Washington, DC—To improve access to civil legal assistance for low-income Americans, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) has announced new technology grants to increase access to Web-based resources, enhance pro bono, expand websites for veterans and disaster recovery, and – a new category this year – improve data collection and analysis.
Through its Technology Initiative Grants (TIG) program, LSC plans to award 46 grants in 2012, totaling more than $3.5 million. The grants will fund LSC grantee programs in 27 states and the territory of Guam.
Examples of the grants include:
$63,739 to Idaho Legal Aid Services for development of a Web-based virtual law office. This project (consisting of a practice management platform, e-signature software, video conferencing, video court appearance software, hybrid Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) phones, and scanners) will integrate existing technologies to help legal aid attorneys serve rural clients more efficiently;
$118,475 to Prairie State Legal Services to better measure the effectiveness and impact of legal services in Illinois, and to inform strategies for delivering services across the state; and
$90,460 to Legal Aid Services of Northeastern Minnesota to improve the effectiveness of pro bono attorneys by creating a set of settlement checklists and client interview guides that have been optimized for mobile platforms like smartphones and tablets. These resources will offer a new layer of support for attorneys in the field who are helping low-income clients with matters that are outside the attorneys’ usual areas of expertise.
“Leveraging scarce resources to help expand access to legal assistance for low-income Americans requires innovative, smart use of technology,” said President James J. Sandman. “I am particularly pleased that several grants will be used to help programs use data to improve their effectiveness and efficiency.”
Legal aid programs are overwhelmed with requests for civil legal assistance, while funding for legal aid has decreased in recent years. At LSC-sponsored forums this year, judges have reported that the number of low-income individuals who come to court without legal assistance is rising.
Congress authorized funding for the Technology Initiative Grants (TIG) program beginning in 2000. Through 2012, LSC has made more than 525 TIG awards, totaling over $40 million.
TIG funding has provided LSC with a remarkable opportunity to explore new ways to serve eligible persons and to help build legal aid programs' capacities. It has supported projects to develop, test and replicate technologies that improve client access to high quality legal information and pro se assistance. It has also helped programs enhance their overall information technology infrastructure.
LSC was established by the Congress in 1974 to provide equal access to justice and to ensure the delivery of high-quality civil legal assistance to low-income Americans. The Corporation currently provides funding to 134 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.