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Mobile Technology

TIG has supported several mobile technology projects that can be replicated and adapted by the broader legal services community. Through TIG 10015, Pine Tree Legal Assistance and its partner, Illinois Legal Aid Online, developed some of the first mobile apps in legal services. Illinois Legal Aid Online launched the Illinois Legal Aid app and the Illinois Pro Bono app, and PTLA launched the Legal Aid News App, available on Android and Apple iOS. PTLA also developed mobile web applications as part of TIG 10015 -- the Legal Aid Finder App and the HelpMELaw app for Maine specific legal information are viewable across smartphone platforms, available on Android and as web apps. iOS. The Illinois Legal Aid app is designed for lower-income residents who need legal assistance and offers plain- language legal information and Illinois-specific referrals to courthouse legal self-help centers and legal aid agencies. The Pro Bono app provides legal professionals with a volunteer opportunity search tool, a calendar of upcoming legal events, including [CLEs], and comprehensive legal resource guides in the most common areas of pro bono practice. Prior to TIG 10015, PTLA piloted the development of its mobile web statewide website and created a national guide on website development (TIG 08005).

While several programs have developed effective native apps, TIG encourages more focus on browser-based mobile websites. Some commentators have called 2013 the year of responsive design. Responsive web design involves making content viewable on devices ranging from small smartphones to large desktop computers -- this content is made available through one website which can detect the user's device type and display information appropriately. Google recommends responsive design, and users are increasingly seeing it on commercial sites. If a responsive design approach is not feasible, organizations should develop alternative methods to ensure that smartphone and tablet users receive optimized experiences on those devices. Native mobile apps may still make sense when certain functionality is needed -- such as taking a picture to scan a document -- but programs should considering mobile website development first.

Thanks in part to TIG funding both major statewide legal information website templates support mobile-friendly portals. The Drupal for Legal Aid Websites (DLAW) template supports responsive design (TIG 10012 and 12043), and the latest version of LawHelp platform also contains robust mobile features (TIG 10052). A recently funded Louisiana TIG (TIG 12035) will allow Louisiana to use the existing LawHelp statewide website template to build out a mobile-friendly legal information website. This $30,000 grant could serve as a model for other states looking to create a robust mobile presence.

Final Reports and Other Resources: