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!

"We Are All Criminals" Founder Emily Baxter Kicks Off 2019 Statewide Conference

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As we enter the long-awaited summer months, State Support staff are working behind the scenes to prepare for this fall’s Legal Services Statewide Conference: Addressing Disparity: A Way Forward. The conference will be held Wednesday, October 23 to Friday, October 25, 2019 at Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center in Alexandria, MN. Conference participants will learn about the effects of racial, economic and other disparities on our clients and ourselves and how to address them in our professional and personal lives.

The conference will kick-off on Wednesday evening, October 23, with special guest Emily Baxter, founder and executive director of We Are All Criminals (WAAC), a non-profit organization and storytelling project about privilege and dignity, helping us think about criminality with more nuance, going beyond just good guys and bad guys by challenging perceptions of what it means to be “criminal.”

Before founding WAAC , Emily served as the director of public policy at the Council on Crime and Justice and as an assistant public defender at the Regional Native Public Defense Corporation representing members of the Leech Lake and White Earth Bands of Ojibwe charged with crimes in Minnesota State court. Emily is a former fellow at the University of Minnesota Law School where she began developing WAAC through an Archibald Bush Leadership Fellowship in 2012. She now lives in Durham, NC.

Emily’s kick-off session will be a conversation about crime, privilege, punishment, and second chances. One in four people in the US has a criminal record; four in four have a criminal history. Through stories, statutes, and statistics, we’ll examine the disparate impact of the criminal and juvenile justice systems on people of color and poor people across the country. The presentation will include first-person narratives and photographs. Read more at We Are All Criminals.

Save the Dates for the Legal Services Statewide Conference!

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Legal Services State Support is pleased to announce that plans are underway for the 2019 Legal Services Statewide Conference: Addressing Disparity: A Way Forward. The conference will be held at Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center in Alexandria, MN from Wednesday, October 23 to Friday, October 25, 2019. Conference participants will learn about the effects of racial, economic and other disparities on our clients and ourselves, and how to address them in our professional and personal lives. Sessions and practice groups will be available across a range of poverty law topics, along with standard, ethics and elimination of bias CLE credit.

Stay tuned to State Support’s blog for a monthly peek at our special guests and session details, as well as a full conference schedule later this summer.

Content Governance Policy Guides Decisions for the New LawHelpMN.org

The recently completed redesign of the LawHelpMN website required transferring all existing content from the previous platform to the new site. This was an opportunity to clean house on content that was out of date or inconsistent with the new site’s goals. One goal of the rebuild was to simplify the design and streamline content choices to avoid duplication and present the best possible resources. State Support created a content governance policy to guide decisions about what to include in the Self Help Library and the LawHelpMN Guide.

The content governance policy expresses a continuous balancing act in the management of user experience and expectation on LawHelpMN, with the general availability and quality of resources. In many subject areas, like consumer protection, there is an abundance of useful resources to help clients. The challenge for us is to determine which to include and which to exclude. Research shows that users take longer to make decisions when there are more choices, and can easily become frustrated or overwhelmed. We want users to easily find relevant, helpful and understandable content to answer their legal question.

With the establishment of guiding principles for LawHelpMN content, we are better able to make these decisions. State Support’s Education for Justice (E4J) fact sheets and booklets—written by legal aid staff and reviewed and updated annually—are our primary content. If E4J resources address a topic in a relevant, helpful and understandable way, we will decide not to link to another resource that says the same thing in a different way.

Because civil legal issues are our core area of expertise, they comprise the topics we focus on. For example, LawHelpMN includes some general criminal law information, but we do not include or link to numerous criminal topics. We also prioritize information that is written in a clear and accessible way and that helps people understand and resolve their legal problems. Resources that are complex or written in legalese don’t meet this standard and are therefore not included.

We additionally strive to link out to content that is authored and maintained by our partner organizations, as opposed to directly posting PDF or Word documents. A document authored by someone else may become out of date without our knowledge, leading to additional frustrations and potential problems for our users.  Our best practice is to link out to the source of the information so that any updates are naturally included. Finally, we do not link to for-profit websites.

State Support welcomes suggestions of content you think should be included on LawHelpMN. We review suggestions on a monthly basis, using our content governance policy to decide whether or not to add a resource. If you have a suggestion, contact us at statesupport@mnlegalservices.org.