Technology Resources and Initiatives
The following represent the mostly widely-used resources in the legal services technology community. If you are new to legal aid or simply interested in learning more about technology, the items below will serve as a good starting point.
- LSC Baselines: Technologies That Should Be in Place in a Legal Office Today (Revised April, 2015) - Originally published in November, 2008, this newly revised document defines the technology capacities that its grantees should have in place or have available to them through a vendor or partner in the access to justice community. It includes baselines for new technologies, including mobile devices, cloud computing, social media and enhanced security policies, as well as updated resources, useful websites and other tools.
- LSC's Technology Usage Data - This resource is updated annually to provide an overview of the types of technology that LSC grantees are employing to deliver legal services more effectively and efficiently.
- Harvard JOLT: Using Technology to Enhance Access to Justice - The Fall 2012 issue of the Harvard Journal of Law and Technology (JOLT) published seven articles from LSC's June 2012 technology summit. These articles focus on how to best utilize particular technologies to enhance access to justice in the American legal system. They are presented as a single integrated piece but cover a wide-range of technology topics.
- Principles and Best Practices for Access-Friendly Court Electronic Filing - This document, developed through TIG support, explores the principles and best practices that help ensure that electronic court filing systems are deployed in a way that removes barriers to access, particularly for self-represented individuals. These practices have been developed with input from a wide variety of state and national stakeholders and are designed to utilize current technology and professional structures. The second document summarizes the results of two national surveys done in the fall of 2012 on the status and accessibility of planned and deployed e-filing systems.
- LSTech Email List and LSNTAP - The LSTech national email list connects hundres of legal aid technologists, including IT staff, tech-savvy attorneys, legal aid managers, and funders. Please click here to sign up.The Legal Services National Technology Assistance Project (LSNTAP) is a web portal to technology services and information tailored to a legal services audience.
- Online Document Assembly through LawHelp Interactive, A2J Author, and HotDocs - LSC grantees can create online forms using LawHelp Interactive, the legal aid community's national online document assembly program. LawHelp Interactive incorporates A2J Author software as an optional interface to collect data. A2J incorporates website standards for low-literacy users, including graphics, to effectively guide self-represented individuals through the process of assembling legal documents. A2J is also utilized in many legal aid online intake initiatives. Legal aid nonprofits using LawHelp Interactive likely qualify for the HotDocs Corporation's Charitable Organization Program.
- Statewide Website Platforms -- Lawhelp.org is the national gateway to the LSC-funded statewide website network. From LawHelp.org, legal aid clients, advocates and partners can access links to all 50 state sites. A Spanish version of the LawHelp.org gateway page is also available. Pro Bono Net has developed the LawHelp.org template. Drupal for Legal Aid Websites (DLAW) - is a free and open source website management software built specifically for legal aid organiations.
Additional Resources and Initiatives
These can also help legal services providers leverage technology to more effeciently and effectively deliver assistance to low-income Americans. Almost all of these resources were developed with TIG funding or power important TIG projects.
- Case Management System Reviews and Ratings - A resource developed by NTAP for the legal services community to view and contribute ratings and reviews of case management systems. Includes vendor feature sets, and will include screencasts showcasing CMS capabilities, user-generated content highlighting CMS customizations and relevant portions of the 2004 CMS Report.
- Document Assembly Best Practice Guide for Court Systems - Developed by the New York State Courts Access to Justice Program, this best practice guide advocates for court systems to take a leadership role in the creation of document assembly programs that can enhance access to justice and improve overall court operations. The best practices section focuses on issues such as technical development, partnerships, statewide uniformity of documents, e-filing, and ethical considerations. The guide also provides a roadmap for courts seeking to utilize document assembly services to improve assistance to the unrepresented public.
- HotDocs - HotDocs is an industry-leading document assembly application that is available to legal services programs at a negotiated nonprofit discount through HotDocs Limited. Programs have leveraged the HotDocs software to provide legal aid clients and advocates thousands of automated legal documents.
- LawHelp Interactive Computer Station Best Practices for Self-Help Centers - Provides best practices for any legal aid organization, law library, library, police department, victims center, shelter, and court to use as a guide to set-up a self-help center. Includes diagrams, workstation requirements and signage tips that help minimize distractions for self-represented litigants to support the completion of forms and to help users feel secure in their use of the computers.
- LiveHelp Project Manager's Toolkit - LiveHelp is a chat-based, real-time support service that helps people find legal resources and referral information on LawHelp.org sites. LiveHelp has been launched in 11 states and assists more than 10,000 users annually. Pro Bono Net has compiled a toolkit and best practices for developing and maintaining a LiveHelp project on an access to justice website. The toolkit contains program, staffing and technical guidance, as well as links to sample content and resources developed by LiveHelp programs. You can read it from beginning to end to get a comprehensive picture of the activities involved in the ramp-up and maintenance of a project, or you can guide yourself through the document based on the sections you are most curious or concerned about.
- Non-Profit Guide to Internet Marketing - LawHelp/NY developed this guide to search engine optimization (SEO) and social marketing for nonprofits. Available for download, the toolkit describes the techniques and strategies used by LawHelp/NY to improve its search engine rankings and maximize online outreach. The toolkit explains in detail how other nonprofits can follow the steps LawHelp/NY took to expand its online outreach efforts, including developing keyword lists and link building to optimize website pages, as well as increasing its presence on social networking platforms and via blogging. Key metrics and evaluation are also covered.
- Open Source Telephony in Legal Aid - By adopting an open source phone solution, Legal Aid of the Bluegrass (LAB) was able to enjoy significant cost-savings and greater system flexibility. This document explores open source telephony and summarizes LAB's experience deploying a Trixbox PBX system. LAB hopes that the document will help other providers explore open source telephony and develop better communications systems for advocates and clients.
- WriteClearly.org - Many of the people LSC recipients serve have limited literacy skills. Roughly 50% of native English-speaking Americans are unable to read at the 8th grade level; another 20% are only functionally literate. WriteClearly.org features a collection of plain language resources that allow legal aid providers to more effectively communicate with clients. Users can paste written material into the Online Plain Language Gadget and receive instant feedback on the readability of their content. The WriteClearly project was developed through a TIG awarded to Legal Assistance of Western New York.