Pro Bono Net, the nonprofit leader in innovative programs that increase access to justice, has awarded a total of $10,000 to five legal services organizations developing innovative online document assembly projects through its NPADO Demonstration Project. The projects address legal issues including foreclosure, criminal expungement and the needs of the Spanish-speaking community.
Pro Bono Net leads a national online document assembly initiative (NPADO) for poverty law and court access to justice programs across the country. Legal organizations can create interactive, online interviews that ask people a series of questions about their legal issue, and then use the answers to produce the needed documents. The program makes use of HotDocs software, which is generously donated by LexisNexis.
The Demonstration Project has been made possible through the support of the Legal Services Corporation’s Technology Initiatives Grant program and the State Justice Institute. The awards will support the following projects:
GEORGIA—The Atlanta Legal Aid Society’s (ALAS) project will create a screening tool for foreclosures cases using the A2J interface. This project will test feasibility of using online document assembly as a foreclosure screening tool for hotlines and as a training tool for pro bono attorneys and housing counselors. ALAS will create an effective screening tool to be used by both pro bono attorneys working at the statewide Georgia Senior Legal Hotline and by advocates for screening and referral of foreclosure issues. If successful, the screening tool could eventually be adapted for use by a statewide foreclosure clearinghouse website that is currently in development.
IDAHO—Idaho Legal Aid Services will automate letters and documents to request reasonable accommodations in housing as provided by the Federal Fair Housing Act and to conduct a marketing campaign. The project targets the population of 37 remote counties. This is the nation’s principal law to protect against housing discrimination so the automated documents can be replicated by other states.
KENTUCKY—The Legal Aid Society of Louisville’s (LAS) project proposes to replicate the documents from the successful Pennsylvania foreclosure program by North Penn Legal Services and the Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program. This project will benefit Kentucky homeowners facing foreclosure and help them with answers, conciliation and mediation. The creation of automatic answers will also help LAS recruit and support pro bono lawyers interested in the project.
MINNESOTA—Central Minnesota Legal Services, in joint effort the Minnesota Legal Services Coalition and Volunteer Lawyers Network, proposes to conduct online and in-person trainings of pro bono attorneys and community partners on the use of their new automated criminal expungement pleadings, use to assist persons found ineligible for Human Services or Department of Health employment due to criminal histories. In addition, this project will test and improve these automated pleadings based on user feedback.
NEW YORK—LawHelp/NY’s project proposes to create a limited number of automated legal documents in Spanish using the A2J interface for use by court staff and community-based groups. In addition, LawHelp/NY plans to do targeted outreach to community groups working with the Spanish speaking community on how to use the forms and will monitor the success the Spanish languages templates.