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Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and ROSS Intelligence Partnership
Northwestern Pritzker School of Law is partnering with ROSS Intelligence, an artificial intelligence-based legal research tools provider, to expose Northwestern Law students to innovations impacting the shifting marketplace and demonstrate the emergence of technology-based solutions to address the access to justice crisis. Students are introduced to Ross in courses; students in the school’s Innovation Lab work with Ross’s CEO and co-founder as a mentor and advisor; and the school’s funded public interest summer program will incorporate Ross to support legal aid organizations’ development of tech-based tools to increase access to justice.
Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT)
Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT) provides legal information and advice to litigants in New York City Family Court who do not qualify for a court-appointed attorney but can’t afford to hire a lawyer. LIFT operates three programs to empower pro se litigants to successfully advocate for themselves: (1) phone, email and a live chat Helpline with three full-time, bilingual staff giving legal information; (2) full-time staff at the Family Court in each borough, providing information and advice; and (3) Legal Resource Guides – original, multilingual publications on family law, written on a 5th grade level.
East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC)
The East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC) is the “teaching hospital” for Berkeley Law School, providing the greatest volume of free legal services to Alameda County residents and training the majority of Berkeley Law’s clinical law students to be skilled and compassionate community lawyers. Each year, EBCLC provides more than 6,000 low-income clients with free legal services across eight program areas. Recently, EBCLC has catalyzed a movement to reform California court policies that unfairly penalize low-income people. Through its efforts, EBCLC has fought to ensure that Californians’ access to justice does not depend on income.
Legal Innovation and Technology Lab (LIT Lab)
LIT Lab is a joint effort between the clinics at Suffolk Law and the Institute on Legal Innovation and Technology. LIT Lab students will develop legal technology and process mapping solutions for organizational clients to help them improve efficiency and effectiveness as they deliver legal services to low-income communities. Students learn how to creatively envision, deploy, and launch legal tech tools to address the needs of their “clients,” and provide consulting services to their organizational clients. Projects that arise from the LIT Lab that appear to have the potential to be profitable will receive support from the Catalyst which will provide technical advice, support and mentoring to better enable them to successfully market to funders.
Alberta Limited Legal Services Project
The Alberta Limited Legal Services Project is a two-year project aimed at encouraging lawyers and the public to consider limited scope representation; assess lawyers’ and clients’ satisfaction with limited scope work; and determine whether limited scope legal services improve people's access to justice. The project recruits lawyers and provides them with limited scope training and resources. Participating lawyers are listed by name, location and areas of practice so that Albertans can connect with them. Those who have received or provided limited legal services through the project are then asked to take an evaluation. Regardless of outcome, the project will raise awareness of limited scope legal services and will create a strong nucleus of lawyers willing to provide these services after the project ends.
The Flat Fee Lawyer
Recognizing that clients have long been frustrated by the inability of a law firm or attorney to provide a firm fee quote and agreement on legal services, The Flat Fee Lawyer, owned by Walk Law Firm, PA, provides general counsel services to small businesses and entrepreneurs on a flat or fixed fee basis. For services not suitable for a flat-fee billing rate, The Flat Fee Lawyer will work to deliver a value-based fee solution to meet the client’s needs at the best rate possible. The Flat Fee Lawyer aims to address the lack of available experienced and qualified lawyers representing start-ups and smaller businesses at a fair and transparent price.
Open Legal Services
Every year, tens of thousands of Utahans attempt to litigate cases without an attorney. Open Legal Services is a 501(c)(3) public charity located in downtown Salt Lake City with a mission to provide legal services to clients who earn too much to qualify for free/pro-bono legal services, but also earn too little to afford a traditional private firm. Approximately 40% of Utah’s population falls within that service area. Open Legal Services has also made efforts to assist others in innovation for access to justice. It has consulted with individuals and organizations in over 42 states. Open Legal Services freely share their "secrets" to success. Roughly four dozen similar organizations have formed based in part on their organization.
Dauphin County Bar Association's Pro Bono Driver's License Restoration Clinic
Much like a criminal record, lack of a valid driver’s license can be a roadblock to finding employment, yet some applicants may be able to obtain a Limited License to drive to and from work or school. A first of its kind in Pennsylvania, the Driver's License Restoration Clinic trains volunteer attorneys on the legal issues and procedures involved with license restoration, who then assist low-income attendees in the restoration process. After the Clinic, those in need of further help but not eligible for pro bono services are sent to the Lawyer Referral Service’s Modest Means Panel.
Architects of Justice: Exploring Access to Justice in Ontario Podcast
Architects of Justice: Exploring Access to Justice in Ontario is a podcast from The Action Group on Access to Justice (TAG). TAG was created by the Law Society of Upper Canada (the regulator for lawyers and paralegals in Ontario) to advance collaborative access to justice solutions. The podcast series explores how people are finding new ways to improve access to justice. By bringing together multiple perspectives including users, community workers, students, and legal professionals, their goal is to spotlight different conversations about how we can make a more effective justice system. The first season looks at unbundled legal services, Indigenous child welfare, self-represented litigants and technology.
One Day Divorce of the Sacramento Superior Court
Sacramento Judge James Mize created the One Day Divorce program to help cooperating couples or single parties whose spouses have defaulted to complete a simple divorce in one day. After filing and serving the petition, litigants sit down with a pro tem judge to discuss the terms of the couple’s proposed agreement. Next, volunteer attorneys and law students help fill out the necessary forms. Finally, if the pro tem judge has approved the case, the parties appear before Judge Mize or another Family Law Judge who will grant the appropriate relief. In 95% of cases, the parties leave the courtroom with final and formal judgment of dissolution documents in their hands.
Bridge to Justice Reduced-Rate Legal Services in Post-Decree Family Law Cases
Bridge to Justice is a 501(c)(3) Colorado nonprofit organization that provides civil legal services to low- and moderate-income Coloradans who do not qualify for free legal aid. Its Reduced-Rate Legal Services in Post-Decree Family Law Cases program supports the provision of significantly discounted legal fees to that segment of the population seeking legal assistance for a post-decree family law issue, including a modification or enforcement of parenting time, decision-making, or alimony. Clients qualify for services based on their household income and assets. By keeping its costs low, Bridge to Justice can pass along savings to the clients.
Drupal for Legal Aid Websites (DLAW), ReadClearly, and WriteClearly
The DLAW project began in 2008 with the goal of building an open source web platform for legal aid nonprofits to reach low-income households in need of legal assistance and information.
DLAW was the first in the legal aid community to adopt mobile-friendly "responsive design" in 2011 in order to be equally accessible to low-income households that were smartphone-dependent. DLAW's design aims to makes it easy for legal aid non-profits to easily and affordably maintain a cutting-edge website without requiring technical expertise.
Reentry/VALID (Volunteers Assisting Licensed Drivers) Clinic
The Reentry/VALID Clinic is a free monthly clinic that assists attendees with ameliorating the collateral consequences of criminal convictions and with obtaining valid driver’s licenses. A criminal conviction or the loss of the ability to drive can have catastrophic consequences for employment and relegate Ohio residents to the margins of society. The free monthly clinic is staffed by volunteer lawyers, judges and law students. The VALID clinic provides training to lawyers on the complicated process for license reinstatement in Ohio. Trained lawyers can then use the knowledge they gain to assist moderate means clients who experience these same issues.
AZCourtHelp leverages technology to bring the courts to the people with a statewide self-help website – AZCourtHelp.org – and a free Legal Talks Program. AZCourtHelp.org provides legal information for moderate-income self-represented litigants, including free and low-bono legal service referrals, find-your-court, self-help forms, live chat with a law librarian, and more. The Legal Talks, in areas like divorce, guardianship and eviction, are presented at the Coconino County Law Library and simultaneously broadcast to sites around the state, and are available to anyone, anywhere from a PC or mobile device. Other Arizona counties continue to join the Legal Talks Program, aided by established best practices and mentoring.
Rosie's Place's Legal Services for Poor and Homeless Women
Rosie’s Place is an emergency shelter for women that also offers free legal help for its guests. Its mission is to provide holistic legal services in a caring and compassionate manner while working with guests to evaluate these services and the accessibility of the legal system. Unlike some organizations, it doesn’t have a screening process or rigorous eligibility requirements to qualify for help. It offers a spectrum of services, from information and resources to full representation, helping guests with housing issues, family law, immigration, CORI sealing, employment issues, debt and benefits.
The Justice Legal Center at The Center for Family Justice
In February 2017, The Center for Family Justice (CFJ) launched the Justice Legal Center (JLC), Connecticut’s first legal incubator, to bridge the justice gap for victims of domestic and sexual violence while giving invaluable experience to attorneys committed to social justice. Retaining JLC attorneys has spared CFJ’s already traumatized clients the stress of self-representation in serious legal matters which impacted their personal safety and wellbeing. In turn, the JLC has helped connect attorneys launching private practices with office space, paying clients, vital experience and critical mentorship from community-based attorneys who enthusiastically contribute their time, support and expertise to the incubator.
Baylor University School of Law’s Legal Mapmaker
Legal Mapmaker has two major goals: to help lawyers start sustainable and efficient law practices, and to help address the growing access to justice gap. Legal Mapmaker teaches attorneys how to leverage technology in order to start virtual practices on a budget. Attorneys also learn how to develop a sustainable practice while offering flat fee and alternative fee arrangements to clients who fall into the justice gap and could not otherwise afford the prices of a more typical hourly billing structure. The program itself consists of written materials and a three-day program, which participants may attend in-person or online via a live stream.
The Chicago Bar Foundation
The Chicago Bar Foundation (CBF) works to improve access to legal services for moderate-income people in three interrelated ways: (1) The Justice Entrepreneurs Project (JEP) incubator helps lawyers launch community-based practices and develop market-based models to sustainably serve moderate-income people; (2) The CBF identifies replicable, market-based models and propagates them, for instance, through its Pricing and Limited Scope Representation toolkits aimed at providing practical guidance to lawyers so they can incorporate these tools into their practices; and (3) The CBF advocates for rules and policies to help these models grow and thrive, and has worked with the bar association and the court on a court-based lawyer referral panel for limited scope representation to better connect unrepresented litigants with lawyers with affordable services.
Small Business Legal Assistance Project of the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center
The Small Business Legal Assistance Program (SBLAP) gives business and transactional attorneys the opportunity to donate their expertise to small businesses on a short-term basis. The Small Business Clinic provides legal information and assistance to entrepreneurs who operate economically disadvantaged businesses or who have limited financial resources. Attorney volunteers review paperwork, answer questions about business formation, taxation, real estate leases, employment law, and edit documents common to small business owners. Walk-in clinics are held once a month and sites rotate throughout D.C. to reach all neighborhoods.
JustFix.nyc is a New York City based nonprofit that provides resources for tenants, community advocates and legal service organizations. Their platform is comprised of two complementary tools: (1) The self-help web app assists tenants in gathering evidence, mediating with their landlord through templated communications, reporting violations to City agencies, connecting with organizers and attorneys and presenting a case. (2) The Advocate Dashboard allows community organizers, legal aid attorneys and other advocates to conduct targeted outreach, gather evidence for group class action cases, communicate efficiently with tenants, and track and analyze data about buildings, landlords and neighborhoods.
Yocum Law Office, LLC
Yocum Law is a general practice firm that offers sliding-scale fees based on an individual's income. Additionally, Yocum Law partners with employers, non-profits and agencies to provide brief advice clinics, educational workshops, one-on-one counseling and a flat fee menu of legal services to their clients/employees to improve employee retention and to promote individual and family stability. The focus is on preventing and eliminating barriers to sustained employment and housing.
Unbundled Attorney is a lead generation company that connects lower and middle-income individuals and families that need legal services to its network of attorneys across the United States that provide unbundled legal services. Unbundled Attorney uses lead generation and internet marketing efforts to educate clients about unbundled legal services, including what they can expect to pay for these kinds of options. Interested individuals who submit a request will be delivered to the attorney via email, text and directly into the attorney’s Unbundled Attorney account.
FIU Law Practice at the Florida International University College of Law
FIU Law Practice provides pro bono services through its clinics, and its low bono initiative offers affordable legal services in the family law area to low- and moderate-income families who do not qualify for free legal representation. The practice charges its clients using a sliding scale based on the client’s ability to pay and offers flexible, installment payment plans. FIU LAW Practice also serves as a legal incubator for recent law graduates. The incubator combines approaches used in medical residency programs and a business incubator setting to assist new lawyers through both practical training and mentorship as they launch their careers.
Rocky Mountain Children's Law Center
The Children’s Law Center is dedicated to serving Colorado’s abused, neglected and at-risk children. Through innovative fund raising, use of volunteers, interns, and fellows, and stewardship of resources, it offers families assistance at low or no cost, while still providing its lawyers with meaningful compensation packages including insurance and retirement plans. Two programs in particular focus on delivering legal services and information to moderate- and low-income people: The Caregiver Advocacy and the Education Advocacy Programs. Through these programs, it offers pro bono and sliding-scale legal services to families who seek safe, stable homes and a meaningful education for children who have experienced trauma and insecurity.
Collaborative Community Law Initiative (CCLI)
CCLI is Minnesota's first small-law-firm incubator. Graduates of Mitchell Hamline School of law who are interested in starting a solo practice receive mentoring and training from the incubator's staff and volunteers in a collaborative environment, and commit to accepting a caseload of which at least 30% are Minnesotans below 300% federal poverty guidelines. They are encouraged to provide unbundled and sliding-scale services as well as market those services to the public to increase awareness of the availability of flexible, affordable options. Finally, they become integrated into the bar community and Minnesota's ecosystem of nonprofits so that when they leave the incubator they can maintain a sustainable network of referral partners.
Equal Access Legal Services
Equal Access Legal Services is the first legal aid organization in Philadelphia to provide affordable legal services to low-to-middle income residents on a sliding scale. It charges between $50-$170 per hour, depending on a client's verified income and family size. Its mission is to provide access to people that make too much money to be eligible for free legal services but can't afford attorney fees at market rates. For example, an individual that makes $20,000 per year may make too much money for many legal aid organizations where the eligibility requirement is 150% of the poverty line. Equal Access would charge that client approximately $75.00 per hour. Its practice areas include immigration law and wills/probate.
Levitt & Quinn Family Law Center
Levitt & Quinn offers a blend of free and sliding-scale legal services to low-income families. It prioritizes family law cases that impact the safety and well-being of children; high stakes, high conflict cases in which one side is represented by counsel; veterans who need to resolve unsettled family law issues to reduce their risk of homelessness, and protecting abandoned children through private adoption. Because many clients were traveling long distances for their help, Levitt & Quinn recently created two new community-based legal advice clinics, and added videoconference intake capabilities. The new Mobile Legal Clinic allows them to conduct research and prepare simple legal documents.
British Columbia Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT)
Canada's first online tribunal, the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) resolves small claims disputes $5,000 and under, and strata property (condominium) of any amount. The CRT provides British Columbians with 24/7 online access to strata and small claims dispute resolution services, including self-help tools, triage services, and an expert system (Solution Explorer) that provides free legal guidance. If users cannot resolve their disputes with these tools and decide to use the CRT process, the CRT’s facilitators find speedy resolutions or its adjudicators provide final, binding decisions.
Community Justice Inc.'s Volunteer Lawyer Program
CJI provides representation on a sliding scale for families and individuals at up to 300% of federal poverty guidelines in the areas of family and criminal law. However, even drastically reduced fees still create barriers for some community members, such as those experiencing homelessness and survivors of domestic violence. CJI offers several grant-funded projects to assist those community members at no cost. To operate these projects, CJI collaborates with staff attorneys that serve as the point people for each project to maintain this network and set attorneys up with applicable projects. These attorneys agree to volunteer with one or more of CJI's pro bono projects and in return receive training and Continuing Education Credits.
Civic Legal Corps
Civic Legal Corps is a 501(c)(3) non-profit legal services organization in the greater Chicago metropolitan area. It provides affordable legal services to individuals whose income is too high to qualify for legal aid, but not enough to afford traditional law firm rates. Civic Legal Corps bridges that gap by providing legal services on a sliding-scale basis in the area of family law. It seeks to expand access to justice for low- to moderate-income people through the delivery of affordable and sustainable legal services. Civic Legal Corps represent individuals without imposing restrictions, other than income, as other legal providers do.
LegalYou is an online resource providing legal education, litigation tools and legal services. LegalYou uses colorful graphics and illustrations, plain English (and Spanish) and bite-sized, entertaining animated videos. LegalYou is fully conceived, managed and maintained by working lawyers whose direct help is available to any user through instant messaging along with live, audio, video and phone chat. Lawyer consultations and actual legal services at fixed rates as low as one dollar per minute are also available. Because LegalYou is a law firm, it can jump into full representation (or anything in between) at the client’s request.
Chi City Legal LLC
Chi City Legal is a law firm dedicated to assisting small and medium sized landlords in the Chicago area who would otherwise navigate the eviction process as self-represented litigants. Chi City uses off-the-shelf technology to increase transparency and decrease costs. The technology reduces the friction between landlords and the legal system, and allows Chi City to increase the scale of services provided as it leverages the resources of two attorneys to run a bulk practice. Chi City’s goal is two-fold: (1) to provide cost-effective legal services for an underserved community; and (2) to serve as a model for small law firms to compete in a new era.
Hello Divorce (HD) aims to empower low and moderate-income people to manage the divorce process with easy to follow, step-by-step guidance and affordable access to lawyers. HD breaks down the extremely complicated California divorce process into discrete, manageable steps and provides free access to legal resources and tools such as planning worksheets, webinars and support calculators. When the user needs additional help, they can pay for fixed fee services, such as document preparation/filing and legal coaching. Because the legal process cannot be viewed in a vacuum, HD also has a wellness component: its lifestyle section and blog has curated articles to help divorcees through the pain and anxiety that accompany difficult transitions and the cultural stigma of divorce.
Planning and Estates Law Project at the City Bar Justice Center
The Planning and Estates Law Project (“PELP”) of the City Bar Justice Center, the nonprofit affiliate of the New York City Bar Association, offers free legal assistance with end-of-life planning, probate and estates matters. Referrals primarily from the Surrogate’s Courts are reviewed weekly by volunteer attorneys then scheduled for monthly legal clinics. Many PELP clients own or inherit assets, but lack the resources for a private attorney. PELP works to combat poverty by empowering clients to claim and maintain their assets so that wealth, rather than poverty, is inherited between generations.
Justice Toolbox aims to help everyday people find the best lawyer for their case by publishing lawyer win records and experience levels, which are computed from court records by a custom-developed artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm. The data is presented on a per case type basis so that, for example, consumers can see how often lawyers win in criminal cases separately from employment cases. The AI algorithm was designed by a lawyer to read court opinions and dockets to determine successful and unsuccessful outcomes. Thus, Justice Toolbox may help people find lawyers with a track record of success in their type of case.
Los Angeles Incubator Consortium
The Los Angeles Incubator Consortium (LAIC) helps bridge LA’s justice gap by investing in new solo lawyers willing to deliver low-cost legal services. Pooling resources from three law schools, five legal aid organizations, and the LA Law Library, LAIC provides year-long training and mentorship, teaching flat fee, limited scope and sliding-scale fee models. Participants gain skills while volunteering at legal aid organizations. In partnership with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, LAIC staffs the only free virtual legal clinics in LA, where people unable to travel due to disabilities or other constraints meet with lawyers via videoconference.
FamilyKind provides a range of services and programs to help families prevent and deal with conflicts arising from separation and divorce. Its team of professionals consists of mediators, family coaches, parenting coordinators and communication experts. FamilyKind help families settle disputes, or negotiate separation and divorce agreements, including parenting plans and equitable distribution issues, with less financial and emotional toll than litigating their cases in court. In addition, mental health and legal professionals conduct classes, workshops and support groups to help parents and children navigate separation and divorce in a healthy way. FamilyKind is committed to making its services affordable to all those in need through use of a sliding-fee scale.
Rural Law Opportunities Program (RLOP)
Recent data indicate 11 counties in Nebraska have no practicing lawyers and another 30 counties have fewer than one lawyer per 1000 people. Wayne State College, Chadron State College, and the University of Nebraska College of Law are addressing the shortage with a robust legal studies program partnership. The purpose of the program is to recruit and educate students from rural Nebraska who are encouraged to return to rural areas of the state to provide access to legal services. RLOP provides a selected number of WSC and CSC students with full tuition waivers, along with provisional admittance into the UNL College of Law after graduation.
LawX - Brigham Young University Legal Design Lab
Each year, LawX chooses one aspect of the law that makes navigating the legal system difficult for those who can't afford legal services. LawX then develops a product that addresses that problem. This year, LawX is focused on debt collection lawsuits. Over the past five years, over 330,000 debt collection lawsuits have been filed in Utah. Only 1/1000 of those defendants hire an attorney and 75% of debt collection defendants don't answer the complaint, causing them to default. LawX is developing a product to help self-represented debt collection defendants answer a complaint in Utah.
National Law School Veterans Clinic Consortium (NLSVCC)
The NLSVCC is a collaborative effort of the nation’s pro bono law school veteran legal clinics. Many law schools have responded to the increased demand for Veteran's legal services by establishing Veteran's clinics, with the objective to address Veteran's legal needs and to educate law students in professionalism and veteran’s law. NLSVCC enables the nation’s veteran’s clinics to work collaboratively to share best practices in training students and representing veterans, exchange case referrals and advice, provide mentorship to new clinics, engage in advocacy, policy and systemic change work, and identify unmet needs in the veteran population.
Proboknow is a web platform that connects attorneys with low-income clients, and optionally with attorney mentors to make pro bono more convenient, efficient and scalable. Proboknow enables new attorneys to gain the experience they need to land their first job, or hang their own shingle, by providing a mentor’s guidance and resources including a legal question forum, rewards program, and tutorials and templates. Beyond that, Proboknow affords attorneys, regardless of their mentorship/practical experience needs, a user-friendly, convenient way to connect with pro bono opportunities and resources on their own time.
The Legal Information Network of Colorado, a program of the Rocky Mountain Victim Law Center
The Legal Information Network of Colorado (LINC) program at Rocky Mountain Victim Law Center (RMvlc) utilizes federal funding from the Office for Victims of Crime to develop a project to address the legal needs of crime victims. A comprehensive Needs Assessment, conducted in partnership with the University of Denver, revealed that one of the top needs was access to accurate and reliable legal information. LINC developed a comprehensive website and web-based application that helps victims identify their legal needs and connect to information and resources. The application prompts questions so that victims can tell their story. The technology responds with specifically tailored resources and information pertinent to their unique situations.
Eviction Diversion Pilot Program, 54A District Court, Lansing, Michigan
Chief Judge Louise Alderson of the 54A District Court in Lansing, MI collaborated with LegalRnD’s Center for Legal Services Innovation at Michigan State University College of Law to launch a pilot program aimed at reducing the number of tenants that are evicted from their homes due to a temporary inability to pay their rent, and thereby help counteract the homelessness problem. The Program sent fliers with the summons and complaint informing tenants about free legal help, preparing for court and consequences of failing to appear, and set up a system of free legal aid and funding opportunities at the court to facilitate settlement agreements between landlords and tenants that would allow the tenant to stay in the home.