A legal aid organization should ensure the availability of adequate resources for appropriate legal research and factual investigation.
Resources for Legal Research
To provide clients high-quality representation and assistance, practitioners should have access to adequate tools for effective legal research. Each practitioner should have ready access to source materials, including pertinent federal and state statutes, state and federal reporters, law review articles, relevant treatises, poverty law reporters, and other material on legal issues experienced by the client community. The materials should be available through online research tools and computer-assisted legal research services, or in hardcopy format. Online discussion groups provide important resources for legal aid practitioners to keep up with rapid changes in poverty law and to share information and resources across jurisdictions. Organizations should budget sufficient funds to ensure that their practitioners have access to those online tools necessary to ensure high-quality legal work and should encourage their practitioners to make full use of free resources that are available online.
The organization should maintain updated, easily searchable knowledge bases that including pleadings and briefs so that the cumulative knowledge gained through successive representation of clients with similar issues is available to the organization's (or group of organizations') current practitioners.
Organizations should also encourage their practitioners to seek support and assistance from other appropriate sources outside the organization. National, regional, and state research and advocacy groups, universities, public-interest law firms, and similar organizations often provide co-counseling, research, advocacy coordination, training, and other assistance that can significantly enhance the quality of representation for the organization's clients.
All of these tools require organizations to have access to technology that is up-to-date and to ensure that organization's practitioners and other staff are fully trained to make full use of the
Resources for Factual Investigation
Effective and thorough information-gathering is essential to the success of any representation. Information provided by clients is often incomplete and may contain inaccuracies. Particularly in cases that are factually complex or confusing, practitioners should not have to rely solely on the information provided at the initial interview in order to plan their representation strategies. Practitioners may often be required to investigate claims made by their clients to ensure that they are fully apprised of all of the circumstances that may have an impact on their clients' legal problems.
In some instances, practitioners may need the skills of experienced investigators to fill out the details of their clients' cases or uncover information helpful to the client's case. Practitioners should be provided access to online databases and other tools necessary for conducting factual investigations in the subject matters they practice. The organization should devote adequate resources to permit the use of outside experts when necessary and, when appropriate, to maintain in-house staff who are tasked with doing factual investigations and who are skilled in investigative techniques. The organization should offer training to ensure that its practitioners and other staff who may have investigative responsibilities are fully apprised of the techniques that are useful and fully aware of other resources that may be available to help in investigating clients' claims.