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 This was an opportunity to clean house on content that was out of date or inconsistent with the new site’s goals.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 A document authored by someone else may become out of date without our knowledge, leading to additional frustrations and potential problems for our users.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.

LawHelpMN.org Featured in Attorney at Law Magazine

This month’s edition of Attorney at Law magazine includes a concise and instructive overview of the recently relaunched statewide legal website: LawHelpMN: Information and Referral Breakthrough.

The article also offers insights and background on the site’s newest and most innovative tool: the LawHelpMN Guide. The Guide provides users with targeted legal information and referrals based on their answers to guided questions.

“Our goal in developing the Guide was to be flexible, nimble, and responsive,” says Technology Projects Manager Jennifer Singleton. “For example, someone in a family dispute over an estate may think they have a family law problem, but the Guide will jump information strings and direct them to probate law.” Read more in Attorney at Law Magazine.

LawHelpMN Community Outreach Needs You

With the official launch of the freshly re-designed LawHelpMN.org on February 19, State Support staff have been reaching out to justice partners, legal aid and pro bono attorneys and the community at large to educate users about the new statewide website.

On February 22, over 80 people attended a free webinar demonstrating site features and use of the new LawHelpMN Guide navigational assistance tool. The webinar led Congressional staff to request a training for constituent services staff on using LawHelpMN as a referral tool in early April. In-person presentations have been held for 2nd Judicial District Self-Help Center and United Way 2-1-1 staffs. A presentation for Public Library Day is also scheduled for April 12.

State Support welcomes opportunities to talk with staff, pro bono coordinators, partners in social services and court self-help staff who seek a better understanding of how to utilize LawHelpMN.org in their work. We can also provide printed brochures for your own community outreach efforts. Thousands of brochures have already gone out to legal services programs and library and self-help partners. To schedule a training or presentation for your group, or request brochures, contact Emily Good at egood@mnlegalservices.org.

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A New Era Begins: The LawHelpMN Guide Offers Customized Legal Resources and Referrals

The Minnesota Legal Services Coalition, the staff at Legal Services State Support and our website developer, Electric Citizen, are pleased to announce the official launch of the newly redesigned and rebuilt LawHelpMN.org on the Drupal open source, content management platform. Users of LawHelpMN.org will find robustly improved features such as the Self Help Library – a thoughtful compendium of fact sheets, booklets, do-it-yourself forms and other resources – as well as the Provider and Clinics Directory – now powered by a database of referral information updated in real-time.

The defining feature of the new site is its innovative navigational assistance tool: the LawHelpMN Guide (the Guide). Designed to deliver a customized set of self-help resources and referrals that address an individual’s specific legal concern or problem, the Guide generates curated results in response to an individual’s answers to a series of simple questions.  These “guided” questions are intended to narrow a person’s legal topic and, if needed, assess their potential eligibility for services based on a variety of factors including location and income. The LawHelpMN Guide is intuitive and easy to use by either the person seeking information or an attorney, advocate, or anyone assisting them.

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Since the launch of the original LawHelpMN.org over a decade ago, the Minnesota Legal Services Coalition and its State Support office have worked to improve the site’s usefulness and responsiveness as part of our access to justice commitment. The newly redesigned and rebuilt site takes that commitment further than ever before with the adoption of a platform customized to meet a continuum of legal needs and challenges across Minnesota.

“Today’s launch of a re-imagined LawHelpMN.org is a great leap forward in the collaborative and inventive efforts of the civil legal aid, pro bono, and judicial communities to provide continued access to justice in an increasingly accessible and straightforward manner,” Drew Schaffer, Executive Director of Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid said. “Already, over 1,000 Minnesotans a day use LawHelpMN.org to understand and to vindicate their most basic of civil rights.  It is our hope that the new and improved site will enable a growing number of Minnesotans to find the legal help and information they need to enforce their rights and to stabilize their lives.”