LSC Awards Nearly $4 Million in Technology Grants to Legal Aid Organizations
WASHINGTON – The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) announced today that it is awarding Technology Initiative Grants (TIG) to 24 legal services organizations totaling $3,941,298. The TIG program funds technology projects that provide greater access to high-quality legal assistance and information for low-income Americans.
Established in 2000, the program distributes grants annually to LSC-funded legal aid organizations around the country. Since its inception, LSC has made grants totaling nearly $70 million to fund more than 750 technology projects. Grant recipients have used this funding to create innovative ways to serve clients, strengthen program capacity and support the work of pro bono attorneys.
“LSC’s Technology Initiative Grants support projects that improve the delivery of legal services and information to people who would otherwise have to navigate the legal system alone,” said LSC President Ronald S. Flagg. “These projects use technology to leverage scarce human resources and increase access to justice for low-income individuals and families with critical legal needs.”
Many Members of Congress congratulated legal aid organizations in their districts for receiving TIG funding, including:
“Kansans who are struggling financially have a great advocate in Kansas Legal Services, and this grant will help low-income Kansans have greater access to information and resources to navigate complicated and challenging legal systems,” said Sen. Jerry Moran (KS), Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee.
“As co-founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Access to Legal Aid Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives, I am proud to learn the Indiana Legal Services received a $125,384 Technology Initiative Grant,” said Rep. Susan Brooks (IN-5). “We certainly have relied more heavily on technology during the pandemic. Unfortunately, Hoosiers’ legal issues have only gotten greater increasing the need for the Indiana Legal Help website, which will benefit Hoosiers as they search for answers to their legal problems.”
"I am thrilled that Legal Services of Alabama was awarded the Technology Initiative Grant that will allow them to expand access to their legal services throughout Alabama," said Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-7). "Technology is vital in providing high quality legal counseling in today's world. Legal Services of Alabama plays a crucial role in providing free civil legal aid for Alabamians in need. This grant will provide critical resources to increase their outreach in helping low-income people resolve their legal problems."
Among the funded initiatives are several projects that will improve organizations’ online self-help resources. Other projects will bolster existing case management and online intake systems to allow legal services providers to more effectively serve clients. Several organizations will use TIG funding to create more intuitive, mobile-first websites.
The 2020 TIG projects are:
Legal Services Alabama willuse its grant to create a comprehensive document assembly program to automate family law forms. The project will first focus on uncontested divorces before expanding to custody, child support, modification of custody and child support, and contested divorces. Eventually, the program may also automate forms for consumer and housing cases, such as debt collection (small claims, district and circuit court) and evictions. TIG funding will also support outreach efforts to people who would benefit from the program.
California Rural Legal Assistance willuse its grant to conduct an assessment with a consulting team to identify potential improvements in applicant-intake workflows and related technologies. This will enable people to more easily access their services.
Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County will use its TIG funding to develop an online triage system to provide applicants with targeted legal results at any time of day. It will use Guided Navigation and the Knowledge Resource Library in LegalServer to make resources available via the web and by text in multiple languages.
Statewide Legal Services of Connecticut will use its grant to add new features to its case management and online intake systems and Connecticut’s statewide website, CTLawHelp.org. It will use text messaging to share information and for the online intake process. All the features will be bolstered by machine learning.
Neighborhood Legal Services Program will use its grant to update its case management system. It will work with Clio to adapt a system used by private law firms to meet the needs of legal aid organizations. Additions will include new features such as eligibility screening, grants management and the custom reports required by LSC and other funders.
Bay Area Legal Services willuse its grant to integrate its document assembly and case management software to produce user-friendly client and court documents. Processing more than 58,000 applications every year, the organization will economize its resources across its five-county service area and two statewide legal helplines.
Legal Services of Greater Miami will use TIG funding to expand the online intake system currently used by five Florida legal aid organizations, including Bay Area Legal Services, to include the Florida Senior Legal Helpline and the Florida Veterans Legal Helpline. The grant will also help Legal Services of Greater Miami add analytics to gather data about time spent on applications and eligibility determinations.
Atlanta Legal Aid Society will use its grant to partner with Pro Bono Net and the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction on a project to increase website accessibility. The organizations will create short videos to guide users to more robust content on GeorgiaLegalAid.org, make the homepage mobile-friendly and ensure that A2J DAT documents are accessible to the visually impaired.
Legal Aid Chicago will use its grant to integrate the case management system LegalServer with Paladin’s pro bono referral system to better match pro bono attorneys with cases. The Pro Bono Placement Integration Project will use API-based integration to auto-populate information into databases used by law firms, corporations and individual attorneys.
Legal Aid Chicago will also be able to target private attorneys and firms for outreach and have access to data to better place pro bono cases.
Indiana Legal Services will use its grant to enhance Indiana Legal Help, a website that helps people navigate legal issues on their own in expungement, driving privileges, gender marker and name change cases.
Kansas Legal Services will use its grant to upgrade the content management system for Drupal for Legal Aid Websites (DLAW) from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9. DLAW is a Drupal distribution for building public information websites. Prior development of DLAW has also been supported by TIG funding.
Pine Tree Legal Assistance will use its grant to support Stateside Legal, a website focused exclusively on veterans’ federal legal rights and resources. TIG funding will allow Stateside Legal to maintain a large collection of legal resources relevant to veterans and other individuals with a military connection. The project will also explore innovations to enhance the delivery of information and conduct substantial outreach to other legal and veterans groups.
Lakeshore Legal Aid willuse its grant to produce user-friendly animated instructional videos to help self-represented and retained clients. These videos will be published online and will be usable by other Michigan legal aid organizations.
Michigan Advocacy Program will use a $259,500 grant to add three new features to the A2J Author document assembly program in order to increase resources for self-represented litigants. One new feature will allow users to complete a previously saved interview without repeating questions they have seen.
A second improvement will allow authors to designate an interview for “advanced end users,” letting users see the entire tree of questions and answer questions in any order and the third new feature will make it easier for authors to duplicate questions and steps from one interview to another.
The organization will use an additional grant of $70,895 to create an automated chat feature to learn more about clients’ outcomes in advice and brief service cases. A third grant of $68,650 will allow Michigan Advocacy Program to update and migrate the Michigan Legal Help Program to Drupal 9 while improving usability and updating design and other features.
Montana Legal Services Association will use its grant to develop, test and implement a series of self-help consumer law tools on MontanaLawHelp.org to provide targeted information to users with debt-related legal problems. These include a garnishment calculator; a tool to help identify possible claims, defenses and exempt income, and disseminate resources on common consumer questions; and an automated interactive answer form to make it easier for self-represented litigants to respond to lawsuits.
Ohio State Legal Services will use its grant to support LawHelp Interactive (LHI), a national document assembly platform used in more than 40 states. LHI enables self-represented litigants, legal aid and pro bono lawyers, and self-help programs to create high-quality online forms for free. Through its partnership with Pro Bono Net, improvements to LHI include enhanced remote workflows, such as e-signature and e-submission. These developments are particularly important now, as states grapple with the realities of post-COVID legal service delivery.
Philadelphia Legal Assistance Center will use its grant to expand the Upsolve self-help bankruptcy platform to empower users to send letters to debt collectors, file complaints with the Consumer Bankruptcy Protection Bureau and assess eligibility for student loan discharge. Upsolve will also build a new Learn Center to educate visitors about consumer law issues.
Memphis Area Legal Services will use its grant to create an online intake and legal service delivery model. This will enable legal aid clients to receive legal representation remotely.
Legal Assistance of Western New York will use its grant to implement new, more intuitive, mobile-first web designs. This will include functionality to allow subject matter experts to update content, advanced search features that help people understand the nature of their legal problem, integration-driven referral tools that facilitate collaboration and support the accuracy of referral information across platforms and flexibility to support scaling and modifications as community needs and service delivery methods evolve.
Utah Legal Services will use its grant to create a debt collection chatbot. This will allow the organization to increase the quality and efficiency of providing personalized legal information to low-income Utahns.
Legal Services of Northern Virginia will use its grant to create a messaging platform that will allow program staff attorneys to communicate with limited English proficiency clients in multiple languages.
Virginia Legal Aid Society will use TIG funding to conduct a business assessment to analyze the effectiveness and efficiency of the Office365 application in delivering legal services. With the help of a consultant experienced in training and customizing Microsoft Office products, the organization will develop customized special programs, including ribbons, toolbars and document assembly templates in Microsoft Word to improve legal services delivery standards and increase program efficiency.
Northwest Justice Project will use its grant to redesign WashingtonLawHelp.org (WLH) to be mobile-first and more accessible to people with all levels of ability, literacy and English language proficiency. WLH is a key training space for new attorneys and pro bono lawyers. The project will incorporate community and stakeholder feedback to develop a self-help library, advocate resource library, provider directory and a guided navigation and triage system.
Legal Aid of West Virginia will use its grant to develop a comprehensive legal portal, the Kinship Information Navigator (KIN) Project. KIN will enable family members affected by the opioid epidemic to use online visual guides to determine how to obtain legal custody of a child who has informally come into their care.