By Betsy Parrell, Supervising Attorney
Starting today, staff from sixteen Minnesota legal services organizations are working toward better coordination and referrals through access to a new online tool: LOON (Legal Organizations Online Network).
As an integral part of the LawHelpMN.org rebuild project, LOON is a password-protected, online database developed to house up-to-date information about legal services available across Minnesota. Service listings in the database include information about case types and priorities, case acceptance guidelines, clinics, and eligibility criteria.
LOON aims to improve client referrals by enabling legal services providers to make more accurate referrals amongst each other through access to detailed, real-time data. LOON will also power the referral information that will be available to everyone on the new LawHelpMN.org, once launched. In addition, because of LOON, staff at individual organizations no longer need to maintain and update their own legal services referral information, which can easily fall out-of-date.
The organizations currently participating in LOON are:
Anishinabe Legal Services
Central Minnesota Legal Services
Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota
Judicare of Anoka County
Legal Aid Service of Northeastern Minnesota
Legal Assistance of Dakota County
Legal Assistance of Olmsted County
Legal Rights Center
Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota, Inc.
Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid
Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services
The Advocates for Human Rights
Volunteer Attorney Program
Volunteer Lawyers Network
These sixteen organizations have password access to LOON, and the ability to update and maintain their own service listings. For organizations that do not currently have password access – such as specialty legal service providers, law libraries, court-based self-help services, bar association referral programs, and community mediation – State Support will gradually add their services to LOON and coordinate with them to maintain and update their listings.
State Support is grateful for the expertise shared by staff members of the sixteen participating organizations. Their feedback was used to guide the development of LOON’s technical infrastructure and user interface. Staff from these organizations also worked diligently to update and verify the accuracy of their listings in anticipation of LOON’s launch today. Additionally, over 100 individuals at these organizations registered for trainings offered by State Support on how to search service listings, in order to be prepared to use LOON effectively to make referrals.
Continued coordination and communication will be critical to LOON’s success. Staff members from the participating organizations will need to communicate with each other, and with State Support, to ensure that the accuracy and quality of information in LOON, and the tool itself, can continue to improve. Working together, we can make LOON a robust, reliable tool that helps all of us better serve client needs across the legal services delivery system.