SMRLS' CEO Explains Why LawHelpMN is a Boon for the Legal Aid Community

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The September edition of the Ramsey County Bar Association’s (RCBA) Barrister Newsletter includes a feature by Jessie Nicholson, chief executive officer of Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, in which she writes about the importance of LawHelpMN.org as a singular and comprehensive resource for civil legal issues in Minnesota.

In her article, A Boon for the Legal Aid Community: The New LawHelpMN.org (page 4), Nicholson focuses on the site’s primary functions, and notably, its newest tool, the LawHelpMN Guide. Created to give users a custom experience, the Guide matches them with the most relevant legal information and referrals based on their specific question, circumstances, and location.

“The staff here at Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS) have enthusiastically embraced the new LawHelpMN and are involved firsthand in making sure information about our services at SMRLS is up-to-date, accurate, and immediately available, ensuring that those who need us can find us. As a nonprofit we are sometimes limited in the services we can provide. LawHelpMN’s Provider and Clinics Directory puts targeted referrals and specific information about other organizations at our fingertips.”

LawHelpMN: Commitment to Improvement and Advancement for Our Clients

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By J. Singleton, Program Manager

On February 1, 2019, State Support launched a redesigned LawHelpMN.org featuring the new LawHelpMN Guide. Our work didn’t stop there though. Since launch, we’ve continued to improve the website with a dedicated development budget that turns user feedback and website analytics into tangible advancements. For example, we’ve added functionality that allows users to filter their Guide service results based on their preferences, share their Guide results via text or email, and use the Providers and Clinics Directory to print off custom referral sheets. 

A key component of our continuous improvement goals is a 6-month review of the Guide’s questions. We use analytics to determine when it seems like users are confused or are not finding the information they need. In one instance, we discovered that most people who chose the “Kids, Teens, and School” legal topic had questions about custody, which is included under the “Family” legal topic. While the Guide was still able to direct users to the appropriate custody resources, it wasn’t the most direct route to those resources. To help users get to the right section of the Guide earlier in the process, we will be changing “Kids, Teens, and School” to “Youth Rights and Education” to make the kinds of issues included in that topic clearer. 

During our 6-month review, we also identify and add new resources and adjust the Guide to make sure users can find those new resources readily. In our first six-month Guide revision we wanted to make sure low-income inventors and owners of small businesses and nonprofits knew they might be able to get legal assistance through LegalCORPS. To accomplish this, we are adding a new series of questions to identify people who have a legal issue related to their invention, non-profit or small business. We also crafted questions to identify additional situations in which Community Mediation Minnesota would be a good referral. 

If you have suggestions about how to make LawHelpMN a better resource, please let us know!  

Cover Story: Bench & Bar of Minnesota Features LawHelpMN

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This month, the official publication of the Minnesota State Bar Association features an in-depth article on the newly revamped LawHelpMN.org and the impetus in the legal community to create a “no wrong door” resource for civil legal issues statewide. Access to Justice Made Easy (Well, Easier) by Bridget Gernander is the August cover story for Bench & Bar of Minnesota.

In the article, Gernander, program manager of the Legal Services Advisory Committee (LSAC), introduces readers to the defining new feature of the site — the LawHelpMN Guide — explaining how it employs the latest technology to provide built-in legal issue spotting. She also touches on the expanded functionality of the site’s database and its inclusion of new referral services that address provider gaps for modest-income Minnesotans. By describing the path that led to the site’s redevelopment and its aspirational access to justice goal, Gernander encourages adoption of the site as a one-stop referral source, while affirming its relevance and hoped-for impact. Read the full article in Bench & Bar.

Video Explainer: How to Use the LawHelpMN Guide

With the advent of the LawHelpMN Guide, your search for legal resources on LawHelpMN.org just got easier. The Guide is a fast and direct tool to help you find exactly what you’re looking for by filtering the site’s resources based on answers to questions about your legal concern or issue. Then, if a referral is sought, the Guide utilizes geographic, income and other eligibility criteria to display a customized list of potential service providers. Best of all, you can email or text yourself the results immediately. Just look for the words “send results” followed by envelope and cell phone icons near the top of the page. Then click on either icon, enter your information, and send.

For a quick how-to-use overview, watch our explainer video!