by Leslie Briggs, Access to Justice Technology Fellow, Legal Services State Support
Nearly 80% of all legal need goes unmet. Many Americans do not have access to legal services, do not understand their problem as legal in nature, or are ill-equipped to represent themselves in court. That means their legal issue remains unresolved or they are more likely to lose in court because they are unrepresented.
Any effort to improve access to legal resources or better equip courts and litigants for self-representation requires systems-wide coordination and coalition building. Legal Services State Support is a program that does just that.
State Support is a unique program of the Minnesota Legal Services Coalition that provides information, connections, and tools to advocates and the public to increase access to justice for all Minnesotans. It is a project that coordinates across 7 different legal aid organizations in Minnesota to support their shared mission.
State Support also focuses on leveraging technology to improve access to legal services. As an Access to Justice Technology Fellow with State Support, I am working on the rebuild of lawhelpmn.org. When the website is complete it will have 2 critical components: a forward-facing triage and the backend LOON.
Triage is an emerging technology tool designed to provide highly specific referrals to legal services organizations and self-help or educational materials. It involves an online guided interview that uses logic trees to determine what particular legal issue a person has. The concept is popping up across the country as legal aid organizations grapple with turning away about 1 in 2 people who come to them for help due to a lack of resources.