learn More about Iron Tech Lawyer

Apps for That

Best Legal Aid Apps

What are the latest tech tools? Which new apps are the most promising? In this section, we recommend tech initiatives that can benefit legal aid organizations and their clients.

ReadClearly and WriteClearly

Experts recommend that to be readable by the average American, a web page should be presented at a sixth-grade reading level. Resources developed for the legal aid client community face additional challenges, as many low-income people have more significant literacy limitations and may be seeking help at a highly stressful time in their lives. The LSC TIG-funded WriteClearly and ReadClearly apps help legal aid programs make their content available to users in plain language, whether that is a self-help guide for individuals representing themselves or instructions for accessing client intake services. The WriteClearly app reviews website content and suggests alternative language to make text more understandable. ReadClearly runs on websites themselves and allows users to hover over legal terms and obtain a plain language definition.

Both WriteClearly and ReadClearly were developed by Urban Insight, a California-based digital consulting company that has completed several major legal aid technology initiatives.
Click to Learn More about WriteClearly
Click to Learn More about ReadClearly

Office Lens

Microsoft Office Lens turns your smartphone's camera into a high-powered scanner. The app takes pictures of documents, whiteboards, business cards, and hand-written notes and saves them automatically into OneNote. It also coverts these images into PDF, Word, or PowerPoint files, and recognizes printed text so that files can be searched and edited. While legal aid attorneys are more likely to use Office Lens than their clients, this technology could ultimately be used to send important legal documents directly to legal aid offices' case management systems, saving significant time and administrative expense rather than mailing or hand delivery.
 
Office Lens is available on iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone.
Click to Learn More about Office Lens

CALENDAR: 2016

 

MAY
JULY
  • SubTech 2016 
    SubTech 2016 is an invitational 'unconference' about applications of IT to the law; computer-aided instruction, practice systems, and web-based applications are typical examples.
    July 7 - 9, Richmond, VA
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